Cheese Blintzes

Blintzes | ZoeBakes (4 of 4)

When I was a kid, in the 70s, my mom, my uncle, Jay, and I would go to a tiny Ukrainian restaurant on 2nd Ave in NYC called the Kiev.  Finding a table was nearly impossible; I remember it being so crowded that we’d climb over people to get to our seats. Once we were situated, the waiter brought bread to the table. When the tower of challah came we could no longer see each other, which forced us to crane our bodies around this centerpiece to talk to one another. The crazy pile of delicious bread wasn’t even the main event. We were there for the blintzes. The slightly sweet, farmer cheese stuffed crepes. By the time they hit the table I was stuffed with challah, but I managed to eat everything in front of me. I loved that place and the feeling of leaving full, really full.

I just googled the Kiev to see if it is still there and I am sad to report that only a glossy reproduction exist. To me it was the tight, atmosphere-free dining room, stuffed to the rafters with blintz-eating patrons that made it special. I am disappointed that I will never get to take my boys. Instead I’ll make them blintzes at home. All that’s missing is a tower of challah (I’ll save that for another day) and the slightly surly servers, but my blintzes are well loved. The key is finding fresh farmers’ cheese, not the dry crumbly version. I use a crepe recipe from my sister-in-law, Maxine, who spent her high school and college years in France. Top the creamy blintzes with whatever you like or just eat them plain with a brush of butter, and maybe some sour cream.

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Homemade Marshmallows

marshmallows | ZoeBakes (2 of 4)

I really, really wanted to start this post by bitching about the weather. Something my poor family has to endure for much of the winter. But, I’ve decided to rise above the whining-chatter in my head and embrace the weather. It is easy today, at a balmy 42°F. A small, but welcome comfort after an epic freeze. Instead of complaining about the cold, I made hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows. It reminds me of being a kid, when I loved winter and playing outside. There is just something magical about the puff of a marshmallow and how it floats on top of hot chocolate, melting just a little to make a layer of sweet fluff. Totally comforting. Nothing beats that, except now I prefer my hot chocolate with a shot of whiskey and my marshmallows scented with a touch of mint or vanilla or even cardamom.

Last week I was gifted cardamom scented marshmallows by Lee, who owns l.c.finn’s Extracts. Homemade marshmallows are a brilliant idea and one I have never shared on the site. I’ve always made marshmallows by whipping egg whites and then suspending them with sugar syrup and gelatin until they are light as air and chewy. I adore the texture, but I can also detect the faintest taste of the egg white. This doesn’t bother me if I am layering the marshmallow with other bold flavors. But, when I am going for an adornment for hot chocolate, I prefer a recipe that has no egg. This recipe is just a combination of sugars and gelatin, simple as that. You can keep the marshmallows pure or play with flavored extracts and fun colors. They store for weeks in a dry spot, which is super easy this time of year in MN. Anytime you come home after braving the cold, just make up some hot cocoa and float a bit of happiness on top.

I am using sheet gelatin in my recipe, but I have also given the instructions for using the powdered variety. I got used to using sheets when I worked in restaurants and just find it easier to deal with. The sheets also have less of that kindergarten-glue flavor. You can find the gelatin sheets on Amazon if you want to give them a try. (more…)

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Lemon Pudding Cake

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake | ZoeBakes (3 of 3)

It’s a little bit pudding and a little bit cake, all in one recipe. I was first awed by this dessert when I went to a pastry conference at the CIA and met the pastry chef from Craft, Karen Demasco. She served this dessert; made up of a layer of tangy lemon curd baked on top of a sweet delicate cake. They were clearly baked as one, but the two layers were so distinct in appearance and taste. I fell in love. When Karen wrote a book last year I was so excited to see this recipe in it! I have made it with lime juice, grapefruit and even passionfruit juices.

You can use six to eight ramekins for this batch, depending on how tall you want your cake to stand.

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Poached Pear Ginger Cake

Pear Ginger Cake| ZoeBakes (1 of 6)

This is the quintessential fall cake.

Poached pears were the symbol of a sophisticated dessert when I was a kid. Not that we ever had them, but I saw them standing tall on the pages of Gourmet magazine and always thought how magical it would be to eat something so beautiful. They’re just so elegant and complex and generally boozed up with wine.  I poached these in a chai tea cider mixture and they are just as satisfying without the buzz. The cake is spicy with a kick of freshly grated ginger and tons of warm spice from cloves and cinnamon. It’s by no means an overly sweet cake, which is how I like them. The molasses gives it color and that edge of bitter that I love. I’ve made it using more molasses and I love it, but I mellowed it down by adding some brown sugar to the mix. I think this is a perfect Thanksgiving dessert!

Pear Ginger Cake| ZoeBakes (6 of 6) (more…)

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Butterscotch Pot de Crème (and Pumpkin Version for Fall)

Pumpkin Pot de Creme | ZoeBakes (1 of 2)-2 

This is a recipe I developed for Tilia‘s dessert menu. Steven Brown, the chef/owner wanted a turbo charged version of the butterscotch pudding from his childhood. We went with a Pot de crème, which is essentially as decadent as creme brulee, without the crack of caramel resting on top. The texture is like silk and the taste is sweet, with just a slight bitter edge from the burnt sugar in the butterscotch. Cooking the butter and brown sugar together until it is smokin’ hot (and I do mean smoking) is the key to the flavor. If you don’t bring them to the brink of burning the pudding will be way too sweet for my taste. The creme fraiche (young sour cream) is unsweetened and the perfect balance for the pudding. If you don’t happen to live near Linden Hills (a small village of a neighborhood in Minneapolis),  where you can order this at Tilia, you can make it at home.

*See bottom of the post for the Pumpkin Pot de Creme version. (more…)

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