May 13, 2014
When Erlend and I moved into my new house at the end of last summer, we were excited. Although we loved our one bedroom attic apartment, we were looking forward to more space in the house and a yard. Our very own yard! After several years of living in the heart of big cities like San Francisco and Denver, it seemed like the biggest privilege to have so much personal green space where we could plant and do whatever we wanted. Although I'm personally not that into gardening — I have whatever the opposite of a green thumb is — it's something that Erlend's been interested in for some time now.
Fast forward to a year later. Erlend has been working his little heart out to turn our paltry garden into one of the lush, verdant spaces that seem to be everywhere else. But man, oh man, is our yard fighting back. Almost every plant, vegetable and flower that he's planted has either died, eaten by some incredibly aggressive squirrels, or become diseased. To wit — the rhubarb that I insisted he plant succumbed to some kind of rot less than 2 weeks after planting, and the pretty roses that came with the house seem like they're headed in that same direction.
Understandably, Erlend's pretty bummed about this. He cursed furiously as he dug up the moldy rhubarb, and he desperately begged one of the plant experts at the nursery to find a way to save the roses for nearly 2 hours. Truth be told, I was pretty impressed with his fight. Because the failing garden is just another thing to add to our constantly-growing list of things that are always broken or terrible around the house. Over the last year, I'd watched several things around the house break or get destroyed by negligent roommates. At first, each broken door, latch, whatever seemed like such a personal insult or affront — why was this house breaking on me, especially after such a successful inspection? But it's just the way houses are, especially ones that are a century old and haven't had their plumbing and wiring updated since the 1950s. While this is something I've come to terms with over the last year — that is, spending a significant amount of money on something does not necessarily mean it will work out — this is the first blow of this kind for Erlend.
So in honor of our steadily failing garden, with its dying rhubarb and roses, this recipe's for Erlend:
Just because we can't have them in our yard, doesn't mean we can't have them anywhere else, am I right?!
Rhubarb is a naturally sour and tart fruit, so I cooked fresh springtime rhubarb with sugar and just a touch of orange juice to sweeten up the filling. Although rhubarb is traditionally paired with vanilla in desserts (see this rhubarb panna cotta tart or these rhubarb shortcakes), I replaced the vanilla with a teaspoon of rose water instead. The result is a sweet but still tart rhubarb filling with a lovely, subtle floral note encased in a flaky and buttery crust.
February 13, 2014
When I was in seventh grade, I wrote a pretty impassioned essay for my English class about how Valentine's Day was a corporate holiday maintained by companies like Hallmark and Hershey's to provide a predictable source of revenue year after year. Pretty original and incendiary stuff for a middle schooler, I know. I remember my classmates glaring at me as I read my essay out loud, as they clutched the mandatory valentines and candies that we had been forced to exchange earlier that day. Shut up Michelle, I could hear them think. What's wrong with an excuse for free candy?
My seventh grade self would be disappointed to know that these days, I'm firmly in the camp of my old peers. Any special occasion or holiday is an excuse for me to bake something elaborate and excessive. Like this rose ombre cake for Valentine's Day:
In the case of this cake, it was a double whammy — built and baked for both the upcoming Valentine's day holiday and during a special occasion. The special occasion was of course, the fact that a rare snowstorm had hit Portland, delivering us a good seven inches of snow. I know that doesn't sound like a whole lot, but believe me, for Portland, it is. Snow is such a rare occasion that the city is rumored to only own 2 snow plows for the entire city! As a result, absolutely everything gets cancelled and shut down.
This cake was conceived during Day 3 of being snowed in, just around the time cabin fever was starting to hit me and my housemates pretty hard. I've always admired the pretty ombre cakes floating around on Pinterest, but could never justify the time to devote making one. Until now:
Each cake layer, tinted with varying shades of pink and lavender, is flavored with rose water and layered between a healthy portion of vanilla whipped cream. I know that the cake itself looks a little bit rustic and rough around the edges, but the sides of the cake are left unfrosted to really let the colors shine. This is the cake that I presented to my Valentine, and hopefully it'll be the one you present yours as well. Happy Valentine's Day!
September 14, 2013
The other day, I was over at my friend's studio apartment and I was surprised by how neat and spotless his place was. "Look at that!" I gestured at his meticulously made bed, complete with pastel paisley sheets. "You even made the bed!"
My friend laughed. "I make my bed everyday," he explained. "It's one of the things I'm trying to do in order to be more adult."
Which got me thinking... what are the things that I do in order to be more adult? Adult here being a relative term, of course. Because on paper, I seem like an adult. I mean, I've been 100% financially independent from my parents for years now; in fact, I just bought my first house at a fairly young age of 26! I work a great job at a respectable software company, exercise on a regular basis, and even have an actual, living being that I take care of and am fully responsible for (but don't get too excited — it's just a cat). So it's all there on paper. But in theory? Not so much.
Because the devil's in the details, right? And let's start with this: I have never, ever — not even once! — made my bed in my entire life (with the exception of when I'm a guest at somebody else's home). I just don't see the point. I'm always running a little bit late for work, and given the choice between eating a quick breakfast or making the bed, that bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch is always going to win. Besides... the bed will be unmade in about 12 hours or so, and nobody sees the bedroom except for Erlend — again, what's the point?
And let's talk about laundry. After years of living in places that had coin-op laundry, I haven't broken the habit of gathering as much laundry as possible and just doing it all in one go — to the point where I've gone through several cheap hampers because they can't handle the weight of my load. And what happens after the clothes are clean? I simply shove all the clothes straight from the dryer back into my hamper, without even folding them. All my clothes are wrinkled like crazy, and guess what? I don't bother ironing them — or putting them away for the matter! Most mornings, I fish out an outfit from a hamper of clean clothes.
So thinking about the answer to my original question — that is, the things that I do in order to be more adult — my mind goes blank. That is, until I had a bite of this homemade panna cotta:
Because this is it, guys. This is the recipe to use to impress friends and family at a grown-up dinner party. Nothing says "adult" more than this classy buttermilk panna cotta topped with plum and rose water compote.
Panna cotta is the kind of dessert that they always serve at expensive restaurants, usually paired with an exotic sounding fruit like passionfruit or huckleberry. As a result, I've always been way too intimidated to make panna cotta at home — surely that creamy, oh-so-silky, melt-in-your-mouth texture required lots of skill and time at a pastry school to master?
No, not at all. Because the sweet irony is, panna cotta is surprisingly easy to make. These panna cotta cups took less than an hour of my time. Seriously. I just whisked together some cream, buttermilk, sugar, lemon juice and a touch of gelatin and stuck it in the fridge to set. A few hours later, I got this beautiful dessert. And you wouldn't ever guess that such little work went into it, looking at the dessert cups above.
So never mind that I don't make my bed or put away my clean laundry. Because come my next dinner party, I'll fool the world into thinking I'm an adult with this sophisticated dessert! I'm half-joking, of course.
August 14, 2013
Sorting through my recipes the other day, I realized something shocking: it's been a long time since I've made a cupcake for this blog. The last time I made cupcakes (these strawberry milkshake beauties, to be precise) was in March — nearly four months ago!
What happened? I mean, way back in 2011, this blog started out as a cupcake baking blog. Well, more specifically, it actually started out as a high-altitude baking blog. My initial goal was to try and bake my way through The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (a cookbook primarily dedicated to cupcakes) and, in doing so, figure out how high-altitude baking worked in the process. The blog was initially intended for just close friends and family — who knew that the rest of the world would be so interested?
Because raise your hand if you've been reading since the beginning, when I still lived in Denver. If so, props! Thanks for sticking around so long!!! No, really. I mean that sincerely. And what a journey that must've been for you, to watch this blog grow in the way that it has. For instance, back in the day, I was taking hilariously ugly pictures with my iPhone! Can you believe that?!? Not even the latest model of the iPhone — I was using an iPhone 3GS! It's funny to know that these days, I'm using the waayyyy fancier Canon 5D Mark II.
Besides the photography, there have been other things on this blog that have, uh, diverged from my initial baking and blogging goals. There's the first and most obvious fact: as noted in my blog header, I no longer live in Denver, and instead live at sea-level in Portland, Oregon... so there went the concept of being a high-altitude baking blog. Oops. Then of course there's the fact that I actually finished baking through the book and successfully adapted almost all of The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's cupcake recipes to work at high-altitude... can anybody see where this is going?
That is, ultimately, these two points combine to create what's become a rather big annoyance in my life: my blog's name, Hummingbird High, is no longer applicable to my current content. But I can't change it now! Because besides the technical, backend stuff like SEO and traffic, the worst part is this: you guys know me — my recipes, pictures and stories — by a name that's outdated and not really relevant to my work anymore. But from my professional point of view as a marketer (that is my day job after all), it seems like I can't change it now... or EVER. For better or for worse, Hummingbird High is my brand name. All I can do is continue to cringe when I hear it.
But all's not lost. Even if my content has evolved away from its name and has taken directions I couldn't even have imagined back in 2011, there's still this simple fact that's remained true all throughout these years and blog posts:
No matter how many other kinds of recipes that I bake, I still love cupcakes.
A relatively minor declaration, I know, but at the end of the day this blog's heart and soul rests on those silly little cakes. This blog would not exist had it not been for my undying love and appreciation for cupcakes, especially ones from the Hummingbird Bakery.
The recipe that I'm posting today isn't from the Hummingbird Bakery (well, that's half-false — the cream cheese frosting is based on the recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook), but I hope it's one that will pay homage to their cupcakes and this blog's beginnings. Ever since I've baked through The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, I'm constantly in search of cupcake recipes that I hope will hold a candle to theirs. I believe this wonderfully fruity blackberry cupcake recipe, topped off with rose-tinted cream cheese frosting and homemade blackberry sauce, comes pretty darn close to something they would sell in their bakery.
June 9, 2012
I'm incredibly happy to be back in Portland for a bunch of different reasons -- one of them being that I can bake at sea-level. Do you know what that means? The ability to just simply follow a recipe without having to think about adjusting batter moisture or leavening agents! No pesky trial and error! No going through multiple batches of failed baked goods! No more waste!
Ahh... I am in bliss.
So in order to mark the occasion of my return, I decided to dedicate my first sea-level recipe to Portland, Oregon. What better than a batch of Hummingbird Bakery Rose Cupcakes to celebrate my beloved City of Roses?
May 18, 2012
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:
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!
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: