Chocolate Croissant (Pain au Chocolat)

chocolate croissant | ZoeBakes(1 of 5)

The only thing better than a buttery croissant, is one stuffed with chocolate. These are made with the same dough as the plain croissants, but are rolled differently. You will find my video on how to make them and the dough on Instagram.

When I studied dance in Westport, CT, there was a bakery conveniently located next door to the dance studio. I was way more obsessed with the flakiness of their perfect croissants, than I was with mastering my grand jete or pirouettes, which is why I became a pastry chef and not a dancer. As much as I still love to dance, I think I made the right decision.

chocolate croissant | ZoeBakes(3 of 5)

Chocolate Croissants (Pain au Chocolat)

1 batch croissant dough

12 ounces chocolate (I used bittersweet, but I suppose you can use any chocolate you like)

Follow these directions for making the croissant dough. Follow the directions for rolling and baking the croissants in the “Pain au Chocolat” video on my Instagram page.

chocolate croissant | ZoeBakes(5 of 5)

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Croissants 101

croissant | ZoeBakes(3 of 4)

There are very few things as satisfying as a perfect croissant. Flaky, tender, just the right amount of pull and give, and BUTTERY. Have you ever made one? Probably not, because they’re labor intensive and require a bit of skill to “laminate” the dough. This is an industry term for layering the butter within the dough. It’s not hard, but it requires some patience and a good amount of time to do it right. I’ve had more requests on my instagram account for a video on how to make them than anything else. So, that’s what I’ve done. I learned this technique at the CIA and I’ve changed nothing (well, I cut them differently, so as not to waste a bit of dough). If you haven’t visited my instagram stories, you’ll find tutorials (set to the music in my head) for everything from macarons to meringue (because I love using my blow torch) and I take requests for things people are having troubles with in their own kitchens.

Here is the recipe for the croissants, but the instructions are basically useless without the visuals, so come to my instagram account (you’ll find the video on my homepage in the “highlights” archive. Just look for croissants 101. (more…)

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Chocolate Mousse with Toasted Meringue

chocolate mousse Pretty Simple Cooking (4 of 4)

My friends Sonja and Alex, otherwise known as the parents of the most adorable little boy, Larson (and some may know them for their excellent blog a couple cooks), just sent me their new cookbook. As I flipped through all the gorgeous recipes, I was stopped in my tracks by a picture of chocolate mousse topped with meringue. For anyone who follows me on Instagram, you know I am a huge fan of the ethereal sweet topping; whipped up pretty and then lit on fire with a blow torch. I always knew I liked these two and their recipes, but it turns out that Alex also has a thing for blow torches, so they just got even cooler IMHO.  This is a super simple and quick chocolate mousse recipe you can whip up at the last minute for Valentine’s Day and your sweetheart will never know it just took a few minutes to make. The bit of crunch in the middle is just brilliant and adds that contrast of texture that makes for a great dessert. They’ve generously agreed to share the recipe, but you should all go out and find their book, Pretty Simple Cooking!

chocolate mousse Pretty Simple Cooking (2 of 4)

Chocolate Mousse with Toasted Meringue by Sonja and Alex’s book A Couple Cooks – Pretty Simple Cooking: 100 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes to Make You Fall in Love with Real Food

1 cup (130g) semisweet chocolate chips, divided (I only had milk chocolate, so I chopped it fine and went about making the recipe and it was still delightful)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup roasted salted almonds (I didn’t have these either, so I put 1/2 teaspoon olive oil on 1/2 cup whole almonds, then sprinkled them with salt and baked them at 350°F for about 10 minutes) – you can see me make them in my Instagram story/highlights @zoebakes.

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

To make the mousse:

You can watch me make the full recipe in my Instagram story/highlights called “chocolate mousse”

Melt 3/4 of the chocolate over a double boiler.

Whip the cream to soft peaks, or just until it is thickening and you can see the marks from the beater running through it. If you whip it too much the mousse will lose it’s luscious texture. Add the chocolate and continue to mix until it is thick. (If you’ve had issues with the chocolate seizing as you Gently fold 1/3 of cream into the chocolate, then repeat with another 1/3 and then the rest. Fill cups, I did 4 servings, but they recommend 6. Refrigerate for about an hour or longer before serving.

Once the mousse is chilled, crush the almonds, mix with the cinnamon and scatter them with the remaining chopped chocolate over the mousse.

Make the Swiss meringue. You can watch me do this in my instagram video “101 meringue” or here is a post on making it, click here!

Melt egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar in the bowl to a stand mixer over a double boiler, until there is no graininess left. Place on a stand mixer with whip attachment and beat on high until they form stiff peaks. Mix in nutmeg.

Pipe over the nuts and chocolate.

chocolate mousse Pretty Simple Cooking (3 of 4)

Use a kitchen Blow Torch to toast the meringue. They can be made several hours ahead of time.

chocolate mousse Pretty Simple Cooking (1 of 4)

Thanks to Sonja and Alex for sharing the recipe from Pretty Simple Cooking!

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Valentine’s Day Chocolate Cake!

heart cake | Breadin5 (2 of 5)

This cake was designed by my 9 year old son (who is now 18). He even instructed me on how I should put it together. His plan was to bake a sheet of cake and cut the layers with a heart shaped cookie cutter. Then stack them together with raspberry cream and pour a glossy chocolate ganache over the top. I know I’m biased, but I think he is brilliant.

Happy Valentines to my two sons, Henri and Charlie, and my husband Graham. My 3 muses.

Here is Henri’s vision, I must say it is as delicious as it is pretty. (more…)

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Sorbet 101 – a trick to getting a smooth sorbet from any juice!

sorbet (5 of 5)

One of the reasons I went to culinary school, after working in professional kitchens for a few years, was to have an understanding of why my recipes didn’t always work. Things would succeed if I followed the recipe to the letter, but if I played or strayed at all they would have as much chance of being a disaster as they did a winner. In culinary school I learned enough about food science to be able to play with recipes or create my own from scratch. I learned why eggs should be warm when you whip them and why you should use low protein flours for cakes and higher ones for breads. They taught me about Brix, Baume and other technical ways to measure sugar in sorbet solutions so they will freeze, but not become a solid brick of ice. After school, once I could afford it, I bought a Refractometer, which shows you the sugar content in a solution. This way I can mix up a batch of any kind of fruit sorbet, add some simple syrup and the sorbet will be a success. But, what if you are just making sorbet a couple times a year, do you really need such a geeky, expensive gadget? Not unless you are a kitchen equipment hoarder, like me.

So, then what? There is another way to have a greater chance at success than just praying for the best. You can use a method that involves floating an egg in your sorbet. Yep, I said FLOATING AN EGG, the whole thing, in the shell. It is also a very cool experiment to do with your kids. As the solution gets more saturated with sugar, the egg is buoyed to the surface. Once the egg is actually floating partially above the surface, the solution has enough sugar to prevent the sorbet from being too icy. Perhaps not as impressive as whipping out your refractometer, but pretty amazing in a Beakman’s World kind of way and it allows you to make sorbet from just about any juice. Obviously, this will not work with all fruits, banana puree tends to be too thick and the egg, no matter how sweet the solution, will float on the surface. But, for citrus and other thin juices, it is wonderful. (more…)

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Banana Bread Roll from Smitten Kitchen’s New Book

banana roll cake Smitten Kitchen (5 of 5)

There’s nothing more satisfying than cutting into a rolled cake to reveal the swirl in the middle. It’s just fun. This banana bread roll is filled with a cream cheese frosting and it is delicious. The recipe is from one of my favorite bloggers and cookbook authors, Deb Perelman from the Smitten Kitchen (as if she needs introducing). In her new book Smitten Kitchen Every Day she dusts the top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar and it’s perfectly elegant. I decided to use meringue, because I just did a video series on Instagram about the 3 types of meringues, so I’m a little obsessed with it right now and figured this cake would be super fun topped with a Phyllis Diller-esque hairdo. You can watch me make this cake (and many other recipes) on Instagram in my stories (they will also live in my “highlights” archive). I’ve been teaching baking and pastry for 20 years (wow, just added that up!) and I love the new challenge of fitting these recipe lessons into 15 second segments. If you haven’t checked them out, I hope you will, I’m having a ball creating them.

Deb was kind enough to allow me to share her Banana Bread Roll recipe with you here. I highly recommend her book for other desserts and her always amazing savory recipes. (more…)

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