dulcey white chocolate macadamia cookies


As the years go on, I'm finding it harder and harder to write about my life here in this space. At first, blog posts used to come easily, and it seemed like there was so much to write about. It started out with the adventures in high altitude baking, then, the more personal stuff as I figured out my life in my mid-twenties. But I'm turning 30 this year, and it seems like life has mostly settled. These days, there are less high highs and low lows; instead, there's just the whir of routine and the mostly ordinary motions of work and life.

Even if I don't have too much to write about, maybe it's not such a bad thing, having things be leveled and (if I'll admit it to myself) slightly boring. As much as I would like to live each day as if it's my last, I'm not sure I have the energy for that? I'd get pretty fat, first of all (since really, my last day would probably be spent feasting on all the gross fatty foods I like... mmm non-stop all-you-can-eat pork belly and duck buns). Getting me and Erlend's calendars in sync for a spring break vacation was already pretty exhausting. And some of the stuff I did in my early twenties — spending all day building the perfect playlist to send to friends, walking home from the bar as the sun rises, spontaneously booking flights across the world for a tenuous love — seems frivolous and even overly dramatic now.


And maybe it's less about the big things and more about the day-to-day. After all, that's what the concept of hygge is all about: savoring the little things. Seemingly ordinary things like "wooden bowls, cuddling, brushing your teeth next to your partner, vintage textiles, pendant lights, circular tables, burned spatulas, honking geese and line-dried laundry" are supposed to keep us cozy and happy in our old age. While I'm not quite 100% there (because quite frankly, I'm not sure a wooden bowl—however pretty— will ever compare to closing out a rooftop bar in Berlin by watching the sun rise over the Fernsehturm), I will admit that these days, I'm perfectly happy sitting at home with my cat on my lap with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk by my side.


Should I talk about these cookies now? They are a fairly standard white chocolate and macadamia nut cookie situation, but with one twist: I used dulcey blond feves. If you're unaware of dulcey chocolate, think of it as caramelized white chocolate — that is, white chocolate that's been slightly roasted, bringing out butterscotch and almost dulce de leche flavors in the chocolate. It's absolutely wonderful, and goes great with the salty macadamia nuts. Enjoy!


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Some baker's notes:
  • Dulcey blond chocolate is made by fancypants Valrhona and is available to buy online, or, in some Whole Foods stores (usually by the cheeses, where they sell giant chunks of chocolate wrapped in plastic wrap). In a pinch, you can buy white chocolate feves (but not chips — it's important to use feves, the chocolate discs, here!) and attempt to caramelize it yourself, but you'd need to get it back into solid chunks somehow. I've never done it myself, but I'm happy to brainstorm ideas to help figure it out!

  • I based the cookie dough on the classic Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough recipe. The recipe is generous with brown sugar, and results in a toffee, nutty flavor that works really well with the dulcey white chocolate. However, brown sugar and white chocolate together results in a really, really sweet cookie. I balanced it out by increasing the salt quantity in the recipe by a touch and topping off each cookie with giant, flaky salt. I like the pyramid sea salt from Trader Joe's or classic Maldon sea salt!

  • For a more flavorful cookie, I like to scoop the batter out into cookie dough balls and freeze overnight. It really makes a big difference! I recommend this for almost all cookie recipes (there are a few exceptions here and there, but I'd say the freezing trick works 99% of the time). If you're baking a frozen cookie dough ball, you'll likely need to add a few minutes to the baking time.

red wine hot chocolate black tap milkshakes


Happy 2017!

Does anybody have any resolutions they want to share? I used to be super gung-ho about very specific goals and resolutions, but now I'm just trying to have broader "intentions" instead. And so far, they're pretty simple: eat well (I am turning The Big Three Zero this year and my metabolism and skin elasticity is not what it once was), save money for this SUPERTOPSECRETBIGDEALWHYAMIEVENTALKINGABOUTTHISAGAIN long-term kindasortamaybe blog-related project (and no, it's not a book, sorry guys), explore New York as much as I can, and travel to all the places that's closer to the East Coast than the West Coast. I realize those last two are in direct opposition to the first one, but whatever. Intentions, NOT goals. Or resolutions. Whatever.


I know that the New Year is all about forward thinking (especially January), but for me, the end of the year really came up fast. I'm still recovering and reeling from it. There were so many things that seemed to spring out of nowhere and hit all of us (or maybe just me?) by surprise. For starters, there was Hillary's devastating election loss and Carrie Fisher and her mom's death. On the lighter side of things, there were also rumors of Drake and Jennifer Lopez's conscious coupling, the extremely bizarre-o and straight-outta-nowhere ending of The OA, and the New York Times's sudden and weird interest in red wine hot chocolate.


Yes, red wine hot chocolate. Apparently it's a thing. It sounds gross, but after trying a homemade red wine and Coca-Cola cocktail* in England several years ago and finding it to be tolerable, if actually tasty once you get over the initial shock factor of the flavor combos, I was up for giving red wine and hot chocolate a shot together. YOLO.

*My British friends had imported the recipe from Spain, where they claimed it was called Jesus Juice by the Spaniards and consumed with much enthusiasm. I don't think it's actually called Jesus Juice. A quick Google search reveals that it's actually called kalimotxo. I don't know where Jesus Juice came from; pretty sure my friends were just drunk.

The trick is to use mulling spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and ginger in addition to the red wine. The spices make the chocolate taste like winter, but with an added richness and unique silkiness from the red wine. Inspired by New York restaurant Black Tap and their now infamous crazy milkshakes (see: this, this, this, and this), we went a little crazy with toppings and added New York style cookies (specifically, Italian Rainbow and black-and-white deli cookies) and a salted caramel donut from Dough to the standard marshmallow and whipped cream hot chocolate toppings. Enjoy!


featured:
mugs || map || flip clock || cookie dome || vase

This post was done in partnership with Schoolhouse Electric, one of my favorite Portland-based companies who graciously provided some of the beautiful housewares you see in this post to help decorate my New York apartment. Although Schoolhouse Electric is primarily known for their beautiful, vintage-inspired lighting fixtures, they also sell other housewares for the office, kitchen, and more. Their stuff reminds me of my home in Portland, and their pieces really make New York feel like home too. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and all my sponsors!

Some maker's notes:
  • For this recipe, I used cheap red wine — you don't want to use the good stuff here, save that for the chocolate (see next bullet point!). Personally, I used Two Buck Chuck Merlot from Trader Joe's, which has a peppery and almost slightly bitter edge that is reminiscent of cocoa and coffee. You can also aim for a slightly acidic variety, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, which will compliment the spices in the rest of the recipe pretty well. But in general, aim for a dryer and less sweet wine, otherwise it just gets to be too much.

  • The secret to a good hot chocolate is to use good quality melted chocolate and mix it with cream and/or milk. You're already using bad wine; balance it out with the good stuff! Don't use chocolate chips — chocolate chips have an edible paraffin wax that helps them retain their shape after being baked. You definitely want to use pure unadulterated chocolate here.

  • To mix the red wine and hot chocolate together, I combined the two in a mason jar and gave it a good shake. It is a literal milkshake. In a pinch, you can use a handheld immersion blender or simply just whisk it together in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.

hummingbird high's 2016 review

Can you believe another year has come and gone, just like that? Time for my annual lookback, where I review your favorite recipes and my favorite recipes. Ready for it? Here goes!

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Readers' Favorite Recipes of 2016
The following recipes are YOUR favorites from the year — that is, the most viewed recipes of mine from 2016. In years past, you guys have been focused on all things chocolate, especially cakes and cupcakes. This time around, you guys sorta switched things up! Expanding your palettes — I like it.

1. Quick Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

http://www.hummingbirdhigh.com/2016/04/quick-whole-wheat-cinnamon-rolls.html

These are quick cinnamon rolls, minus the fuss of yeast and infused with hearty, nutty flavor from whole wheat. Because the recipe uses baking powder, the rolls come together in an hour and taste like buttery scones. It's a great way to start the day (but you guys obviously knew that).

2. Passionfruit and Blueberry Cream Tart

http://www.hummingbirdhigh.com/2016/07/passionfruit-and-blueberry-cream-tart.html

Yay! I'm so glad you guys loved this recipe; it was one of my favorites from the year too! I took one of my all time favorite recipes—Tartine Bakery's lemon cream (as seen in this ancient post of mine with amateur hour photos)—and infused it with a healthy amount of zesty and tart passionfruit. The result was out of this world incredible! Definitely one of the best recipes in Hummingbird High, ever.

3. Red Wine Gin Sour

http://www.hummingbirdhigh.com/2016/04/red-wine-gin-sour.html

Sooo I'm not actually the world's biggest fan of cocktails — you never know what you'll get, and most professionally made cocktails are either too sweet or too alcoholic. This cocktail, however, was perfect. Tart, light, tangy, refreshing, beautiful. And you guys thought so too! I don't blame you. Look how gorgeous that ombre is! I should probably make more cocktails for next year, huh?

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My Favorite Recipes of 2016
Similar to previous years, it was really, really hard to narrow it down to just three recipes. Talk about choosing between your children! Here are the three that made the shortlist, but really, this is just a small selection from a great year's worth.

1. Leche Flan


In which I got super uppity and defensive about Filipino food and encouraged y'all to go out and try more of it, starting with one of my favorite desserts EVER (Filipino or not): leche flan! And pro-tip — if any of you guys are ever out in DC, this place sounds amazing. Can we all please go? Then we can all march in the Women's March, yes?

2. Candy Heart Cupcakes


These is my absolute favorite chocolate cupcake recipe: a moist, light crumb with a fun topped with fluffy old-fashioned icing that tastes like marshmallow. But alongside the recipe, I share a bittersweet memory about secret crushes, irrational fears, and the importance of being brave and putting yourself out there. Take that shot. PS — sorry for all the run-on sentences in that post.

3. Princess Bakery Funfetti Cake


Quite possibly my most favorite birthday cake ever. Molly's famous homemade funfetti cake, but with Princess Bakery extract, strawberry cream cheese frosting, and cotton candy. I hesitate to call it a unicorn cake, but it's kind of what it is, isn't it?

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Highlights



On November, I celebrated five years of blogging! It's hard for me to imagine that I've been doing this for half a freakin' decade. I am excited/motivated/lucky/nostalgic/thankful/tired. 



One of my New Year's resolutions was to work on my pie skills and bake a pie a month. While pie baking is still not my favorite pastime, I think I managed to improve my skills some? What do you guys think?

3. Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/hummingbirdhigh/

This isn't really a highlight, but I do like the #bestnine Instagram memes that come out at the end of the year. These were my most liked Instagram posts! You guys have great taste. As for Instagram itself though, I pretty much fell out of love with the whole thing after their new algorithm came out. Oh well.

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Other 2016 Highlights

What a year it was! Thanks for following along and be sure to check out the highlights from the previous years: 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012. Happy New Year!!!

funfetti buttermilk chess pie + 12 months of #humhipieamonth


Did everybody have a good Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa? Mine was pretty wonderful! On Chrismukkah Eve, Erlend and I saw the new Star Wars movie at the fancypants brew-and-view in downtown Brooklyn. On Christmas Day, I attempted and failed to make a white chocolate and black tahini babka (but eventually succeeded, yay!), before we trekked over to the Upper West Side with his parents, where we exchanged presents. I got this awesome cake box that I've been coveting for years now, a vintage cake stand, and at least a dozen Compartes chocolate bars in my stocking. I am feeling very fat and happy and seasonal and whatnot, but I guess it's time to talk about New Year's now.

Before we talk about this year's resolutions, can we talk about one of mine from this year? At the start of the year, I committed myself to #humhipieamonth, a project where I'd planned to make at least one pie for every month of the year. Why? Masochism. Prior to the project, I was not a very talented pie baker, with most of my pastry crusts turning soggy and losing their shape in the oven. And truth be told, I wasn't even sure I liked pie all that much either. I wanted to teach myself how to become a better pie baker by trying out all the different ways you could make a pie crust, as well as find a flavor of pie I really, truly loved.

So here it is, the year in pies:


JANUARY PIE
Sour Cranberry Pie
Crust: Lard and butter from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, made by hand with a pastry blender.
Notes: Before this recipe, I'd only ever made all-butter crusts! I loved how much flakier and stable the lard made the pie crust. The pie itself was pretty good, but a little one-dimensional in nature.

FEBRUARY PIE
Matcha Buttermilk Chess Pie
Crust: All-Butter from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, made by hand with a pastry blender. Blind-baked.
Notes: I'd never blind-baked a pie before, so I went with a simple crust design that worked pretty well and kept its shape during the blind-baking process. All-butter crusts are definitely more flavorful than butter-and-lard ones, but finickier to work with (especially when blind baking).

MARCH PIE
Pear Pie with Crème Fraîche Caramel
Crust: All-Butter from Sweeter Off The Vine, made by hand with no tools.
Notes: This was one of my favorite pies from the year; Yossy really is THE PIE QUEEN. Her crust, while delicious, was a little more difficult and messier to put together since you just use your hands and no extra tools. But boy, was this a delicious pie! Flaky crust, tasty fruit filling, and just a stone cold stunner.

APRIL PIE
Passionfruit Curd Pie
Crust: Lard and Butter from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, made by hand with a pastry blender. Blind-baked.
Notes: After the way my crust turned out the first time I blind-baked a pie (see: Matcha Buttermilk Chess Pie), I got a little cocky and tried to do a huge crimped border for my next blind-baked project. The Pie Gods know when you are cocky. This pie nearly burst into flames, and was not the most photogenic as the crust shrank more than I expected. But that filling was pretty on-point though (do people still say that?).

MAY PIE
Rhubarb and Peach + Strawberry and Balsamic Pie
Crust: Lard and Butter from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, made with a food processor.
Notes: Using a food processor to make pie crust is a lot easier than manually blending by hand. However, it's easy to overblend the ingredients, which results in significantly less flakey pies. This was also the first time I used cookie cutters to stamp out shapes in the dough, and was pleasantly surprised by how well the whole ordeal worked. I thank the Lard.

JUNE PIE
Pineapple and Peach Pie with a Coconut Oil Crust
Crust: Coconut Oil and Butter inspired by various sources (mostly Food52), made by hand with a pastry blender.
Notes: Despite its gorgeous appearance, this was probably one of the worst pies of the year. I was frazzled from having to move from San Francisco to New York, and initially posted the incorrect recipe to the dismay of some readers. Still feel bad about that — sorry guys! And while coconut oil helps hold the pie dough shape in the oven and is much easier to work with than all-butter crusts, it also result in a heavier and less-flakey crust. Also pineapple in pies is weird. It turns like, astringent. The peach balances it out, but it would be better if it just wasn't thereun the first place. There, I said it.

JULY PIE
Cherry and Blueberry American Flag Pie
Crust: All-Butter from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, made by hand with a pastry blender.
Notes: Pretty classic pie for Forth of July! My default all-butter crust with cherry and blueberry. There wasn't too much contrast in color between the fruit though; I should have used strawberries for greater effect. Oh well.

AUGUST PIE
Blackberry and Passionfruit Curd Pie
Crust: Shortening with a recipe inspired by Magpie Artisan Pie Boutique, made by hand with a pastry blender.
Notes: First time using shortening, which grosses me the EFF out. Although it was easiest to work with, holding its shape and being slower to melt (especially during the city's sweltering summer), I thought it made the pie crust taste bland and turn a weird, greyish color.

SEPTEMBER PIE
Bacon Apple Cheddar Pie
Crust: Cheddar and Butter with a recipe inspired by Valerie Confections, made by hand with a pastry blender.
Notes: A lot of people were weirded out by the cheddar in the pie, but I assure you that cheddar and apple are a classic combination! The cheddar made the pie crust a dream to work with, taking on a texture and pliability similar to a lard and butter crust; the only disadvantage is that cheddar flavor doesn't go with too many fillings besides apple.

OCTOBER PIE
Maple Pear Pie
Crust: Cream Cheese and Butter with a recipe from The Baking Bible, made with a food processor.
Notes: If you're looking for a pie that's a good compromise between flavor and workability, cream cheese is the answer! Less gross than lard, and easier to work with than an all-butter crust. The pie crust kept its shape wonderfully after baking, and tasted delicious. One of my favorite pies from the year too.

NOVEMBER PIE
Pumpkin Meringue Pie
Crust: Speculoos Cookies with a recipe by yours truly, made with a food processor.
Notes: The only non-pastry pie crust of the year. Speculoos cookie crumbs. Always delicious.

DECEMBER PIE
Funfetti Pie
Crust: All Butter and Sprinkles with a recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, made with a food processor. Blind-baked.


I've turned one of my favorite cakes — funfetti — into a pie. That's right, funfetti pie! The filling is based on buttermilk chess pie custard that I've amped with both vanilla beans AND fake vanilla (a trick from Momofuku Milk Bar) so that it tastes like birthday cake in liquid form. There's sprinkles in both the filling AND the crust, giving you bursts of rainbow with every bite. If you close your eyes and sniff the air when the pie is from the oven, it smells exactly like the funfetti birthday cake we all know and love. I had to celebrate the completion of a resolution and end the year with a showstopper, right?

Happy New Year, you guys! And thanks for following along with #humhipieamonth.


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Some baker's notes:
  • The ingredients are pretty standard except for a couple things: vanilla bean powder and clear imitation vanilla extract. Vanilla bean powder is literally dried vanilla bean seeds in bulk, sparing you from sourcing expensive vanilla bean pods and scraping them out yourself. You can find vanilla bean powder in spice stores, or online. I like buying a bulk bag so I can throw a teaspoon or two into any baked good for extra flavor! As for clear imitation vanilla extract, I'm usually a vanilla extract snob (Nielsen-Massey or bust!), BUT clear imitation vanilla extract is one of the key ingredients to boxed funfetti mix. It's really what makes the pie taste like the funfetti cake we all know and love. You can find a big bottle of it online or at your local grocery store for only a couple of dollars.

  • Like most custard pies, the pie crust needs to be pre-baked before filling. In general, when baking a pie with a liquid-based filling (like custard or cream), you'll need to "pre-bake" the pie beforehand. Pre-baking, also known as "blind baking", basically gives the crust the additional baking time that it needs to turn into the crispy and flaky pie crust that we all know and love, since custards and creams usually don't need as long to bake. Also, pre-baking helps to prevent the pie crust from getting soggy, which is incredibly important — you don't want a sad, soggy-bottomed pie! Blind baking can be a tricky process though; if you've crimped the crust, it tends to shrink a rather surprising amount (even if you use pie weights to hold down the center of the pie). Be sure to create a large, dramatic crimp to ensure that your pie comes out looking the way you want it to! And for more pie crust tips, check out this recipe for salted honey pie using all my best pie crust tips.

  • Despite the simplicity of the ingredients, the pie filling is actually a little tricky to pull together — it took me a couple times to get it right! The mixture tends to curdle quickly, so it really helps to use a freestanding electric mixer with a whisk attachment (or a handheld electric mixer) to keep it emulsified. Be sure not to skip the step of straining the filling before pouring it into the pie!

  • If you've got a finnicky oven with hot spots, the filling will likely brown faster than it will set. Check on the pie often and use a sheet of aluminum foil to cover the filling and crust to prevent it from browning too quickly!

overnight eggnog waffles + a holiday brunch


Can I share a little secret? I didn't love New York when I first moved here this summer. The city was a swamp, with funky garbage smells and such intense heat and humidity that we mostly stayed inside, cooped up in front of the air conditioner.

But then fall came. The air cooled (slightly) and you could finally leave the apartment without needing to shower immediately. In that time, we settled into our new apartment in Brooklyn, exploring our new borough with bike rides through trees shedding orange and gold leaves. One of those bike rides ended in thick, chewy slices of square shaped pizza. As I took a bite of the crispy, crackling crust, it was then that I first thought: oh — this is why people like New York!

And now winter is here, and the city has undergone another transformation. All around Manhattan, there are giant Christmas trees, wreaths, and garlands on the classic iconic buildings. People are bundled up in cozy wool sweaters and coats, and there seems to be a festive skip in everybody's step. And it was while looking up at the giant Christmas tree in DUMBO, with the Brooklyn Bridge shining in the background, I sighed happily and thought to myself: oh — this is why people LOVE New York.


At this point, there's no denying it; there's nothing quite like New York City at Christmas time. Without further ado, here are the top five things that I've done to get into the holiday spirit:

  1. Check out the different Christmas trees around the city. There's the famous one at Rockefeller Center, but I also love the lower key ones at Madison Square Park (where you can get a sugar cookie shake at the OG Shake Shack as you enjoy it) and in DUMBO (which has the view of the Brooklyn Bridge as well).

  2. Shop at the holiday markets. Both Bryant Park and Union Square have a pop-up holiday markets full of booths selling ornaments, winter accessories, and other festive Christmas gifts. I'm especially partial to the Bryant Park holiday village, which has a pretty amazing selection of eats that I got to preview earlier this year (mmm... truffled duck fat fries). If you're in Brooklyn, I recommend checking out the Winter Flea + Holiday Market by Brooklyn Flea. Their current spot in Fort Greene is very pretty, and you can find lots of vintage gifts and get bubble waffles (!!!) at Smorgasburg

  3. Stroll down Fifth Avenue for the holiday windows. It's Christmas tradition for Barney's, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Macy's, and other fancypants department stores to decorate their windows for the holidays. Decorate is sort of an understatement here — a lot of the displays are full-blown dioramas, taking you to otherworldly scenes set in fairy tales, various greeneries, and different time periods.

  4. Do a hot chocolate tour of the city. I like the hot chocolates at Jaques Torres (of course), City Bakery (that comes with a giant marshmallow), and the Nutella latte at Eataly in the Flatiron (it's technically a latte, but it has Nutella in it, so come on now). 

  5. Host a holiday brunch with friends! And finally, if you prefer not to fight the crowds and cozy up at home, there's always this:


Erlend and I recently invited our friends Erin (also a talented cake maker!) and Rich over for a holiday brunch in our apartment. It was snowing outside! We started the meal with apple cranberry mimosas and a cheesy caramelized garlic tart from Ottolenghi's Plenty, before enjoying a "brunch dessert" of eggnog waffles. I love making waffles for brunch — I like to use a recipe based off the Belgian method, which is raised with yeast and prepped the night before to save you time in the morning. The yeast gives the waffles a unique bready taste, that's subtly enriched by the creamy, nutty eggnog in the batter and all its Christmassy spices. Enjoy!


featured:
kate spade charlotte street north, east, and west collection in grey

This post was done in partnership with Kate Spade, who sponsored this post by providing the compensation, plateware, and serveware you see in this post. I've always thought that Kate Spade bags and accessories were so cute and was excited to find out that they make housewares too! The designs are bright, clean, and fun — all very classic Kate Spade. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and thanks for supporting Hummingbird High and my awesome sponsors!

Some baker's notes:
  • To quote the wise words of my fellow food blogger, Jen from Savory Simple — shopping for eggnog is a bit like shopping for wine; you can't buy just anything and expect it to taste good. I like Organic Valley (check out the cinnamon rolls I made with them a few years ago!), but if you're in New York like I am, I recommend shelling out for the Ronnybrook variety

  • I like to use instant/rapid rise yeast because unlike with active dry yeast, it doesn't necessarily need to be activated at a certain temperature and I find that it leads to more consistent rises. That being said, it is helpful to have the butter still warm from being melted when mixed into the dough — it just speeds up the rising slightly faster, especially if you want to eat the waffles immediately and don't want to wait overnight for them (see next note). 

  • If you're all about instant gratification and want the waffles IMMEDIATELY, no worries! You can cook a waffle or two after the first rise at room temperature. However, the waffles probably won't be as boozy and flavorful versus if you had waited overnight. It's all good, just means you get to use more maple syrup, right? 

chocolate truffle cookies with sea salt caramel chips


I've partnered with The Hershey Company to develop this chocolate truffle cookie recipe to share and enjoy with friends and family over the holiday season. Chocolate and salty caramel is always a great combination for any occasion! 

A few years ago, I used to be the kind of person who got insanely stressed out by the holidays and all that comes with them. The 'To Do' list overwhelmed me: the tickets to book, the friends and family to catch up with, the presents to buy. And, oh, the presents. I hated battling the crowds at the shopping malls and figuring out who needed or wanted what. What if I completely missed the mark and bought the wrong thing?! Oh no, oh no, oh NO.

These days, none of that stuff stresses me out anymore. I'm able to wander around the sights of New York City anxiety-free, admiring the cute little holiday shops and the figure skaters in the ice skating rink without a care. Instead of spending all my hours after work frantically trolling sites for flash sales, I kick off my shoes, pour myself a glass of wine, and re-watch my favorite shows for the fifth or sixth time.

Want to know my secret?


It's cookies.

I first got the idea a few years ago when I showed up to a White Elephant party with nothing but a bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies. In a nondescript plastic bag that was slightly crushed from my bike ride over, I thought that they would be the least popular item. To my surprise, they were the most sought-after present, beating out crowd favorites like a cat calendar and a book about surviving a zombie apocalypse.

Of course! Everybody I know, even the most picky and discerning eaters, LOVES cookies. Because is there anything more enjoyable than a warm, homemade cookie and a glass of milk? I don't think so.

So now, every Christmas, my friends and family get a special shipment of whatever batch of cookies I've made for the holiday. Not only is it a way to share my love for baking with everybody, but it also gets rid of all my previous holiday stresses. There's no more making shopping lists, no more trying to figure out who gets what. Instead, there are just batches and batches of cookies with the smell of chocolate and butter wafting constantly through the house. Everybody gets a twine wrapped box of cookies, and they LOVE it. I get emails and text messages as early as October, asking me what cookies I'm sending out this year.


So this year's cookies? These beautiful, crackly chocolate truffle cookies studded with HERSHEY'S Kitchens Sea Salt Caramel Chips. These are really brownies, but in cookie form — they're incredibly chocolatey, chewy in the center but with a crisp edge almost identical to that of brownie edges themselves. To top it all off, each HERSHEY'S Kitchens Baking Chip adds a burst of delicious, salty caramel flavor to each wonderful bite.

Happy Holidays, y'all!


Thanks to The Hershey Company for sponsoring this post by providing the compensation and ingredients to make it happen! I was one of the bloggers who participated in HERSHEY'S Bake Happy Challenge, spending the last few months sharing chocolate focused recipes and other tips and tricks to encourage all you lovely folks to bake. Be sure to check out the past recipes (this chocolate pretzel tart, these chocolate sugar cookies, and my personal favorite — a cake decorating tutorial!), and thanks for supporting Hummingbird High and all my wonderful sponsors!

Some baker's notes:
  • So, this dough is NOT your typical cookie dough; it will seem like it's too soft and liquidy at first, and will therefore be a little difficult to scoop and shape without it melting into a puddle. This is normal! Let it sit for 10 minutes before handling — in that time, the dough will harden and be easier to work with. But a word of caution; don't let them sit for too long. The longer you wait, the harder the dough becomes, and the more difficult it will be to scoop! I really recommend using a cookie dough scoop for this particular dough to help you shape the cookies.

  • For a more photogenic, show-stopping cookie, I recommend saving about a 1/4 cup of the caramel chips and placing them on the top of each cookie after you've shaped them. If you mix in all the chips, the dark chocolate batter will likely hide the pretty caramel color of the chips. Placing some chips on the top of each cookie before baking ensures that some chips remain visible and stand out in contrast. If you don't want to bother though, just dump in the chips all at once! Your cookies won't be as pretty, but they'll still be equally as tasty!

yellow cake toast


I have a lot of ideas for my blog, most of which either a) I forget about or b) I don't do anything about because I don't have the time, motivation, or some combination of the two. Like that time I was going to start a spinoff tumblr where I featured photos of myself eating piles of junk food while wearing athleisure outfits (I even bought the domain lifeofathleisure.com), or that time I was finally going to reach out to the book agents I've been flirting with to see if any of them were interested in The Hummingbird High Cake Coloring Book. Neither has happened. Ehem. Yet.

I suspect that most of my blog friends have this same issue; scrolling through my text message threads, we talk about a lot of post and sponsored trip ideas that we've either forgotten about and/or put on the backburner for when we all finally have the time (lol). But every so often, a mini miracle occurs and we all pull ourselves together to actually make something happen.

Like #caketoast.


A few months ago, Molly shot us a group text:

"steph and i are on a mission to make cake toast a *thing*... just toasted slices of loaf cake (or other cake) with toppings."

Immediately, my phone buzzed with more messages from the rest of the SLAMM* crew:

"yah, i'm super into loaf cake with stuff on it. like piles of cream cheese."
"dude, yeah, i'm surprised it's not a thing already?!
"right??!!!?! toasted cake!!!!"
"IN."



*SLAMM = Steph, Lily, Alana, Molly, and Michelle (just in case you haven't figured it out by this point)! 

**SIDE NOTE — I feel like the above screenshot from my iPhone is very revealing, like you just saw something you weren't supposed to. Or something. Because yes, I stay up late to write blog posts. Yes, I have a weird naming convention for the Contacts on my cell phone. And yes, if you are a Blogger and I have your number, your name is definitely in my cell phone as First Name Last Name Blogger. It's how I remember who you are. Yes, I'm weird, I know. And yes, I am a reluctant AT&T customer. Now you know all my secrets.

So for the last three months, I've literally been wondering why cake toast isn't a thing. I've always toasted (or griddled) my leftover slices of loaf cake, pairing them with jam and butter the few days after it's been baked. Loaf cakes tend to dry out easily otherwise. Hasn't everybody else been doing that too?


In any case, if you missed the memo, DO IT. Bake your favorite loaf cake, slice as you go, and toast 'em. Because it's basically like eating cake that's still warm and fresh from the oven. If you want extra texture, you can even toast the cake on high like I did to get a thick, crunchy crust similar to a loaf of artisan bread. When topped with your favorite spread like peanut butter, it's like eating a FROSTED cake, minus the all the fuss and hassle of actually frosting a cake. Of course, I'm partial to Nutella, which gets all gooey and warm when spread on the toasted slice and makes the whole party taste like a classic yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting (the sprinkles don't hurt either). But really — nut butters, cookie butters, jams, jellies, curds — it all works here. It's #caketoast.

Enjoy!


For more #caketoast, check out the other SLAMM squad recipes:

also featured:

Some baker's notes:
  • Soooo real talk — loaf cakes are one of my least favorite things to make. They're pretty easy to put together, but it's hard to get them to bake properly. Most of the loaf cakes I've made have burnt bottoms and overly browned edges because the middle of the cake takes too long to finish baking! If I try to compensate by pulling the loaf out early, the top middle will be underbaked. I suspect these are all problems that are caused by poor heat circulation in my ovens, but since I have to work with what I have, I ended up figuring out some tricks to prevent this from happening further:

    • Tip #1 — Unless you're a blogger like me and subject to aesthetically pleasing cookware that's not the most practical, use a thick, light colored pan. I'm partial to these professional ones at Sur La Table made of heavy duty aluminum. Dark colored pans conduct heat more easily and get hotter. We don't want that; we're trying to avoid burned bottoms here!
    • Tip #2 — Wrap the bottom of the loaf pan in aluminum foil, with the shiny side facing outwards. It helps keep the edges light! This is a trick stolen from Sarah Kieffer's picture-perfect cheesecake
    • Tip #3 — Stick the loaf pan on a heavy duty baking sheet to double-up the metal. This creates an extra layer that the heat has to penetrate, slowing down the baking process of the bottom of the loaf even further.

  • The yellow cake loaf is based on a pound cake recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. Because I knew I was going to be topping the cake with additional spreads like Nutella, peanut butter, and fruit jams, I reduced the quantity of sugar in the original recipe to help compensate for the additional sweetness of the toppings. Reducing sugar in a recipe has some consequences though; it tends to make a denser and drier good (creaming butter and sugar together creates air pockets, that open up the cake crumb and make it light and fluffy). To compensate for the reduced amount of sugar, make sure you cream the butter and sugar together for at least 5 minutes, but preferably the full 10 minutes that I recommend. Your loaf will also go stale faster; be sure to double-wrap it in plastic wrap to keep it as fresh as possible! But toasting it the next day will also help disguise any dryness. ;-)