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strawberry malt sugar cookies

February 12, 2019

Los Angeles, CA, USA

Greetings from sunny Los Angeles! I'm here for a few days on a work trip, shooting a fun little video with a couple of my sponsors. I can't wait to share the project with you guys — it'll be super fun, and you'll get to see the homeowning/gardening side of me that I don't often share on this blog! I'm also very excited to see all my LA-based friends and plan on dragging them to all the restaurants with the kind of food I can't get up in Portland. That means trendy Filipino food at Ma'am Sir, crispy bread at Kismet, Taiwanese fried chicken in Alana's fancy new neighborhood, and maybe even Shake Shack if my pants still fit by the end of the day? We'll see, we'll see.

Excited as I am about my mini LA food trip, it does mean that Erlend and I are spending Valentine's Day apart. To make sure we could celebrate the occasion at least a little, I made him and his coworkers a batch of these strawberry malt sugar cookies before I left. I'm especially proud of these sugar cookies because they're perfectly cute without having to deal with any piping bags or elaborate royal icing. In fact, they're not even frosted!


To make these cookies, I used a technique I like to call "INCEPTION COOKIE". I divide a batch of sugar cookie dough into two and dye one a different color. I then use cookie cutters to cut out a big shape, and then use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out a slightly smaller shape within the bigger cookies. I then use the same smaller cookie cutter to stamp out the smaller shape from the dyed dough and nestle it into the bigger shape's cut out, essentially placing a cookie within a cookie (do you get the name "Inception Cookie" now?!). When baked, the two different colored doughs meld together to create a seamless cookie! It's so much easier than futzing around with royal icing, I promise.


In honor of Valentine's Day, I spiked the cookie dough with red food coloring and Nesquik Strawberry Milk Powder. The milk powder is malted, and gives the cookies a nice (but very subtle) strawberry malt flavor. To amp up the flavor, I recommend buying strawberry extract online (I like the Watkins variety) — in a pinch though, you can always use vanilla extract. The cookies will be perfectly tasty and buttery no matter what you do!


also featured:

Some baker's notes:
  • Nesquik Strawberry Milk Powder is available in most major US supermarkets in the aisle with the powdered milks, coffees, and teas. If you don't want to purchase an entire tin of the stuff, I totally get it — you can just omit from the recipe completely since it uses such a small amount. The resulting cookie will be just as tasty and will be more similar to the traditional sugar cookies we all know and love. Similarly, you can substitute the milk powder with regular milk powder, or chocolate too!

  • To make my shapes, I used a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter and a 1 1/2-inch vintage heart cookie cutter wide. I found mine at a thrift shop, but you can find various heart cookie cutter sizes on Amazon. Also, don't feel limited to the shapes I used! The Cookie Inception technique can work on all sorts of shapes and sizes, just as long as one of the cookie cutters is bigger than the other. 

#tenyearchallenge: white chocolate and peanut butter cup cookies

February 5, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

Now that the second pass of the #weeknightbakingbook manuscript has been is almost turned in, I'm starting to catch up with everything I've pushed to the back burner. Unfortunately, most of that list is pretty boring and involves tasks like going to the optometrist, filling out paperwork for my accountant, and so on. But occasionally there's a fun project I get to tackle and am excited about — like the #tenyearchallenge!

I don't know if that's a thing anymore and if I'm just super late to the (already dead) party, but at the start of the year, everybody was doing the #tenyearchallenge by posting photos of what they looked like in 2009 versus now in 2019. I was initially going to do a single throwaway post, but I got sucked into a massive Pandora's box of nostalgia as I dug through my 2009 archives: old LiveJournal entries (yes, I LJed), Facebook albums titled after inside jokes and my favorite indie lyrics at the time, and iTunes playlists about unrequited love and drunken nights out. It seemed like a single photo of myself from ten years ago was not enough to do justice to that crazy year in my life.


Because ten years later, I finally see how special 2009 was — it was the funnest, most carefree, tumultuous, and distressing year of my life all at once. In 2009, I was 21 years old and halfway through my senior year at a small, esoteric liberal arts college in Portland. At the start of the year, I was mostly concerned with finishing my economics thesis in time for graduation, and, I'm embarrassed to say this, boys (I hesitate to say "men" because quite frankly, at 21, the boys I liked were honestly just that: boys). My second semester was particularly fun because aside from my thesis, I'd finished the rest of my graduation requirements and was only taking two easy classes that fell on Tuesdays and Thursdays, leaving me with the rest of the week to "work on my thesis".

And while I did work on my thesis, I spent a fair number of days passing time in fun, almost idyllic ways: riding my bike to explore the city (2009 was the year I really, truly fell in love with Portland, a love affair that continues today), going to indie music concerts with my best friend at the time, Leah; training for a half marathon by running long distances with Erlend (we hadn't started dating, but would later do so in the fall of that year — more to come); playing drinking games with my roommate Kevin in our apartment, and hanging out at the pub at the end of the universe my street with two British exchange students, Kiron and Myles. It was also around that time that, flush with all that freedom and lack of meaningful adult responsibilities, I started baking from scratch.


I won't go into too much detail here since I elaborate on this in #weeknightbakingbook and my About page quite a bit, but I first started baking in my sophomore year of college. My baking back then was mostly spontaneous (cough, I mostly baked when I was procrastinating on papers, cough) and, erm, lo-fi: I would drive to Safeway at midnight to buy a box of Funfetti, use a fork to whisk everything up, and bake the resulting batter in mugs from my dirty dorm kitchen. It was pretty grim. But in 2009, a few years later, I had upgraded... slightly. I had my own apartment and began to branch out from my box mixes by—lol, I swear to god this is true—making the recipes on ingredients' packaging. One of my first "from scratch" recipes was this white chocolate chip and peanut butter cup cookie, based on the Nestle Tollhouse recipe found on the back of one of their chocolate chip bags:


2009 me was pretty proud of these cookies — proud enough of them to take "styled" photos on her janky point-and-shoot digital camera, that's for sure. Even then, as inexperienced as I was, I was already prone to playing around and taking risks in my baking. Kevin and I lived a stone's throw away from Trader Joe's, and our apartment would often be littered their snacks. In particular, we were fond of the kind that came in those plastic tubs — the chocolate-covered nuts, caramels, and mini chocolate peanut butter cups. One night, while attempting to make white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies, I realized I'd forgotten the macadamia nuts (yes, one of the main ingredients — you can see how on top of it my 21-year-old self was, lol), saw a half-eaten tub of mini peanut butter cups out of the corner of my eye, and used them in place of the nuts instead.

So as part of the #tenyearchallenge, I DECIDED TO RECREATE THEM. Honestly, ten years later, I think that the combination of white chocolate AND chocolate peanut butter cups is kinda, erm, intense. And this is coming from me, the owner of the world's most massive sweet tooth! But no matter. I've upgraded the recipe to reflect my ten years of baking knowledge: I skipped the Nestle Tollhouse base for a brown butter variation of one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes, and I used chopped white chocolate in place of chips. However, the mini peanut butter cups get to stay — even in 2019, they still remain one my favorite snacks from Trader Joe's. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • Mini peanut butter cups are available at Trader Joe's via their generic brand; I also similar ones by Reese's at Target. Don't get these confused with their "miniatures", which are slightly smaller than their regular sized peanut butter cups but aren't as small as these guys. You want the kind that are unwrapped and in a big bag, similar to how chocolate chips are usually packaged.

  • The peanut butter cups and white chocolate chunks don't spread too much when they're baked; as a result, your cookies will be wider and thicker than regular chocolate chip cookies — kinda similar to those famous cookies from Levain. The cookies are best when they're ten minutes out of the oven; breaking them in half will reveal a gooey center with molten chunks of peanut butter. In a pinch, pop one in the microwave and reheat for 10 seconds to make the cookie molten again. 

chocolate ombre pound cake

January 29, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

Is anybody else low-key obsessed with The World's Most Extraordinary Homes on Netflix? I started watching it with my mom when she was in town last spring (right before we left for our Istanbul trip!) and I'm still hooked. They feature beautiful homes across the world, all with unique features and designs. There was the home in the first season that was made with spare plane parts, another in Portugal that was built around existing trees, and I just finished an episode that featured a Norwegian house that literally sat on a small rock in a fjord and is only accessible by boat. To quote Caroline, one of the show's hosts: corrrrr.


To be honest, the homes that appeal to me the most are the ones that look simple and unassuming from the outside, and only show how beautiful and grand they are once you step inside. Like this loaf cake! It looks just like any boring old pound cake from the outside. Good, sure—most loaf cakes are often flavorful and moist—but kinda boring? But never judge a book by its cover! Slicing into it reveals three layers of cake all in one simple loaf. It's almost like magic.


The best part about the recipe is that it uses the same base loaf cake recipe for all three layers: to get the chocolate layers, you simply mix varying amounts of chocolate and cocoa powder in them to get the different colors of ombre brown. But to be honest, the same thing that makes this recipe easy and awesome is also what handicaps it — I didn't think there was much difference in taste between the two chocolate layers. It tasted more like a regular marbled chocolate and vanilla loaf to me, rather than a triple-flavored one? But honestly, that's a relatively minor flaw, so you can probably just ignore me and make it anyway. And I've already got ideas for other, more distinctive three layer pound cakes in the future (because you know that's how I roll). Enjoy!


featured:

Some baker's notes:
  • I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but it's actually a Martha Stewart recipe that I've had bookmarked for ages. The only changes I made were to make it in a 8 x 4-inch loaf pan (she uses a 9 x 5-inch pan, but I think it domes better in a smaller pan) and to use a measuring scale to divide out the batter in three equal parts. You can use the volume measurements provided in the original recipe (it tells you to divide the batter into three 1 1/2 cup portions), but according to this blog that doesn't create even layers so I just used my measuring scale to weigh out the batter and divide it evenly instead (my recipe below has the weight measurements to do exactly this). If you're a baker and you don't have a scale, it really is worth getting one!

  • Because you're essentially making three batters, if you're not paying attention, you'll find that you accidentally used all the bowls up in your kitchen (REAL LIFE: IT HAPPENED TO ME). The best way to minimize the mess and ONLY use three bowls is this: 
    • BOWL 1: Measure out all the dry ingredients into a bowl big enough to use to make the batter (so, your mixer bowl if using a stand mixer). 
    • BOWL 2: Measure out all the chopped chocolate into a bowl big enough to hold about 1 1/2 cups of batter comfortably (ie, with enough space so that you can mix batter without it spilling over the sides). I used a 1 1/2-quart Pyrex glass bowl from this set.
    • BOWL 3: Reserve a final bowl around the size of the chocolate bowl. I used a 1 1/2-quart Pyrex glass bowl from this set (I own two of this set like a crazy person — in a pinch, you can probably get away with using the smaller 1 quart size in the set). 

paleo banana bread waffles

January 23, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

This post is sponsored by Bob's Red Mill, who provided the ingredients and compensation to make this recipe happen! I use Bob's Red Mill products in all my baking, and I'm excited to be partnering with them all year long. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that keep Hummingbird High up and running!


At this time of year, it seems that everybody is on some kind of diet except for... me. But I'm not one to judge everybody's resolutions; the new year is as a good time as any to reset and set new goals. To be honest, the only reason I'm not on a diet myself is because I'm still recovering from the Whole30 diet that I did this past summer, mostly by eating lots of peppermint bark leftover from the holidays while binging YOU on Netflix (Has anybody else watched it??? It's so bad, it's good).


Although I don't have any dietary-based resolutions, the Whole30 did illuminate how much refined sugar I eat — intentionally or otherwise, since refined sugar is literally in almost everything if you're not watching out for it — and it's something I've been more mindful of since. Outside of the sweets you see on this blog, I try and cook us meals that don't use refined sugar, either by skipping it completely or using some kind of fruit juice as a substitute instead.


However, when it comes to baking for Hummingbird High, I've stuck mostly to refined flours and sugars (for better or for worse). So this year, I intend to start baking more with alternatives: whole grain flours and nut meals in place of all-purpose flour, honey and maple syrup instead of granulated sugar. Not necessarily because of the health benefits (but what an added bonus!), but because these ingredients have such wonderful flavors on their own already — like, can you imagine what your favorite chocolate chip cookie would taste like with almond flour and honey? How delicious does that sound?


So I'm starting off this intention with this paleo banana bread waffle recipe! I'd heard a rumor that you can cook any banana bread recipe in a waffle iron to make BANANA BREAD waffles. I took my former Crossfit coach's (yes, I used to do Crossfit, lol) banana bread recipe (it's paleo, so it's gluten-free and refined sugar-free) and gave it a shot — it worked!!! To make this recipe extra effortless, I used Bob's Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour, which takes away the science and guesswork of combining different nut flours and starches. Bob's Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour is grain-free and gluten-free, made of a blend of almond, coconut, tapioca flours and arrowroot starch.The batter cooked up into perfectly soft and fluffy waffles, with a more intense banana flavor than traditional banana waffles. I also think that the almond and coconut flours in the paleo flour gave the waffles a subtle, toasted nutty kick. Mmm.


Some maker's notes:
  • The yield of this recipe will vary depending on waffle maker and how much batter it uses per waffle. I used Breville's 2 Slice Waffle Maker (which I love, love, love), whose cavities require a whopping 1/2 cup of batter to make a single rectangular waffle. If your waffle maker doesn't use that much batter per cavity, you'll end up with more waffles than I did. 

  • For this recipe, it's important that you have all your ingredients — specifically, the maple syrup, eggs, and coconut milk if it's been refrigerated — at room temperature. This is because the recipe uses melted coconut oil, which solidifies at temperatures below 76 degrees. Adding cold ingredients to the melted coconut oil will cause it to seize into pebbles in the batter.

  • Other notes about ingredients — I used canned coconut milk, which I shook to vigorously to make sure I got both the coconut water and the coconut cream in the recipe. In a pinch, you can use coconut milk beverage, or even a non-dairy milk like almond, soy, or oat milk. Be sure to use bananas that are SUPER ripe, incredibly spotty and almost black for the most banana bread flavored waffles. 

japanese cheesecake

January 15, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I've spent the last few months testing a Japanese cotton cheesecake recipe. Japanese cotton cheesecakes are a cross between the creamy, regular ol' cheesecake that we know and love and a light and airy Genoise sponge cake. As opposed to being dense and creamy like a New York cheesecake, they're tall and airy with the subtle flavor of cream cheese. They taste exactly what I imagine a cheesecake flavored soufflé would be like, with a light and fluffy texture similar to cotton (which explains its name, I guess).

I'm not exactly sure how I first found out about Japanese cotton cheesecakes, or why I got the idea to make one in the first place — it must have been a stray image on Pinterest that inspired me? Or maybe one of these cakes when idly browsing Goldbelly for what else I could add to my order of Russ and Daughters lox? Eitherway, researching recipes led me down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos of folks making the Japanese cheesecake and poking them to show the cakes' signature jiggle. This is now my second favorite YouTube genre of videos ever, right after the genre of "small girls beating up men trying to rob them". Anyway, search "Japanese cotton cheesecake jiggles" on YouTube. You heard it here first.


If I'm being honest with you guys, this is not the easiest recipe to make at home. To get the cheesecake's signature height and jiggle, you'll need to invest in a pan with 4-inch sides. Most Japanese recipes also appear to be made in a 7-inch cake pan, which is not a standard pan size in the United States — and unfortunately, my attempts at making the pan in more commonly available pans led to cracked tops (when baked in the 6-inch pan) and dense cakes (when baked in the 8-inch pan). It also requires the use of several bowls, an oven proof cocotte (more on that later), and the technical knowledge of how to fold a batter without deflating too much air (which I personally think is one of the hardest techniques in baking). I can tell you're exhausted already, and I'm sorry.


I realize that a complicated recipe like this one goes exactly against my New Year's resolution of simplifying my recipes and making them more accessible to folks who don't have 30 cake pans in their possession (cough) or have boxes of Valrhona feves in their basement (cough cough). And I have a ton of those planned this year too, I promise! You'll have more recipes like chocolate chip cookies and banana bread waffles in your hands soon. But right now, it's proving surprisingly hard to reign in my urge to pretend like I'm on the showstopper challenge of the Great British Bake-Off finale and come up with all sorts of crazy bakes. So tell me: WHAT KINDS OF RECIPES ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? Do you want more solid, delicious basics, or are you okay with reading about more complicated recipes like this one if they're full of handy knowledge and research? Tell me in my reader survey (or learn more about why I'm doing one in the first place), and for now, enjoy this jiggly cheesecake.


Some baker's notes:
  • Because this recipe is a little on the complicated side, it's best if you prep the ingredients beforehand by measuring them out before starting any of the recipe's steps.  Bring a kettle of water to boil first and set aside while you prep the other ingredients. Prep the eggs — you'll need six eggs total, with the whites and yolks separated into two different bowls for use in the recipe later.

  • Similarly, set yourself up for success by prepping the equipment needed for the recipe before starting any of its steps. You'll need a 7-inch cake pan with 4-inch sides; I used this pan from Fat Daddio's. In a pinch, you can substitute with an 8-inch pan with 3-inch sides, but your cheesecake simply won't be as tall and won't have the signature jiggle. Once you have the pan, it needs to be lined in a specific and slightly complicated way — I've tried to describe it as best as I could in the recipe steps, but if you need visuals, be sure to check out Just One Cookbook's recipe (which part of this recipe was adapted from) where she has step-by-step photos showing you how to line the pan. And finally, you'll need to prepare a water bath for the cake pan to bake in. Traditionally, water baths are made by placing the cake pan in a large roasting pan and pouring water into the roasting pan until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the pan. Because the cake pan used for this recipe has such tall sides, I found it cooked better if I stuck the cake pan in a deep Dutch oven (I used a 7-quart cocotte from Staub) and poured enough water for it to reach three-quarter's of the way up the cake pan. In a pinch, you can use a large roasting pan, especially if you're using an 8-inch cake pan instead. 

  • When fresh out the oven, the cheesecake should have a puffed and slightly domed top; however, as the cheesecake cools, the top will deflate and wrinkle. This is totally normal, I promise. If you find that your cheesecake top has cracked, you likely folded the mixture a little too rigorously and caused the batter to deflate — be careful when folding the batter to make sure that it stays light and airy! 

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