levain bakery blueberry muffins

August 21, 2019

Portland, OR, USA
Although Levain Bakery in New York City is famous for chocolate chip cookies, their blueberry muffins deserve some of the fame, too: Levain's blueberry muffins have sky-high domes, super wide and crispy muffin tops, all complete with a generous sprinkling of sugar that gives each muffin top texture and crackle. Here's how to make Levain's blueberry muffin recipe at home—jump to the recipe.

Best Blueberry Muffins

Like many of my obsessions, my quest to reverse-engineer Levain's blueberry muffin started on Instagram (see: muffin mayhem on my Instagram account). But long before that, Instagram had idly served me this photo of their blueberry muffins from Levain's account, causing me to literally gasp and stop the mindless scrolling. I'd never seen a blueberry muffin look so enticing, with its extra wide muffin tops that were crackled with sugar. Were these the best blueberry muffins ever?

Levain Bakery Cookies

Unfortunately, I couldn't immediately answer the question—despite having lived in New York for a few years, occasionally even in the same Upper West Side neighborhood as Levain Bakery itself, I had never tried Levain Bakery's muffins. Why??? Because of their damn chocolate chip cookies!

If you've been living under a rock in the last 15 years or so and somehow missed this, Levain Bakery's chocolate chip cookies are famous. Their chocolate chip cookies are made with such thick mounds of dough that they could almost pass for scones. They are also so gooey in the middle that they can almost be mistaken for being raw/incredibly underdone. I am personally not a fan (it's an unpopular opinion, I know). I like my chocolate chip cookies on the thinner side (but not too thin to be crispy), with crispy edges, the centers that are chewy AND fudgy, and made with chopped chocolate that melt into puddles throughout the cookie and nothing else. Because did I mention that Levain's chocolate chip cookie recipe is made with WALNUTS? There is no option to get the cookie on its own without nuts. Like, why???!

As a result, I boycotted the bakery and only reluctantly dragged myself there when friends from out of town insisted we go. And every time, much to my disappointment, we would order a Levain chocolate chip cookie. Nobody ever wanted to branch out, because really, none of us knew any better (including myself). Now here I was years later, foolishly kicking myself for never trying anything else from the bakery—specifically, Levain's blueberry muffins.

Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

Convinced that I had missed out on the best blueberry muffins, I decided to reverse-engineer them at home. I'd already done a lot of the legwork last year, when I dutifully tested some of the most popular and much recommended blueberry muffin recipes as research for developing my own blueberry muffin recipe for #weeknightbakingbook. One of the most beloved recipes was for Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins. These muffins originated from a Boston-based department store, Jordan Marsh, that went out of business in the early 90s. The flagship store contained a bakery whose blueberry muffins had a cult following. It was a pretty solid recipe, with lots of blueberries to keep the muffins incredibly moist and flavorful.

Almond Flour Blueberry Muffins

Although I liked the Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin recipe a whole lot, one of my goals for #weeknightbakingbook was to develop breakfast pastry recipes made with alternative flours and nutmeals. I'll talk about this more in the book itself, but it's mostly because, well, for years, when I worked in tech, I would often treat myself to a pastry from the bakery around the corner for breakfast. An hour or so later, I'd crash from the sugar and find myself starving and furiously counting down the minutes until lunch. I eventually found that stuffing my own breakfast pastry recipes with whole wheat flours and nuts kept me going until lunchtime.

My #weeknightbakingbook blueberry muffin recipe is a variation of the Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin recipe, but with a twist: almond flour. I've added an entire 1/2 cup of almond flour to the original Jordan Marsh muffin recipe. Not only does the almond flour help keep me full until lunch, but it also adds a wonderful toasty flavor to the muffins and gives every single muffin a generous, sky-high dome close to (but not quite as dramatic, because look at them!!!) Levain Bakery's blueberry muffins.

Blueberry Muffin Tops

Although I'll never know what the real Levain Bakery blueberry muffin recipe is (fingers crossed they'll eventually come out with a cookbook—I'd buy it JUST for the muffin recipe alone), I was confident enough in the taste and quality of #weeknightbakingbook's blueberry muffin recipe to use it as a starting point for my experiments. Besides—I knew that the Levain blueberry muffin was all about the muffin top, anyway.

I knew from all those countless chocolate chip cookie tests that sprinkling white sugar on each muffin top would likely cause the batter to spread more. Besides, this was something they had already confirmed doing so on Instagram. The only question left was how much sugar. I found 1 teaspoon per muffin to be the perfect amount—t's a generous amount, yes, but anything less won't leave the signature sugar crackle top of their appearance.

And finally, because so much sugar is sprinkled on top of each muffin, their tops WILL spread generously, well beyond the space of each muffin cavity. That means that if you fill every muffin cavity in the pan, their tops will spread, touch each other, and stick to one another. Getting them out of the pan will be a near impossible task, and cause many of them to break. It's important to leave space between each one. Again, this method was confirmed by Levain's Instagram account too. In addition to preventing the muffin tops from sticking and breaking, leaving every other cavity empty allows more heat and air to circulate between the full cavities, leading to more browning (you'll notice that Levain's blueberry muffin is pretty brown) and doming in the oven (as high heat makes muffins dome better).

Best Blueberry Muffin Recipe Tips

  • For this recipe, tools are important. You'll need two muffin tins, a 1-tablespoon OR a 3-tablespoon cookie dough scoop, and an offset spatula (preferably with a short, metal blade). The cookie dough scoops are for filling each cavity with muffin batter—to get tall domes, you'll need to fill each one with SIX tablespoons of batter. It works best if you're precise. Anything more will cause the muffins to overflow, and anything less will result in squat muffins. You'll then need the offset spatula to "unstick" the wide muffin tops from the pan.

  • Use cooking spray to spray the muffin tin in order to turn the muffins out of the pan easily and quickly. Levain doesn't use paper liners for their muffins; in order to be #authentic, I didn't either in the recipe below. To make it work, you'll need to spray the inside of each cavity with a GENEROUS amount of cooking spray—and when I say generous, I mean generous. You'll be uncomfortable with the amount of spray used. You'll also need to spray the outer border around the cavities. And FYI—butter won't work, and will cause the muffins to stick to the pan. Use cooking spray!!! 

  • The recipe instructs you to rest the blueberry muffin recipe for one hour at room temperature; technically, this step is optional. You can bake the batter immediately after making and end up with some pretty damn good muffins. But if you want super domed muffins with seriously tall tops, rest the batter for an hour! This will allow the flour to hydrate and absorb the liquids in the batter more fully, leading to taller domes. Don't stick the batter in the fridge—chilled batter will cause the muffins to stick in their cavities. In fact, make sure ALL your ingredients are at room temperature before using in the recipe. Again, this is one of the secrets to super tall blueberry muffin tops. 

  • If you have a convection oven, now is the time to use it! When I was researching muffin recipes for #weeknightbakingbook, I discovered that muffins dome really well when first baked at a high temperature like 425 (F). Doing so encourages the baking powder in the batter to react faster, causing the muffins to rise more quickly in the oven. These recipes then instruct you to lower the oven temperature to 350 (F) to prevent the muffins from burning and drying out. It's a lot to keep track of, and I found it hard to imagine that the pros at Levain Bakery doing that sort of fussy tinkering in a busy setting. So instead, I baked the muffins at 400 (F) and found that it worked just as well, but found that it worked even better on the convection setting (as the convection fan was more effective in getting heat evenly and consistently between the muffin tin cavities). 

chocolate almond butter overnight oats

August 15, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

This blog post is sponsored by Almond Breeze. The content and opinions expressed here are mine. I'm especially excited to partner with Almond Breeze; their almondmilk is a weekly staple in my household. As I've grown older, my stomach has gotten more sensitive to traditional dairy and I’ve switched to nut milks for dietary and health purposes. I especially love the nutty, toasty flavor their almondmilk brings to my morning coffee, cereal, and breakfasts like this one! As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own; thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and the sponsors that keep the lights on!

The last three months were an intense period of travel for me, with trips to London and Copenhagen, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and Vancouver, for both work and play. On these trips, I got into the habit of having decadent breakfasts. And when I say decadent, I mean decadent. I usually started the mornings with a creamy latte or mocha, followed by a selection of pastries like custard-filled donuts, kombucha-glazed croissants, and halva-and-pistachio babkas that I could only sample while abroad. It was a far departure from my usual breakfasts at home, where I skip the coffee (true story: I don’t drink coffee when I’m at home, AMA) and start my day with a bowl of scrambled eggs and spinach.

Now that I’m back home, it’s been a rough readjustment to scale back down to reality. I find myself craving caffeine on a daily basis, and my daily breakfast of scrambled eggs and spinach just seems dry and sad. If I’m being honest with you guys, I sometimes will sneak off to the bakery down the street or to the taco stand between my house and gym for a slice of banana bread or breakfast taco in an attempt to recreate some of that decadence from my travels. All of which would be well and good, but it definitely has its price—I may or may not have gained a few pounds since then, eeeep.

So in an effort to exercise more self-control but STILL have a little fun, I started brainstorming ways to jazz up my breakfasts at home. I wanted something slightly better-for-you like my old breakfast of scrambled eggs and spinach, but with enough sweetness and excitement that I wouldn’t find myself running off to the bakery or taco truck for sweeter treats instead. Enter: this recipe for chocolate almond butter overnight oats. It’s the perfect balance between health and decadence.

The trick to a tasty oatmeal is to use rolled or steel-cut oats. These types of oats have more flavor, texture, and nutrients than their instant or quick oat counterparts; unfortunately, unlike instant or quick oats, rolled or steel-cut oats will need to be soaked overnight. But soaking them overnight can unlock a world of flavor. I like to soak mine in Almond Breeze Unsweetened Chocolate almondmilk to infuse every bite with chocolate. The best part? Because the almondmilk is unsweetened, I can rest assured knowing that I’m controlling my sugar intake and not going overboard. I usually only add a tablespoon (or less!) of maple syrup to each serving. For extra protein, I’ve added a few scoops of almond butter (because chocolate and almond butter is always a delicious combo) and chia seeds, both of which keep me going until lunch and add little bursts of texture and delight with every bite. Enjoy!

Some maker’s notes:
  • This recipe scales up and down really easily! I’ve written it for 4 servings, but really, the recipe quantities divide up evenly for even smaller portions. It helps to have a tablespoon measure (or even a tablespoon-sized cookie dough scoop for the almond butter) on hand since the parfaits are made with either a tablespoon or two of most of the ingredients.

  • Note that, when adding the almond butter to the almondmilk, it’s likely that it won’t dissolve completely when you mix it. Don’t worry about it too much, and just stir until there are small to medium chunks of almond butter distributed throughout the oatmeal. Think of it as a almond butter swirl in your breakfast!

pistachio cream tart

August 12, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

Although it's been months since my trip to Israel and I still find myself inspired by everything I learned and ate in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And although I've already told you about the traditional Israeli sweets like babka, halva, and malabi, I wanted to spend some time today talking about modern Israeli desserts. One of my favorite workshops that we participated in was held by Alon Shabo, a star pastry chef in Tel Aviv and honestly, the world too. In his beautiful atelier, he showed us how to make desserts like the Paris-Brest and the pistachio cream tart recipe I'm sharing with you guys today. Traditionally, the recipes for these pastries originated from France. And while Alon stays true to the classic European methods of making such pastries, he infuses them with flavors that are traditionally more Middle Eastern like pistachios, sesame, and tahini.

To wit—the Paris-Brest is a choux pastry ring traditionally filled with praline and cream. But at Alon's studio, we filled them with a mix of tahini, white chocolate, feuilletine (the fancy pastry term for "crispy wafer crumbs", lol) and a milk chocolate ganache cream. It was so tasty that I had to stop myself from eating the entire bucket with a spoon.

For our tarts, we first picked up the freshest, greenest pistachios I've ever seen from nearby Levinsky Market (which you may remember as the place where I went hog wild and bought pounds of halva) to use in a frangipane-like tart. Although frangipane is usually made with almonds, Alon's recipe uses pistachios to take advantage of the fresh and local ingredients from the market. It was absolutely delicious:

Making the tarts was my favorite part of the workshop—it was amazing to see all the different tart designs that our entire group came up with. Real talk: I wasn't the best at piping the whipped cream, so I tried to cover up my shoddy piping with as many toppings as possible. Can you guess which one is mine? Oh, I'll just tell you. The top one is Joy's, the middle one is Sarah's (I think), and the last one is mine (with the pink wafers in a border around the tart):

During the workshop, I learned a bunch of new tips and techniques. Specifically, it was my first time ever working with a pastry ring. I'd seen them before, while sitting at the chef's counter at fancy restaurants and at the famed E. Dehillerin cookshop in Paris. But I'd always been intimidated and too scared to commit to buying one for use at home—life was easy with a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, why shake it up?

Alon, however, taught us that they were just as easy to use (and resulted in prettier and more professional-looking tarts too)! Start by generously buttering the inside of the tart ring. Place the prepared ring on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Next, generously flour your counter and roll the tart dough out to a thin—roughly 1/8-inches thick—sheet larger than the 8-inch tart ring. The thickness of the sheet is more important; its shape and size sheet doesn't need to be precise. Use the rolling pin to transfer the slab of dough to the top of the tart ring, laying it over the ring similar to how you would lay pie dough over a pie plate:

Use your fingers to press the dough down the inside of the tart ring so that the dough molds itself around the sides of the tart ring and tightens across the base of the entire inner area of the tart ring. You want to apply enough pressure so that the dough becomes flush with the ring, but not so much that the dough tears. You'll likely have an excess of dough overhanging past the ring, too. Don't worry about that too much—you'll use a paring knife or kitchen shears to trim the excess dough shortly. 

Use kitchen shears (or use a sharp paring knife) to trim the excess overhanging dough around the tart ring. Be careful not to trim off too much—you want the dough in the inside of the ring to be perfectly flush with the top of the ring:

And that's it! When filling the tart, it's especially important to fill it only two-thirds of the way full—the filling will actually rise and puff in the oven to reach (or even exceed) the sides of the tart ring:

Don't worry about it too much if your filling is too puffy—we'll cover the entire thing with whipped cream later. Similarly, the tart shell's border can come out rough and jagged. You can use a microplane grater to shave down these rough edges and ensure a perfect tart crust.

After you're satisfied with your tart, it's time to decorate it! We filled piping bags with whipped cream and piped dollops on top of the tart to cover the rustic top. In addition to looking beautiful, the light and airy whipped cream pairs wonderfully with the pistachio frangipane filling. Alon also provided us with dyed chocolate wafers and edible flowers to decorate our tarts with:

After his lesson, the first thing I immediately did was order a tart ring from Amazon. I've since been dying to make Alon's pistachio cream tart recipe, but only found the time now while on "vacation". Admittedly, I was nervous about molding the tart shell without Alon's guidance, but it worked out wonderfully! The resulting tart was just as tasty and beautiful as the one we made together in Tel Aviv. For my homemade version, I kinda copied Joy's design and went light on the whipped cream since I'm going light on dairy this month. I also skipped the chocolate wafers and substituted them with fresh seasonal Oregonian berries like strawberries, raspberries, and even huckleberries. Enjoy!

A big thank you to Vibe Israel; although I wasn't given compensation for this post, Vibe Israel organized our entire pastry-focused trip to Israel, including airfare, transport, accommodation, workshops, and tours. All photos in this post—with the exception of my tart photos—were taken by our talented group photographer, Amir Menahem

Some baker's notes:
  • Tart rings are available online at Amazon; although I made my tart with an 8-inch ring (specifically, I used this model), the recipe makes enough dough (see note below) and pistachio cream for a bigger 9-inch or 10-inch version. The choice is yours—you do you. You can also use smaller English muffin rings (I have this set leftover from when I made homemade English muffins) and make several mini pistachio cream tarts. In a pinch, you can also use a more traditional fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. The instructions for rolling it out and molding it to the pan will still work, though it might be a bit more finnicky molding the dough against the fluted sides (see last note). 

  • I actually didn't use Alon's tart dough recipe—while his was very tasty, it used half an egg and I worried about what I was going to do with the remainder (Honestly! It seemed a shame to throw it out, but I'm not going to fry up half an egg! Mike from my trip cracked that I should just make two doughs, which honestly is a great idea that I don't know why I didn't think of, so lol I'm stupid). So instead, I used the pate sucree recipe from Republique's new cookbook. Although it comes together really easily and quickly in a stand mixer, it can be a bit fragile when rolled, tearing easily. Chilling the dough overnight will make it easier to work with. In fact, in true weeknight baking fashion, I broke up the recipe into two days: I actually made the dough the night before, then made the filling, baked the tart, and decorated it on the second day. 

  • And finally, don't panic if, when molding your rolled out dough into the tart ring, your dough tears. You can fix any tears by pressing extra dough from the overhang and patching it up with your hands. 

buttered corn scones

August 8, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

This post was done in partnership with Vermont Creamery, who sponsored this post by providing the ingredients and compensation to make it happen! As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and thank you for supporting the sponsors that keep Hummingbird High running! I’m especially excited to partner with Vermont Creamery to help spread the word about their new butter line. Legit—their butter is some of the best available. I used their butter in almost every recipe of my upcoming cookbook, and it made every single one taste so much better.

Now that #weeknightbakingbook is finally out of my hands and off to the printers, I’ve been spending my days catching up on everything I’ve put on the backburner and relaxing. But I’ll be honest—although there are errands and doctor’s appointments and email exchanges with my agent and my book’s marketing/PR team, I’m mostly just relaxing.

At first, after two years of nonstop work on both my book and the blog, my relaxing felt odd and kind of… stressful? LOL. But seriously! It was hard to stop myself from busying myself with chores and tasks. Secretly, I think I was also worried that too much idle time on my hands would make me bored, and the lack of stressful deadlines in my life wouldn’t give me structure in my days.

Luckily, that passed quickly. Because it turns out that I have plenty to do even without the crazy deadlines! Admittedly, most of it has been things like catching up with all the friends and family I neglected while working on my book, binge watching Casa de Papel on Netflix, and researching all the best restaurants in Tokyo and Kyoto for our upcoming trip in October (HIT ME UP WITH ANY RECOMMENDATIONS YOU HAVE—it’ll be my first time in Japan, ever!). But these are the kind of low-key, stress-free activities I need to partake in after working on something like my book. Unlike in this blog, where I could easily jump in and fix a recipe, photo, typo whenever I felt like it, I felt like I had just one shot to get it all right in my book. Every decision felt so monumental and permanent. By the end, I was definitely so stressed out and suffering from decision fatigue.

Thankfully, the biggest concern I have these days is figuring out what Erlend and I are going to have for dinner. And because the weather’s been so nice in Portland (the west coast seems to have missed the heat wave that literally affected everybody else), we’ve been spending a lot of time outside grilling. I’ve also been getting way too excited by all the summer corn available at the farmers’ markets; I’ll come home with about ten or so ears of fresh corn, ready to make into salads, appetizers, and scones like this one.

Most people tend to pause on their baking during the hot summer months, and I really don’t blame them—who wants to turn on a hot oven in the 90+ degree heat? Unfortunately, doing so means missing out on all the fresh summer fruit and vegetables that are perfect in pies, cakes, and other pastries. Although berries and stone fruits tend to be the star of the show, I’ve started brainstorming ways to get sweet summer corn into more of my baking recipes since corn can work in both savory and sweet recipes. In particular, you can serve these buttery scones as a side with fresh salted butter and herbs (they’ll taste just like cornbread) or with honey, cream, and jam as a dessert. Just be sure to do so when they’re still warm—they’ll crumble at the slightest touch, with every crumb melting perfectly in your mouth. Enjoy!

Some baker’s notes:
  • This recipe uses two types of butter—Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter, both salted and unsalted. I like using the salted butter to cook with the corn; I feel like it makes the corn extra flavorful. However, in a pinch, you skip buying both varieties and commit to just using one. Both salted and unsalted butter will work in the grilled corn AND the scones recipe below, but if you choose to use salted butter for the scone dough, I recommend reducing the salt quantity from 2 teaspoons to 1½ teaspoons. Because this recipe is mainly BUTTER flavored, it’s especially important to use the best quality butter you can buy. Like Vermont Creamery’s! Their butter is made from just fresh cream, cultures, and salt, never with any artificial flavors or colors—as a result, Vermont Creamery has one of the tastiest butters available, complete with notes of buttermilk and hazelnut. In particular, the new cultured butter featured in this post was fermented for 20 hours then churned to 82% butterfat for a ridiculously creamy texture!

  • I get it, two days to make a scones recipe is a LOT. The reason why I broke this up over a span of two days is because I like to cook fresh corn the day I buy it (the longer you wait, the less sweet the corn will be—this article explains the science behind why), and, mostly, it takes too damn long to grill the corn and bake the scones all in the same day since the corn needs to be at room temperature when added to the scone dough (see my note above). But no worries! There are a ton of options here. If you have all the time in the world, there’s no need to break the recipe up over two days—just grill the corn, let it cool to room temperature, and use in the recipe as instructed. If you don’t even have time to grill the corn, you can skip the step completely. Simply cook the corn in the skillet with the butter as instructed in the recipe below. And finally, if using fresh corn is too time much too, you can use frozen corn (but not canned!) in its place. Simply measure out 1½ (7.5 ounces) cups of corn and start with Step 6 of the Day 1 recipe, with frozen corn in place of the grilled fresh corn.

  • The key to a perfectly crumbly, melt-in-yo-mouth scone is to keep your dairy ingredients as cold as possible and to handle the dough as little as possible. With this recipe, you’ll be getting a sneak peek of one of the techniques in my upcoming book for doing so: the recipe instructs you to pat the dough into a cake pan. This avoids any guesswork about how to form and shape the scones, preventing overhandling and resulting in perfectly shaped scones each time. Just be sure to line your pan with the plastic wrap as instructed by the recipe to prevent the dough from sticking to the pan!

snickers cheesecake bars

July 30, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

Is anybody as obsessed with PEN15 as I am? I swear to god that that show is required viewing for anybody who went to middle school in the early 2000s. PEN15 follows two actresses, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, who play fictionalized versions of themselves in middle school. But there's a twist—both Maya and Anna are actually in their early 30s, while the rest of the cast is played by real middle schoolers. It's a hilarious sight gag, but the story is also actually really heartwarming and primarily centers on Maya and Anna's tender friendship and undying loyalty for one another.

Watching the show took me back to my middle school (and high school) years, during which I was practically inseparable from my best friend, Katherine. We went through a lot together; most of it was the meaningless shenanigans and growing pains that come from being a middle/high schooler, sure, but there were significant milestones too. Our friendship was similar to the PEN15 girls in that we were completely, 100% devoted to each other in the way that only middle school best friends can be. Even in college, after we headed to schools on opposite coasts, our friendship seemed unbreakable. Every Sunday, we would call each other with updates from our lives, comparing our experiences and discussing the boys we liked and our new girlfriends. But even still, we remained utterly loyal. "She's not like you," our stories reassured each other. "She doesn't get me like you do."

One of my biggest regrets in life is how our friendship slowly, gradually eroded after college. I'd always assumed that we would find ourselves living in the same city upon graduating. Instead, life had other plans. I stayed mostly west, jumping from Portland to San Francisco to Denver and back to Portland and San Francisco again, all the while trying new careers in finance, tech, and blogging; she stayed out east, eventually ending up in a small town toiling away slowly but steadily on the long road of medical school. Our different schedules led us to speak to each other less and less; the weekly check-ins turned into monthly ones, then eventually, yearly ones. Phone calls became emails that became text messages that became brief birthday greetings. Somewhere along the way, we began leading such different lives that we stopped being recognizable to one another. At first, the cracks were unnoticeable, easy to skip over and ignore; then it was an uncrossable gulf all at once, with the two of us standing on opposite sides. A lesser friendship might have survived the chasm, but because Katherine and I had been so important in each other's lives, the increasing gaps in our knowledge of one another were absolutely devastating. Because the truth is, even on a friendship that had been as solid and strong as ours, the effects of geography and time can be insurmountable.

Today the things I can tell you about Katherine fall in broad strokes, so general that they read like newsletter updates in a college alumni magazine: she is a doctor now, a surgeon of some kind. She lives in Texas, I think. I don’t know any of the personal things, like if she grew up to be a Republican or a Democrat, or if she’s dating anybody, or if she’s happy in her chosen career or to be back in the city where we grew up together. But when we were the best of friends, I knew details that could color pages and pages with minutia. Like how her pillow covers were the same cloud ones as Anna Konkle’s in PEN15, or how her dessert order at The Cheesecake Factory was always a slice of Snickers cheesecake.

Today is national cheesecake day; I'd initially set out to make a cheesecake from Maida Heatter's latest cookbook, but PEN15 caused an avalanche of nostalgia to resurface and inspired me to make these bars instead. They are modeled after Katherine's favorite dessert from many years ago, and a love letter to my lost childhood best friend. I don't know if she would eat them today, but I'd like to think that their portable bar format makes them conducive for a quick snack break in between surgeries and saving lives. Enjoy!

Some baker's notes:
  • To make Oreo cookie crumbs, use a digital scale to weigh out as many crackers as needed to match the weight in the recipe. Use a food processor to pulse the cookies into fine crumbs. There is no need to scrape off the icing in between each cookie!

  • It's especially important that your cream cheese, eggs, and sour cream are warmed to room temperature—the filling will be lumpy if the ingredients are cold. To ensure that my cream cheese has softened to the perfect temperature, I chop it into blocks and pop it in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds. 

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