December 30, 2012

Hummingbird on High's 2012 Review

I know, I know. It's another wrap-up post! And yes, I know that my last post was also a wrap-up post. But allow me to point out the ever-so-slight difference — while the last one was about holiday recipes, this one's a lookback at the year. Your favorite recipes, my favorite recipes, and most excitingly, recipes I consider a fail. Ready for it? Here goes:

Readers' Favorite Recipes of 2012:
That is, these babies are my blog's most viewed recipes in 2012. YOUR favorites. All from the Hummingbird Bakery incidentally, living up to my blog's namesake:

1. The Hummingbird Bakery's Recipe for Green Tea Cupcakes:


I must admit, I'm not a big green tea fan, but this recipe is pretty baller. The key is that the recipe actually uses cocoa powder in addition to matcha powder, so this recipe is really a chocolate and green tea flavor combination. Doesn't hurt that the presentation of cupcakes with tea labels is totes adorable — even Portland local Stash Tea gave me some lovin'! I guess I did use their tea labels. To be honest, in retrospect, the frosting itself looks a little like green slime. Maybe I'll revamp this recipe next year with a better frosting job. 



One of my readers said it best when she commented, "MMM... Nutella squared, in both the cake and the frosting". You can't go wrong with Nutella! These cupcakes are not only infused with Nutella, but its chocolate frosting also contains generous portions of that stuff. Too much goodness in this cupcake, I won't disagree with you there.



This is actually one of my least favorite recipes on the blog, simply because I think the Hummingbird Bakery wrongly calls these cheesecake cupcakes. Cheesecake cupcakes implies a small portion of cheesecake baked into the cupcake or something like that, right? Instead, these babies are actually vanilla cupcakes with strawberries mixed into the batter, topped off with cream cheese frosting. I added a graham cracker base (the idea I stole from Cako, a San Francisco cupcake bakery) to make them more cheesecake-like. Good enough, but definitely still not a cheesecake. Points off for false advertising @hummingbirdbakery!

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My Favorite Recipes of 2012:
Interestingly enough, my favorite recipes didn't align with reader favorites. While reader favorites were mostly cupcakes, mine tended to be... tarts, cookies, and cakes. Interesting, considering this started out as a cupcake blog. I guess I burned out pretty early though, since the first ten or so recipes on my blog were cupcakes. Without further ado, my favorite recipes:

1. Tartine Bakery's Lemon Cream Tart with Blackberries (Recipe from Food52)



This recipe is my ultimate favorite recipe on this blog. I didn't really do the tart justice in my photos, but my god, in real life, it was beautiful. What's more is that it's delicious. It matched San Francisco's famed Tartine Bakery's lemon tart PERFECTLY, using an unfussy and fun (immersion blenders, woo!) recipe from Food52. If there was only one recipe you could make from my blog, this HAS to be the one. You won't regret it. I promise. 



I made these in attempt to recreate the cookies from Nuvrei, my favorite bakery in Portland. It's the first recipe I've reverse-engineered, and I'd say it went rather successfully. While they're never going to be as good as the original, they're a class on their own — thoroughly reverent to the original, melt-in-your-mouth chocolatey goodness, and gluten-free to boot! It also turns out that the bakery sells a box mix of these cookies, which I finally caved and bought one day (for the steep price of $18) just for the secret recipe (eeek!). It turns out my recipe wasn't too far from the original. Booyah!



I love, love, LOVE this cake. It's a combination of all my favorite things: bourbon, butter, and cake. The bourbon butter glaze that this recipe makes is just to die for. I would eat it on ANYTHING. The cake itself is perfectly — moist, buttery, boozy. Mmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. 

Another interesting thing I noticed was that my favorite recipes tended to have weaker pictures — I'm not particularly proud of my Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake pictures, but it's one of my favorite recipes on this blog. It's unfortunate that I wasn't able to take better pictures of the cake. The photo shoot happened before I figured out how to work with artificial lighting, and my photos show my inexperience with it. I also loathe taking pictures of bundt cakes — while they are beautiful in real life, I don't quite know how to translate it onto film. Although this recipe was rejected several times by Foodgawker, I'm really grateful that Foodbuzz picked it up so that people can enjoy it. Again, it's really unfortunate I didn't do this cake more justice. I smell a pictorial redo in the year 2013. 

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My Favorite Original Recipes of 2012:
I started this blog baking through the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, which taught me a lot of things and gave me the confidence to start creating my own recipes. So by original, I really mean a yours truly, Hummingbird on High original recipe. Slowly, but surely, I'm weaning away from using other bloggers/cookbook's recipes and starting to create my own collection from scratch. Here are some of my favorites: 



After the Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes, this recipe is actually one of the more popular recipes on my blog, thanks to its appearance in The Kitchn and frequent repostings on Pinterest. It's based off one of my favorite desserts at Pix Patisserie, a local dessert shop in Portland. I'm especially proud that I was able to recreate the pastry fairly well, but even more proud that I made it more accessible to the general public by using frozen puff pastry sheets and figuring out a way around a blow torch. My only concern is that the filling cream is a little too thin — it's based off a creme anglais recipe, when it really needs to be a custard. Maybe something to rework in 2013? 



This was the first recipe I truly called my own. I love, love, love Morning Fresh Dairy's Old Fashioned Root Beer Milk, and really just wanted to incorporate it into a recipe. And I did just that, taking the foundations from the Hummingbird Bakery's vanilla cupcake recipe and modifying it appropriately. The unfortunate thing is, I'm not sure how available Morning Fresh Dairy's root beer milk is outside of Denver. More specifically, I've never seen it anywhere else, not even Portland, one of the country's biggest food meccas! Oh well. Aren't the little straws in the cupcakes adorable? One of my better food styling sessions, if I don't say so myself. 



I initially was experimenting with caramel corn recipes, which called for melting popcorn in sheets of molten sugar and waiting for it to harden and crack. As I was breaking the giant sheets of popcorn, I realized that there was something attractive about the larger shards of sugar. I'm surprised this isn't a bigger thing? Surely I'm not the first person to think up of this? But then again, to be fair, I did require a thorough flossing session of my teeth after eating one shard of brittle. So maybe that's the major deterrent? It gets stuck in your teeth too easily? Oh well. Doesn't most hard candy?  

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My Least Favorite Recipes of 2012: 
Sometimes, I just don't have the time to make recipes over and over and perfecting them. Contrary to what I say at the time, not every recipe I make is truly that delicious. Here are some that I actually really hated, despite my flowery food blogging gushing. Please don't think I'm any less credible because of what I've said in the past! Send me an email anytime, and I'll honestly tell you which recipes are better or worse than others, like I'm doing here. I promise. 



Ugh, I tried to make this one work, I really did! You know me and my undying trust for the Hummingbird Bakery. So believe me when I say that this was one of the few times that I furiously redid the recipe over and over, trying to make it work. But I could never get the pie's custard to settle and smoothen properly; I was always left with a somewhat lumpy custard (you can even see it in the photo). I also wasn't really a big fan of the dulce de leche that the Hummingbird Bakery recommended adding — it made the pie a little too sickly sweet. Ugh, I feel so guilty and irreverent writing this! But it's the truth, I'm sorry. This recipe is one of the only times that the Hummingbird Bakery has failed me. Also, my photos are very icky. I'm no good at taking pictures of cakes and pies. 




I was so excited to try this recipe. Not only had it been pinned to my Pinterest board for a while, Not Without Salt is frequently one of the most lauded blogs on the internet, cited for its gorgeous food photography. But this recipe was a disaster. It uses an odd-sized pan, which I found difficult to find, so I initially substituted it with a standard 9 by 13 baking pan. Big mistake. The bars came out an odd, rock-solid texture. I made them again with the recommended pan, and although its texture was marginally better, the cookie bars' flavor remained... oddly bland. Perhaps it was the cream cheese subbing in for the butter, but my bars lacked the tang that the original author described. In fact, it was severely  lacking flavor... maybe it needed salt? Ironic, considering the blog's name. Oh well. 



You know, I hesitated putting this recipe on this list because there's technically nothing wrong with these donuts. They look beautiful, and they taste exactly like boxed donuts. But that's part of the problem. They don't taste like the wonderful, fresh donuts you get from a donut shop. They taste EXACTLY like the no-expiration-date, Twinkie variation that you get in sad little boxes in supermarkets next to the Hostess products. Do you know the kind that I'm talking about? Entenmann's donuts, is it? Now, that may be up your alley but it's certainly not mine. I like my donuts fresh tasting and deep fried. Why bother baking something from scratch only to have it taste like it came out of a box? Too harsh? I'll stop now. 

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And there you have it. It looks like I've got some revamps planned for 2013! In any case, I want to thank all you guys for reading and helping make this blog what it is today. Look forward to a design update during these next few weeks (yep, the new header is already rolled out), as well as updates on a new direction I'm hoping to take (I know, I know — first it's a high-altitude baking blog, then it's not, then it's not a bake-through blog anymore... trust me, this'll all be cleared soon), as well as some recipes too!  

Happy New Year! 

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear! Are you honest about your recipe writing now? I just pinned so many recipes!!

    ReplyDelete