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basic pie lattice tutorial

August 15, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

This post was sponsored by Land O'Lakes, my favorite butter company! As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and I'm incredibly excited to be working with Land O'Lakes all year long because of their high-quality butter and dairy products. Thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and my awesome sponsors!


If you're a long-time reader of Hummingbird High, you'll know that my relationship with pie has always been a little bit rocky. I first attempted to make pie from scratch (for this blog, actually) in 2012, only to discover that I was missing half the key tools I needed and that making pie dough on a 90-degree+ day in an unairconditioned kitchen was maaybeeee not the best idea. It took me a full year to muster up the courage to try again, and even then, the resulting pie was shall we say, erm, rustic.

Fast forward to now, almost six years later, where I find myself teaching a pie class with one of Instagram's most famous and talented pie makers at Portland's biggest food festival, Feast. How did THAT happen? I suspect it has something to do with #humhipieamonth, where I spent a year making a pie from scratch each month to really hone in my skills. And this year, I've already made over 50 pies as I researched, developed, and photographed pies for #weeknightbakingbook — and when you find yourself making the same pie dough recipe over and over again in a row (there was seriously one day in which I assembled 12 pies in a row and wanted to cry by the end of it), you can't NOT pick up some tips and tricks along the way to make the whole thing go faster and easier. Which is all very well and good for you guys, because the funny thing is, I noticed that as my pies and all the other pies on Instagram got more and more elaborate, I was getting more requests and questions about classic pie lattices. And it makes sense, if you think about it — you gotta learn to walk before you can run!


So here I am today with a tutorial on how to do a basic classic lattice. Start with two discs of your favorite pie dough and your favorite pie filling (I've also included some recipes for both after this post). Roll out one of the pie dough discs and fit it onto a 9-inch pie plate. Fill the rolled out crust with pie filling, and place it in the refrigerator to chill while you roll out the second disc for the lattice.

Roll out the second disc into a circle that is at least 3 inches wider than your pie plate — that means that if you're using a 9-inch pie plate, you'll need to roll out a circle that is 12 inches. I know that this seems excessive, but I promise that it will give you the extra leeway you might need for the best lattice ever. After rolling it out into this large circle, you'll need both a pastry wheel and a ruler. Use both to cut the circle into 10 even strips, each about an inch wide.

At this point, you have everything you need to weave the lattice. Start by arranging 5 of the strips vertically on the pie, leaving about 1/2-inch or so between each strip. Make sure to use the longer strips for the center of the pie and the shorter ones for the sides of the pie:


Fold the 2nd and 4th lattice strip halfway back across the pie towards yourself. Take one of the leftover pie strips NOT currently on the pie and lay it horizontally in the center of the pie, close to where you folded up the 2nd and 4th vertical lattice strips. Unfold the 2nd and 4th vertical lattice strips over the horizontal strip, so that the horizontal strip is running underneath the 2nd and 4th vertical strips when they're folded down:


Next, you'll need to fold the 1st, 3rd, and 5th vertical lattice strips halfway back across the pie, similar to what you just did with the 2nd and 4th strips, but this time over the one horizontal lattice strip that's currently in the center of the pie. Lay another pie strip horizontally across the pie, close to where you folded up the 1st, 3rd, and 5th vertical strips. Unfold those vertical strips over this second horizontal strip, so that the horizontal strip is running underneath the 1st, 3rd, and 5th vertical strips:


Once you've folded the 1st, 3rd, and 5th lattices back down to their original positions, you'll need to start again but this time fold the 2nd and 4th vertical lattice strips back over the horizontal lattice strip you just laid across the pie. Lay another lattice strip horizontally close to where you folded over the 2nd and 4th vertical lattice strips, and fold the 2nd and 4th lattice strips over the horizontal strip you just laid across the pie:


Congratulations! At this point, the top half of your pie has been successfully woven:


At this point, all that needs to be done is the bottom half of the pie. You're basically going to do what we just did, but this time, folding the vertical strips upwards as opposed to downwards. Fold the 1st, 3rd, and 5th vertical strips up over the horizontal strip that is running across the center of the pie and lay another strip horizontally a half inch or so underneath it. Fold the 1st, 3rd, and 5th strips down over this horizontal strip:


Yay! You've got one strip left to go. Fold the 2nd and 4th vertical strip upwards over the last horizontal strip you just laid across the pie. Lay the final lattice strip horizontally across the pie, then fold the 2nd and 4th vertical strips down over it.


Now step back — voila! You've woven a lattice pie.


At this point, you can trim any excess strips and pie dough hanging over the edge of the plate and use a fork to press down on the crust around the edges of the pie to make a border. Alternatively, you can also roll the excess pie dough up onto the plate and shape it into a more traditional crimp. However, I prefer to use the fork method because it's faster, easier, and I don't want to distract from the lattice that I just worked so hard to weave.


Now before you go off and weave your lattice, I'd like to share some final tips: when making pie dough, be sure to keep all your ingredients, especially your butter, as cold as possible to create a dough that's easy to work with and yields an incredibly flaky-yet-tender final crust. Pie dough is also one of those desserts where, because it uses so few ingredients, it's important to use the very best quality of ingredients you can get in order to achieve the best flavor. For most of my baking, I rely on Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter, which has a clean and classic butter flavor that really makes my pies and other desserts stand out. Enjoy, and be sure to check out the video below to see this pie come together:


buttercream flower tutorial

August 9, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

This time last summer, I had left my full-time job at Yelp and was gearing up to move back to Portland and focus on writing my cookbook, Weeknight Baking. Given that I had spent many years balancing my day job with this blog, I thought that finally just focusing on one thing would allow me to pursue everything I'd always wanted to do with Hummingbird High but never had time to do so: mostly, more interiors posts, party posts, travel posts, step-by-step tutorials, elaborate pastries, GIFS, videos and more!

Needless to say, none of that happened, lol. Although many of my friends and peers who'd written cookbooks warned me about how much work it all was, I'd secretly ignored their warnings because I was just too friggin' cocky. Despite their horror stories, I figured that after balancing a full-time corporate job and this blog for so long, it would be a breeze. Ha! Nope. Long story short, the book replaced Yelp as my full-time job and Hummingbird High was once again pushed to the sidelines as I raced to develop, test, and photograph recipes for Weeknight Baking.

There is light at the end of the tunnel though! I've finally met the first of my major deadlines, turning in my manuscript at the start of last month and all the photos this past Monday. I have about a month off before I get the first round of edits, during which I'm planning to relax, go on the Whole 30 in attempt to lose all the scary book-related weight I've gained in the last year, and finally stop neglecting my blog and start working on all of the ideas and plans I've had for it since yesteryear. Get excited!


First up: a decorating tutorial with the help of my talented friend, Lyndsay Sung of Coco Cake Land! Her new cookbook just came out and is dedicated to all things cake decorating and is just SO. MUCH. FUN. Lyndsay is known for her badass feminist cakes, her super kawaii animal cakes, and her general boss cake decorating skills. She is one of my favorite bakers, and is such an inspiration both inside and outside of the kitchen. Real talk — she wrote part of the book while she was fighting (and winning!) against breast cancer. I told you she was fierce.

One of the cakes in Lyndsay's book is the Buttercream Flower Power cake, which is a layer cake topped with beautiful and 100% edible buttercream roses in bright neon colors (I tried to channel them for this cake, but I think my colors came out more muted than Lyndsay's — oh well). Buttercream flowers kinda blew up on the internet last year, and of course, I'm late to the party. I'm not going to lie — I avoided piping them for a really long time because I was super intimidated to do so, but they're actually pretty easy! It helps to have a good video tutorial or two to guide you (as much as I love photos, sometimes a video really does do the job better) so I've included a pretty bare bones instructional video on how I pipe my roses:


What do you guys think of the video? Is it too bare? Should I add music and flashing lights? I know that those Buzzfeed Tasty-style videos are super popular, but for more instructional videos, I decided to keep it minimalist so you can actually see what I'm doing without any distractions. Tell me your thoughts!

Also, be sure to check out the rest of the post below for some formal instructions on how to pipe the flowers as well a quick guide on literally everything you need to get started on piping flowers of your own. And don't miss my post on Instagram, where I'm giving away a copy of Lyndsay's cookbook and a jar of some of her custom made Sweetapolita sprinkles. Super fun, right??? I'm so excited, you guys. I feel like this is a fresh start to Hummingbird High, and I am so excited to kick it off with Lyndsay and her new book. Yay!!!


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    brown butter and toffee chocolate chip cookies

    August 1, 2018

    Portland, OR, USA

    Keeping today's post short and sweet: with the weather in Portland reaching constants of 95 degrees every day (we finally caved and bought a window AC unit for the bedroom — it's still not enough) and me baking and decorating the last of the pies and cakes for #weeknightbakingbook photo shoots, I'm burned out on all things baking. It's too hot, and I'm tired, lol. I do have some fun things coming up for you these next few weeks (specifically, a much requested pie lattice video tutorial and a giveaway with Le Creuset), but for now, all I have are these cookies.

    I have this habit of bookmarking and dog-earing all the recipes I want to try making from various blogs, magazines, and cookbooks; of everything that I've marked, I probably have only baked and cooked about 2.93% of it (a very accurate estimate, apparently). These cookies were featured in Bon Appetit's Instagram feed forever ago, and with their big puddles of chocolate and promise of toffee chunks in every bite, I instantly bookmarked to try for later.


    The problem was that the recipe used Skor chocolate toffee bars, which I'd never had in my life; I wasn't even sure where to get them, and I was reluctant to commit to buying a bulk bag from Amazon for a candy I'd never tried (because believe me, I have enough ingredients languishing away in my cupboards). Without easy access to Skor bars, the recipe remained bookmarked and forgotten. But a few weeks ago, as I was paying for my allergy medicine at the pharmacy, I saw rows and rows of Skors bars at the impulse buy section full of candy bars near the checkout — turns out they were there all along. Enjoy!

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    Some baker's notes:
    • I've left the recipe almost exactly as it's written in Bon Appetit, but IMHO, it needs more chocolate — most of my cookies didn't have any of the puddles of chocolate that I really like in chocolate chip cookies; I don't know if it's because I used milk chocolate and it blended in with the brown butter dough, but I definitely thought it needed something more. If you're a chocolate lover like me, I'd up the amount of chocolate to 10 ounces; I'd also use a mix of dark and milk chocolate for more contrast. For my version, I used Jivara milk chocolate feves from Valrhona, which is available online and at various Whole Foods. In a pinch, you can use your favorite milk chocolate bar chopped — I like Trader Joe's Pound Plus bars

    • If you can't find Skor bars, you can substitute with Heath bars or Trader Joe's Toffee Chips. Check the candy bar aisles of your local grocery or pharmacy though — it turns out both Skor bars and Heath bars are nestled there amongst the Twix and Kit Kat bars I usually opt for. 

    blackberry birthday cake

    July 25, 2018

    Portland, OR, USA

    Is it me, or have the last few months flown by really quickly? It only seems like yesterday that I got back from my holiday to Turkey with my mom, panicking about all the stuff I needed to do about #weeknightbakingbook. Next thing I know, my manuscript is turned in and I'm just about finishing up the photos for the book. A year seemed to be too much for the work on hand; later, as I locked myself up at Reed College's library to race through the pages of the manuscript, I thought that it was far too little.


    When I worked in a corporate office, time moved slowly: even with a JIRA board full of tasks on hand, I frequently found myself looking at the clock, willing the time to go by faster. Now that I work for myself, there never seems to be enough time in the day. Days fly by, so packed with items on my "To Do" list that each will feel like a week. My friends with the more typical weekday 9-to-5 schedules make fun of the fact that I never seem to know what day it is — they joke that it's because I don't work, but in reality, it's because I always do. With Portland's summer season officially in high gear, I have to take advantage of all the natural light the summer sun floods into my place (a privilege I rarely get with the 300+ rainy gray days that make up Portland's weather for the rest of the year). Every afternoon is a full blown photo session, and I get up early in the mornings to bake everything I need.

    Because every day has been the same for the last few months (the constant chipping away at my book to meet my various deadlines), the passage of time is no longer marked by days and dates. Instead, there are other cues that tell me that time is flying by — I've upgraded from spin classes to HIIT classes, with my broken foot making full recovery; Erlend graduated from Columbia and is now finally about to start a new job treating professional athletes; the flavors at Salt and Straw, the ice cream shop around the corner known for their wacky flavors, went from heavy winter flavors like duck crackling with cherry preserves and roasted beets and blue cheese to summer ones centered entirely on berries.


    If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I celebrated #nationalicecreamday with a delivery of some of Salt and Straw's seasonal pints: Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero, Fresh Sheep's Cheese and Strawberries, and one of my personal favorite Salt and Straw flavors of all time, Birthday Cakes and Blackberries. It's exactly what it sounds like: a pint of ice cream that tastes like frosting, swirled with birthday cake crumble and blackberry jam. So good that I recreated it into this cake you see today. Enjoy!


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    Some baker's notes:
    • This cake uses a hard-to-find-in-the-USA ingredient: Bird's Custard Powder (which I last used for these rhubarb custard yo-yos). The custard powder gives the cake a dense crumb similar to pound cake and a beautiful sunny yellow color. You can find some at World Market or online at Amazon; in a pinch, you can substitute cornstarch but your cake won't have the same crumb or color as mine. The cake recipe also looks like it uses a lot of egg yolks, but don't worry — save the egg whites for the blackberry swiss meringue buttercream frosting! If you don't want to use that many egg yolks for the cake, you can always substitute with 2 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks. Both the cake, crumbs, and soak use clear fake vanilla extract, which helps give them a classic funfetti flavor; in a pinch, you can use the real stuff and it'll be just fine. 

    • In addition to the complicated ingredients, I built this cake using a sorta tricky method: Momofuku Milk Bar's layer cake method, which calls on you to bake the cake in a 9 x 13-inch pan, before using a 6-inch cake ring to stamp out two and a half 6-inch layers and use the ring to build up the stacks. The whole point of the method is to expose the cake layers and different components that go into the cake. For visual photos of the process, I suggest taking a look at my photo guide from yesteryear in which I chronicled the building of Milk Bar's funfetti cake. If you don't want to bother, you can always make the cake recipe in three 8-inch cake pans and go from there. Just know that if you're pinch for time, you can break up the recipe over a few days so that you're making each component on a different day. Both the streusel and the frosting can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. You can always skip the streusel too, but know that it tastes like funfetti and pie crumble combined and is absolutely amazing.

    • When making the Swiss meringue buttercream, it's absolutely important that the blackberry jam and butter are at room temperature: Swiss meringue buttercream is incredibly finnicky, and if some ingredients are colder than others, the frosting will curdle. If you find this happening to your buttercream, eyeball out a 1/4-cup scoop of frosting and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds until soupy. Pour into the buttercream and mix until the buttercream homogenizes once more. 

    matcha monstera pie

    July 18, 2018

    Portland, OR, USA

    I've never had much of a green thumb. I've been a successful plant parent a grand total of two times in my life: the first was when I was 24 and kept a random bamboo plant in the corner of my kitchen far away from natural light, occasionally watering the poor thing when I remembered to (so, maybe like, once a month?). For some reason, it thrived — I gave it to my friend when I moved away to Denver, where she promptly killed it by overwatering it. C'est la vie.

    The second time was three years ago, also the second time I lived in San Francisco. Erlend's mom gifted me a potted orchid right before I left for Europe for two weeks. It promptly shed its flowers, but I kept watering its dead-looking bulb under Erlend's long-distance guidance. Nothing happened for a full freaking year; despite my constant watering, it looked as dead as it ever was... right until the week I moved to New York, of course. Literally days before my big move, the moldy looking bulb burst into life, sprouting thirty or so beautiful orchids all at once. I gave it to that same friend I gave my bamboo plant to; she promptly killed it. Again.


    These days, my plant parenting duties are limited. After years of struggling to take care of and killing the trendy plant du jour (let's see... my plant casualties include a window garden box full of herbs, many small succulents, a fiddle leaf fig, an airplant or two, a potted string of pearls, cacti of different varieties, and probably more I'm forgetting), I've given up officially. My interaction with plants is now limited to the following: occasionally stopping on my bike rides across town to take photos of pretty flowering trees; purchasing overpriced blooms at New Seasons and the Portland Farmers Market for use on cakes; and using cookie cutters to recreate my favorite flowers and leaves on pies.

    Monstera leaves are the hip plant du jour and I see them everywhere in trendy hotel lobbies, restaurants, and of course, Instagram. So when I saw these monstera cookie cutters on Amazon, I knew I had to have them. I initially thought about making a matcha sugar cookie situation with the cutters, but being summer and all, thought that pie was probably more relevant and seasonal.


    The problem with making dyed pie dough (either with a vibrant green powder like matcha, or with other vegetables like beets or freeze-dried fruit with blueberries) is that once cooked, the color tends to get usurped by the Maillard reaction and any coloring fades away to the generic golden yellow of pies. I tried to combat this in many ways (by sprinkling the top of the pie with matcha and/or dyed green sugar and finding that the matcha burned to an unattractive brown and that the sugar wasn't strong enough to fight the pie's golden color), none of which worked. I also thought that cooking the pie filling before baking would reduce the pie's overall bake time, allowing me to pull the pie out earlier when it was still green (yeah, no, all that ended up resulting in was a pie with an undercooked bottom crust and middle). And after everybody's enthusiasm for this pie's vibrant green color on Instagram, I was actually ashamed to post the final product, a generic golden pie, on this blog and considered scrapping it completely.

    But then I took a bite.

    The pie crust, despite its golden color, was perfect. Crispy, flaky layers, with just the slightest hint of matcha to compliment a deep, cherry vanilla flavor. The best part is that cooking the filling beforehand yielded the perfect pie consistency, the kind that didn't run or turn the pie crust soggy after slicing.

    So maybe the baked pie doesn't stay as attractive and appealing as it is raw. But it sure as heck is tasty, and maybe that matters more? You tell me.


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    Some baker's notes:
    • For the pie leaves, I used this monstera cookie cutter, which is a touch on the expensive side but worked perfectly. You can get different sizes too! In a pinch, if you don't want to pay $10 for the cookie cutter, you can print out a monstera leaf stencil and use a sharp paring knife to trace around the dough. 

    • When I first wrote about matcha in 2012, I felt like I needed to explain what it was to my readers — these days, matcha is pretty ubiquitous and needs no introduction. Just remember that matcha is available in different grades; when baking, it's always best to opt for the culinary variety, which is cheaper and more strongly flavored than the ceremonial grade. I used the culinary matcha from Tea Bar, a local tea chain in town that also packages some of their most popular tea products for shipping around the country

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