lemon sugar cookie crumb pie

March 14, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

If you somehow missed it, it's Pi Day today because the date is March (3) Fourteenth (14), which coincides with the first three digits of the mathematical constant, pi (that is, if the date is written the American way, lol). According to Wikipedia, Pi Day became an official holiday in the United States in 2009, when the House of Representatives passed a resolution to recognize it as such.

Cool, guys.

Real talk — and no cheating allowed — who here actually remembers what pi means?! Because I haven't taken a math class since my junior year of college, and I struggled to remember what it was (lol). But maybe that's just me. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with math. I was pretty bad at it for most of school (though that might have been my undiagnosed ADD to blame), but then got really good at it when calculus and statistics came along. To the point where I briefly toyed with becoming a math major for a hot second (lolllllll), before I realized that my economics degree was troublesome enough. And just a few weeks ago, I had a painful realty check of my math skills after failing to convert 0.625 into a proper fraction (it's 5/8, by the way); I briefly thought I'd discovered a new theorem until somebody pointed out that I was just carrying bad math over.

But hey! I'm all about the Instagram holidays, and Pi Day is as good an occasion as any. For this year's Pi Day, I originally had planned to make a traditional pastry pie with frozen strawberries in the style of Samantha's Pi Day pie. Although the pie crust turned out wonderfully, the strawberries got a little leaky as I wasn't used to working with frozen fruit and didn't realize how much liquid they would ooze. Bah. It wasn't the world's biggest deal since I wasn't too crazy about that pie flavor combo anyway. I'd recently finished developing a key lime pie recipe for my book and had spent the entire time wondering what the pie would taste like if lemons were used instead of limes (this is how a food blogger's mind works, I guess). So instead of crying over the original botched pie, I decided to finally figure out the answer to that question instead. And how was it? DELICIOUS. I also swapped out the traditional graham cracker crumbs with sugar cookie crumbs and topped them off with sugar cookies shaped like numbers.

Happy Pi Day, y'all!


Some baker's notes:
  • For the crust, you can use your favorite vanilla cookie! I used leftover sugar cookies from my Weeknight Baking book tests, but my friend Cindy recently recommended Trader Joe's Ultimate Vanilla Wafers. I also recommend Nilla Wafers or Golden Oreo cookie crumbs. Just be sure not to use shortbread because they have too much butter in them and the crust will slump in the oven. 

  • To save time, you can make the filling while the crust is still in the oven — it only takes about 10 minutes to make the filling! There's also no need to wait for the crust to cool before pouring the filling in; once you pull the crust out of the oven, immediately pour the filling over it, and stick the whole thing back in the oven. Easy peasy. 

  • The number sugar cookies were made with my favorite rollout sugar cookie recipe from my friend Erin; the dough is a dream to work with, and they hold their shape really well in the oven. 

a giant key lime curd pop tart

March 7, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

One of the things that I'm quickly discovering about the cookbook writing and recipe development process for Weeknight Baking is that the simplest, most classic recipes are often the most tricky. Developing a shortbread cookie recipe gave me a whale of a time; as did boxed mix brownies. But black sesame sugar snickerdoodles and birthday cake blondies? Nailed it, just like that.

And when I set out to develop a homemade pop tart recipe many, many months ago, I thought that it'd be a breeze to do so. I was using store-bought puff pastry after all (unless you're a professional baker, I'm not a believer in making your own from scratch — because who is that masochistic/has time for that?), so how hard could it be? Famous. Last. Words. Because it was surprisingly tricky to do so! I seemed to have developed a mental block on how to seal the puff pastry properly. No matter how many times I made it, filling would leech out and turn into a sticky hard candy at the bottom of the pan, gluing the puff pastry in the process.

I eventually figured out that I was using way too much filling (I'm all about filling, okay?!) and my method was pretty much all wrong. I was spreading the filling all the way up to the pastry's edges, which is what I do for cinnamon rolls to make sure I have even, fluffy buns with each cut. But that doesn't work for puff pastry — you have to leave a border to prevent the filling from spreading out. I'm not going to tell you guys how many times it took me to figure that out, but know that it was way more than it should have taken and many, many expensive sheets of puff pastry ruined. But no matter. Here we are with the mega pop tart of my childhood dreams. I used the best puff pastry I could find (Portlanders, check my baker's notes for the source!) and made a tangy curd with the key limes leftover from when I was developing a key lime pie recipe for my book. All topped with strawberry glaze and the cutest sprinkles, of course. Enjoy!

tray || knife 

Some baker's notes:
  • For this recipe, I scaled down one of my favorite lime curd recipes (as seen in these lime tartlets) and used the entire batch in one puff pastry. As I've already mentioned though, I like my tarts/pies/anything stuffed with a TON of filling. You might find one batch too much for your taste, especially since the curd itself is a little on the tart side. No worries! Use as much as you want and store any extra in an airtight glass jar in the fridge — it'll keep for about a month. You can make the curd in advance (I made mine a day ahead), but pro-tip: the key lime curd uses one egg yolk, and one egg wash is needed for the puff pastry. So be sure not to throw out the extra egg white! In a pinch, you can use regular lime juice in place of key limes. 

  • I'm not sure how puff pastry is sold in other countries besides the United States, but here, it's usually sold by weight as one giant sheet that you unroll or a couple of sheets that are about 10 x 15-inches in dimension. You'll need about 1 pound (usually, 1 box = 1 pound) of puff pastry for this recipe, or enough to make two 9 x 13-inch rectangles. And if you live in either Portland or Seattle, I really recommend sourcing Grand Central Baking's puff pastry. It's the best there is and is so well layered that it puffs like crazy in the oven. 

  • The pop tart is best warm as it tends to deflate and get soggy overnight. 

homemade carrara marble wedding cake

February 28, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

Here's an interesting fact about me: I am thirty years old and have only been to three weddings since graduating college. Which I feel is a fairly low number for my age? Sure, there were a couple that I missed, but in general, my friends aren't the marrying kind (nor are Erlend and I apparently, since we've been together for eight years and don't really have any plans to get married anytime soon). Or maybe I just don't have that many friends, lol. OH WELL.

Although 2018 might be the year that the tide is changing; I've got a couple of weddings that I'm attending this year that I'm pretty excited about, especially since I am serving as a cake consultant/maker for some of them. One of my friends is doing a very low key wedding and has asked me to make an equally low key cake for the occasion. "I'll even take one of your leftover blog or book test cakes," she said, waving me off when I asked what kind of wedding cake she wanted. "Whatever you make, I'm sure I'll be happy with."

Usually I'd be suspicious of the bride's very nonchalant vibe, but I sincerely believe that my friend actually has no dog in the wedding industrial complex fight since she's getting married barefoot on a campground with a taco truck and BYOB. But still. It seems like it merits a special cake, right?

So I've been practicing different wedding cake decorating techniques and texting her all the while furtively monitoring her opinion with each one. So far it's a no on the naked cake look, but a very enthusiastic two-thumbs up on the carrara marble look.

Carrara marble glaze is easy to do on cookies, but honestly, was a trickier challenge on this cake. I ended up pouring the glaze on the top of the cake (similar to the technique seen on this Instagram video); unfortunately, while the glaze worked well for the top of the cake, it was a bit too thin to really hold its pattern as it dripped down the side of the cake. But I'm sharing it anyway because the cake itself is pretty delicious. The cake is a leftover recipe from when I was testing a bunch of white cake recipes from Weeknight Baking and is adapted from the white velvet cake recipe by old-school baking queen, Rose Levy Berenbaum. Each cake layer sandwiches a healthy proportion of dulce de leche and is completely covered in Swiss meringue buttercream and the carrara marble glaze. Enjoy!

cake stand || plate

Some baker's notes:
  • Dulce de leche is available in most Latin American supermarkets or online (I'm partial to the Stonewall Kitchen or La Lechera variety; in a pinch, you can make it yourself at home with a slow cooker or an instant pot! I've got instructions for how to do so in this recipe for dulce de leche brownies

  • In a pinch, you can probably get away with not glazing the cake with the carrara marble glaze. Unless you're really going for the look, the glaze doesn't actually add that much flavor. I think the reason why my glaze isn't quite pronounced is that you actually need a LOT of the glaze in order to make it visible. I've double the original recipe quantity for your use — hopefully that'll do the trick! It's also a lot easier to glaze the cake if the cake has been chilled for at least an hour or so in the fridge; the glaze doesn't tend to adhere as well to the cake if the frosting is at room temp. I recommend even sticking it in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before glazing.

black tahini and dulcey chocolate chip cookies

February 21, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

Hi friends! Have any of you ever been to Turkey? My mom and I are planning a girls trip there this spring and I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off to get everything organized for it. It's so funny — when I worked a full-time corporate job, vacation planning seemed like a breeze. It seemed like everything came together fairly quickly and easily. In retrospect, I must have spent a lot of time actually planning for it at work (lol, as opposed to doing my real job, but shhhh don't tell my old bosses). Because now that I'm spending 80% of my week in the kitchen, I barely found the time to book all our hotels and flights. But no matter — it's done, and I got us a room in a cave hotel in Cappadocia where we will ride hot air balloons. So send me all your best recs pretty pleasssseee.

To prep for the trip, I watched that Turkish documentary about all the cats in Istanbul and got reallllly excited. I've also been spending a lot of time on Wikipedia reading about Turkish cuisine. I'm especially stoked about Turkish breakfasts (it seems their breakfast game is on point) and of course, Turkish desserts. Looks like there's going to be a lot of dope baklava, kanafeh, milk pudding, and Turkish delights. For savory food, I'm looking forward to some epic kebabs, meze, and hummus spreads.

Speaking of hummus, let's talk about these tahini cookies. I've been meaning to make Danielle's recipe for tahini chocolate chip cookies for ages, and was recently reminded of them when Sarah brought a batch of her own version for us to taste in Vermont. They were absolutely delightful and caused the wheels in my head to start spinning: what would happen if they were made with black tahini instead?

Because black tahini is made with black sesame seeds, it has a stronger and more ashy flavor than regular tahini (which is made with white sesame seeds). Regular chocolate was a little too heavy and bitter — I ended up swapping it out for Valrhona's dulcey white chocolate, which is sweeter and tastes a bit like dulce de leche. Valrhona makes some of the best chocolate in the world and are currently the only makers of dulcey chocolate; be sure to join my giveaway on Instagram to win a bundle of their chocolate!

A big thanks to Valrhona for providing me with the chocolate used in this recipe as well as the chocolate for the Instagram giveaway! I really do love Valrhona products and almost exclusively use their chocolate in my chocolate chip cookies — it makes a world of a difference. 

also featured:

Some baker's notes:
  • Black tahini is available online; in the past, I've also seen it available in the international section of Whole Foods. You can go ahead and make this recipe with regular tahini too, but your cookies will come out a completely different color and look more like regular chocolate chip cookies. Valrhona Dulcey feves are available online via their site or on Amazon; I occasionally see their feves in the bulk section of Whole Foods as well. In a pinch, you can substitute with white chocolate chips, but your cookies will taste different than mine — it's worth sourcing out the Valrhona feves! 
  • This recipe, which is adapted from a combination of Danielle's and Sarah's, produces a really soft dough that's a little hard to work with. Be sure to freeze the dough overnight, or it'll be a little bit of a mess and spread out way too much. Just be sure to pat down each dough ball before baking since the cookies don't actually spread that much on their own after they've been chilled. For extra big cookies like the ones you see in the photos, I used a 3 tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion out dough balls and smooshed two of them together to create a mega 6 tablespoon sized ball of dough. This method resulted in 8 extra-large cookies; if you just use a 3 tablespoon scoop without the smooshing part, you'll end up with 16 regular-sized cookies. 

blood orange cake donuts

February 12, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

A few years ago, I realized that I'd told the same story about Valentine's Day almost every year since blogging. I won't go into much detail about it in this post (especially since you can read all about it in my posts from 2014 and 2015), but it was a story about how in seventh grade, I'd written an essay about how much I hated the holiday. I've switched it up in subsequent years (the story from 2016 about writing a failed Valentine to my last college crush is probably my favorite), but truthfully, every year, it's a struggle to come up with something new.

This year, I thought about telling you guys the story of how Erlend and I met, but honestly, it's kinda, sorta... boring? While we didn't meet online via OkCupid (look at me, showing my age) or Tinder (let's all stop for a hot second and think about the fact that, in the not so distant future, all the wedding stories will be about how the couple met online), it was still pretty unremarkable: we went to college together, were friends for a long time, and then eventually started dating. There was some drama around us getting together because he'd previously dated a mutual friend of ours, but it was honestly just the petty bullshit that you deal with when you're in your early twenties. And maybe that makes for a more interesting story, but I genuinely don't even remember most of it since it was so long ago and most of those folks are now completely gone from my life (which I am very, very thankful for). And there you have me and Erlend's Meet-Cute in a nutshell — I told you it was unremarkable, lol.

So instead of focusing on Erlend, my past relationships and crushes, or re-telling my seventh grade story, I thought I'd try something different. Let's talk about my love for Portland, Oregon. For ease, I always just say that I'm from Portland, but if you saw my Instagram Stories the other day (or are a close reader of my blog), you'll know that's not technically true. I was actually born in the Philippines and lived in a number of different places both abroad and in the USA; I eventually wound up in Portland because of college and ended up settling here again after stints in San Francisco, Denver, and New York.

My relationship with Portland is a flawed one and an incredibly hard one to explain. When asked what I like best about Portland, I can't give a coherent or articulate answer. Instead, what sticks out are seemingly insignificant, maudlin details: the sound the trains make at night from my house; biking down Ladd on a quiet, misty morning; how the city seems to come alive on a lone, sunny day after many weeks of rain. It's not a perfect place by any means — it's far too white and homogenous, and is rife with the income equality, population growth, and limited infrastructure problems that seem to plague all the smaller cities that have come into fashion in the last few years. More and more, the things that make it special seem like relics of yesteryear too. But there must be something about it I really like, because cumulatively, I've lived in the city for about a decade. And whenever I leave, I always find a way to come back.

And although this isn't the sweetest Valentine — I did spend half of it pointing out Portland's flaws, after all — maybe it's more real this way? True love isn't a constant summit, but a valley of peaks and lows. You take the bad with the good, and the ability to recognize the bad and accept it anyway is one of the truest forms of love there is.

So Happy Valentine's Day, Portland! This one's for you.


Some baker's notes:
  • Unlike traditional donuts that are shaped and raised with yeast, these are cake donuts! They taste more like cupcakes and you bake then in a special donut pan to get that classic donut shape. To fill the donut cavities in the pan, I've found it's easiest to use a piping bag (in a pinch, pour the batter into a Ziploc bag and snip off a corner — it doesn't need to be fancy). Be sure not to go overboard, or your donuts will be too big and rise too much, losing that classic hole. Most recipes call for you to fill the cavities two-thirds of the way up, but I've found that's still too much — halfway up should do the trick! 

  • Depending on how dry the temperature is that day, you might need more or less blood orange juice to get the glaze consistency right. You don't want it to runny, or it'll run down the sides of the donut and you'll lose that clean, freshly-dipped look. You want just enough liquid so that it almost seems a little dry; aim for a very thick paste texture as opposed to a runny one. Once you dip a donut, flip it over quickly to avoid any excess dripping and immediately sprinkle the toppings of your choice on the glaze. I used these cute sprinkles from India Tree, goat-themed candy hearts gifted from Vermont Creamery, and freeze dried raspberries, but go wild and use your favorites! 

  • Unfortunately, these cake donuts tend to go stale fairly quickly as the bottom half of each donut is basically just unfrosted cake. Make sure you enjoy them within 24 hours! 

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