watermelon and mint agua fresca

As I write this post, the National Weather Service has issued an "Excessive Heat Warning" for New York state. It's 93 degrees in city. With the humidity, the weather reports tell me that it "feels like 106 degrees" outside. I can't tell you personally, because the last time I left the apartment was at around 8:00 AM (when it was still a balmy 88 degrees, ha) to dart around the corner to grab this watermelon and an onion bagel with scallion cream cheese from The Best Bagel Place in the Entire City.

I don't know what it's been like in other parts of the country, but if it's anything as hot as New York, I wouldn't be surprised if everybody's been avoiding their oven like the plague. What have you guys been doing to cool off? I've been eating bowls of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and drinking beverages like this watermelon and mint agua fresca:

I first discovered agua frescas at a Venezuelan restaurant specializing in arepas in my old neighborhood in Portland. However, agua frescas are actually Mexican in origin, and are basically fruit juices mixed with water and sugar (though you can also get a horchata flavored one made from a variety of rice, nuts, or other crazy things).

My favorite flavor has always been a pineapple and lime variation, but since watermelon is in season, I decided to make a watermelon one instead:

And real talk — there is no fruit more quintessentially summer than watermelon. This drink is basically all the good things about summer in a glass! Light, refreshing, and a wonderful vibrant pinkish-red (Seriously, what is that color?! Is that marsala?! It's a touch too red, no?), I'm proud to contribute this recipe to Sherrie's annual #drinkthesummer virtual cocktail party. Check out her blog and the hashtag for more summer recipe ideas!


Some maker's notes:
  • The amount of simple syrup you use will depend on how sweet your watermelon is and how sweet you like your drinks, which is why I've given a range for the amount of simple syrup used in the recipe. Be sure to taste as you go, adding simple syrup in small increments until you find your ideal level of sweetness.

  • So I made mine booze-free, but you can totally spike the shiz out of it like a cool kid. I recommend using it as a mix-in for a relatively mildly flavored booze like vodka, a non-hoppy pilsner, or even champagne.

rainbow chocolate nonpareil cookies

When I travel somewhere new, the first thing I do is check out a supermarket. I love roaming the aisles to discover new ingredients, snacks, and food traditions different than those in America. Like, did you know that you can get canned rhubarb and gooseberries in almost every supermarket over in England? Both are only available seasonally in the US, and both are rarely preserved in anything but jam form. In the Netherlands, sprinkles are sold in the breakfast aisle as hagelslag. Because over there, they eat sprinkles on buttered toast for breakfast! No wonder the Dutch are so happy.

And while it's not quite as exciting to visit a supermarket in a different state, there are still enough local varieties that make it worthwhile. I recently accompanied Erlend to one of New York's famous Fairway Markets and was excited by their selection, filling up my basket with all the East Coast things that are such rarities out on the West Coast. Martin's Potato Buns, those jelly fruit slices that are reallyreallyreally good, and plastic tubs of rainbow nonpareil discs.

I don't know why, but it's really hard to find rainbow nonpareil discs out west. You can get the black and white ones without a problem, but rainbow? Not so much. I really have no idea why, but I'm just happy to have found these. In a rare stroke of genius, I decided to swap them out with the chocolate feves I like to use in my chocolate chip cookies, resulting in these pretty, jewel-studded chocolate chip cookies. They're basically your beloved chocolate chip cookie, but SPRINKLED. The nonpareils add a wonderfully textured and unique crunch.

And a quick announcement before I leave you with the recipe: be sure to follow me on Instagram and Instagram stories the next few days! I'll be traveling to Pennsylvania to eat all the Kisses and kickoff a baking partnership with Hershey's, before hopping on a plane across the Atlantic to attend the Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival with my dear friends Adrianna and Yossy. Get ready for all the chocolate and smørrebrød!

Thank you to Falcon Enamelware for sponsoring this post by providing the pretty plates, bowls, and tray that you see in these photos! I've always thought their products were the prettiest, and I can't wait to have their plates and tumblers displayed on my soon-to-be-set-up kitchen shelves. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and my sponsors!


Some baker's notes:
  • You don't need to go to the East Coast to buy rainbow chocolate nonpareils; you can get them online! If all else fails, you can also use the more widely available black-and-white version (which they also sell at movie theatres as Sno-Caps, lol) — your cookies just won't be as colorful. 

  • I've portioned out the dough so that my batch made around ten HUGE cookies; each dough ball pre-baked weighed 3 ounces (yes, I actually weighed each ball because I'm crazy). You can divide that in half for 24 smaller cookies. Also, the recipe also doubles wonderfully!

you're still worthwhile

Last Monday, Saveur announced the finalists for Saveur's Best Food Blog Awards, and it seemed like the food blogging world exploded. There was the usual joy from the selected, the exchanged congratulations, but there was something new in the air too. Whispers that some finalists this year were undeserving, that the categories were bunk, and that Saveur was devaluing the hard work of blogging with certain selections. And of course, there was retaliation against those who were brave enough to say such things publicly: they in turn were met with accusations that the non-finalists were just jealous, bitter losers who were serving up sour grapes.

Oy vey.

First of all, a HUGE congratulations to everybody who is a finalist this year. I'm excited to see some of my blog friends up there, and to find out more about the blogs I don't know. I think Kati put it best — even if some of the finalists come as a surprise, it's important to remember that everybody has a different voice, style, and passions. And maybe the surprises are emblematic and a symptom of the world of blogging today. Because with everybody trying to emulate the successful blogs and finalists from previous years, it seems like we're all converging towards each other and becoming the same thing. Oh, you know what I'm talking about: the avocado toast on marble tabletops, the dark and moody chiaroscuro lighting of flowers, disembodied hands holding a dish of rustic food... all the variations of the aesthetic that we know does well and that people like. So maybe these blogs got their nomination because they are daring to do something different, and standing out from the rest of us.

Conversely, I know that it's easy to blame the feelings of ill-will being expressed about the finalists as simple jealousy and sour grapes, but I think it's much more complicated than that. As a finalist in the years prior, I recognize that some of the selections do feel like a blow to those who pioneered the style that is so popular today, and even to those who have worked hard to emulate it. Because some (not all, but certainly some) of Saveur's choices seem to have been made humorously and/or ironically, which greatly undervalues the hard work of ALL blogs, serious or otherwise.

Which brings me to this: one of the things that I dislike most about blogging is how we're all at the mercy of these larger entities that can seemingly "make or break" us. Instagram rolled out an algorithm that directly ties content visibility to engagement, forcing us all to post what we think will be popular in order to remain seen on people's feeds. Saveur decided to switch up the awards' criteria from the past years, ending up with new categories and selections that left a lot of people hurt and confused. It's all arbitrary, and none of it actually directly says anything about the quality of our work in general. We cannot be too reliant on these institutions—especially ones who care about nothing more than bringing in revenue, pageviews, and clicks—to determine our worth and give us cause to publicly tear each other apart.

Because while it's always a huge honor to get a nomination, or to hit 100k followers on Instagram, please know that your work isn't any less deserving because you haven't hit any of these milestones. If you're still getting enjoyment and joy from cooking, from writing, from practicing and learning more about photography — that in itself will ALWAYS be more valuable and worthwhile than a random badge on your site.

blackberry and passionfruit curd pie

This is going to be a funny thing for me to complain about, but so far, one of the most difficult things about moving here is that there's too much to do. It's a far departure from my beloved city of Portland (and even San Francisco, to some extent), which I knew like the back of my hand. I knew exactly where to go for every one of my whims and desires. If I was craving boba? Boom, I could pick from the three places worth getting boba from (Tea Bar, Fat Straw, Bubble Bubble) in the entire city. If I was craving a fatty, greasy sandwich? Easy — pick between Bunk and Lardo. Can't find the specific produce or ingredient I'm looking for? No biggie, I'll just wait until the Portland Farmers' Market rolls around on Saturday.

But here, I don't even know where to start! I talked about this in a previous post (thank you all you wonderful folks who provided me tips and recommendations), but there is just so much to do everywhereanywhereallthetime. Some of it I didn't even KNOW I wanted to do until I realized they were real things. Stuff like ordering and eating a bowl of cookie dough complete with TOPPINGS. Or things like "chocolate covered cloud puffs", which are basically little drops of mousse dipped in chocolate. And literally swimming in a pool filled with NOTHING BUT SPRINKLES.*

*Also, as a result of all these food-related endeavors, I've been spending the mornings trying to find my soul at SoulCycle. I haven't found it yet.

So forgive me if the baking around here has been a little bit scant, and my Instagram's been filled with more cityscapes and desserts not from my own kitchen. I'm still drowning in this crazy thriving metropolis that is New York City. However, I did manage to yank myself away from all distractions long enough to whip up this blackbeary (HA GET IT) and passionfruit curd pie for #humhipieamonth (because when I commit to something, I apparently REALLY commit).

Why blackberry and passionfruit, you ask? I wish I could give you a more inspired answer, but the truth is, I saw it in a cookbook once and it sounded bomb city. I'd never heard of anybody using whole fruit and a curd together in a pie, so I figured it why not give it a try? And it was worth it. It's delicious. Delicious enough to temporarily distract me from all the lobster rolls, Scandinavian hot dogs, and honey drizzled pizzas this city has to offer.

Just temporarily though.


Some baker's notes:
  • Let's talk equipment: I used the following oddly sized (but oh-so-cute) rectangular deep dish pie tin from Falcon Enamelware. It's definitely not a standard size, but I've found that a standard recipe for a double-lidded 9-inch pie crust works for the tin. The pie plate is surprisingly deep, so it ends up using a lot of dough! To cut out the bear shapes, I used the following cookie cutter from Daiso, this awesome Japanese dollar store that sells everything and anything. You can get it from Amazon too.

  • Because you'll be using curd in the pie filling, don't be surprised if the filling is more liquidy than your usual pie. Don't worry! That liquidyness is tangy and delicious. However, it does mean that the crust will get soggy faster — be sure not to miss the step of brushing "pie dust" at the bottom of the pie before filling! This will help prevent any soggyness. I also didn't use as much sugar in the pie as I usually would; the curd already adds extra sweetness, and sugar would have drawn more liquid out from the blackberries.

  • This was my first time ever using shortening in my pie crust. I have mixed feels. On one hand, I appreciated how easy it was to roll out the dough and stamp shapes; the pie also did a wonderful job of keeping its shape in the oven, with almost no shrinkage! However, I'm a food snob and shortening grosses me out. I mean, it tasted fine, but definitely not as flavorful as butter or lard. Also, I think it gave the pie a weird gray tinge??? Or is that just in my head? You tell me.

lemon drizzle bundt cake

For me, one of the most stressful things about moving is getting to know my new kitchen. We're staying in Erlend's parents' apartment for now, and while their kitchen is well-stocked and spacious for New York, it's still a little smaller and narrower than what I'm used to. If you saw the tour of their kitchen on my Snapchat, you probably noticed that everything on the counter was miniature: mini toaster oven, mini drying rack, complete with an even smaller-than-standard fridge and oven to boot. For a hot second, I briefly unpacked my KitchenAid mixer, and was equally amused/ashamed by the amount of space it took up on the counter. It didn't last very long out there — while chopping up vegetables, Erlend accidentally slammed his elbow into the mixer and nearly sliced his thumb open.

Ah, New York City kitchens.

But did you guys know that KitchenAid mixers come in a mini size too? It's a relatively new size, and, according to the press materials I got with the package (Williams-Sonoma had found out about my move and generously sent one over as a housewarming present), is 20% smaller and 25% lighter than the standard size. TBH, as I was unwrapping the mixer, I was a little skeptical. Because sure, it looked great in the pint-size NYC kitchen; but would it actually be able to handle the batter required for three-layer cakes and other baked goods? I had visions of turning on the mini mixer, seeing the cake batter ooze and splatter across the walls of Erlend's parents' clean kitchen, followed by us arguing about me being a mess and my stuff taking up too much space. Great.

So initially, I was going to play it safe and test out the mixer with a small-batch recipe for vanilla cupcakes that only made 10 cupcakes. But Alana and Ashlae convinced me otherwise: Alana had received a mini mixer a few weeks beforehand and assured me that the paranoia was in my head, telling me that the mixer was more than capable of handling typical cake batter quantities, while Ashlae was in the midst of remodeling her kitchen and was trying to figure out if the mini mixer was the way to go. Thus, in the name of science and blog friendships (thankkkkssss Alana for putting up with my frantic texting!), I decided to put the mini mixer to the test with a bundt cake recipe.

Why a bundt? A typical bundt cake recipe has around 10 to 12 cups of batter, which is slightly more than that of an three layer 8-inch cake or a two layer 9-inch cake (both of which average around 9 cups of batter). I figured if the mini could handle a bundt cake recipe without overflowing, then it could handle the cake and cupcake batters I usually make.

And you know what? Alana was right. There wasn't a problem at all: no overflowing, no spillage, no splashing, no drama, nothing. In fact, the mini might have even performed better than my standard size mixer — the mini mixer has the exact same motor as the standard, and the smaller bowl size meant that more of the batter was being mixed and incorporated as opposed to going up the sides of the bowl and needing to be scraped down. Pretty boss.

So without futher ado, here is the pretty standard classic that came out of the mini mixer: a lemon bundt cake, soaked with lemon simple syrup for moisture and flavor, and topped with a milk glaze and red currants. Drama and mess free.

I dig it.

This post was sponsored by Williams-Sonoma, who graciously provided me the mini KitchenAid mixer discussed in this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own, and I'm genuinely impressed by the mini KitchenAid mixer and am planning on making sweet potato curly fries next week using the mixer with a KitchenAid's spiralizer attachment (oh yeah — all regular attachments work with the mini too!). Thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and all my sponsors!

Some baker's notes:
  • I've been wanting to bake a lemon drizzle cake ever since the last season of The Great British Bakeoff (SPOILERS AHEAD since the US is a season behind so skip the next bit if you're still watching through PBS) and the winner successfully used one as a base for her big fat British wedding cake. Nobody seems to know the exact origin of a lemon drizzle cake, but it's big in Britain and most people seem to think that it's derived from classic pound cake (or madeira cake, if we're being super British). It's differentiated from regular lemon cake as it has an additional step in the recipe, which instructs you to drench the cake in a simple lemon syrup for extra flavor and moisture. I guess that's where the "drizzle" comes from. 

triple chocolate banana cake

I sometimes worry that I've lived out west too long and that my sensibilities will never match the ones here. As I get more settled into a routine, I find myself confusing New Yorkers with the weird, crunchy West Coast habits I've mostly acquired while living in Portland. Like bringing my own tote bags for groceries. I literally bewilder almost every cashier I interact with when I decline the plastic bags they seem to hand out so freely (they were 10 cents a bag in San Francisco!) and give them my own.

There also seems to be some sort of dress code for very specific events and places that I seemed to have missed. Just last week, as I met an acquaintance of mine for a drink, I walked in and found myself to be the only lady wearing flats and a loose fitting denim dress. Even with the 90 degree+ weather and the fact that it was only 6:30PM, all the ladies and gents were decked out with makeup, bandage dresses, and suits. Maybe it's because we were at a rooftop bar overlooking Central Park? Is that #fancy? Oh well.

But now that we're on the subject of #fancy, can we talk about this triple chocolate banana cake for a hot second? Again, this is one of the recipes I hastily threw together while I was clearing out my San Francisco fridge of all its ingredients. The banana cake layers are incredibly dense and fudgy; so much that it could almost pass for banana bread. And since I love chocolate (and needed to get rid of a lot of it before I moved), there are three types in the cake: mini chocolate chips in all the layers, slathered with an instant chocolate fudge frosting (more of that in the baker's notes), all of which is topped with a shiny chocolate drippy glaze. Oh! And some white chocolate chips for garnish... I guess that's FOUR types of chocolate.



Some baker's notes:
  • Plan ahead for this one and use the ripest bananas you can find for this recipe. Buy bananas that are ripe and let them get overly black and brown — the riper they are, the more sugar in the fruit, and the more flavorful and caramelized the cake's flavor will be. Epicurious even has a guide that tells you how far in advance you should buy bananas and where you should them to get them to their ideal state. And if you're just not a planner, you can always use this neat trick from the Kitchn to ripen them in the oven.

  • Okay real talk; this cake is MAD dense. Like, banana bread level dense. It can be a little much, especially with all the rich frosting. I needed to get rid of the bananas in my freezer, okay? So if you're looking for a lighter and fluffier cake, I recommend scaling the recipe down from 3 medium bananas to just 2 (if using 2 bananas, scale the weight measurement from 9 ounces to 6 ounces). The recipe's pretty liberally adapted from the banana cake recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar, and it's SUPER forgiving and allows you to do so without needing to make any additional adjustments.You might need to adjust cooking time though — instead of checking for done-ness at 40 minutes, start checking at 30 minutes.

  • The fudge frosting is hands down one of my favorite frosting recipes on my blog to date. Unlike with regular fudge, there's no need to fuss around with candy thermometers and heating all the ingredients to the right temperature. You pretty much just throw in all the ingredients in a food processor and process until you end up with a creamy and somewhat glossy fudge. The only thing is that you WILL need a food processor — you can't quite get the same texture with a freestanding electric mixer or a hand mixer. Sorry folks!

egg yolk chocolate chip cookies

Welp, we did it!

This past Monday, we officially signed a lease for a 2 bedroom apartment in a Brooklyn townhouse. I am in LOVE. Although it's no #casahummingbirdhigh, it's got south-facing windows, wood floors, and a DISHWASHER. And don't worry — I'll be sharing photos as soon as we get the keys!

Erlend thought it was a little hasty of us to sign for a place, but all my New York friends assured us that it was the right thing to do. The rental market here apparently gets scarcer as the summer goes on, becoming ultra-competitive in the months of August and September as the school season starts again. As a result, finding a place was surprisingly easy (perhaps shockingly so, especially when compared to finding a place in San Francisco), and I even managed to negotiate our rent down! #girlboss

And can I be honest with you guys? I love decorating, and thinking up of all the different ways to use up a space. If I weren't a food blogger, I'd probably try and be some kind of home decor blogger. I'm beyond excited to start setting up our new place, picking out furnishings, and figuring out where all our stuff will go. I'm also excited to explore our new neighborhood, to set up our bicycles so that we can ride around the city and really get to know all of our new borough's nooks and crannies. Because unlike my time in San Francisco, which felt so transitory (especially with our long-distance relationship and my basement studio), it feels different here.

It feels like a place that could be home.

So! Let's talk cookies. Again, this is one of those recipes I made in San Francisco when I was frantically trying to clear out my fridge. They're from one of my current favorite cookbooks, The Violet Bakery Cookbook, and I've had the recipe bookmarked since the first day I flipped through the book. Because these are no ordinary chocolate chip cookies, nope. In place of whole eggs, Claire uses all egg yolk to give the cookies their distinct golden color, and a heartier, crumblier texture.



Some baker's notes:
  • Plan ahead for this one! Claire's recipe instructs you to freeze these cookies for at least an hour. (but preferably overnight for better flavor — there's scientific proof behind this, I'm not even joking). You can still bake them without this freezing process, but the cookies will be flatter and crispier if you do.