August 25, 2015

Blueberry, Peach, and Lavender Perfect Pie


Guys.

I did it.

I made a pretty, all-butter, lattice FREAKIN' pie.

One that didn't have shrunken crusts or sides that slipped down the pan. One that didn't have tears in the lattice, misweaved braids, or bumpy crusts. Instead, this pie checks all the qualities in my definition of a perfect pie:
  • A flaky, flavorful all-butter crust that doesn't get soggy at the base. Check.
  • A pretty lattice crust that isn't shrunken, uneven, or torn in any way, complete with a beautiful, golden-brown finish. Check.
  • A fruit filling that takes advantage of the seasons, isn't too sweet, and sets properly. The pie should be easily divided into several slices without spilling out into the pan when initially cut. Check, check, check, and check.
Well, sirs and madams, I'm pretty sure that this blueberry, peach, and lavender pie matches all above criteria.

SQUEE.


If you've been a long time reader of my blog, you'll know that this pie has been years in the making. Pie, in general, has been my least favorite thing to make because for a long time, pie and I were at war with each other. No matter what recipe I tried — whether it be Deb's savory cream cheese crust, or that famous Cook's Illustrated pie crust with the vodka, or even Four & Twenty Blackbirds' apple cider vinegar one — I just never quite got it. There was always, always something wrong.

I was all "oh yeah, I can make a good pie, don't even worry about it" for a while, but the truth is, I was a big, fat, phony FAKE. I whipped up a variety of tasty but not-pastry-based fruit pies. This passionfruit cream pie? Used a shortbread cookie crust instead of traditional dough. This banana cream pie? You guessed it — chocolate cookies. And key lime pie, one of my favorite desserts? One of the reasons I love it so much is because it uses graham crackers to make its crust. All three are very, very, very delicious, but when examined together, pretty indicative of my former fear of making and using all-butter pie dough.


What motivated me in the end? I don't even really know. Maybe it was the countless berries and stonefruits I kept seeing week after week at the farmer's markets. Maybe it was all the beautiful pies on Yossy's and Erin's instagram feeds. But it was time to learn how to do it right, how to do it well. Since mid-July, I've been making a pie almost every other week, trying to get it down to a tee. I used the same Four & Twenty Blackbirds all-butter pie crust recipe over and over again, to the point where I could recite its ingredients and instructions in my sleep. Gradually, progress emerged. There was this almost-there bourbon and brown sugar peach pie that was worth sharing. And finally, there's this pie. Which, to me, is perfect.

I hope you think so too.


Some baker's notes:
  • To give my pie a lavender flavor, I used this lavender extract from Hatchery. You can also find lavender extract online at Amazon, or in specialty baking stores. Alternatively, make your own! Combine about 1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers and 3 tablespoons high quality vodka in a small glass jar, and shake, shake, shake. Keep in a cool, dark place overnight to allow the vodka to soak in the lavender flavor and fragrance. Strain out the lavender flowers before using, and voila! Homemade lavender extract.

  • I still stand by this guide that I wrote a few months ago filled with all my best pie baking tips. Remember the basics — use a metal pan, keep your ingredients and your equipment as cold as possible, don't be scared to use tons of flour when rolling out, and don't panic. 

  • When crimping the edges of the pie with a fork, I find it's best to slide the fork out from the dough as opposed to pulling it upwards. This will help mold the pie dough onto your pan and in general, helps keep the crimp of the edge better.

August 22, 2015

It's the Weekend, It's the Weekend!

(above: that time I made Betty's Shanghai red braised pork belly for dinner)
For more pictures of what Hummingbird High eats that's not dessert, follow me on Instagram!

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This Week's Menu
(yeah — living the raw deal, three course meal!)

STARTER
by Chef Lindsey of Dolly and Oatmeal

MAIN
by Chef Ashley of Not Without Salt

DESSERT
by Chef Yossy of Apt. 2B Baking Co

DRANKS
by Chef Alana of Alanabread

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LINKS

…  if you’re going to san francisco  …

…  work it hard like it’s your profession  …

…  you are beautiful no matter what they say  …

…  take me on a trip i’d like to go some day  …

…  this is how we do it  …

…  questions of science, science and progress  …

…  i know we suffer for fashion or whatever  …

And of course, all the food related links I couldn’t find any lyrics to go along with:

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Have a good weekend, folks! Don't forget to comment with any links, GIFs, or recipes that I might have missed.

August 19, 2015

Thyme Lemonade


When I moved down to San Francisco, I rented my place site unseen. I signed a year-long lease after having seen just a few, tiny Craigslist ad pictures of the apartment's living room and deck; I had no idea what the kitchen and bathroom even looked like. But still — I'd done the impossible. I'd found an apartment in San Francisco without even being in the city yet. Not a whole lot of people can say that. So I swallowed the lump in my throat, signed away the extraordinary amount of money needed to secure my spot, and hoped for the best.

Walking into the studio for the first time, I initially braced myself for disappointment. It was going to be a rough transition either way — in Portland, Erlend and I had a three bedroom house to ourselves complete with a recently remodeled kitchen centered around my baker's needs. Instead, I found myself pleasantly surprised. The kitchen had huge south facing windows that let in beautiful, beautiful light. The deck outside overlooked all my neighbors' green gardens, with glimpses of the city down the hills and the occasional view of the water stretching all the way to the East Bay.

But the biggest delight of them all was the lemon tree in the yard.


In Portland, Erlend and I had tried our hardest to grow citrus. A few years ago, we'd spent pretty sum of both time and money trying to coax and beg this baby kumquat tree into something more than a decorative conversation starter in the living room. Within a month, it lost the handful of teeny, tiny fruit it had produced (as well as all its leaves), shriveled up, and died. We tried again the following year with a baby lemon tree from the nursery, thinking we'd made a mistake by picking the slightly more obscure and exotic citrus tree. No dice. The lemon tree went the exact same way.

The lemon tree in the yard was everything I'd always strived for in Portland. Smallish in stature, just right for picking fruit without the assistance of a chair or a ladder. Despite this modest height, the tree was extraordinarily bushy with deep green leaves and tiny white blossoms, and branches bowing with the weight of many, many round, perfectly plump, incredibly juicy and fragrant lemons.


Unfortunately, I haven't taken too much advantage of this wonderful bounty in my backyard (I've been too enamored the stone fruit and berries also available, putting them into as many cakes and pies as possible). But luckily, Renee and Sherrie came along and organized this awesome #drinkthesummer internet party with a ton of my other favorite blogger friends. We've whipped up some pretty little seasonal summer drinks — both boozy and not — to honor the end of summer and all the wonderful fruit and produce it gave us. You can check out the full list of drinks on either Will Frolic for Food or With Food and Love.

And here's my contribution: a simple and incredibly fresh lemonade, made with hand-picked lemons from the tree and thyme that Erlend grew in our herb window box. Booze it up with a splash of vodka, champagne, or whatever vice you prefer. But the recipe on its own is perfect as it is — a classic and true homage to California and its summer season.


Some baker's notes:
  • Lemonade wouldn't be possible without some simple sugar syrup. I infused my sugar syrup with both lemon zest and a few sprigs of thyme. And if you strain the fruit and herbs away from the syrup, the syrup will keep in a glass jar in the refrigerator for a month.

  • Let's be honest — you don't really need my recipe to make lemonade now, do you? Food52 has a great article walking you through how to make any type of lemonade you want without a recipe. But of course, you can also just use mine below ;-)

August 15, 2015

It's the Weekend, It's the Weekend!

(above: pretty grasslands from my weekend trip to the Northern California Coast)
For more pictures of Hummingbird High on the go, follow me on Instagram!

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This Week's ALL FIGS ALL THE TIME Menu
 (yeah — living the raw deal, three course meal!)

STARTER
Goat Cheese Stuffed Figs and an Easy Summer Cheese Plate
by Chef Jessica of How Sweet It Is

MAIN
Fig Pizza with Goat Cheese, Pistachios, and Honey
by Chef Sara of Cake Over Steak

DESSERT
Bourbon Fig Butter and Smoked Sugar Ice Cream
by Chef Alanna of The Bojon Gourmet

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LINKS

…  surf it, scroll it, pause it, click it 

…  well portland oregon and sloe gin fizz, if that ain’t love then tell me what is 

…  if you’re going to san francisco 

…  this is how we do it  …

And of course, all the food related links I couldn’t find any lyrics to go along with:

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Have a good weekend, folks! Don't forget to comment with any links, gifs, or recipes I might have missed!

August 11, 2015

Strawberry, Nectarine, and Peach Whole Grain Buckle


One of the hardest things about balancing a full-time job in addition to this blog is finding time to do chores. It's crazy how much time things like doing the dishes, laundry, and just general tidying up can take! Week nights can stretch late into the night, especially after a long work day, an hour at the gym, cooking dinner, and so on. Eventually, something's gotta give.

The good thing about living in San Francisco is that you can practically outsource almost everything and anything. Want somebody else to do your laundry? There's an app for that. Want somebody else to park your car? There's an app for that, too! The only market that doesn't appear to have been "disrupted" is the one of dirty dishes. Can somebody build an app already where somebody takes my dirty dishes away and returns them all clean and shiny? Kthanxbai. You can thank me for the idea later.


In all seriousness though, I recently had the chance to try Farm Fresh To You, a San Francisco-based second-generation family farm (whew, say that three times fast, I dare you) that delivers seasonal produce and other fresh groceries directly to your door. You can opt for regular, fresh groceries on their site by signing up for one of their CSAs. Although it's not quite an app, it's similar to one of those services that promises to make your life easier since all produce comes washed and ready to use right out of the box.

And although I've always loved shopping for my own groceries and picking out my own produce, I've been frustrated by more recent experiences in San Francisco and decided that this was a good opportunity to take it easy and let somebody else do the work for me. I opted for one of Farm Fresh To You's "No Cook" CSA boxes and was pleasantly surprised — the box was delivered two days later and had been delivered overnight. It was nice to have it waiting for me on my doorstep first thing in the morning, allowing me to put away the produce before heading into the office.


Even better, however, was the produce in the box. At first glance, I saw three different types of lettuce, cucumbers, and heirloom tomatoes. And the fruit! Don't even get me started! Erlend and I received a watermelon and a honeydew melon, as well as an abundance of strawberries, nectarines, pluots, and peaches.

With so many fresh fruits lying around, I decided to bake the strawberries, nectarines, and peaches into this whole grain buckle that you've been seeing throughout the post. Buckles are basically a sort of cake studded with generous amounts of fruit and topped with streusel to give it its crumbly, almost "buckled" appearance. Although buckles are traditionally made with blueberries, I decided to give it a bit of a California twist with the fruits from my CSA. Buckles are also traditionally made with all-purpose flour, but I swapped it out with both spelt and whole grain pastry flour to give it a heartier flavor, as well as make it a little bit more healthful. But don't panic! Just in case things were getting too healthy, I kept a ton of streusel in there too — ya know, to make life fun.


This post was sponsored by Farm Fresh to You!, though all thoughts, opinions, and words are my own. If you're in the Bay Area, I highly recommend you checking out their site and trying a box for yourself!


Some baker's notes:
  • If you're not a fan of the berries and stone fruit that I used, feel free to swap them out with the fruit of your choice! This recipe also works incredibly well with blackberries and traditional blueberries.

  • This recipe uses spelt, which is one of those ancient whole grains that's incredibly tasty and good for you. It looks kinda like wheat flour, but has a slightly tarter and sweeter flavor. It's available in most health food stores or fancy grocery stores like Whole Foods; alternatively, you can always buy it online.

August 8, 2015

It's the Weekend, It's the Weekend!

(above: a pretty bougainvillea decked door in Noe Valley)
For more pictures of Hummingbird High on the go, follow me on Instagram!

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This Week's ALL DRANKS Menu
(yeah — living the raw deal, three course meal!)

STARTER
by Chef Renee of Renee Kemps

MAIN
by Chef Renee of Will Frolic For Food

DESSERT
by Chef Stephanie of i am a food blog

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LINKS

…  our house is a very, very fine house  …

…  this is how we do it 
  • I am the worst at lining a baking pan with parchment paper; thank goodness for this guide.

…  i guess that’s how the future’s done  …

…  i know we suffer for fashion or whatever  …

…  well portland oregon and sloe gin fizz, if that ain’t love then tell me what is  …

…  i can make you famous on instagram  …

…  surf it, scroll it, pause it, click it  …

And of course, all the food-related links that I couldn't find lyrics to go along with:
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Have a good weekend, folks! Don't forget to comment with any links, gifs, or recipes I might have missed!

August 4, 2015

Bourbon and Brown Sugar Peach Pie


As far as I can remember, I’ve always been Team Cake. Moist, fluffy cake topped with creamy, delicious frosting. Is there anything better? The first thing I ever obsessively baked was cake — for me, there is something especially cathartic about bringing a cake together, especially when it came to frosting it. Whether opting for smooth edges or rustic swirls, I found decorating cake to be much more forgiving and easier than anything to do with pie.

Because pie. Ugh, don’t get me started.

I’ve never been the world’s best pie baker. At worst, my pie crusts came out soggy. At best, despite finally mastering the tasty flavor and texture, they came out ugly. Shrunken or over-stretched crusts, broken and shrunken lattices… name any kind of pie blemish that you can imagine, and I guarantee you that all my pies have had it. Even after afternoons spent with superior pie bakers and several repeated trials of the same recipe, my pies were inconsistent. Sure, they gradually became better in flavor and flakier in texture… but in terms of looks, they still didn’t hold a candle the gorgeous latticework on Apt 2B Baking Co and Food52. I silently, jealously admired their crusts from a far and decided to avoid making pie as much as possible. Leave it to the experts, ya know?

But all the beautiful berries and stonefruit in season have convinced me that it’s time to face my fear. I was going to master the lattice pie this summer, whether or not it killed me.


My first attempt was a few weeks ago, with a cherry pie so unphotogenic that it didn’t even make it to this blog. After seeing Elizabeth’s beautiful wide lattice pie, I’d tried to recreate it on my own without paying too close attention to the instructions. And there we have it — Lesson #1: Pay Attention to the Recipe. A lattice pie isn’t something you can really wing.

My second attempt is this bourbon and brown sugar peach pie. I literally watched and re-watched this Food52 video on how to weave a lattice crust like 500 times. And it paid off! Pre-baked, it looked awesome(!!!)... and then I pulled it out of the oven. My heart sank. The crust had shrunk a little and pulled away from the pie rim, as well as puffing up weirdly at certain places. I’d used the wrong kind of egg wash, and it hadn’t turned into the beautiful golden brown that I wanted.

Disappointed, I almost didn’t share this pie with you guys — but then I grabbed a fork and took a bite. Despite its pale appearance, the crust was perfect! Flaky and tender, with a slight tang from dash of apple cider vinegar recommended by the Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book. But I’ve written about this pie crust before, so it wasn’t anything new or worthwhile to add to the blog.

Instead, the peach, bourbon, and brown sugar filling is really what made the cut.


I’d trusted my intuition and used only a couple tablespoons of brown sugar in the filling. Most peach pie recipes have way too much sugar — but too much doesn’t allow the fruit’s natural sweetness and flavor shine! And with a dash of bourbon and a pinch of cinnamon? Perfect.

So watch this space. I’m gonna try making a pie a few more times before summer’s over, just so I can say I’ve nailed the lattice. Next time will be attempt #3. Keep your fingers crossed; they say the third time’s the charm.


Some baker's notes:

Instead of listing my typical baker's notes, I'll talk about what went wrong and how I think I'll fix it:

  • Oven temperature was too hot. I winged this recipe and just googled a bunch of peach pie recipes. Almost all instructed me to bake the pie at a temperature between 425 - 450 (F) for a quarter of the time needed to bake, before lowering to a cooler temperature (usually 350 (F)) to bake for the rest of the time. I'm pretty sure that this higher temperature is what caused my pie crust to shrink; apparently gluten tends to tighten in higher heat, which causes the shrinkage. Next time, I'll try baking the pie at 350 (F) for the entire time.

  • Cream washes aren't as good as egg washes. Since I was running low on eggs, I'd hastily decided to brush the pie dough with cream instead of the traditional, recommended egg wash. Mistake. The crust came out too pale, almost looking undercooked. You really gotta stick with egg washes for that golden color.

I've made the modifications to this recipe below — good luck! For more pie baking tips, be sure to check out my pie baking guide (which I still read every time I start making a pie).