May 31, 2012

Guys, I have some bittersweet news.

I'm moving away from Denver.

What brought me out to Denver in the first place was an offer from a financial consulting firm. Although I knew deep down that it was a poor fit for me, I accepted the job for a number of (wrong) reasons -- a salary that allowed me to live well beyond being comfortable (and buy the KitchenAid mixer of my dreams!), an easy escape from the insane cost of living in San Francisco, and pressure from my parents, who were successful finance and consulting executives themselves.

But if there's anything I've learned over the last few months, money and family pressure are not good enough reasons to commit yourself to doing something you hate for 40-plus hours a week. But that's another story that shouldn't be shared here.

This blog offered me a respite from the stress of my day job. When I first started this blog back in October, it was written primarily for myself. I attempted to stress-bake as a form of therapy after I quickly realized what a poor fit this job was for me. Eventually, it turned into something more. I would never have dreamed, for instance, that I would one day have photos accepted on Foodgawker and Tastespotting, or that I would have a significant readership in faraway countries like Kuwait and South Africa. Or that the Huffington Post would find one of my recipes (organically!) and declare it as one of the best of the web.

But at the end of the day, my favorite moments running this blog were when other high-altitude bakers -- whether they be established bloggers or professional chefs, or even just occasional dabblers in baking -- reached out and expressed their gratitude for my recipes, asking for advice on adapting recipes or sharing their own stories of failed baking attempts at high-altitude. These bakers and bloggers gave me the sense of community and friendship that I struggled to find in Denver, as well as a sense of purpose that my job failed to provide. For that, I cannot express how grateful I am. It's been a lonely and difficult last few months, but you guys have given me the kind of support and energy I needed to keep going.

So although I'm excited about my new dream job in Portland and my return to the city I consider my home, I recognize that it is bittersweet. It is incredibly heartbreaking to be leaving the high-altitude baking community that I discovered through this blog.

By the time you read this, I'll probably already be in Portland. I'll continue to post the high-altitude recipes that I frantically worked through during my month of funemployment in Denver. But after that, I don't know what comes next. I'd like to promise that this blog will continue, but I don't know how much time I'll have to spare in Portland. I don't like making promises I can't keep, BUT I will say -- and my friends can attest to this -- that I have a multiple page long Google Doc brimming with recipe ideas, begging to be baked and cooked through. So maybe this "High-Altitude Baking Blog" will eventually become "A Blog Inspired By The Hummingbird Bakery".

We'll just have to see.

I'd like to thank a few people for their support and encouragement:

Troy, for helping redesign my blog and bringing its initial design from 1998 up to 2012.

Kimothy, for taking the beautiful photos of my cupcakes that allowed me to be published on Foodgawker for the first time. And more importantly, for sharing valuable photography advice that eventually led me to being published on Foodgawker (repeatedly!) by my own accord.

Vikram, for thinking from the get-go that my blog is the coolest thing EVER and never, ever wavering in that thought.

Erlend, for putting up with the multiple weekends, days, and nights that I spent neurotically baking, as well as the stacks of dishes in our dishwasher-less apartment. For helping me go through my photos (even though he hated it so much), and for eating the cupcakes when I no longer could.

But most of all, for all my readers out there: thank you for your time, support, and encouragement.

And for you high-altitude bakers -- keep persevering! Bake, bake, bake -- don't be discouraged by the cake fails and puddles of goop. If a girl like myself -- someone who's never lived more than 100 miles away from the ocean --  can figure it out, you can too.

That I WILL promise you.

May 29, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Peaches and Cream Cupcakes Recipe (Adapted for High-Altitude)

"A classic summer combination -- using fresh peaches makes the recipe work so much better. Other fruits in season could be substituted."
- The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

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May 28, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Peaches and Cream Cupcakes, High-Altitude Style

Guys, this is the last Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook I will adapt for high-altitude. After this recipe, I will have cooked through all the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook cupcake recipes that I'm actually interested in.

How does it feel, to be so close to my goal? To be honest, I expected to feel more accomplished. Instead, I actually feel... relieved. Somewhere along the way -- maybe around the time I figured out that the vanilla and chocolate cupcake recipe adjustments could work for almost all of the cookbook's other cupcake recipes -- I began to feel restricted. That I was being cheap by sticking to just one source. That I was being constrained by the cookbook's content. What about other stuff I really liked that the cookbook didn't have recipes for? Things like donutsmadeleines, and macarons? I wanted to try to figure those out at high-altitude too!

May 26, 2012

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Lace Florentines

One of my biggest grievances about Colorado is that the state does not have any Trader Joe's supermarkets. I basically lived off of Trader Joe's frozen food in college... well, okay, definitely for several years after college too.

But perhaps nothing could match my love for their plastic buckets filled with snacks. Trader Joe's Chocolate Covered Sunflower Seeds? I could eat through an entire bucket in half an hour. Don't even get me started on their mini peanut butter cups.

On the other hand, Erlend, my boyfriend, had a fondness for their chocolate lacey cookies. This is saying something since he doesn't really have much of a sweet tooth. So when I saw a recipe for oatmeal lace florentines that reminded me of Trader Joe's lacey cookies, I figured I could try and recreate this beloved Trader Joe's snack over here in Denver.

So what are florentines?

These guys:

May 24, 2012

White Chocolate Candies with Vanilla Bean, Coconut, and Honey

If you know me in real life, every so often, you'll see me limping around like I've hurt myself or hear me utter weird phrases like "burpees" or "snatches".  It's because I belong to this pretty intense gym called Crossfit.

Despite what its name might otherwise suggest, Crossfit is nothing like BowFlex or any of those rather questionable fitness programs that you see on TV. Instead, it's the fitness program that fire departments, law enforcement, and military organizations use to get fit and stay in shape. Its emphasis is on constantly varied and high intensity workouts -- kinda intense stuff like Olympic lifts and cardio intervals. It's hard to imagine a 5"3 girl like myself lifting 50+ lbs overhead, I know, but I gotta make up for eating all these baked goods, all right?!

A lot of Crossfitters follow what's known as the Paleo Diet. It excludes grains, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils. Yeah... I don't do that. I mean, I run a cupcake blog after all. But every so often, I inadvertently get guilted into rethinking my eating habits by the young/beautiful/healthy people at my gym who can lift way more than me. Maybe if I can just give up my beloved grains and sugars, I'll be able to complete a Helen in under 8 minutes...?

Nah.

But eitherway, when I saw Coco from Roost's paleo-ish recipe for White Chocolate, Vanilla Bean Cups with Toasted Coconut & Pink Salt after a particularly intense Crossfit workout, I decided to give it a try:

May 22, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Green Tea Cupcakes Recipe (Adapted for High-Altitude)

"Green tea-flavored desserts are very popular in Japan. Green tea works so well in cakes, combined with either vanilla or chocolate. It's important to use green tea powder called 'matcha'."
- The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

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May 21, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Green Tea Cupcakes, High-Altitude Style

I'm not a big tea drinker. Blasphemous, I know. So many of my good friends are such big tea aficionados,  downing 2-3 mugs of tea per day. One friend of mine even brought her own tea to a weekend wedding. But me, personally? Nah. My boyfriend has been trying to convince me to start drinking green tea, citing this article and arguing that it was one of the healthiest foods in the world. I laughed. I run a dessert blog. Healthy foods is one of the last things on my mind.

So I had mixed feelings about this particular Hummingbird Bakery recipe. The last green tea recipe I made -- Green Tea Ice Cream -- turned out too tannic and had a bit of a bitter aftertaste. I had to tone it down with some Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Fudge. Tough life I lead, I know. 

A close look at the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's recipe for Green Tea Cupcakes, however, revealed that Tarek Malouf and I were on the same page. First of all, the cookbook notes that green tea flavor works wonderfully with either chocolate or vanilla. In fact, the cupcake's cake base is actually a chocolate cake base... almost the same exact recipe as the cookbook's recipe for chocolate cupcakes. The only difference was that this cake used milk that had been cold-infused with green tea.

One of my readers commented on my Green Tea Ice Cream recipe that tea, when heated, can become so bitter because of the heat's reaction with the tea's tanins. A way around this bitterness is to extract the tea's flavor by cold infusion. Simply leave the tea bags in the milk overnight to infuse the milk. Which is exactly what this recipe tells you to do. It's the same method that was used in the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's recipe for Lavender Cupcakes.  You get have the delicate, floral, taste of tea without any of the bitterness. The chocolate cake of the cupcakes has a faint scent of green tea without any of the bitterness. 

Now that I can get behind.

I had no trouble adapting this recipe for high-altitude. Like I said before, the recipe is almost identical to the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's recipe for chocolate cupcakes, with the exception of the use of green tea-infused milk. The adjustments that I made for the chocolate cupcakes worked perfectly with these guys.

I'd actually even made this recipe at high-altitude before. Kailin, one of my former coworkers, is a big green tea fanatic. For her birthday, she requested that I make her a batch of cupcakes. What better than Green Tea Cupcakes for a green tea fanatic?

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the cupcakes themselves. But I do have a picture of the gift-wrap box that I presented to Kailin containing the cupcakes:

May 18, 2012

Lemon Scented Cake Donuts with a Pink Rosewater Glaze


I already confessed the truth -- even though this is a cupcake blog,  I'm having an affair. While cupcakes will always be my dependent lover, donuts will always be my secret paramour.

I love them.

So guys, this is my very first donut recipe and I'm really, really, REALLY excited to share it with you:


Lemon scented cake donuts with a bright pink rosewater glaze!

NOM.

Admittedly, this is the second rendition of this recipe. It's adapted from a donut recipe that I found on Foodgawker. During the first iteration of it, I followed the recipe down to a tee, making some educated guesses so that the batter would work at high-altitude. The recipe was simple and, best of all, delicious -- they tasted like the cake donuts you buy from a legitimate donut shop. I couldn't believe donuts were so easy to make at home:

May 17, 2012

Guys, I got certified by Yummly today!

Certified Yummly Recipes on Yummly.com

Earlier today, I was going through the motions of my afternoon funemployment routine -- recovering from Crossfit (if you follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen the giant gash on my hand from today's workout), prepping for my next big baking project, maintaining my blog -- when I noticed something odd in my blog's analytics.

Most of my referrals come from a handful of sources -- organic searches, big food aggregator sites like Foodgawker and Tastespotting, personal tumblrs and Pinterest accounts. But I had a large number of posts coming from Yummly's blog. One of their community managers had featured my adaptation of the Hummingbird Bakery's Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes Recipe in a post about recipes featuring Nutella! How exciting!

Is it Donut Time? Yes, it's Donut Time.


I have a confession: contrary to popular belief, cupcakes are not my favorite baked good. Yep. Even though this blog primarily revolves around cupcakes, here's the truth -- while I love cupcakes, when push comes to shove and I'm presented a plate of baked goods in front of me, I will pick donuts over cupcakes.

There, I said it.

May 15, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Banana and Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe (Adapted for High-Altitude)

"Bananas work so well when used in baking, as they become almost caramel-like when they cook. Chocolate Frosting works particularly well with these [cupcakes]."
- The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

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May 14, 2012

High-Altitude Hummingbird Bakery Banana and Chocolate Cupcakes, Pt. 1: Temperature Adjustments


Last post, I baked the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's recipe for Banana and Chocolate cupcakes without any adjustments or alterations. The cupcakes turned out surprisingly well, mostly due to their heavier batter. However, the cupcakes cratered as they cooled, indicating that they were still undercooked after the recipe's instructed bake time of 20 minutes. The cupcakes were also pale yellow instead of the golden brown the cookbook promised they'd be. 

There was an easy fix for all this -- increasing the recipe's temperature and potentially the cupcakes' required bake time. Recall that almost all of the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's recipes have needed some form of temperature adjustment at high-altitude due to the fact that water evaporates at lower temperatures

May 11, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Banana and Chocolate Cupcakes, High-Altitude Style

I was especially excited to adapt this recipe for high altitude because I love bananas. I'm pretty sure I eat one everyday.

I'm an even bigger fan of banana baked goods; I love the way they almost caramelize when you cook them. Banana bread is one of my favorite baked goods of all time, but I have yet to had the courage to adapt my favorite banana bread recipe (Caramel Toffee Banana Bread, available here) for high-altitude. I've been using my old Crossfit coach's high-altitude banana bread recipe from her paleo website, but, being paleo, it's really not the same. Even despite the non-paleo addition of chocolate chips. Ha.

A quick look at the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's recipe for Banana and Chocolate Cupcakes kinda threw me in for a loop. At this point, I was so used to easily adapting the cookbook's recipes since they were essentially variations of the initial vanilla and chocolate recipes. For instance, the recipe for Lemon Cupcakes was essentially that of Vanilla Cupcakes, but with the use of lemon zest exchanged for vanilla extract. So I had just been using the high-altitude adjustments for the vanilla cupcakes that I'd painstakingly figured out from the beginning. 

But the ingredients list for the Chocolate Banana cupcakes warned me that I wouldn't be able to do the same for this particular recipe:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • a scant 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • a pinch of salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ripe banana, peeled and mashed

May 10, 2012

Homemade Green Tea Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Fudge Sauce

Guys, it's really hot in Denver.

While I love sunshine and sunny days in general, I'm just not used to this kind of heat (especially after significant time spent in the rather mild climates of San Francisco and Portland). Denver gets the kind of heat that I haven't really ever experienced. The sun up here is brutal -- it burns my skin so easily, making it actually physically hurt to stand in the direct sunlight for too long. This is kind of a big deal, considering that I was born in the tropical Philippines and went to high-school in Texas.

In order to try and beat the heat, I decided to take advantage of the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer and make some ice cream. According to Thomas Keller in Ad Hoc At Home, nothing beats freshly spun, homemade ice cream. He's completely right:

May 8, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Coconut and Pineapple Cupcakes Recipe (Adapted for High-Altitude)

"Coconut and pineapple gives these cupcakes a tropical flavor. Grated fresh coconut can be used instead of desiccated coconut for an even better flavor."
- The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

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May 7, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Coconut and Pineapple Cupcakes, High-Altitude Style

Guys, can we take a moment here and check out my progress?
  1. Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (completed 12/21/2011)
  2. Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (completed 1/27/2012)
  3. Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (completed 3/4/2012)
  4. Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting (completed 3/15/2012)
  5. Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes (completed 3/27/2012)
  6. Black Bottom Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (completed 4/24/2012)
  7. Lavender Cupcakes with Lavender Buttercream Frosting (completed 4/28/2012)
  8. Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes with Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream Frosting (completed 5/2/2012)
  9. Coconut and Pineapple Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream Frosting
  10. Banana and Chocolate Cupcakes
  11. Green Tea Cupcakes with Green Tea Buttercream Frosting 
  12. Peaches and Cream Cupcakes
  13. Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
  14. Marshmallow Cupcakes
  15. Ginger Cupcakes with Ginger-Lemon Frosting 
There are 15 cupcake recipes in the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. I've cooked through 8 of them, and I'm on my 9th recipe. I'm more than halfway through! 

May 5, 2012

Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie... for High-Altitude!


This is not the prettiest pie, nope. But I promise that what it lacks in prettiness, it far makes up for in taste. Why? This is Momofuku Milk Bar's oh-so-famous (even trademarked!) Crack Pie.

May 4, 2012

How to Infuse Your Cupcakes with Nutella (or any other cream!)

Ever since I published the recipe for the Hummingbird Bakery's Chocolate Hazelnut cupcakes a few days ago, I've been receiving a lot of questions about one of the steps in the recipe. Specifically, the final step of the recipe instructs you to hollow out a small section of the center of cupcake and fill the resulting hole with a dollop of Nutella. Doing so results in a cupcake with a delicious surprise in the center:

May 2, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes Recipe (Adapted for High-Altitude)

"Sometimes chocolate alone just won't do, which is why we've added irresistible hazelnut chocolate spread to these cupcakes. Decorate with hazelnuts for extra crunch."
- The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

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May 1, 2012

Hummingbird Bakery Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes, High-Altitude Style


The next recipe up in the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook is one for chocolate hazelnut cupcakes. As I've mentioned before, I'm not actually the world's biggest fan of chocolate cake -- blasphemous, I know. But chocolate hazelnut is a combination I can get behind. I mean, who doesn't love Nutella? I know I do.