Flan

flan (12 of 6)

Flan is one of my youngest son’s favorite desserts. He orders it whenever it is available and often requests it for his birthday. I haven’t made a flan is a long time, and promised him it would be my next post, so here it is. Now that I’ve made it, I can’t believe I don’t do it more often. So easy and delicious. Flan is a creamy custard that is bound by lots of whole eggs and can be silky smooth if baked just right. The trick is to bake it in a water bath until it is just set like jello, then take it out before the proteins in the eggs cook too tight and get rubbery. It is super simple, but takes knowing what to look for. You can watch me make it in my instagram video, so you’ll know the signs of a perfect flan.

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Super “Light” Cheesecake with Armagnac Prunes

prune cheesecake(15 of 8)

There are many styles of cheesecake. I often go for a super dense, silky smooth, custardy cheesecake, but other times I want something a bit lighter with more of a soufflé texture. This cheesecake falls into that second camp. There’s almost two pounds of cheese in this beauty, so to call it “light” is a bit of a stretch, but the texture honestly is. The trick is to whip the egg whites and fold it into the batter. The cake is then baked in a dry oven, as opposed to a water bath, which means the cake soufflés as it bakes, creating a more open and airy texture. As you’ll see in my instagram video, this cheesecake cracks like crazy and that’s just part of it’s rustic charm. I actually like that look, but I ended up topping it with whipped cream, so no one will be the wiser if you want something a bit more polished.

prune cheesecake(12 of 8)

I added a layer of prunes that are cooked in Armagnac and oranges to add a bit of depth to the flavor (you could also use dried cherries or apricots) and topped it with toasted almonds for a bit of texture.  (more…)

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Lemon Mascarpone Crêpe Cake

crepe cake(9 of 9)

Crêpes are a beloved food group in my household. My boys have grown up eating them with everything from sweet to savory fillings, sometimes dozens at a time. When I couldn’t get them to eat as little kids I’d make a batch of crêpes and watch as they disappeared. Stacking them into a cake is an easy and elegant way to dress up what is really a humble street food in France. This version was made from a really sweet book called Simply Citrus by Marie Asselin. I “met” her on Instagram and she kindly sent me a copy of the book. I adore instagram for all the inspiration and for the space to create videos of the recipes I make. You can watch me make Marie’s cake in my instagram stories.

Marie’s lemon curd is unlike any I’ve made before. She cooks it like a pastry cream, which uses cornstarch and eggs to bind it and then finishes it with heavy cream. It is delightful. I suggest you double her recipe, so you can have some left over after the cake is filled. The combination of the tart lemon curd and rich mascarpone cream are a perfect marriage. Instead of topping with more cream, I went with the brûlée on top. I like the contrast of texture and you know how I feel about my blow torch, so any excuse to use it.  (more…)

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Carrot Cupcakes (from The Minimalist Kitchen)

Minimalist carrot cupcakes | Zoe Bakes(11 of 5)

If you’ve ever seen my kitchen tour on instagram, you’ll know that I am not a minimalist. The abundance  just sort of happened. I’ve lived a full life and gathered stuff along the way. Too much stuff, perhaps. I just got Melissa Coleman’s (thefauxmartha) beautiful new book and I am determined to declutter, downsize and minimalize my kitchen (and eventually my whole house). I vow to go through each cabinet and keep only what is essential. The rest I will donate or pass along to the next owner. The other thing that is wonderful about her book and philosophy is the way she approaches a recipe. Use as few utensils and equipment as possible. In my instagram video of this recipe, I did just that. I tried to stick to the two bowls she recommends and even chose one with a spout, so I could just pour the batter out, instead of using a spoon to scoop. It’s amazing to be so conscious of what is crucial and what is just extra. I normally live in the “extra” zone, but now I will be more mindful.

I adore carrot cake. It’s one of my favorite desserts. This recipe is delicate and less hippie than my go to, so it was fun to try Melissa’s sophisticated take on the classic. The mascarpone frosting is so good I had to keep my whole family from eating all before I could pipe it onto the cupcakes. Melissa has kindly given me permission to share her lovely recipe with you here. I also have a video of making them on my instagram page.

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Jelly Doughnuts (from For the Love of the South)

doughnuts(13 of 8)

Amber Wilson’s new cookbook is a delight. It is one of the most strikingly beautiful books I’ve seen recently. The photography and recipes are romantic, sultry, so Southern and yet, they are entirely approachable. When I first flipped through the pages, I wanted to make everything, but these doughnuts grabbed me most. I adore a great doughnut and she delivers. Her dough is scented with lemon zest, then filled with blackberry preserves, but there are a number of other homemade fillings to choose from. You really need to pick up this book.

You can watch me make Amber’s doughnuts on my instagram page (check the highlights) and she’s generously allowed me to share the recipe with you here.  (more…)

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Profiteroles

Choux Paste | Zoe Bakes(11 of 5)

Pâte à choux translates from French to mean “cabbage” in English. It is a far less romantic word, so we stick to the French. The truth is the puffs look just like little cabbages when piped and baked. Pâte à choux is the dough used for cream puffs (profiteroles) and eclairs. It is rich with butter and lots of eggs, but made light when those eggs expand in the oven and create hollow cavities, which are meant to be filled with anything from lobster to ice cream. I pretty much only think in terms of sweets, so I’ve gone with the latter. The ice cream is made with sour cream and lemon, so it is tangy and refreshing. I top it with glossy chocolate ganache and call it classically perfect.

The texture of your Pâte à choux will depend on what liquid you use. In culinary school we used whole milk, skim milk and water to compare what the fat and sugars of the milk would do to the dough. I prefer the taste of the whole milk, but the crisp texture of the water, so the skim milk is a good compromise. You can do the same experiment and determine which you prefer.

You can watch me make these profiteroles in the videos on my Instagram page(more…)

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