a picnic cheeseboard

July 19, 2017

Remember Birthday Month, and how I was supposed to have a fancy picnic lunch at the William Vale rooftop garden? Well, that ended up not happening due to some pesky rain/personal drama/big life decisions (which I'll tell you about soon, I promise, I promise). And then one of my Portland besties was in town, and my mom, so... here we are in July, celebrating with a very belated birthday picnic!

Erlend and I live just around the corner from Herbert Von King park, so we ended up calling some friends over one Sunday afternoon for a low key celebration with frozen sangria and a cheeseboard! I know there are a bazillion guides and tips for how to put together your own cheeseboard, but I figured I'd put together my own favorite tips and guidelines:

cherry frangipane tart

July 12, 2017

I am not a summer person.

It's the heat. I hate the humidity, the scorching pavements, and the funky smells of the city. While everybody else is having their fun adventures taking trips to the beach or upstate, I hole up inside in front of the air conditioner. The moment I step foot outside of its range, I immediately start sweating. All other attempts to stay cool are worthless: I don't like the way my arms look in sleeveless shirts and I'm very mad about the fact that those off-the-shoulder blouses are the only shirts you can buy in stores these days. There is only so much ice cream I can eat, as a lactose-intolerant-person-in-semi-denial-about-her-situation.

Summer's saving grace are the fruits and vegetables that come into season. After a dreary winter, the city's farmers markets are now bursting at the seams with the prettiest flowers, luscious strawberries, and bright currants. All begging to be baked into pies and cakes.

It's a pity that turning on my oven immediately ratchets our apartment's temperature to 90 degrees+. So how do I balance my whims to bake with my need to stay cool?

I think the answer is this: I declare this to be the summer of rustic, fruit-based baked goods. There will be none of the elaborate layer cakes and time-consuming bakes of the winter — instead, I'll be playing with recipes that are fast and easy, often one bowl in nature. The results might not be the prettiest or most elaborate, but boy, I hope they'll be tasty.

Like this cherry frangipane tart. With almond in both the crust and the frangipane filling, it can seem a little boring in flavor. But the ripe and flavorful cherries are sweet and at the peak of their season, bringing a much welcome bold flavor to the otherwise one dimensional tart.


Some baker's notes:
  • The frangipane recipe makes more than what's needed for the recipe. It might not seem like you're using enough for the filling, but trust the recipe! The frangipane will puff up when baked and take on a consistency halfway between a buttery pound cake and a sticky sponge cake.

strawberry and black peppercorn italian cream sodas

July 5, 2017

Today's post will be short and sweet, mostly because it's summer and I don't want to bake in the 90-degree heat. Plus, my mom was in town for the weekend! She didn't have the best time when she was last in town, so I made sure to "control the situation" and take her to all my favorite spots this time around. We had pork belly buns at Momofuku Ssam, pizza at Roberta's, and a 4th of July duck feast at Decoy!

Anyway, on to this quickie recipe: aside from Manila, New York City is probably the hottest place I've ever lived. I've been beating the heat by camping out in front of the air conditioning, and turning all the beautiful berries that are finally in season into Italian cream sodas. It's super easy — simply boil down your favorite summer fruit into a syrup, toss in some sparkling water and a dash of cream for the prettiest, most refreshing beverage:

Just for fun, I decided to throw in some black peppercorns to my strawberry syrup. It gave the soda a subtle, peppery kick that contrasted well with the bubbles and cream.

Stay cool out there!

strawberry yellow cake pudding pops

June 27, 2017

Popsicle Week is here, just in time for the last week of my birthday month! What better way to round off blondies, birthday cake, and Drake-themed cookies than with a tasty, frozen treat like these strawberry pops infused with yellow funfetti cake flavor?

This is my first popsicle week ever, which is ridiculous since Billy's been hosting Popsicle Week for as long as I can remember. For some reason, I never had my life together in time to participate in the past years? To be fair, I think I was in the throes of a big move from San Francisco to New York last year and had already packed away my popsicle molds, but I don't remember what my excuses were before that. But it doesn't matter, I'm here, I'm here!


I sorta screwed up again this year — because instead of using my fancy popsicle mold that I spent way too much money on, I used a mini ice cream bar mold to make these pudding pops*. I was inspired after Steph and I spent way too long time creeping on @rymondtn's Instagram account. Ray is some sort of ice cream bar transfiguration wizard, I swear — he can turn ice cream bars into marbled galaxy surfaces, woodland creatures, and more. I figured that if he was successfully turning his ice cream bars into Pokemon and Japanese beckoning cats, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch for me to make some simple dipped ice cream bars, right?

Right, right.

So here's how it went down: I managed to dip two of my bars in a bowl of melted Valrhona dulcey blonde chocolate before I gave up. It was a mess. My bars came out chunky and uneven, with chocolate layered on incredibly thick in some places and barely covering others, leaving spots of pink, strawberry pudding poking out from underneath. Whatever he was doing to get the chocolate on his bars smooth enough for a marbled galaxy effect and elaborate decorations, I certainly was not. FINE, I huffed, quickly shoving the bars back into the freezer to prevent them from further melting in the 90 degree heat of my apartment. They look better undipped anyway. That way people can see the yellow birthday cake embedded within the strawberry pudding base. Right?

Right, right.

But Ray — if for some reason you ever find yourself on my site reading this, TEACH ME YOUR WAYS.

*The rest of the SLAMM squad made some kind of pudding pop variation too! Steph made carrot cake cream cheese pudding pops, Lily made vegan banana pudding pops, Alana made matcha azuki pudding pops, and Molly made pistachio butter pudding pops. Yay!!! For the full list of popsicles, check out Billy's site and join the popsicle party.

**These pops are the final recipe for #humhibirthdaymonth! Check out the rest of the birthday month recipes: birthday cake blondies, 30th birthday cake, and pink champagne oreos.

also featured:

Some baker's notes:
  • The "popsicle" molds are actually ice cream bar molds that come in a variety of shapes and sizes! I have these ones that look like mini Magnum bars, but look how cute the heart shaped ones are! And the spiral ones! Okay, so actually just all of them...

  • The cake recipe is adapted the funfetti recipe from my friend Christina's latest book, Sweet & Simple. Christina scales down all recipes on her blog to smaller serving sizes just meant for two, which meant that her recipe had just enough cake for the pops (okay, it actually made slightly more because I ate some of the cake on its own), The only change I made was to keep the egg yolk in the recipe (she omits it in the original) to give the cake a more yellow crumb. Make sure to make the cake first so you can have it ready for the pudding pops! 

  • It's incredibly, incredibly hard to find a good strawberry pudding recipe. After some failed attempts, I just decided to use this recipe adapted from Wilton Cakes. It's fine — definitely not as custardy as I would like it to be, but it doesn't really matter anyway since you end up freezing it all for the popsicles. Also, my version probably isn't as flavorful because I use fresh strawberries without the weird preservative syrup they make you use. So basically, let me know if you have a better recipe for strawberry pudding, please.

pink champagne oreos

June 21, 2017

When I was in my early twenties, trends came into my life easily. I was all about the latest music, and pretty much attended every worthwhile indie concert that rolled through the Crystal Ballroom between 2007 and 2008. Looking through my college photos and the first few years after graduating, I see myself cycling through some funny clothing trends: hairbands inspired by Gossip Girl; cardigan and Anthropologie dress combos stolen from that 500 Days of Summer movie; unironic American Apparel spandex skater dresses (yikes).

These days, most of the clothes I buy are so timeless and trend-free that they stay in my closet for years and years. And the other day, as I flipped through all my saved/offline Spotify songs during my subway ride, I came to a scary realization — most of them were songs from years ago. And when I say years, I mean years. Think: Garden State soundtrack (cringe).

At that moment, I made a "birthday resolution" to myself: it was time to put my ear to the ground and start finding new music. The last few weeks have been filled with me exploring a variety of the latest, hottest music. My subway commutes have been filled with the sounds of Kendrick Lamar, The xx, Father John Misty, and of course, Drake.

Now I'm not THAT lame — this isn't the first time I've heard of Drake. There's #drakeoncake, sure, but I mostly know Drake through his Top 40 singles and radio airtime: "Take Care" with Rihanna from 2012 (wow, has it been that long?), "Hold On, We're Going Home", "Jumpman" (as featured in this Taylor Swift/Apple ad, sigh), and of course, "Hotline Bling". But in Apartment Hummingbird High, however, the song that's been on replay since my Great Drake Exploration of 2017 is "Pop Style" — I love it so much so that I dedicated a recipe to it:

The recipe is part of my birthday month series; to celebrate my 30th birthday, I'm spending the month baking recipes with flavors that I associate with birthdays and parties. This particular dessert is all about living my best Drake self: strawberry and pink champagne frosting sandwiched between two deep, dark chocolate cookies from my trusty homemade Oreo recipe. It's not quite a 24 Hour Champagne Diet, but it'll do.


Some baker's notes:
  • The frosting recipe requires you to make a quick jam/compote by cooking down strawberries and pink champagne together. Make the jam ahead of time, so you have it ready before you make the frosting. The recipe will likely make more than what you need; freeze the leftovers indefinitely for future baking projects, or as a quick drink mixer!

  • The Oreo cookie recipe is adapted from the TKO cookie recipe in the Bouchon Bakery cookbook (also seen in this recipe for dinosaur fossil cookies!). Because it's Thomas Keller and he's meticulous to a fault (he allegedly hired ballerinas to train staff on how to move around gracefully at The French Laundry and Per Se), the ingredient quantities are super weird and precise. Just go with it. It's worth it, I promise. Be sure to use Dutch-processed cocoa (as opposed to natural — I like Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa) so that the cookies turn out midnight black!

  • I used the 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter from this set and these mini alphabet cookie cutters to stamp out the cookies. I'm not going to lie — stamping out the mini letters were a pain in the butt! Unless you're trying to impress somebody, I wouldn't do it. It was really difficult to dig out the letter cutouts. When the dough got too soft and difficult to work with, I ended up stamping out rounds, moving those rounds to my baking trays, and then using a toothpick to dig out the letter cutouts because I'm ridiculous. Larger shapes are the way to go! But if you insist on the mini letters, the dough is easiest to stamp when it's a little on the cold side, but be careful! If the dough is too cold, it will crumble/snap easily.
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