white chocolate and espresso bean cookies

September 20, 2017

Today's post will be short and sweet, as I'm still recovering from all the Feast festivities this past weekend. I'm also gearing up for about a month's worth of travel throughout the country: first I'm flying down to Colorado to meet Tieghan from Half Baked Harvest and celebrate her new cookbook, before heading up to New England for a retreat with Stonewall Kitchen in Maine and Vermont for Cheese Camp with Vermont Creamery! I'll also be dropping into New York City in the days I have in between to see Erlend, my cat, and my editor (which I'm slightly nervous about, since I haven't made as much progress on Weeknight Baking as I would like...).

So today's recipe is actually an old one that I baked up when I was still living in Brooklyn and completely forgot about until now. In an attempt to rid my pantry of perishable things before moving back to Portland, I spent several weeks cooking and baking everything that was in my cupboard. I had a sudden fit of inspiration and ended up using a leftover bag of chocolate covered espresso beans in place of chocolate chips in one of my favorite CCC recipes. The result was delightful! The espresso beans cut down on the sweetness of the white chocolate chips (which I also had a bag and needed to get rid of, but usually find to be too sweet on their own), and added a wonderful and unexpected crunch throughout the cookie.



Some baker's notes:
  • You can find chocolate covered espresso beans online, at Trader Joe's in the snack aisle filled with all the addicting snacks in the plastic tubs, or any candy store. I used a mix that were covered in dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and some identified caramel marble swirl (this blend looks similar to what I used). In a pinch, you can use coffee beans, because did you know that espresso beans and coffee beans are actually the same thing? I didn't until I started researching this post! Crazy. 

  • To give the cookies an extra coffee flavor, I threw in a generous amount of espresso powder (which you can get online directly from King Arthur Flour). Note that espresso powder is not the same thing as instant coffee powder; used by bakers, instant espresso powder is like an MSG for chocolate bakes. Small quantities of it makes dark and milk chocolate taste more intense and flavorful. You can read more about it in this article by The Kitchn. For these cookies, it doesn't really matter if you use instant coffee powder though — I used a large enough amount of the espresso powder to give the cookies a coffee flavor, and instant coffee powder will achieve the same thing.

  • The base cookie recipe is based on a chocolate chip cookie recipe from The Violet Bakery; it uses egg yolks as opposed to whole eggs to give the cookies a more tender crumb, looser texture, and a unique golden color. I used 4 egg yolks because I had a spare one left over from another recipe that needed to be used, but you can use 3 and achieve the exact same results. 

butterscotch blondies

September 13, 2017

Not to be a major drama queen or anything, but doesn't it feel like the apocalypse is nigh? First there was Charlottesville, and then a series of natural disasters that are a little too close to home: Hurricane Harvey in Houston (where I grew up), the West Coast heat wave (both in California and the Pacific Northwest) and the resulting fires in Los Angeles and nearby Portland in the historic Columbia River Gorge. Not to mention the Russian election hackers that nobody really seems to care about, or the rapidly escalating North Korean nuclear threat...

Aye. Sorry, did I stress you out? My bad.

With all the terribleness in the world, it can feel a little silly to be in the kitchen making the same variation of a pound cake recipe ten different times in order to figure out the final recipe worthy enough to be in your cookbook. It can also be a little frustrating too — my standards for the recipes that will be published in Weeknight Baking are much higher than the standards that I post for my blog, so I've been experimenting with a ton of different recipes, methods, and variations to try and get the final recipe to be as perfect as I can. And no joke: three-quarters of the time, my tweaks don't work out the way I want them to, leading me to roar in frustration, scrap the whole thing, and start over from scratch.

Which is why on the days that I'm not baking for my book, I find myself reaching for recipes from tried and true sources. Like Stella Parks' new cookbook, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts.

If you guys don't know Stella's work, you're missing out. Stella is one of the OG baking queens of the internet; when all else fails, I turn to her blog to look at her recipes for pastry classics like creme pat and Swiss meringue buttercream. She's pastry-school trained and is currently the resident pastry wizard at Serious Eats, specializing in remaking American classics like Oreos and Sno Balls at home.

These blondies are from her new cookbook, and are everything you would want in a blondie: all butterscotch flavor with a crisp, sugar crackly top and the fudgy texture of a classic brownie. I was particularly enamored by her use of malted milk powder and roasted white chocolate, both of which give the blondies an extra caramelized flavor. Her cookbook has instructions for roasting your own white chocolate at home, but I'm partial to Valrhona's Blond Dulcey feves.

For a copy of Stella's new cookbook, head to my Instagram and like/comment the picture of these butterscotch blondies! I'll be selecting a winner randomly next week.

cookbook || jar || tray || linen || knife

Some baker's notes:
  • Blond dulcey chocolate is available at Valrhona's online shop, or on Amazon. In a pinch, you can make your own by roasting your own white chocolate! Food52 has great instructions on how to do so, and of course, if you buy Stella's book, she's got a recipe on how to do it too. You can also use traditional white chocolate in this recipe (and it'll still be tasty, I promise!), but know that your blondies won't be as butterscotchy as mine if you do.  

clementine and almond syrup bundt cake

September 6, 2017

As I'm sure you guys know by now, I'm back in Portland.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of unpacking boxes, random moving-related errands, and wrangling with contractors and property management companies on the phone. I was hoping to be more settled by this point (I'm still on an air mattress and my back is killin' me 😱😱😱), but I'd grossly underestimated the amount of damages left by the previous tenants and the monster task that is moving across the country in general. But despite all these inconveniences, it still feels good to be home.

In many ways, Portland has changed so much but also changed so little. The skyline, especially on the eastern side of the river, is taller and newer, and there are new traffic flows on my tried and trusty bicycle routes that I now have to learn to navigate. The scrawny teen in the house across the street now has an impressively bushy afraux (a fake afro, get it? I'm trying to make this term happen), and I was especially devastated to find out that the corgis next door have passed away.

But early in the mornings, when most of the city is still asleep, I wake up early (I'm on my own twilight time zone somewhere between Pacific and Eastern time) and jump on my bicycle. Riding the empty streets, it feels like nothing has really changed. The houses are still quaint, the greenery is still overgrown and lush, and despite some new construction, most of my trusty standbys are still there: the vaguely snotty New Seasons on SE 21st, the dependable Fred Meyer's on Hawthorne, and the family-owned hardware store on SE 37th. And of course, my Portland friends are still here, too. Although the specifics might be different — one friend lives in a new neighborhood, another has a new job, a couple are in the process of buying a house — it still feels the same when we get together over a good meal to laugh and joke and gossip like we did many years ago.

All in all, it feels good to be home.

This is another one of those baking recipes I made while still in New York to get rid of the random ingredients we had lying around before our big move. In this case, it was a handful of clementines and half a bag of almond flour. After looking through my extensive cookbook collection, I saw this recipe for clementine and almond cake from Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem and was sold. The almond meal adds a nice hearty flavor that works wonderfully with the slightly woody citrusy flavor of the clementines. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • I baked this pan in a mini 7 1/2-inch bundt pan that I bought in Porto, Portugal; it looks like they sell 7-inch Kugelhopf pans on Amazon that could also do the job. But overall, I wouldn't really recommend baking it in the bundt. There wasn't enough batter to fill out the pan and it sorta looks stunted or something. Stick with Yotam's 9 1/2-inch springform pan method instead.

  • In a pinch, you can also use real oranges instead of clementines — the cake will probably taste a little tangier, but it'll still be delicious. I promise. 

blueberry sumac slab pie

August 30, 2017

I have a question for all you lovely babes: how do you decide which blogs to read?

Because real talk: doesn't it seem like there's a lot of content out there? And that a lot of it is the same, and, well, *whispers* not very good? I know it's something I certainly don't like to think about, because as a blogger/content creator/influencer/insertotherbuzzwordhere, I'm part of the problem as well. And this isn't just me being fake modest — I've run into forums in the past criticizing my blog, saying they don't understand my success and that it seems like I'm trying to emulate a specific kind of style and not really getting it, etc etc. Others commented that my photos were always blurry, causing me to seriously think that I was going blind for a good few weeks and use a tripod for a month before giving it up because I was just too damn lazy. So yes, I am well aware that my stuff is not everybody's jam. And it stings a little, but I don't take it personally because not everything is my jam either?

Which brings me back to my original question: so how do you decide which blogs to read? How do you discover new ones? And why do you decide to stop reading the ones that you do?

For a long time, I was super meticulous about reading a ton of blogs and social media accounts. I followed so many blogs on my "Food Blogs" feed on Feedly that I eventually had to break it up into two feeds because it kept freezing on me. I liked things, hearted them, pinned them, and left swooning comments. But fast forward to several years later: I'm burned out. With the exception of a few folks, nothing really stands out to me anymore. It's all a blur of white marble, Erickson Woodworks backdrops (like the one you see in these photos 😳😳😳), and disembodied hands lovingly caressing... erm, stuff. Usually the same Finex skillet, AHeirloom cakestand, or Dansk mini saucepan (or is it saucepot — what's the difference again?). It's all very nice and lovely, but also a little bland and boring.

To be fair, I think I'm doing it wrong. I reached out to a few of my blogger friends and asked them these same questions. To my surprise, they admitted that they were very selective about whose blogs they read — and they seemed much happier for it. The trick, it seems, is to just follow on Instagram (though that has its own issues too, especially with the stupid algorithm) and just click over when something seems especially compelling. But that still doesn't really answer my question.

Because in the end, what makes a blog compelling enough to stick with? How do you decide which blogs to read and keep reading?

Teach me your ways, friends.

And thanks for not losing faith in this little space of mine, especially when there's so much of the same type of stuff out there.


Some baker's notes:
  • Sumac is a citrusy, maroon flower that is frequently used as an aromatic in Middle Eastern cuisine. Usually found in savory dishes, it tastes a lot like lemon zest but funkier and more complex. I've been known to throw it in desserts before. In a pinch, you can use your favorite citrus zest, but I highly recommend sourcing it! You can find it in Middle Eastern groceries, specialty spice stores, or online. New Yorkers: I got mine from Kalustyan's in Manhattan, but I've also seen it in Sahadi's in Brooklyn and the Whole Foods in Williamsburg

  • Let's talk about this pie! I love staring at all the elaborate braided and stamped pies (here's looking at you, Samantha and Jo — a.k.a The Pie Queens of Instagram) and have been prone to making them in the past myself. But sometimes (ehem most of the time TBH), I just don't have the time or patience for that. Enter the rustic leaf pie. You just need a sharp paring knife to draw out some rough leaf shapes and score them. They don't even have to be pretty. It's incredibly easy and forgiving, and they bake up beautifully. I used this visual step-by-step guide from White On Rice Couple to help me get started, but I also have my own picture-based guide on how to draw the leaf shapes coming to the Crate and Barrel Blog soon!

chocolate chip cookie cake + big news!

August 23, 2017

Okay friends, I've been keeping secrets from (most of) you. I've hinted in past blog posts that some big life changes were happening, so without too much ceremony, I'm just going to drop them in here one bomb at a time:

I'm back in Portland!
Close friends knew that New York was always going to be temporary and that Erlend and I had plans to move back to Portland after he graduated from grad school. So here I am! Our timeline accelerated due to some very boring and mostly annoying reasons involving a shitty NYC landlord and figuring out what financially makes sense. Erlend actually hasn't graduated yet (that happens next summer, finally; as a non-graduate degree holder myself, I'm sorta mystified by how long the whole process takes), but he's joining me this winter to start his last clinical at a Portland hospital.

I'm sad that our time in New York couldn't be longer because I really did like it there, but the rational part of my brain that pays the bills told me that it really wasn't sustainable to keep paying nearly $3000 for rent, $13 for salads (I have a sweetgreen addiction, ehem), and all the other overpriced things there are in the city. And in any case, I'm planning on being back a fair amount because now I'm hooked on New York pizza and bagels (and they are really superior to the pizza and bagels everywhere else).

But anyway, tell my baby I'm back in town, tell everybody I'm back in town, etc.

And here's the BIG news that more of you guys are probably interested in (because who cares where I live, really?):

I'm writing a cookbook!
Throughout the years, many of you guys have asked me if there was a Hummingbird High cookbook in the works. I either most likely a) ignored you, or b) said something sassy like "isn't my blog a digital cookbook anyway?" or c) impatiently smiled and went "I wish, but I don't have time for that!" Because unlike most of my peers, I don't actually blog full-time. For many years, I ran Hummingbird High while maintaining a traditional 9-to-5PM, 40-hours-a-week desk job: first in finance as an analyst, and then in tech as a systems analyst.

Working a full time job in addition to blogging meant that I didn't have a whole lot of time to devote to baking. In fact, all I had were weeknights. You know that weird hour you have when you've gotten home from work and the gym, finished dinner, and done all your chores? Most people spend that time Netflixing, or doing something sensible like going to bed early. But not me. I was in the kitchen, trying to figure out how to bake a layer cake/pie/cinnamon buns in that limited amount of time.

I rarely wrote about it, but often times, the desserts on this blog came together in the span of several days! A cake recipe that would ordinarily take hours to make would be broken down: 45 minutes on the first day for the baking of the cakes, 10 minutes on the second day to make the frosting, 30 minutes on the final day to put it all together and decorate. For pies, I would make the crust on the first day, roll it out on the second, make the filling on the third day, and bake on the fourth, final day.

So my cookbook is going to be a little bit of a behind-the-scenes of Hummingbird High: I ended up coming up with a lot of shortcuts and tricks to break down recipes to work within the limited time that I had. And it's time I finally shared them with you all. The book is tentatively titled WEEKNIGHT BAKING (ha, see what I did there?), and will be published by Simon & Schuster sometime in 2019. It will be a collection of baking recipes that will make beautiful and delicious sweets in the limited time you have. I’m going to teach you how to live a life where you can have fresh, homemade chocolate chip cookies ready to go at any time. I’ll show you how the rustically beautiful cakes on Pinterest can actually come together in just 30 minutes a night. And, of course, I’ll also share the fallback recipes that I rely on — for all the times I foolishly promised to bring something to a dinner party or a potluck, only to realize the night before the event that I’ve only got 40 minutes and five ingredients in the cupboard to spare.

Look for it in about 2 years, lol. Publishing really takes that long. Also, don't tell my editor, but I haven't actually started anything yet. Shhhhhhh.

And speaking of weeknight baking, this is a cookie cake I made while I was in the middle of my frantic move from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back to Portland. It was a Wednesday night, and our moving pod was arriving in two days. I had a ton of leftover chocolate bars perfect for chocolate chip cookies melting away in the New York City summer. But of course, since I was mid-cross country move, I had none of the time needed to bake batches of cookies. The solution? Turn it into one giant chocolate chip cookie; a chocolate chip cookie cake, if you will, partially inspired by Molly's version (hers is much cuter/neater though — my frosting started to melt in the 95 degree heat of my apartment) and the Safeway cookie cakes of my childhood. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • The original recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit, actually instructs you to make the cookie in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. I made mine in a 9-inch springform pan, which worked fine, but ended up with a rather thick cookie. Go for a 10-inch (or even a 12-inch) pan if you're looking for a more traditional cookie cake! Also, it may seem like there's not enough dough for the pan, but don't worry — there is. 
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