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 homemade marshmallows 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 for homemade marshmallows 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. You can watch me use both types of gelatin in my instagram video. 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.

You can watch me make the marshmallows in my instagram video.

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Contest Winning Coconut Cookies

Contest Winning Coconut Cookies | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

These Contest Winning Coconut Cookies are from the Great Minnesota Cookie Book by Rick Nelson and Lee Svitak Dean. I often bake from books written by other bakers I admire, but sometimes inspiration comes, not from the professionals, but from our neighbors.  The recipes they grew up baking, from their family traditions, have been time tested and in this case, have won first prize in the Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest. That is what this book is all about; real people, baking their hearts out and winning prizes. I love Mounds Bar candies (one of my favorite Halloween candy), which this cookie was inspired by, so this one grabbed my attention. I have a coconut macaroon recipe that is in constant rotation at the holidays, but I am always looking for something new to add to my repertoire. This recipe is super simple and full of coconut goodness. Rick Nelson graciously gave me permission to share the recipe from the book (Snowball Clippers recipe submitted by Becky Varone) with you and you can watch me make them in my instagram video.

I’ve had lots of requests for vegan recipes and I thought this one would be a perfect and easy one to make both gluten-free and vegan, so I have added my notes on how to do that.  (more…)

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Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake

Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

For those of you who have followed my blog since 2007, you’ll know I am a tremendous fan of Dorie Greenspan. I’ve considered her a mentor in my own career as a chef and cookbook writer. She is the absolute top of the game and I look forward to every book she puts out with bated breath. Everyday Dorie is her brand new book and I dove in the second I clawed it out of the packaging. As is my way, I flipped straight to the Desserts section and was instantly seduced by the opening image of this Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake with cream cheese frosting. I’ve never made a cake with parsnip, but imagined it would be the sophisticated cousin to Carrot Cake, which is one of my go-to cakes. I was not wrong, it is just as satisfying and comforting as the carrot version, but it is all its own flavor and delicious. It is perfect with the tangy-sweet cream cheese frosting and tart candied cranberry garnish. You can watch me make Dorie’s cake in my instagram videos and she has graciously permitted me to share the recipe with you.

Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François (more…)

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Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake | ZoeBakes Photo by Zoë François

I’ve known my husband and his family for 30+ years and in all those decades there is a story about a cake that has been the heart of my career goals. Just to be clear, this is not the cake. This flourless chocolate hazelnut cake is AWESOME and I’m very pleased with it, but it’s not the cake my husband wistfully remembers from his childhood. I have never had the mythical cake, which is my excuse for not being able to recreate it. The joke in my house is that the day I am able to bake that one (hazelnut sponge with whipped cream and canned peaches) I can retire. So, maybe there is part of me that just isn’t ready to nail it.

Okay, let’s talk about this chocolate hazelnut cake. It was inspired by the aforementioned favorite of my husband and a flourless chocolate cake in the book, Bake from Scratch, by Brian Hart Hoffman. For those of you not familiar with this book or Brian, he is the talent behind @TheBakeFeed on Instagram. You should be following them and me, for that matter! You’ll find my feed at @zoebakes where you can keep up with what I am working on every day and watch my video stories, which is my newest playground.

This is like the most elegant brownie-cake you’ve ever had. That really doesn’t do it justice, but you know that fudge texture of a perfectly baked brownie, where the top has a nice crust and the inside is smooth and rich. This is that, but even better and somehow lighter. I gilded the lily with the candied hazelnuts, because it is my favorite man’s birthday and he deserves to have all the fancy bits. (more…)

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Buttermilk Pumpkin Streusel Pie

buttermilk pumpkin streusel pie | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

I discovered Sister Pie by Lisa Ludwinski and this Buttermilk Pumpkin Streusel Pie, on instagram, where I find so much great inspiration. One of the first things I discovered about Lisa and her bakers is that they dance in the kitchen. These are my people! This pie cemented my admiration. It is all the things I love in a pumpkin pie and more. The pumpkin filling is not too sweet, because of the tang of buttermilk and it is combined with a crunchy streusel made with pepitas and buckwheat. It is a combination of traditional and uniquely Sister Pie. If you have the good fortune of being in Detroit, you should visit their shop, but until then, get the book, it’s a gem.

You can watch me make this pie in my instagram video and Lisa generously shared the recipe us below.* (more…)

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No-Bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars

No-bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars | Zoe Bakes photos by Zoë François

These No-bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars are a candy and a brownie all in one. There is no baking, so they are a perfect holiday treat to go along with all the cookies you’ll be trading at your cookie swaps this season. I created this recipe for the wedding of a chef, Jorge Guzman, who wanted a Mexican inspired dessert plate to be served to his guests, in addition to a cake. I kind of fell in love with them and when Bake From Scratch invited me to create some cookies for their Holiday Cookie Issue, I knew instantly that this would be in the mix. The crunch comes from both the toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and feuilletine flakes (which are paper thin cookies that are broken up into what can best be described as dessert-cereal). The pepitas and feuilletine flakes are folded into a chocolate and hazelnut mixture, set firm, covered with ganache and then decorated with more pepitas and edible gold leaf. The result is a sophisticated chocolate bar that is regal enough for a wedding, a holiday party or just a midnight snack. You can watch me make these bars in my instagram video.

Scroll to the bottom of the post to see the Pinon Mexican Wedding Cookies, Chestnut and Honey Madeleines, Caramelized White Chocolate Sables with Sea Salt and and Hazelnut Spice Speculaas I developed for this Special Holiday Cookie Issue.

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