Homemade Yogurt (Plain and Fruit)

yogurt | ZoeBakes (9 of 5)

I find myself digging into the past recently and finding recipes. My grandmother’s rugelach, cheese blintzes from the Kiev restaurant (a childhood favorite) and fresh yogurt my mom used to make. We lived on a commune in VT, where we grew our own vegetables and raised a cow for dairy. Everything was local and organic, because if we didn’t produce it, we couldn’t afford it. My mom was the one to milk the cow, which she then made into butter, yogurt and cheese. The flavor of that yogurt, made from fresh milk, was divine. 48 years later, in Minneapolis we are allowed to keep chickens, but the city hasn’t approved urban dairy cows, so I just buy milk for making yogurt. Not as romantic, but still tasty.

yogurt | ZoeBakes (12 of 5)

Now that I have started making my own, I may never buy yogurt again. The homemade version is so easy and has such an incredible flavor. Even my boys like it better. I happen to love it plain and tangy, but I’ll also put a layer of preserves on the bottom when I am in the mood for something a bit sweeter.

All you need is milk (you choose the fat content), a bit of heavy cream (if you’re feeling decadent) and some plain yogurt to get started.  (more…)

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

strawberry rhubarb pie (8 of 11)

It is rhubarb season and I am doing my very best to use it in as many desserts as I can. This will thrill those of you, like me, who love this vegetable baked in pies, crisps, tarts (try this brown butter rhubarb tart), quick breads and jam, as much as I do. For those of you who have never fallen in love with it, have no fear, it’s a short season. Ha. Having said that, I do hope you’ll give it another try. It adds a wonderful, tart element to this pie, which would otherwise be too sweet for my taste. I love strawberries, but they are a bit too sweet and jammy on their own in a pie. The marriage of rhubarb and strawberries is perfection, because sometimes opposites attract.

No pie is right without an excellent crust. It needs to be sturdy enough to hold up to the filling, but once a fork goes through it, there should be little resistance and lots of flakiness. Every family seems to have their favorite pie crust recipe, which is so wonderful. I am sharing the crust I use most and you can watch me make this whole pie in my instagram video(more…)

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Chocolate Birthday Cake

chocolate cake(10 of 9)

When the Sunday New York Times Magazine opened to Dorie Greenspan’s chocolate cake, I said out loud, “I guess I know what I’m baking next!” To say I am a fan of Dorie’s is such a gross understatement. I am generally not one to worship celebrities, but Dorie is an exception. I have been a fan of hers since she wrote the Baking with Julia book with Julia Child. That book came out around the same time I had gone off to the CIA and it was the first book I baked my way through. Well, I’d gotten pretty far through Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts several years earlier, but with mixed results. Dorie was writing books with other chefs at the time and I came across her again in a lecture hall at the CIA, when Pierre Hermes was there doing a demo from his pastry book, Desserts by Pierre Herme, also written by Dorie. She may not have been in the front of house, to use a restaurant metaphor, but I noticed that she was writing all the books I wanted to read. Later she stepped into the spotlight with her own books and, well, I need not explain what an impact she has had on the baking community ever since.

The article that accompanied her chocolate cake was about baking it for her son’s birthday. My son’s birthday is also in May and we were just about to celebrate it belatedly, so it just felt like a no brainer. You can watch me bake Dorie’s Cake in my Instagram videos and below is the link to the recipe. I added a layer of dulce de leche cream to my cake, since I had some laying about and it seemed a nice pairing with the chocolate cake. (more…)

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Rhubarb and Brown Butter Tart

Rhubarb Tart(13 of 8)

After an epic winter, rhubarb is what gives us hope and the will to live. It is the first delicious sign that we have survived another test of winter. I would love it for that reason alone, but I also love the tart flavor. I am aware that there are people who are not big fans of rhubarb. If you find yourself in this camp of thought, I dare to suggest that you will love this tart from the newest volume of Bake from Scratch. The tartness of the rhubarb is perfect balanced by the rich, sweet, slightly nutty browned butter filling and it is all held together by a perfectly tender crust. I made the tart and as soon as I was done photographing it, my family swooped in and devoured it within minutes. This is such high praise. My family members are no strangers to dessert and it takes some effort to impress them. This one did just that.

In the book they make individual tartlets, but I don’t have enough tartlet pans to pull that off so I made one large rectangular tart. You can watch me make my version in my instagram videos. (more…)

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Raspberry Rose Angel Food Dream Cake

Raspberry Angel Food(8 of 12)

For Mother’s Day I always bake something I’d like my beloved children to bake for me, as a not-so-subtle hint to them. This website is basically a reference for my boys to use whenever they are looking for ideas of what to make me. (If only they ever read my blog!) I think Angel Food is perfect. The name alone is fitting for us moms, considering what we do to keep our darling children alive, well fed and mostly happy. I received a lovely new cookbook yesterday and it fell open to the angel food cake recipe.  Jessie Sheehan’s The Vintage Baker is a wonderful book, full of classic desserts with her twist on them. She made the perfect angel food cake, split it in half, then filled and topped it with a beautiful blueberry whipped cream. It really is a dream. I was completely smitten. I didn’t have any blueberries, but did have raspberries. Here in MN we’re just hitting spring and the very start of a growing season, so I rely on Driscoll’s to deliver perfect CA berries. I need the bright color and dose of summer.

The ethereal texture of this cake is created by whipping a dozen egg whites to meringue perfection, then gently folding cake flour into it. I added some zest and rose water to make this beautiful cake even more festive. That’s the beauty of angel food cake, it is easy to play with different flavors. The secret to keeping the lightness of the cake is to cool it upside down. I have an old, super cheap, pan that I got at a garage sale in college, which doesn’t benefit from having feet on it, so I have to balance it over a wine bottle to cool. You can watch my instagram videos to see me bake this cake and many more. (more…)

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Canelés de Bordeaux

caneles 1(9 of 7)

These fluted confections are the official dessert of the Bordeaux region of France. The interior is like a lovely, creamy custard that is rich with both vanilla and rum. The trick to success, IMHO, with making canelé is using copper molds lined with beeswax and butter. That’s how you get the luxurious color, shine and crisp shell. You can also use silicone molds, which don’t achieve quite the same texture, but are still excellent and totally worth making. Not to mention much less expensive and easier to find. The latest batch I made, which you can see in my instagram stories, was from  The Fearless Baker by Erin Jeanne McDowell. Erin is a trained pastry chef and her recipes represent her knowledge and love for the craft. A cookbook should be lovely and inspiring, but the recipes need to work to gain my respect. She has delivered all of it and it brings me great joy to see someone elevating the art of pastry as she does.

The crêpe-like batter is super simple to make, but the batter requires a day of rest, before baking, so plan ahead. The outcome is delicious and sometimes the best things in life are worth waiting for.  (more…)

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