matcha egg cream

With the world warming up, it's probably a good plan for us to find other ways to cool down besides air conditioning, ice cream, and swimming pools. I mean, nothing against any of those things, I'm just saying that we give ourselves more options since it looks like we're in this for the long haul, ya know? And more options are always good, especially if they're different and exciting like this matcha egg cream:

If you shuddered at the words "egg" and "cream" brought together in such a cavalier fashion, you are not alone. Because gross! A drink containing an egg and, well, cream? No thank you. But fortunately, an egg cream doesn't actually contain either of those ingredients and instead consists of milk, chocolate syrup, and carbonated water. It's basically chocolate milk, but with some bubbly water to give it a little bit of a fizz. Apparently it originated in Brooklyn, but nobody really actually knows because that's how these things go.

And if you're wondering why my egg cream doesn't look like chocolate milk at all, it's because I kinda went all rogue and made a matcha variation. All you need to do is combine some green tea powder, whole milk, and sweetened condensed milk in a mason jar and give it a good shake, shake, SHAKE:

At this point, the mixture will be a pretty pale green — you're basically making matcha milk. Pour the milk out into ice-filled glasses, and top with fizzy water. BOOM! Matcha egg cream.

The recipe comes from Food with Friends, a new cookbook celebrating the art of, well, eating food with friends. I've been a fan of Leela Cyd's work for the Kitchn and various blogs for so long, and her cookbook is another example of her awesome work. The food is whimsical and fun, and this matcha egg cream is no exception.


Some baker's notes:
  • Matcha is a vivid green powder made from compressed green tea leaves; you can also use it to make green tea, matcha lattes, and of course, baked goods. Matcha usually has a "grade", which is determined by the age of the leaf that is milled for the tea. Ceremonial grade matcha is made with younger leaves are more delicate and flowery, and ultimately used for traditional tea ceremonies in Japan. As a result, it is very expensive. I would recommend getting culinary grade matcha, which isn't as delicate (quite frankly, ceremonial grade matcha will probably have too delicate of a flavor for baking), but is within a more reasonable price point. It is available online, specialty tea stores, and some Asian super markets.

  • If you're working with especially cold ingredients, it might take a little bit for the matcha to fully dissolve and integrate with the rest of the ingredients. If you're lazy like me, you can get around this by using a fine-mesh strainer to remove any clumps. If you're a big planner, combine the whole milk and matcha in a small pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Transfer to a mason jar and cool to room temperature, before refrigerating until chilled and then following Leela's original recipe.

chocolate and earl grey london fog layer cake

As my time in San Francisco comes to a year, I find myself more and more impatient. San Francisco has a lot to offer, but all the horror stories that you hear about the high rents, the tech bros, and the homelessness issues are also true. It's incredibly easy to get caught in the grit and the grime of the city, allowing it to overshadow everything else.

Is that too negative? I've been accused many times of always finding something wrong and needing an attitude adjustment. Because despite all the flowers and delicate things you see on this blog, I'm naturally short tempered and hot headed in real life. Ironically, I don't actually think that these are negative qualities, but I do recognize that I need to reign it in and tamper it down every so often so I don't scare everybody away.

And since I've never been that into yoga, one of the things that I do to chill out and calm the f*ck down is to bake a cake. Cake making is a surprisingly therapeutic activity. There's something really satisfying and calming about the process: stacking the cakes up perfectly, applying the layers of frosting, smoothing it over and over until it's perfect. When I do, it's like all the noise of the world fades away and I forget about all the things I hate. For a little while, at least.

Which is why I've been spending a lot of time flipping through my blog friend Tessa's cookbook, Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes. I've already told Tessa this, but everybody needs to know that homegirl is a cake making QUEEN. Her blog, Style Sweet CA, is full of beauties like this peanut butter caramel popcorn cake and this Italian rainbow cookie cake. Her new cookbook is no different — I've already dogeared most of the pages, ready to bake one of her recipes for the next time my inner Hulk releases itself. This chocolate and Earl Grey layer cake is one of the recipes from her book, and is basically a London Fog drink in cake form. It's perfect in every way.

As a special treat to my readers, I'm giving away a copy of Layered — Use the widget below to like my new Facebook page for a chance to win! If you already like my page, you still need to use the widget below to confirm and enter the contest. The giveaway ends on April 27th at 8:00AM PDT and is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only:

Some baker's notes:
  • Tessa's recipe actually makes an 8-inch, three layer cake, but because I only use a countertop oven in my city apartment, all my cakes have been 6-inch, four layer variations. I've included the recipe as it originally was in her book, which will make a shorter cake than what you see in my pictures. If going the 6-inch route, bake the cakes for an additional 10 minutes and use 1/3 cup frosting between each layer.

  • Tessa also includes a recipe for homemade salted caramel sauce, but I actually skipped making it from scratch and used this giant block of caramel from King Arthur Flour. It's perfect for time strapped folks, but be prepared to have a lot of caramel left over. Like, a LOT. Also, make sure your caramel sauce has cooled to room temperature before pouring it over the cake! My caramel sauce was still slightly warm, and as a result, caused my frosting to get a little bit melty. It's hard, but you have to be patient!

passionfruit curd pie

Guys, I got cocky.

After the triumph that was last month's epic #pieamonth pear and creme fraiche caramel pie, I thought I had it.

I'm a pie expert now! I thought to myself a few weeks ago, as I woke up early to create my next #pieamonth pie. This is going to be a breeze. It doesn't even have a lattice! I'm just going to do as I do — roll out my pie, stick it in the freezer, prep the filling — and go grab a pastry with Jessica. By the time I'm back, it'll be ready for the oven.

One chocolate ganache kouign amann and crazy delicious violet cheesecake later, I stuck the beautifully rolled and perfectly crimped frozen crust to pre-bake in the oven.

Pre-baking is often required when baking a custard or curd pie — the moisture in the filling can make the crust soggy before it has time to actually bake. The point of pre-baking it beforehand without any filling is to give the crust a head start to bake and ultimately solidify before the filling, helping the crust stay firm and prevent soggy bottomed crusts. However, you can't just bake the pie shell without weight to hold it down in the middle — as the crust bakes, pockets of steam get created within the pastry that cause it to puff up and ultimately sag around the edges. You need that weight to hold it down, which is why most pre-baking recipes instruct you to line your shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper filled with pie weights.

So I was placing my beautifully rolled, crimped, lined, and weighted pie in the oven, the parchment paper holding my pie weights gently brushed my countertop oven's heat source and burst into flame.

Have you ever seen parchment paper catch on fire? Especially the cheap kind you can buy in bulk on Amazon that's so thin and tissue papery that you often need to use two or three sheets at a time?

Well, it burns up like gangbusters.

My cat watched in judgement as I screamed, dropped the pan containing the pie, and hastily picked up the flaming inferno formerly known as my parchment paper and lobbed it into my sink. Hundreds of ceramic pie weights flew across the kitchen, making a racket as they bounced across the kitchen floor and rolled to irretrievable places underneath the oven and refrigerator.

I turned to see if my beautifully prepared shell was salvageable. NOPE. I found it lying face down on the ground in a pretty sorry state: half-melted on one side, covered in bits of ash and floor lint.

And that, my friends, is what happens when you get cocky when making pie.


Some baker's notes:
  • You can use either fresh passionfruit juice (with the seeds strained out) or frozen passionfruit puree in this recipe. Fresh passionfruit was a little hard for me to source, but I would occasionally (and rather randomly) see it at major supermarkets like Whole Foods and even Safeway. You can also use passionfruit puree, which can be found in the frozen section of Latin American markets or even online (but for a much steeper price). Whatever you do though, don't use artificial/shelf-stable passionfruit juice. They put a ton of extra sweetener and artificial preservatives in there that'll just ruin your curd.

  • I've already explained pre-baking science, so I won't repeat myself here. One word of advice though — if you have a small oven similar to mine, perhaps use a non flammable material like aluminum foil to line your pie instead. You also don't need to use fancy ceramic pie weights — you can use rice, beans, or even coins! Just make sure you use a generous amount of weight; if you don't use enough, the crust sags in the middle and destroys your beautiful crimp. Which is what happened to me the second time I made this pie. 

red wine gin sour

You'd think that cocktails go hand-in-hand with dessert, but I think I've been burned by too many underwhelming ones over the last few years. Most of the drinks I have at restaurants often try too hard, and err on the side of being either too sweet or too bitter. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but these days, I often find myself reaching for the beer and wine menu instead. I just want something light and refreshing, ya know?

But every so often, a cocktail comes along that slaps me in the face and shakes me out of my beer and wine rut. Something so tasty and perfectly balanced that each sip takes me away from whatever crowded restaurant to somewhere else completely.

Like this red wine gin sour cocktail:

This cocktail recipe comes from Tasting Rome, a new cookbook exploring the cuisine of one of Italy's most famous cities. The cookbook is full of delicious recipes for fried risotto balls and thin crust Roman-style pizza, but this particular cocktail recipe caught my eye because of its pretty ombre color. This recipe is the house cocktail recipe from Hotel Adriano's cocktail bar, which at one point, had the largest gin collection in all of Italy. Made with gin, elderflower liqueur, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and simple syrup, it's everything I want in a drink.

To celebrate Tasting Rome, I'm teaming up with Clarkson Potter to give away three copies of the book! Each winner will also receive a set of prints from the book, a hand drawn map of the center of Rome, and an extra set of exclusive recipes! To enter, use the widget below and like my (relatively) brand new spankin' Facebook page. The giveaway is open worldwide, and ends on April 18th at 8:00AM PDT. The winners will be chosen at random.

Some maker's notes:
  • The original recipe instructs you to combine the ingredients in a metal cocktail shaker and use a Hawthorne strainer to make the egg white foamy. Uh, I have NONE of those things (because I am lame) and instead used a mason jar with a lid. It worked surprisingly well; the only difference as far as I can tell is that my cocktail isn't as foamy as the one in the cookbook pictures. This recipe works best if you use a tall glass to show off that pretty ombre! I used this Irish coffee mug from Crate and Barrel

  • Speaking of ombre, you get that pretty effect by adding the wine last. The wine will automatically sink below the foam created by the egg white, but still be lighter than the rest of the drink. Pretty cool huh? The original recipe also instructs you to use a bar spoon as you pour the wine in, but I used a regular one to the same effect.

scandinavian breakfast board

When I left Portland, breakfast boards were all the rage. What's a breakfast board? Think: a traditional charcuterie and cheese board, but designed for breakfast. They're all the range in Scandinavia, especially Sweden.

In Portland, you could get European versions with those round ebelskever Danish pancakes and Norwegian lefse crepes, or more Americanized ones with soft scrambled eggs and bacon.

My version falls somewhere between the two — I've got traditional American fixings like bacon and biscuits, as well as Italian prosciutto and French eggs en cocotte. Check out the full recipe on West Elm's blog, where I've been sharing brunch recipes for the last few weeks!

quick whole wheat cinnamon rolls

Living in a big city, I think it's easy to romanticize another kind of slower, quieter life. I read articles about small town bakers that almost makes me cry out of jealousy; I spend far too much time looking at this tiny house listing on Sauvie Island. I don't think I'm alone in this sentiment — us big city folks are always daydreaming of slow living, wistful of the life depicted in Kinfolk magazine and the #thatsdarling hashtag.

I also think that, at the end of the day, us big city people forget that it's actually possible to live the thoughtful, more deliberate lives in our busy cities. It's a different kind than the ones depicted by the magazines and the Instagram accounts, but it's there. It's there in the window box of flowers, lovingly coached into blossom despite the traffic and busy streets below; it's there in recipes considered for small city kitchens and time-strapped folks, made with sustainably sourced and transparently produced ingredients. Like this one for quick whole wheat cinnamon rolls!

This recipe is adapted from one of my current favorite cookbooks, The Violet Bakery Cookbook, by former Chez Pannisse pastry chef Claire Ptak. If there's any baker who embodies the idea of "slow living in the big city", Claire is it. Her London bakery is almost nondescript and easily missed in the thriving hipster neighborhood of Hackney, but once inside, you can't helped but sucked in by the cozy atmosphere and her beautiful, homely baked goods.

Strapped for time and space in her city bakery, Claire developed a quickbread based recipe for cinnamon buns. As opposed to traditional bread recipes that use yeast to leaven the bread, quickbread recipes use leaveners like baking powder and baking soda instead. It significantly cuts down the baking time, eliminating any need to rest and proof the dough — heck, you don't even need to let any ingredients come to room temperature beforehand! It's perfect for folks who don't have four hours in their day to dedicate to bread making, but still want a hearty and rustic pastry.

My version of Claire's buns substitutes out half of the original recipe's quantity of all-purpose flour with King Arthur Flour's White Whole Wheat Flour, giving the rolls a heartier crumb with a subtle, nutty taste. The buns are filled with a generous portion of brown butter and sugar, spiked with King Arthur Flour's Chai Spice Mix. The resulting bun is not as fluffy as traditional buns; instead, these rolls are more akin to a crumbly biscuit or scone. When fresh from the oven and dipped in even more sugar, they're utterly addicting.

Thank you to King Arthur Flour for sponsoring this post by providing compensation and the ingredients for this recipe. I'm literally jumping for joy about our partnership together — even before this collaboration, I primarily used King Arthur products for most of my baking! I think they're the best in the business, and the quality of their ingredients elevates all my recipes above and beyond. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own; thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and my sponsors!

Some baker's notes:
  • As opposed to regular whole wheat flour that is traditionally milled from red wheat, this recipe uses identity-preserved white whole wheat flour. The wheat is milled from white wheat instead, and being "identity-preserved" means that the wheat is grown from certified seeds using sustainable farming practices! Overall, this flour has a much more subtle flavor and works perfectly in lighter baked goods like cakes and buns. You can substitute up to 50% of any recipe using all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. Check out King Arthur Flour's White Whole Wheat Baking Guide to learn more!

  • Unlike yeasted buns, these don't double in size in the oven and stay pretty compact. Don't panic if they don't appear to be rising in the oven; that's totes normal.

  • Unfortunately, because this is a quickbread recipe, these buns tend to get stale quickly and are best served the day they're made. However, you can make small batches by freezing the rolls you won't be able to finish in a day — wrap each roll individually in plastic wrap and transfer each to its own muffin cavity when ready to bake.

chocolate chip pancake layer cake with maple mascarpone cream

One of the most common questions that I get asked about my blog is how I pick desserts to bake. I sheepishly explain that I keep a Google doc full of recipes picked up from a bunch of sources — from other blogs, from food magazines, from cookbooks — that I'm working my way through, slowly but surely.

And while that method's worked for me for many years, it can be a little limiting. Since I'm the only person maintaining the list, I tend to only pick recipes that appeal to me and mostly ignore the ones I don't like, no matter how popular they might be or how often readers request them. For instance — you won't find any carrot cake recipes on my blog. Or any other sort of vegetable cake, really. Because despite the abundance of cakes made with carrots or zucchinis, I'm a firm believer that vegetables shouldn't belong in dessert (with the exception of rhubarb). Ditto with peanut butter cookies — people love them, but they're just not my jam.

So when my friend Meredith initially requested that I make a pancake layer cake for her birthday, I initially balked. I'm not the world's biggest pancake person — I prefer savory breakfasts over sweet ones any day, and if push comes to shove, I'll always order waffles or French toast over pancakes. Because pancakes are just another thing that isn't my jam.

But hey! When a dear friend requests a specific kind of cake for her birthday, I deliver.

For the special occasion, I was intent on making the best pancake I could. I tried a bunch of recipes from the internet and various cookbooks, but in the end, found that Billy's recipes for pancakes (from his awesome cookbook!) were my favorite — in particular, his buttermilk pancake recipe is fast and easy, delivering delicious pancakes each time. I also worked with Simon, who graciously provided me with 5 different sorts of pans to test and figure out which kind was ideal for pancake making. You can read all about my pan testing adventures on their blog, Simon SAID, in which I make these pancakes over and over again using pans from All-Clad, Le Creuset, Mauviel, and Williams-Sonoma.

Some baker's notes:
  • The pancakes are best warm; if making a cake, be sure to make the maple mascarpone whipped cream first, before making the pancakes. You can stack them in a birthday cake fashion like I did, but if the pancakes are still warm, the cream will start to melt and the cake will fall apart pretty quickly. If you're not planning on making a birthday cake, it's best to serve the cream on the side.

  • The mascarpone cream itself is not very sweet and is only sweetened by a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup — between the sugar in the pancakes and chocolate chips, I worried that sweetening the cream would just be too much of a sugar overload. If that's your jam though, feel free to add 1 tablespoon or more confectioner's sugar to the cream. Just be careful not to add too much; it gets sweet fast!