chocolate chipless cookies

March 19, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

I genuinely cannot believe that it's already past the middle of March! Where did all that time go? To be fair, the last month has been a bit of a whirlwind: I was mostly heads down, rushing to meet another deadline for #weeknightbakingbook (you guys, writing a book is such a monster of a journey and I have so many feelings about it and I promise I will eventually tell you all about it once I've recovered), all the while fighting off the worst throat infection I've ever gotten (complete with pretty nasty eye infection, because fun fact: did you know that a viral infection in the throat can turn into conjunctivitis?! It happened to me, and I'm here to tell you all about it, except maybe not on my food blog because that's unappetizing and gross). But no matter — things are finally starting to chill out some, and I'm here with this recipe for chocolate chipless cookies:

Chocolate chipless cookies are exactly what they sound like — chocolate chip cookies, but without any chocolate chips, chunks, or those expensive chocolate discs I'm always going on about, feves. This isn't a trick! They have absolutely no chocolate whatsoever. Now, why would I do something like that? You guys know that I'm an absolute chocolate fiend. And I tend to pack literally at least a pound of chocolate in every one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes (here's to you, 24 Hour 24 Dollar Chocolate Chip Cookies). But a few weeks ago, when I asked y'all to describe your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe on Instagram, I saw a handful of folks talking about how many recipes have too much chocolate in them. Some of you said you actually reduced the amount of chocolate in most recipes because you were mostly there for the cookie, please and thank you.

Whoa, there.

I'm not going to lie — as a chocolate lover, I was initially appalled by the notion of "reducing chocolate" in a chocolate chip cookie recipe. But the more I thought about it, the more the idea of going extreme and leaving out chocolate COMPLETELY actually appealed to me. I'm always going on about how the best chocolate chip cookies are made with the best chocolate. But honestly, that's not true because the best chocolate chip cookies have a pretty damn good cookie base too! One that tastes great on its own, even without chocolate in the equation. It made me think that every chocolate chip cookie recipe needs to pass The Chocolate Chipless Test (™) — that is, if your chocolate chip cookie tastes great without chocolate, you have a freaking winner. Accept nothing else.

I decided to test my theory with the chocolate chip cookie recipe in #weeknightbakingbook, and I'm happy to report that my recipe passed with flying colors!  Each cookie has perfectly crisp edges, and seriously the most perfect chewy, fudgy center uninterrupted by any solid chunks of chocolate. Phew. There is a caveat though — because there's no chocolate in the recipe, I made a few modifications to make sure that literally all the other flavors in the recipe would really shine. That meant browning the butter to give the cookies that deep, rich, nutty flavor. It also meant upping the vanilla to a whopping 1 tablespoon (see baker's notes to learn more, because this is important!). The result is a cookie that tastes like everything that makes a chocolate chip cookie so damn good (well, except the chocolate of course): butter, brown sugar, vanilla, toffee, love.

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Some baker's notes:
  • I mentioned this briefly in the blog post, but because this recipe uses such few ingredients and doesn't have chocolate to distract from the other flavors, it means using the Very Best Quality ingredients you can find. That means splurging for European-style butter (European-style butter has a higher butterfat content than American butter, making it taste creamier) and high-quality vanilla extract (none of the fake stuff) like Nielsen-Massey or Watkins Double-Strength Vanilla. It's worth it for these cookies, I promise.

  • The original chocolate chip cookue recipe in #weeknightbakingbook makes about 16 cookies; without chocolate, that number drops down to 13, lol. If you're baking for a crowd, this recipe doubles wonderfully and makes a total of 25 cookies— simply double the quantities of the ingredients below and proceed with the recipe as instructed. 

  • Because I was impatient and wanted these cookies IMMEDIATELY, I skipped the 24 hour chilling period that I usually do for chocolate chip cookies (read more about the science of why in this Serious Eats article — TL/DR is that cookies that have been chilled for at least 24 hours before baking are more flavorful and delicious, since the flour in the recipe has time to really absorb and meld flavors from the oil). But if you have more discipline than me, CHILL THE DOUGH OVERNIGHT FOR EVEN MORE AMAZING AND DELICIOUS COOKIES. Scoop and portion the cookies as instructed in the recipe and place them in a parchment lined 9 x 13-inch tray; cover loosely with plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour. After an hour, transfer to a Ziploc bag. The cookie dough will last for up to 3 months in the freezer. To bake the cookies, place them on parchment lined sheet pans as instructed by the recipe and thaw them at room temperature for at least 10 minutes while your oven preheats. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges have set but the cookies are still gooey in the center.

pistachio honey pie

March 14, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

Happy 3.14 Day!

I've written about this before, but pie has never been my favorite thing to eat or make (I'm #teamcake, please don't hate me). But I always make sure to bake one in honor of Pi Day, which I can't help celebrate since I am both a low-key nerd and a failed math major (true story: I wanted to major in math in college but it was too hard so I settled for an economics degree instead 🤷).

This year's pie is from my new favorite pie book, The New Pie. The New Pie was written by Chris and Paul, a married pair of CDC scientists who enter pie baking competitions in their spare time (you know, when they're not busy protecting us from infectious diseases). They've won many pie competitions throughout the country, which is no surprise since their book is filled with unique and original pie recipes like King Fluffernutter Pie and Bubbling Butterbeer Pie. Along the way, they also taught me a bunch of awesome baking tricks that I plan to apply beyond pie — like, did you know you that you could turn whipped cream into ice cubes (like they did for their Thai Iced Tea Pie 😍)?

Because I just finished developing and testing a last-minute pistachio muffin recipe for #weeknightbakingbook (which, OMG, has a freaking Amazon page but no cover, lol!), I decided to try their pistachio honey pie recipe to use up all my spare pistachio nuts. According to Chris and Paul, this pie recipe was inspired by Mediterranean and Middle Eastern baklava, which led them to top the pie with phyllo dough as opposed to more pie crust. I was 100% there for it — not only did I have to do less work (they recommend buying store-bought dough), the phyllo topping was both delicious AND gorgeous and the perfect compliment to the pistachio honey filling (which did indeed taste like baklava). Enjoy!

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Some baker's notes:
  • Because this pie recipe has a lot of kinda involved steps, I broke the work down over a few days to make sure I wasn't stuck in the kitchen for hours. I made the pie crust the first day, blind baked it the next, and made the filling and topping on the last day before baking the entire pie. You can speed up the entire process by making the pie crust and blind baking it on the same day; although I find that it holds it shape better if frozen overnight, Chris and Paul recommend just freezing it for an hour before baking.

  • To make the topping, Chris and Paul use three store-bought phyllo sheets that you then cut into wedges. It's great, but you're left with a LOT of phyllo sheets after the recipe (each box comes with... a LOT). I ended up refreezing the leftovers. If you don't want to bother, go ahead and skip the phyllo topping — the pie will look a little like pecan pie without it.

vanilla custard bread ahead donuts

March 5, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

When Erlend and I were trying to figure out where to go on our upcoming vacation in May, we used Google Flight Explorer. If you've never used Google Flight Explorer, it's worth checking out: you type in the dates you want for your travel, and a map pops up for you to "explore". Scrolling around the map shows you how much tickets are to that city or country for your date of choice — it's a great way to find cheap tickets (which is honestly how we pick most of our international travel destinations, lol — why spend most of your money before you've even gotten there, ya know?).

With Google Flight Explorer (lol at all the links to Google; honestly, this isn't even sponsored— I just love it so much and want you to use it), we discovered that tickets to London were insanely cheap—like $500 roundtrip from Portland and back—and literally half the price of most other tickets to Europe. It seemed too good of a deal to miss, but also recognized that it was likely risky due to the shitshow ambiguity of Brexit. Besides — we'd both just been to England last September. We'd had the time of our lives, hanging with some of my good friends and eating delicious meals at Rovi (Ottolenghi's latest restaurant dedicated to fire and fermentation), Brigadiers, St. John Bread and Wine, Polpo, and more. But was it really worth a second trip in less than a year?

Looking at my photos, I was undecided — until I saw this photo of Bread Ahead donuts from our last trip to London. Bread Ahead is a bakery and baking school known for their donuts, whose reputation is well-earned, to say the least. Their donuts are incredibly light and fluffy, rolled in sugar and plump with custards flavored with passionfruit meringue, orange and cardamom, honeycomb, and more. I legit made Erlend go back to Borough Market three times just so I could keep eating their donuts. It was their donuts that sealed the deal; I bought our tickets to London without any more thought.

In retrospect, it was probably more sensible to just make the donuts at home. I'd picked up a copy of Bread Ahead's Baking School cookbook when I was last in town, and had forgotten that it actually contained the recipe for their famed donuts. I've recreated it today for you guys in celebration of Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday (where you're supposed to eat all the fried things, right?), and to spare you the $500 ticket to London (lol). While the recipe stays pretty true to their vanilla custard donut recipe, I made some changes and adaptations to make it more friendly for American kitchens and the home baker — be sure to check out the baker's notes below, and enjoy!

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tray || spoon || book

Some baker's notes:
  • I'm not going to lie, this recipe is a motherfreaking JOURNEY. According to Bread Ahead's cookbook, the secret to their donuts is letting the dough rise THREE times throughout the baking process, first for an hour, then overnight, then another 3 to 4 hours after that. It's INTENSE, and honestly, it's probably just easer to book a damn ticket to London at this point, ha. To help you manage the time better and make sure you're not in the kitchen for giant blocks of time, I've broken up the recipe over the course of 3 days — you'll make the custard first, then the dough, and fry and assemble the donuts on the third and final day. A lot of it is passive time (you're really just waiting for the dough to rise), but it's still a lot, I know. If you want to make the donuts a 2 day affair, I suggest making the custard cream and dough on the same day. For those who want to visually see the process, I suggest checking out this video of Justin (the head baker of Bread Ahead) making salted honeycomb donuts at home.

  • The recipe calls for a few special pieces of equipment: a piping bag with a Bismark pastry tip, and a deep fryer. A Bismark tip is typically used in professional pastry kitchens to pipe stuffings and fillings into pastries; I got mine online via Amazon, but in a pinch, you can use a regular piping bag (or even a homemade version via a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off) with a small round tip. Just use a chopstick or clean pen to poke a deep hole in the donut, then jam your piping bag in there and squeeze away. As for a deep fryer, I recently got the Breville deep fryer which I love, love, LOVE — it makes deep frying so much cleaner and safer. But in the past, I've just used my trusty Staub cocotte (but really, any cast iron Dutch oven will do) and a deep fryer thermometer for the job. Just remember that you'll need to fill the pot about halfway up with oil.

  • The original recipe uses fresh yeast, which is really hard to find in the United States for the average home baker. I've adapted the recipe to use instant yeast instead — in a pinch, you can use active dry yeast in its place instead, but you'll need to change the temperature of the water and the way it's mixed into the dough instead. Read more about the science of why and how in my recipe for ube babka.

36 hours (of food!) in seattle

February 28, 2019

Seattle, WA, USA

Erlend and I recently got back from a long weekend in Seattle! Despite the fact that Seattle is only a three hour drive from Portland, neither Erlend or myself had been to the city in a few years. In my early twenties, I held the unpopular opinion that Seattle was like Portland, except more expensive, more traffic-y, and, er, not as cool. Now that I'm a little older and more tempered, I appreciate Seattle for what it is — and while it is pricier and more crowded than Portland (though Portland honestly is catching up on both fronts), it's a more cosmopolitan and diverse city with a lot of awesome things to offer.

Here's what we ate and drank:

chocolate truffle thumbprint cookies

February 26, 2019

Portland, OR, USA

This post is sponsored by Simply Chocolate, a one stop shop for folks who love chocolate and want to celebrate any occasion by gifting and eating chocolate from some of the best chocolatiers like Jacques Torres, Neuhaus, and Vosges. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that keep Hummingbird High up and running!

In retrospect, 2018 was a year of restraint for me: I spent the majority of it working on my upcoming book, #weeknightbakingbook, which meant long hours both in the kitchen and the library, chipping away at recipes and headnotes. I did a self-imposed No Clothes Shopping Challenge, where I literally did not buy a new article of clothing for the entire year (AMA — it actually wasn't all that bad, except for when a pair of workout pants ripped mid-HIIT class and I had to wait months to replace it). Aside from a much needed girls trip to Turkey with my mom, most of my travel was work-related; Erlend and I spent all of last year's holidays at home by ourselves.

2019, on the other hand, is shaping up to be the complete opposite. Realizing how little travel we did together last year, Erlend and I booked tickets to Seattle, London (pro-tip: tickets are crrrrazzzy cheap because of Brexit), and Copenhagen. And after meeting my latest (and, dare I say, hardest, but I'm likely jinxing myself now) book deadline earlier this month, I went on a bit of a shopping binge: a fancy new (and 100% entirely too expensive) suitcase from Rimowa, jeans from Madewell and Re/Done because Alana rightfully pointed out that all of my pants were two sizes too large, and a winter coat from J.Crew to replace my current one that's six years old with the broken leather strap and missing buttons.

If it sounds like I just name dropped a bunch of brands at you, it's because my Year of No Shopping taught me about the importance of buying quality over quantity. I'm the kind of person who researches her purchases for months and then proceeds to commit to it for years and years — I've worn the same pair of glasses since 2008, the same winter coat since 2013, and so on. To me, it's worth it to spend more on something the first time around, especially if I'm planning on buying it just once and owning it for life.

Over the years, I've started to apply that "quantity over quality" shopping philosophy in my baking too. I'll skimp on ingredients that won't affect the baked good's final flavor—like baking powder and baking soda, for instance—but splurge on butter and chocolate. When it comes to chocolate, I have a rule: if it's not chocolate that I would eat on its own, then there's no way I'm using it in a recipe. Cheap chocolate is the pits; it's loaded with all sorts of wax and sugar and tastes nothing like the real stuff.

So when Simply Chocolate reached out to me to ask me to use some of their chocolates in my baking, I was beyond excited — Simply Chocolate offers a wide range of chocolate from some of the very best chocolatiers. I picked out two gift boxes (one from Knipschlidt and one from Vosges) full of the most colorful truffles and bon bons. I had the idea to make a fancier version of those thumbprint cookies, but with a TWIST: instead of topping each cookie with a Hershey's Kiss or dollop of ganache or jam, I'd top it with a chocolate truffle. I thought it would be extra fun because both the Knipschlidt and Vosges truffles are all filled with different flavored creams, caramels, and ganaches — every cookie would have its own surprise flavor. The only problem was that the truffles were so good that Erlend and I had a hard time stopping ourselves from eating them while I was assembling the cookies. Oops.

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Some baker's notes:
  • For perfectly round cookies, use a 1-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to scoop out the dough and roll it in between your hands (like you would Play-Doh!) to make a small ball. Because I was lazy, I only rolled some of them in my hands and left the others unrolled (but still scooped). The unrolled ones definitely cracked more in the oven. The recipe also instructs you to press your thumb into the center of each cookie — you want to create an indentation that's around 1/2-inch wide. Any larger, and your truffle will likely be too small for the indentation.

  • Unlike classic thumbprint recipes, which instructs you to top each cookie dough ball with a Hershey's Kiss and THEN bake the whole thing in the oven, you'll need to bake the cookies first, wait for them to cool, and then assemble the whole thing. Baking the truffles in the oven with the cookies, or even topping the cookies with truffles while they're still warm, will cause the truffles to melt. Hershey's Kisses hold their shape in the oven because they're built like chocolate chips; they're pumped with paraffin wax (yep, the same wax that you make candles and crayons with), which helps keep their shape in high heat conditions. Real chocolate, like the stuff that was used to make these truffles, doesn't have any of that and will melt completely. 

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