July 28, 2012

Mission Street Food's Sour Cream Brownie Bricks

There's a restaurant called Mission Chinese Food that's making waves in New York City right now. This recipe comes from their (kindof) cookbook and describes itself as "the perfect balance of brownie textures -- cakey and fudgey with that distinctive papery brownie business on top":


But before we get to the recipe, I'm going to tell you a little story.

Back in 2010, I moved to San Francisco a few months after graduating from college. I was beyond excited -- my first real job with a salary and benefits, and I was going to be living in one of the world's most beloved cities. What could go wrong?

Well, it turns out a lot of things. Especially with a paltry entry-level salary barely above $35K and a steep rent of $1,395 for the only apartment I could get (which of course, happened to be in a sketchy, gang-ridden part of town). Every day was a meticulous game of counting pennies to make sure I could make next month's rent. So while the rest of the city boomed from the high-tech gold rush, I was quickly left out and became one of those struggling Lena Dunham-type characters slaving to make their way in a city that didn't even really want them.

So what was it like to be a such a big eater and live in San Francisco, a bastion of foodie culture and one of the leaders of the country's burgeoning Food Revolution? Quite frankly, I can't tell you because all the great places were so laughably out of my meager budget. For a long time, I couldn't even bear to look at these restaurants' menus. It seemed like everything I loved and was interested in was right there happening around the city -- but it was all just so completely inaccessible to me.

But then I discovered Mission Chinese Food. Cheap, dirty, and delicious with generous servings, Mission Chinese was a pop-up that operated for a few days a week inside another restaurant. I quickly made it a weekly routine to eat at the restaurant, with friends or even without them. Danny, the hipster chef with the badly-dyed bleached hair, quickly took notice of my desperate regular presence while he was out front pulling noodles and rolling dumplings. He began to slip me free appetizers and samples here and there, always stopping by my table for a quick chat.

As the months went by and article after article got written about the place, I began to see my beloved hole-in-the-wall grow. My favorite items on the menu -- the three-spice garlic eggplant, the Szechuan beef cheek -- were rotated out. I began to feel uncomfortable eating there on my own, as tables began to fill up and lines began to grow out the door. Soon, I considered myself lucky if I only waited 45 minutes for a table. Kind of insane, considering it was a restaurant with bars on the windows and a paper dragon with PBR cans in its mouth for decoration.

I did go back to Mission Chinese one last time before I left San Francisco though. Although it had been months since I'd last been able to get a table within a reasonable time frame, Danny instantly recognized me, waved, and zoomed over to the table with some free Szechuan pickles and peanuts. He gave me a grin and winked, bustling away to the kitchen without another word. That was the last time I saw him in person. The next time I saw him, he was on The Martha Stewart Show.

I'm incredibly happy to see that Mission Chinese is killing it in New York, and even happier to see that Danny and his crew are doing well. Mission Chinese is a lot of things -- delicious, original, creative, generous, hearty, comforting -- and these brownies really represent that:


First of all, they're HUGE -- like two brownies stacked on top of each other. That's why I've fondly dubbed them as "bricks".  The sour cream (originally creme fraiche, but I swapped it out with sour cream to make it more accessible) gives a surprising, but entirely welcome "pizzaz" to the classic brownie flavor. Appropriate, since almost all of Mission Chinese's dishes could be described that way -- Americanized Chinese food with an unexpected, yet delicious twist.

July 25, 2012

Momofuku Milk Bar Cereal Milk Cupcakes

Guys, before we get this party started, I have some exciting news -- the official Hummingbird on High twitter account is up and running! Follow the account for new blog posts, recipe tips and tricks, Instagram photos, and all things blog related.

... and back to the cupcakes.

According to the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook, cereal milk is the bakery's most popular item and is what the bakery is best known for. Cereal milk is exactly what it sounds like -- milk infused with cereal flavor, created by steeping and seasoning the milk with toasted cereal. You know how when you eat a bowl of sugary breakfast cereal in the morning, the leftover milk has been sweetened by your pile of cereal? Yep. This is basically what cereal milk is. Christina Tosi, executive pastry chef of Momofuku Milk Bar and winner of this year's James Beard's Rising Star Chef award, actually sells this stuff for $5 a bottle. She's even trademarked it too.

She describes cereal milk's origins in the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook as having come from a struggle to bake an original flavor for panna cotta. Which got the wheels in my head spinning. The cookbook talks about all the other things you can use cereal milk for: you can drink it straight, use it in an ice cream base, pour it into your coffee... but what about using it in baked goods? Specifically, how about using it in the one baked good that Momofuku Milk Bar doesn't specialize in?

Cupcakes.


These cupcakes are made from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's recipe for vanilla cupcakes, but with a twist. Instead of using the regular whole milk that the original recipe calls for, I used some homemade Momofuku Milk Bar Cereal Milk made from the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook.

The result was interesting. The cereal milk added a unique and almost salty flavor that complemented the Hummingbird Bakery's vanilla cupcake recipe very well. My boyfriend said that the cupcakes reminded him of sweet cornbread. Another friend said they tasted exactly like the leftover milk at the bottom of a finished bowl of cereal.

All I know is that I personally couldn't stop licking the spatula from the frosting bowl.

July 21, 2012

Four Ingredient Coconut Ice Cream

It's a known fact that nine months of the year, Portland's sky is a constant oyster-grey and there's a never-ending stream of drizzle that starts sometime in September and doesn't end until May. I won't lie. The weather is the worst part about living in Portland. I remember when I was interviewing at Wieden+Kennedy, a local advertising agency that attracts a lot of transplants, it was a running joke amongst the company that employees would sometimes disappear without notice. It was the weather, they explained. It makes people crack.

But the summers -- oh, the summers. In those three precious months, there is no place more beautiful than Portland. The city becomes a vivid picture, filled with flowers, lush greenery, summer dresses and iced coffee.  The sky is a cloudless blue and the trees are an emerald green. This is no exaggeration.

But while the rest of the country has been in a heatwave, Portland has been unkind in the opposite way. The city has been a fickle mistress. June was spent wearing my winter jacket. There have been far too many rainy days than in the Portland summers of my past. And when we finally do have a few days of warmth, they are muggy, sunless days with the sky remaining the oyster-grey of the previous nine months.

Which is why this is an optimistic post. Ice cream is a treat for sunny, sky blue days spent lounging in Ladd's Circle on a picnic blanket:





Everybody knows that coconut is the flavor of summer. Coconut evokes the feeling of being by the water on a warm day, a cool breeze blowing through your hair.

This ice cream is made from one of the easiest ice cream recipes I've ever come across, using just four ingredients to produce the creamiest coconut ice cream I have ever eaten. Feel free to mix in a batch of fresh berries -- everybody knows nothing beats Oregon berries in the summer time:



Now weather, if only you would cooperate. No more sun-less days, okay?


July 18, 2012

Chocolate Breakfast Rolls (A Morning Hack)


I don't believe in breakfasts that take more than 20 minutes to make. When I wake up in the morning, I am HANGRY. I need a tall glass of water and some calories ASAP, or the rest of my day goes to hell.

Which is why these chocolate rolls are absolutely perfect. Nope, I didn't spend the morning folding croissant dough together, no, no, no.

Instead, all I needed was all-butter puff pastry, dark chocolate chips, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Twenty minutes in the oven and voila! Chocolate rolls. So effortless, and so easy:

July 7, 2012

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies


Spoiler alert: the secret ingredient is chocolate malt powder.

Sorry, did I give that away too early? My dad always told me to play my cards closer to my chest. But I was just too excited to keep my secret to myself.

I've been meaning to make these cookies for a while, ever since I spied a giant bottle of Ovaltine for sale at my local supermarket. Do you guys remember Ovaltine? The chocolate malted chocolate milk powder that has the ability to turn a boring old glass of milk into an amazing drink akin to a chocolate malt? Adding Ovaltine to my milk was the only way my parents could get me to drink an entire glass of milk when I was a little kid.

Ironically, now that I'm all grown up and actually appreciate the taste of milk, I've started to realize that I'm vaguely lactose intolerant. Funny how that works out, right? This is especially bad news for me, since I've been known to chug bottles of chocolate milk after intense workouts (I'm not crazy -- chocolate milk is one of the best recovery drinks you can drink. Trust science!). Not to mention I just bought a giant bottle of Ovaltine powder. What to do, what to do?

And that's when I came across the Pioneer Woman's recipe for malted milk chocolate chip cookies. Holy cow. Problem solved. What if I just substituted the recipe's use of malted milk powder with Ovaltine... in other words, chocolate malted milk powder?

July 4, 2012

Homemade Bread: The Next Frontier

I always felt a little bit fraudulent calling myself a baker. When it came to sweet goods, sure, I felt like a pro. I figured out how to adapt a range of cupcake recipes to work at high-altitude. I could bake a pretty epic layer cake. I even had pretty decent frosting skills!

But bread? Oh boy. Bread.

For some reason, bread has always scared me. I made up excuses -- it's too messy, too time-consuming, too difficult. But then I saw the recipe for Mark Bittman's No-Knead Bread. That's right, No-Knead bread. The recipe didn't involve any kneading, fancy ingredients, or special equipment. I literally threw flour, water, and yeast in a bowl, and just left it alone.

And this is what it made:


Holy cannoli, right?

July 1, 2012

Rosemary Buttermilk Tea Cake

As I was looking through my Recipe Index the other day, I realized that most of my recipes fall into one of three categories --

Classics: These are the recipes like vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting, red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and banana bread. Timeless classics that I will always love and am happy to eat anytime, anywhere. 

Challenges: There are some recipes that I stare at in awe and wonder for a long time. Such a complicated recipe... could I really make that? The kind of recipes where, before I start the baking process, I actually fear picking up the spatula. The recipes for Dark Chocolate Lacey Cookies and Funfetti Birthday Layer Cake are examples of what I consider to be challenging recipes.

Experiments: Although I love straightforward recipes with simple ingredients, I'm prone to occasionally indulging in exotic spices (like hibiscus flowers), unexpected ingredients (root beer milk -- say what?!!), and quirky flavor combinations. 

Can you figure out which category this recipe for Rosemary Buttermilk Tea Cake falls into?