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chocolate babka morning buns

September 19, 2018

Lille, France

Hello from France! I am currently here with one of my sponsors and all-time favorite cookware companies, Staub, to spend the next few days celebrating their new cookbook and touring their factory in Lille to learn all about how their beautiful castiron is made. So far it has been a whirlwind of unseasonably warm weather, pink sunrises over the Paris skyline, and an obscene amount of croissants and pastries.

We spent our first night in the fancy Park Hyatt hotel in the ritzy 1st arrondissement of Paris, just a stone's throw away from the Place Vendôme, Tuileries Garden, and the Louvre. After an epic wine and cheese pairing class from Le Foodist, I got up early the next day to do a HIIT workout in my massive hotel room and a quick jog down the Seine and promptly inhaled three croissants, a mini beignet, the best pain perdu I've ever had, and a cheese and salami plate at the hotel's breakfast buffet (I know, I'm so gross). Then, Alana, Amanda, Jenn, and I did a mini pastry crawl and ate a chocolate and pistachio escargot at Du Pain Et Des Idees and eclair shopping at L'eclair de Genie at Galerie Lafayette Gourmet.


Today, we are in Lille staying in a chateau and heading out to do our tour of the Staub factory! I am beyond excited — I first started working with Staub in 2015, and have and use almost their entire collection of cookware in my kitchen. It's incredibly beautiful, but also functional and durable: you can use their pots and pans on the stovetop AND the oven, and their signature dark surface doesn't stain and instead seasons really well over time. Plus, their pots and pans are dishwasherable. I die.


Staub recently came out with a cookbook that features a ton of great recipes by the talented Amanda Fredrickson, as well as contributor recipes from chefs, bloggers, and more. My contribution were these chocolate babka morning rolls, which is basically the answer to the question of what happens when two of my favorite breakfast pastries, the babka and the cinnamon roll, get together and have a bun in the oven (ha! see what I did there?). The chocolate filling has a slight crispy, crunchy texture from chocolate and sugar filling, and the buns are drenched in a sticky simple syrup to give them extra softness — it's a study of different textures and one of my all-time favorite recipes I've ever developed.

As a special treat for my followers, I'm giving away a copy of The Staub Cookbook and a set of Staub cookware (think: a cocotte, a petite cocotte, and a frying pan) in my current favorite color, La Mer, which is exclusive to Williams-Sonoma and is inspired by the ever-changing colors of the sea. To enter the giveaway, be sure to follow me on Instagram and watch for this babka post on my feed for more details on how to win!


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pan || book || knife

Some baker's notes:
  • Because this recipe requires multiple components, you can break it up over the course of several days. First, proof the dough overnight in the fridge as opposed to letting it rise at room temperature. Second, you can make the syrup and filling up to 1 week in advance of the dough itself — simply store both in an airtight container until ready to use. 

  • When working with yeast, it's important to remember that yeast is a living thing and you can easily kill it by mixing it in a liquid that's too hot — you want the temperature to be similar to that of a warm bath and no more. Instant yeast, which is used in this recipe, also requires a higher activation temperature than active dry yeast since you don't directly mix the yeast into a liquid. Be sure to use an egg that's at room temperature rather than straight from the fridge; an egg straight from the fridge will be too cold and lower the temperature of the overall mixture, risking dropping it to a point where the yeast won't activate properly. 

  • The recipe instructs you to roll out the dough into a fairly long 10 by 20-inch rectangle. It'll seem overkill, but I promise that long rectangles are the secret to the most attractive spirals in your cinnamon rolls and morning buns. 

cherry lambic spoke pie

September 12, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

In a few days, I'll be teaching my first pie workshop ever with Lauren Ko of @lokokitchen Instagram fame at Feast Portland! I'm beyond excited; we are teaching one of her classic spoke* pie designs and I've spent the last few weeks practicing her original design and variations to make it my own. Although I'm still #teamcake (and will be, forever and ever), there's something very therapeutic and absorbing about making one of these high-design pies — it makes me think I should get into macrame or knitting, two activities I've always doubted I have the patience for.

*A lot of you thought the spoke hole looked like something else. Genuinely surprised by how many of you have your mind in the gutter, tsk tsk.


Our class kicks off the start of a crazy next few weeks for me — in addition to the class, I'll be celebrating the end of my Whole30 diet with various plates from famed chefs at Feast, Portland's food festival thrown in partnership with Bon Appetit Magazine. I'm especially excited to sample dishes from Sean Brock of Husk in Charlston, SC; Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, CA; Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin TX; Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu's in San Francisco, CA; Edouardo Jordan of Junebaby in Seattle, WA, and more. I've attended every Feast since the festival first started, and it's been really cool to see it grow and evolve into the massive event that it is today. Never would have I thought that I'd be part of such an impressive lineup. Very cool.

After the festival, I'm heading straight to Paris to spend a few days touring the Staub factory with some of my favorite food people. Then I'm heading to London to eat my weight in Indian and Turkish food and gain back the 15 or so pounds I lost on the Hell30. I am into this plan, although I can feel my mom wagging her finger at me now in reproach.


I wish all y'all could join me for the class and my travels, but for now, we'll have to do with this blog post for cherry lambic spoke pie. I'm not going to go into extensive detail on how to do the spoke design — you can get all the tips and tricks you need from this Tasty video — but I did share some tips and tricks below to make the process go by easier; be sure not to miss out the baker's notes. As for the filling, I used the last of the extended summer season's cherries and cooked them with cherry lambic beer to give them a sweeter, boozy flavor. Delicious.


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Some baker's notes:
  • As mentioned in the blog post, you can see the spoke pie technique I used to make these pies by watching this Tasty video. However, Lauren rolls her dough out and slices everything by hand; while this is probably the easier way to go, I'm super anal and actually used my Kitchenaid's pasta machine attachment to create my lattice strands. Doing so easily created long, even, thin pieces that were perfect to work with — I first used the pasta roller on setting 1 to roll the dough into a thin, even slab, before using the fettuccine cutter to slice the slab into strands. 

  • For me, the hardest part about baking pie is making sure that the crust keeps its shape in the oven. With spoke pies, in addition to worrying about the crust, you also need to worry about the filling bubbling up and being too runny, potentially ruining the spoke pie design you worked so hard on. To help prevent this, you can pre-cook the fruit beforehand to encourage it to release its juices and thicken significantly before being filled in the pie. After filling and assembling the pie, you'll need to freeze the entire thing, loosely covered in plastic wrap, for at least 24 hours — but I usually go beyond that and make it a full 72 hours to make sure that it's icy hard. To help keep its shape, it needs to be as frozen as possible when it enters the oven. And finally, baking the pie at a lower temperature for longer also helps keep its shape in the oven. The recipes below reflect these tips and work wonderfully for any design beyond the spoke pie.

coconut lemon saffron panna cotta

September 5, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

For the last few weeks, I have been on the Whole30 diet and intermittently fasting twice a week. It's the first time in my life that I've been on an official diet and stuck with it (except for that February where Erlend dared me to quit refined-sugar for the month and I foolishly accepted), and there's no sugar-coating it: it 100% sucks. But unfortunately, it was necessary — after spending the year testing and developing recipes for #weeknightbakingbook, I packed on a whopping 15lbs, which is a pretty significant amount for my 5"3 frame. Luckily most of it is melting away pretty quickly, but not without cutting out literally all the things that make life good and going to expensive HIIT classes at least 5 days a week.


Anyway, here I am, sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free, and fun-free for another 8 days until Feast Portland, the food festival that marks the official end of my diet. I'm still baking, but admittedly much of the magic is lost when I can't enjoy the treats myself. Interestingly enough, a subtle but noticeable shift has started to occur in my blog planning — instead of picking recipes that I would instantly devour (um, these brown butter and toffee chocolate chip cookies), I find myself more drawn to technically challenging ones like butthole spoke pies and incredibly aromatic flavors like this coconut lemon saffron panna cotta.


This saffron panna cotta recipe is originally from Skye McAlpine and her newish book, A Table in Venice, which showcases Venetian home cooking and is filled with beautiful photos that will make you want to book the next plane ticket to Italy. I've made a couple of modifications of my own, swapping in cream with coconut milk and adding lemon zest as an homage to the coconut lemon saffron ice cream from Fifty Licks, my favorite ice cream shop in town. Only 8 more days until I can get a spoonful of the stuff, and I can't wait!


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Some baker's notes:
  • Saffron is admittedly one of the most expensive spice you can buy due to its labor-intensive harvesting process; for saffron on a budget, I recommend checking out both Trader Joe's and Costco, both of which sell bottles for around $6 and $10. You'll get a bottle of what seems like a paltry amount, but a little goes a long way, I promise. 

  • To bloom gelatin, sprinkle the gelatin evenly onto the surface of cold water in a bowl. Make sure you sprinkle the gelatin evenly — pouring it into a pile on top of the water will not allow the gelatin to bloom properly since the granules in the center of the pile will remain hard. Allow the granules to soften entirely in the cold water for 3 to 5 minutes; the gelatin has bloomed when it's soft. If it still has hard bits, it needs to bloom longer. If the gelatin is too soft and falling apart, it's overbloomed; discard the gelatin and start over.

mint cookies and cream milkshakes

August 29, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

This post was sponsored by Pepperidge Farm®, who provided the compensation and Tim Tam® biscuits to make this awesome milkshake recipe! As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and I'm incredibly excited to make desserts with Tim Tam® biscuits since they really are one of my favorite snacks. Thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and my awesome sponsors!


For most of my professional career, I worked in the tech industry for start-ups or big tech companies whose products you probably use on an everyday basis. For the most part, all the stories you hear about tech company perks are very true — many of the offices had nap pods, scooters, and swings strewn around the office. Several of the companies had multiple kegs of beer, cold-brew, and kombucha on tap that you could help yourself to whenever you wanted. One even had a barista onsite, allowing you to order whatever caffeinated beverage of your choice (complete with latte art to boot) without paying a single penny. A lot of lunches and dinners were catered, and there were Bagel Mondays, Donut Fridays, and a whole lot of other occasions involving free food.


Despite all the food available all the time, most of my coworkers ate like they didn't know where their next meal was coming from. Any baked good I would bring to the office would be devoured within 10 minutes of emailing folks that I'd set something in the kitchen. Some folks would even email or DM me directly, asking me to set aside a piece or two for them since they were too slow to get to the kitchen and kept missing out on my baked goods. It was nuts! But I shouldn't judge, especially since there were days in which I participated in the feeding frenzy myself — specifically, when several Australian coworkers who would come in from Sydney and bring everybody Tim Tam® biscuits and I'd camp out in the office kitchen to eat them all.

If you've never had a Tim Tam® biscuit before, prepare to have your mind blown. They're legit one of my favorite snacks; they're rectangular cookies that are chocolaty on the outside, crunchy and creamy on the inside, and delicious all over. I have trouble restraining myself from eating an entire pack in one sitting. For a long time, Tim Tam® biscuits were only available to purchase in Australia (hence my freak out whenever my Australian coworkers would bring them in after their visits back home); it's only recently that they're available for purchase in the United States (but the cookies are still all made in Australia!).


To celebrate the end of summer, I decided to whip up some ice cream milkshakes (Because what's a more classic summer recipe than milkshakes? Seriously.) featuring my beloved biscuits. Tim Tam® biscuits come in four flavors (Original, Chewy Caramel, Classic Dark, and Dark Mint) and I decided to use Dark Mint, my current favorite Tim Tam® biscuit flavor, for a minty twist on the classic cookies and cream milkshake. If you're a fan of mint chocolate, these shakes are 100% for you — enjoy!


Some maker's notes:
  • A little mint goes along way! I thought the shakes were plenty minty with just the Tim Tam® biscuits, but Erlend preferred his with a stronger kick. If you like a subtle mint flavor, I suggest omitting the mint extract. That being said, if you decide to us the mint extract, know that a little goes a LONG way. 1/8 of a teaspoon doesn't seem like much, but any more than that and it will taste like you're drinking toothpaste. If your measuring spoon set doesn't come with an 1/8 measure, individual 1/8 teaspoon measures are available for purchase online.

how to prep fruit for pies

August 25, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I wanted to start doing more things with this space, including more videos, tutorials, basics and other fun stuff. I'll keep this intro short and sweet, but consider this my first official foray into basics! Get excited.

For #weeknightbakingbook, I developed a pie recipe that allows you to use any kind of fruit that you want for its filling. The ingredients list calls for the fruit to be "washed, cored, and sliced into 1- to 2-inch chunks". Later, as I was editing myself, it occurred to me that I was likely taking that knowledge for granted. Because just between you and me, it took me a long time (in addition to an incredibly helpful knife skills class at Williams-Sonoma's test kitchen in San Francisco) to figure out how to prep various fruits for pies.

Below is a short (but hopefully helpful) guide on how to prep most fruit for almost any kind of pie recipe. Careful recipes will provide specifics in how to prep the fruit in advance, but in the event you find a recipe with vague instructions like "2lbs apples, sliced", you can turn to this guide to help you out.

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