Coffee, Bourbon & Chocolate Baked Alaska

Coffee, Bourbon & Chocolate Baked Alaska | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This post is from a while back, but I was inspired to bring it to the fore when I created a Baked Alaska for the Holiday issue of Better Homes and Gardens. You will find a picture of my Egg Nog version at the bottom of this post, along with a link to that recipe. The Baked Alaska makes a fantastic and beautiful dessert for any holiday party.

The inspiration for my desserts can come from the craziest places and this Coffee, Bourbon & Chocolate Baked Alaska is no exception. This weekend I fulfilled a dream, (one I didn’t know I had until I did it), to be a radio talk show host. That’s a generous description of what I was doing on the Weekly Dish, but it was the kind job title Stephanie March offered when she invited me to sit in for her co-host (Stephanie Hansen), who was busy being on vacation. Luckily, I was not filling this role alone, our friend Stephanie Meyer, was also on the air for the 2 hour show. I had a ball, but what I learned is that the “Stephanies,” as they are lovingly known, make this job seem so easy and effortless. They are hilarious, smart, quick and have an endless knowledge of what is going on in the Minneapolis food community (and a fair bit about the rest of the country too). I loved every second of it, but don’t think I’ll be giving up my day job.

After the show we went across the street to a neighborhood bar with a long list of coffee drinks, it was only 11am, so booze should be served with caffeine. Stephanie March ordered a coffee, bourbon and black walnut drink, because…bourbon. I took one sip and said “Baked Alaska!” We were due for a snow storm that night, and all the predictions were that we’d be trapped inside. A baked Alaska made with ice cream of espresso bean, chocolate shavings, a splash of bourbon, sitting on a layer of devil’s food and then covered with toasted meringue seemed the perfect way to weather the storm.

Recipe below and you can watch me make the Baked Alaska in my instagram video, found in the highlights.

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Perfect Peach Pie with Lattice Crust

peach pie with lattice crust on ZoeBakes. Photo by Zoe Francois

When the peach season is a good one, and this year it is spectacular, it is best to keep peach pie simple. There is nothing more beautiful than a perfectly ripe, juicy, smooth, sweet peach, so don’t fuss it all up with too much extra stuff. This peach pie is really just peaches, a touch of booze, which is optional and some raw sugar (use brown sugar if you don’t stock raw). The trick is binding the peaches enough to keep them together in a neat slice, without adding so much starch that is gets gloppy. This is an art, rather than a science (that’s only partially true), because each batch of peaches produces a different amount of juice. I tend to go on the under-bound edge of the spectrum, so keep that in mind when you are making your filling.

If you happen to get your hands on a bunch of peaches and you want to make more than one pie, you can make the pie, freeze it and bake it later in the summer or even save it (if you have a really good freezer) for chillier weather, when you are desperate to remember the taste of summer.

You can watch me make this pie and I give more details on freezing a pie in my instagram videos.

peach pie with lattice crust on ZoeBakes. Photo by Zoe Francois

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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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How to Make Sorbet

How to make sorbet - Photo by Zoë François

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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Tomato Water Sorbet with a Sweet Tomato Chip

tomato sorbet 01

It is the end of the growing season in Minnesota and time to harvest all the last hanging fruit from the tomato vines. Any day now we’ll get a killing frost, and I’m bracing my self for it. I only have one small tomato plant, sitting in a rather unceremonious pot on my driveway. I would have moved it, or at least transplanted it into something prettier, if it weren’t so happy right where it is. It’s a rather stingy plant, but when it does put out fruit (about one a week), they’re the sweetest, most magnificent tomatoes I have ever had. In total contrast to my meager harvest, my folks have grown a tomato farm in their yard.

tomato sorbet 04

Several varieties, in every color and size. I am the lucky recipient of a tomato basket every couple of weeks. They’ve been made into pizza, gazpacho, caprese salad, sandwiches and this delicate, refreshing sorbet. I was invited to a dinner party that was meant to pay homage to the mighty tomato. I wanted to bring a dessert that would showcase the essence of the fruit. Extracting just the water from the tomato was actually something I had had at a local restaurant, where they served it as a chaser to a shot of tequila. The flavor was such a glorious surprise. I mix the water with simple syrup made with basil and then topped the sorbet with a paper-thin chip of green tomatoes. The flavor is vibrant and sweet without compromising the taste of tomato.  It was a wonderful end to a gorgeous dinner, which featured this lovely tomato and sweet corn quiche from my neighbor, Stephanie Meyer of FreshTart.com. (more…)

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Ice Cream Cake

Ice Cream Cake | ZoeBakes

For those who have been visiting me for a while on ZoeBakes, you may remember my first Ice Cream Cake post; a dedication to my two brothers. Well, almost 4 years later and I’m still making them ice cream cakes for their birthdays, some traditions are just worth repeating. This cake was done in exactly the same way, but the ice cream flavors are different and I added a layer of sorbet. This cake couldn’t be easier or tastier, and it’s well suited to the little boys my brothers were when I started this tradition and for the great men they have become.  (more…)

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