crepe expectations

February 22, 2017

I like New York, but there are days in which a bout of homesickness will hit me hard. Innocuous activities or insignificant landmarks will suddenly remind me of an old routine that I've lost because of my many moves, or of the similar locales that I regularly frequented in Portland. It's unpredictable and often times, irrational — I've been reduced to tears on the subway because of a fleeting memory and/or what is basically intense nostalgia.

Most recently, the neighborhood creperie (that I walk by everyday without a second thought) struck me hard with a memory. Crepes here are not as ubiquitous as they were in Portland. I can think of a number of crepe restaurants in Portland, whereas a Yelp search for "crepes" here yields about the same number. In Portland back in the day, the only late night place to eat as an under-21-year-old was at a cluster of food carts (like food trucks, but smaller and less mobile) named Cartopia. Cartopia these days is a fancy affair with a variety of carts to choose from. There are tents full of heat lamps and string lighting; on particularly festive nights, there's a bonfire. But at the time, none of that existed. Back then, Cartopia was just another sketchy parking lot with some haphazard food carts — a forgettable burrito cart, a decent poutine and french fries joint, and a crepe stand.

Having the world's biggest sweet tooth, I naturally gravitated towards the crepe stand. Their crepes were nothing special, but they had good flavor combinations (fried plantain + dulce de leche + rum was particularly inspired) and hand spun milkshakes to boot. But being cash only and coming in at $5 to $7 a crepe (which, at the time, seemed like a fortune to me!), my cheap and broke college self wondered if it would be more convenient to recreate them at home.

As a result, crepes were the third food that I specialized in (after box mix funfetti cupcakes and Paula Deen's red velvet cupcakes recipe, of course). I remember inviting friends over and offering them what I thought was quite the spread of toppings — pre-squeezed lemon juice from one of those plastic juice boxes shaped like the fruit, and what I thought was the ever winning combination of Nutella and bananas. But it turned out the lemon juice was expired, and one out of two of my guests didn't like bananas. Oops.

I've since upgraded my crepe game with these jams, jellies, and curds from Stonewall Kitchen. Even though I usually make my crepes from scratch, the fine folks over there also included a traditional crepe mix for me to try as well. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed — the mix made light, eggy crepes that were soft in the middle and crisp along the edges. After getting the hang of making crepes in my fancy new Staub pan (complete with an actual crepe spreader and special spatula for flipping!), Erlend and I spent the morning playing around with different flavors and combination. The five below are our favorite — enjoy!

blood orange curd linzer cookies

February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

Does anybody have special Valentine's or Galentine's Day plans? Erlend and I do NOT have any, and I am more than okay with that. The Valentine's Day industrial complex is strong in New York City. Our regular restaurants are offering crazy prix fixe prices for a limited menu, and there are vendors at every subway stop shilling overpriced, wilted roses. Even the Valentine's candy here is twice as expensive as everywhere else! Aside from that we're also not really the romantic type — neither of us know when our anniversary is, and it always takes us a minute to figure out how long we've been together.* So I think we'll pass, thanks.

*Don't mistake that for indifference; Erlend is my Valentine, through and through. He's the Type B to my Type A, the ying to my yang, etc, etc.

Truth be told, these linzer cookies are about as festive as I'm willing to get for Valentine's Day. Which doesn't seem like too much of a stretch for the special occasion, but it actually is. Why? I kinda sorta hate making rollout cookies. Although I have always loved eating them, I definitely groaned when they exploded in popularity over the last few years (thanks to the really awesome Instagram accounts of @bakedideas, @vickiee_yo, and a bunch more folks I don't have room to name). Look through my Recipe Index — I barely have any recipes involving rollout cookies! I pretty much avoid making them at all cost.

I'm also just really bad at it. I'm terrible at bringing the dough together (like... is it supposed to have the texture of chocolate chip cookie dough, or something else?). I'm even worse at rolling them out evenly and shaping them with cookie cutters. I don't have a trusty recipe, and a bad recipe can leave you with deformed cookies with a bad texture. The texture is either too hard and brittle, or too soft to hold up against a jam filling.

When Jennifer from Savory Simple sent me her cookbook, The Gourmet Kitchen, a few months ago, I bookmarked a bunch of delicious-looking recipes, including this one for blood orange curd linzer cookies. I fully intended to make another recipe (she has such delicious ones to choose from, like hot chocolate with salted caramel whipped cream and cherry vanilla jam crumb bars), but her linzer cookies kept stopping me every time I flipped through her cookbook. They were adorable enough to convince to try a rollout cookie recipe one more time.

And I'm glad I did! Jennifer's recipe for linzer cookies worked better than any that I've tried in the past. Based on a shortbread dough, the cookies come together easily and hold their shape in the oven beautifully. They're also delicious, with a strong butter and vanilla flavor that pairs well with Jennifer's sweet, citrusy recipe for blood orange curd. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • The blood orange curd will be a little bit thicker than your typical curd or jam. This is okay — it's easier to keep the cookies together this way! You'll also end up with more curd than what's needed for the cookies. It keeps in a sealed mason jar for about 1 month; use the extra on pancakes, waffles, toast, and more!

  • Linzer cookie dough is different from traditional chocolate chip cookie dough. It doesn't come together fully in the stand mixer; you'll need to do some kneading on your end to get it to a rollable state. The easiest way to handle it is to dump it on a sheet of plastic wrap, wrap it up, and knead it together until it forms a disk. No need to worry about overworking it like pie dough! It's very forgiving and will be delicious no matter what. Keep re-rolling the scraps into new cookie shapes to have as many cookies as possible!

  • I was super ADD when I made these and couldn't decide on which cookie cutters to use. I ended up using all of them, resulting in cookies that are 1-inch, 3 1/2-inch, and 5-inch wide. As a result, I don't actually know how many cookies this recipe yields beyond what Jennifer says. I've included the yield and instructions as it is in her cookbook. Note that your yield will be different depending on what cutters you use as well. I used the following cutters: a super mini heart from this set, a small heart, circle cutters (from this set), and a fluted biscuit cutter

apple and pear mini pies

February 8, 2017

A few weeks ago, I headed to my friend Erin's apartment to weave these beautiful, herringbone mini pies. She'd posted a beautiful, regular-scale version of a herringbone lattice pie the week before and I hadn't been able to stop staring at the photo. I kept trying to reverse engineer the pattern in my head. I thought I'd figured out everything there was to do with pies, you see. I'd spent the last year baking a pie a month, a project that had exposed me to a variety of pie making styles and lattice crusts. But it turns out that I'd missed this one. Finally, I texted her, inviting myself over: "Teach me your ways!"

It was a gloomy Saturday, and I arrived at Erin's bright, plant-filled apartment in East Williamsburg armed with a sweetgreen salad and a bag of apples and pears from the Union Square Farmers Market. I sat, unhelpfully alternating bites between my salad and the delicious honey lavender cake she'd made the day before, as she prepped the fruit and patiently answered my questions about her apartment, the lattice we were about to make, and their upcoming trip back home to New Zealand.

Later, we both sat at her marble topped kitchen cart, ready to weave. I'd rolled out the dough and fitted them to the mini pie tins; Erin had processed the pie dough through a fettuccine machine to shape them into thin, even strips for our lattice. She pulled up Stella Parks' herringbone lattice tutorial on Serious Eats and began reading it out loud; each of us folded and braided the pie dough to match Stella's instructions. Rich, her husband, put on a soundtrack of the Pandora Bon Iver radio station and flitted around us every so often, taking photos of us in action. Braiding the pie wasn't difficult, but it was absorbing, quiet work — each pie took about 20 minutes to weave.

If you're wondering why I went through a seemingly ordinary and maybe even banal day in such great detail, it's because of this: it was wonderful.

A lot of the work that I do is solitary. Which is strange, because technically, I'm actually always talking to people. I spend the day writing emails, text messages, and leaving comments on social media. With G-chat and iMessage, I can have an entire novel's worth of conversations with friends, coworkers, and acquaintances in an hour, during which we'll jump back and forth between work, gossip, and something completely random, before ending up right where we started. But still. Despite (and possibly because of) all this digital conversation, I go embarrassingly long stretches at a time without having said a single word out loud to another person.

But there's often a fine line between artistic, romantic solitude and, well, plain old isolation. When I spend so much time in my head, it can start to feel like I'm just there alone by myself, doing the things that I do. But that's not true. Behind every blog is a living, breathing, and very real person with whom I share an entire universe with. We're driven by the same passion and interests, and are overwhelmed and struggling with the same challenges. It's amazingly wonderful how therapeutic it can be to actually get together and share our craft, trade tips and techniques, and collaborate in real life. That day, I went home from Erin's place and felt like some of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.

Therapy lattice, indeed.

The pie dough is made from the now ubiquitous Four & Twenty Blackbirds all-butter pie crust. We made up the recipe for the filling on the spot, and followed the crazy talented Stella Parks' herringbone pie crust tutorial word for word. You can check it out (complete with a video!) on Serious Eats. You can also see more of these pies and hear Erin's side of the story on her pretty blog, Cloudy Kitchen. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • To get the pie dough into thin, even strips, we used two different types of pasta maker attachments for Erin's KitchenAid mixer. There's pros and cons to using the pasta maker. The major pro is obvious: you get thin, even strips without the usual hassle of doing it by hand. You'll likely also have no trouble getting the pie to keep its shape while baking. And that's because of the con: using a pasta machine will almost always guarantee that your pie crust will be denser (it definitely won't be as tender and flaky) and slightly overprocessed. The tradeoff is up to you; we've included instructions on how to make the pie by hand and how to make it with the help of a pasta machine in the recipe below. If you decide to go with the pasta machine, note that we used the fettucine machine (available from this attachment set) for the skinnier lattice, and the lasagnetti machine (available from this attachment set) for the thicker lattice. Pro-tip: it's much easier to braid when it's skinnier.

shake shack sliders + feast portland 2016 memories

February 1, 2017

I'm going to Portland in a few short weeks and I am beyond excited! I have my dentist and optometrist appointments all lined up, and I've got a checklist of things to fix at my house. I know that those things don't sound particularly exciting, but still — I'm really stoked to be heading home for a few days!

I'm especially excited because the last time I was in Portland, I was in town for Feast. I didn't get a chance to run any of the boring errands I listed above because Feast was kinda/sorta crazy/hectic. Don't get me wrong, I loved every minute of it! Because what's not to love? It's an amazing food festival hosted by my friends at Little Green Pickle and Bon Appetit magazine. And in addition to celebrating Portland's (already rockin') local food scene, other really awesome chefs from around the country fly into the city to cook delicious food for Feast too!

One of my favorite events at Feast is the Sandwich Invitational. Think of it as a giant picnic where the best chefs come in and make you all the sandwiches you could possibly eat. I realized I never shared my pictures from last year, so here we go:

From the top to the bottom:
  • A crispy pulled pork sandwich with smoked oyster mayo and cabbage slaw on ficelle bread by Portland chef Ken Forkish (of some of my personal favorite restaurants in Portland, Ken's Artisan and Trifecta Tavern)
  • A kimchee-brined pork burger with sambal mayonnaise, American cheese, and a pickle slaw by Portland chef Dustin Clark (formerly of Portland gems Wildwood and Besaw's
  • A pulled pork grilled cheese sandwich with Gouda and a spicy pepper relish from Chef Ben Ford of Ford Filling Station fame in Los Angeles (and Harrison Ford's son, apparently!) 
  • A bulgogi club sandwich modeled by my friend Rachel and created by Chef Han Ly Hwang of Kim Jong Grillin', a much beloved Portland food cart
  • A homemade Shake Shack slider by Chef Michelle Lopez of Hummingbird High
Okay, OKAY, just kidding on that last one. My Shake Shack sliders weren't a part of Feast at all. It's just that editing these Sandwich Invitational photos made me hungry enough that I went out and actually made my own sandwich!

PS — that is Erlend modeling the sliders. My arm is not that hairy. Or white. 

To be fair, this isn't really my own sandwich either. It's a direct knockoff of the beloved Shackburger from New York's Shake Shack burger chain. If you haven't heard or tried Shake Shack, it's definitely worth seeking out. It's like the In-N-Out of New York City, but a bazillion times better. All the ingredients are super fresh and high-quality; to wit, the burger patties are 100% Angus beef! They're smashed thin and seared perfectly to achieve crispy, salty bits throughout the burger. That goodness is then sandwiched between a toasted and buttered potato bun with super fresh tomatoes, a ruffle of lettuce, and the perfect umami sauce.

Shake Shack doesn't currently have a location in Portland, so I was eager to try and recreate them for all my friends there who are missing out (real talk: I am packing Martin's Potato Buns in my fancy new suitcase). With the exception of halving the recipe to make slider versions, I followed Kenji's recipe on Serious Eats down to a tee and was impressed by how accurate it was. I had successfully made a Shackburger at home! I've included the instructions below, but really, you should check out Serious Eats for the full story. Enjoy!

Bonus Track — Here is a photo of me and my friends Celeste and Molly (who you guys probably already know!) at the Sandwich Invitational afterparty (appropriately called "Pork of Ages"):

also featured:
tray || tumblers || ramekin

This post was done in partnership with Feast Portland and Alaska Airlines, who provided the transportation and accommodations for me to attend Feast Portland 2016! Even though I'm from Portland and maybe a slightly teensy bit biased about everything to do with the city, I genuinely think that Feast Portland is one of the best food festivals in the country. It's worth checking out even if you're not from Portland! Dates are already set for 2017 ;-) As always, thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and all my awesome sponsors.

Some maker's notes:
  • To me, Shake Shack tastes like Shake Shack because of the burger bun. Shake Shack uses sandwich buns from Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe, a Pennsylvania Dutch mass bakery that specializes in potato buns. Indeed, there's nothing quite like them — they're soft and squishy, yet hearty enough to hold a juicy patty of meat. They have an unmistakeable sweetness and pale yellow color similar to brioche. If you live in the East Coast, you can buy them at pretty much every supermarket. For everybody else, you can order them online (like Steph did!). I used the dinner roll variety to make these sliders!

  • Shake Shack burger patties are made using a "smash and scrape" technique. The meat is first patted into a disk, before being placed on an incredibly hot griddle and being smashed with the back of a spatula. The patty is then "scraped" off when it's time to flip. The trick here is to use a well-seasoned nonstick pan (I used my trusty Finex skillet) and not too much oil. According to Kenji, you want the meat to stick to the pan in order to achieve its flat, sheath-like, and almost crispy crust.

black tahini morning buns + a kitchen tour

January 25, 2017

I've been trying to share more of my life outside baking on Instagram, to varying success. You guys don't seem to be as into New York architecture as I am (every time I post one of these types of pictures, I lose about 20 followers), but you seem to love my Brooklyn apartment (yay!). So today, in addition to these incredibly delicious black sesame tahini rolls, I thought I'd share a peek into my cramped but sunny kitchen/dining room to give you guys a fuller look into my life:

I was inspired to start branching out and share other aspects of my life because I was just so motherfreaking bored of all the food photos. Don't get me wrong — I love a well-styled shot of a beautifully braided pie or a funkily decorated cake. But it was all starting to look the same after a while. And then it WAS all the same. There are days where I scrolled through my feed and really couldn't tell who posted which picture. And that led me to a minor existential crisis: what makes my stuff different from everybody else's?

Because when it comes to food blogging and styling these days, I'll be the first to admit: nothing. In that context, I'm a dime a dozen — just another boring food blogger with a sweet tooth and a pretty marble tabletop. Yay.

What makes me different from everybody else is, well... me? The messy stuff you don't actually get to see too much of on any of my accounts. Like the fact that my kitchen is literally actually just a tiny corner of the living area that we've turned into a dining room and/or bike room. And how we've cluttered up every inch of surface area possible and added those beautiful wooden shelves that you all love (wink, they're from Rejuvenation) with too much gosh darned kitchen crap (which, despite my snark just now, all bring me joy and therefore can never be konmari-d out of my life, so don't you even dare suggest that). Or how my cat will jump onto any freaking countertop just to chase a patch of sunlight (and how many, many desserts have been ruined because of this pesky habit).

Oh yeah, and the ceiling leaks.

Almost forgot about that.

So what is the point of all this? I don't know, maybe just to remind folks that behind all these beautiful images of highly styled food, we are all still very human and normal. That the imperfect is still very interesting. And that we should share more of that! I hope you guys will share some more of your life outside of the frame too.

*jumps off soapbox*

Now, let's talk about these buns, hun.

I first discovered black tahini (like regular tahini, but made with black sesame seeds!) at Shalom Japan (a Jewish-Japanese restaurant in Williamsburg — yes, that exists and is SO delicious) and have been daydreaming about using it in desserts since. The black sesame gives the tahini a slightly bitter and almost smoky, wood-fired flavor that pairs well with rich white chocolate and tangy creamy dairy like crème fraîche and cream cheese. I've put all three in these rolls to great effect. Enjoy!


This post was done in partnership with Rejuvenation, one of my favorite Portland-based companies who graciously provided the open shelves, hardware, and furniture for the kitchen nookI had the chance to visit Rejuvenation's warehouse when I was in Portland last, and was blown away by the thought, quality, and care that went into the craftsmanship of all their products. Their products are timeless, and have really helped make my Brooklyn home both beautiful AND functional. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and all my partners!

Some baker's notes:
  • Whenever I bake bread, I like to split up the process as much as possible and allow the dough to rise overnight in the fridge. I usually make the dough the night before I plan on serving these in order to avoid sitting around for 3 hours waiting for dough to rise. If that's your jam though, you can make these all in the same day — just be sure to let the dough rise for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half before shaping into rolls, and then repeating the rising process. 

  • I also like to use instant yeast as I find the proofing to be more consistent than fresh or active dry. Instant yeast works best when activated at 120 to 130 (F); remember that yeast is a living thing, and you can kill it if you activate it at too high of a temperature! 

  • Black tahini is available online, but I also found a jar at my local Whole Foods. Per Serious Eats, you can make your own (and since black sesame seeds have a higher oil content than regular ones, it requires less oil!), but I would shell out for the high-quality Kevala variety that I used. It's made with nothing but black sesame seeds and really brings home that wonderful toasted flavor from black sesame seeds. You can read more about black tahini in this awesome Food52 article.
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