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! (more…)

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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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Banana Pudding

banana pudding (2 of 5)

This quintessential southern dessert is found on the back of the box of Nilla wafers. You can certainly use Nilla brand wafers for this and there will be no judgment and it will taste just like you remember when you ate it as a kid. OR you can make your own vanilla wafer cookies and be so glad you did. They are super easy and fast to make and they don’t have any of that cardboard box flavor overtones. Wait, did that just come across as judgy? Either way you are going to love this recipe. I was inspired to make it after an old friend from high school (that’s a very old friend) made it for New Years Eve and posted pictures on Instagram. I found the Nilla wafer recipe in the BraveTart cookbook by Stella Parks.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram you probably have seen my pastry tutorial “stories.” I’m slightly obsessed with working through a recipe in 15 second intervals, often with eclectic baking music. You’ll find this banana pudding recipe made from start to finish on my Instagram page archived in my “highlights.” There are many other recipes and techniques you may want to check out.


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