No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake!

no bake strawberry cheesecake (8 of 4)

This is my homemade version of a 1960s dessert. The original recipe could have been found on Strawberry Jell-O package or CoolWhip containers. I thought it was brilliant, despite the fact that it was overly sweet, too stiff from the Jell-O and, if one were being picky, they may point out the slight chemical after taste. But, in its defense it was fast and very pretty. My version of no-bake strawberry cheesecake is made with nothing but fresh sweet strawberries, cream cheese, real whipped cream, and just the slightest bit of gelatin to keep it standing tall until you bite into it, then it melts in your mouth. No oven required, which makes it ideal for the sultry summer days.

Watch my quick video on how to make and assemble the strawberry cheesecake.  (more…)

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Mango Curd Tart

Mango Curd Tart | photo by Zoë François

In a quest to create the perfect mango cheesecake, I discovered mango puree from the Indian market. I’ve tried making my own with fresh mangos, but the flavor was much too subtle and disappeared in most recipes. I even tried cooking it, to reduce the fruit, which usually works to intensify the flavor. But, it just made the mango taste like squash. So, I asked the internet and my community taught me the ways of tinned (canned) mango puree, which is apparently a known and beloved ingredient in India. There are many types of mangos and the Indian market had them all in puree, so I tried them all. They are mostly sweetened, but I did manage to find one that wasn’t and it was amazing. If all you can find is the sweetened version, you can reduce the sugar in the recipe by a bit.

The mango cheesecake was a big hit (I’ll post that recipe soon too) and I had lots of the puree left over, so I went to work creating more desserts with it. This mango curd tart is the lucky result of that abundance of tinned mango. The curd is made just as you would a lemon curd, but I used a combination of mango and lime. It makes very little sense, but the lime makes the mango taste more like mango and not just cloyingly sweet. Slow cooking the curd over a double boiler is the key to the satiny texture.

You can watch my video of this mango curd tart on my Instagram page. (more…)

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Homemade Yogurt (Plain and Fruit)

How to make homemade yogurt, plain or with fruit | photo by Zoë François

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 homemade 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 homemade yogurt, butter and cheese. The flavor of that homemade 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.

How to make homemade yogurt, plain or with fruit | photo by Zoë François

Now that I have started making my own, I may never buy yogurt again. Homemade yogurt 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

Slice of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | photo by Zoë François

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 strawberry rhubarb 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 strawberry rhubarb pie in my instagram video(more…)

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Chocolate Birthday Cake

Chocolate Birthday Cake | Photo by Zoë François

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 Chocolate Birthday 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 and Brown Butter Tart | photo by Zoë François

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 rhubarb and brown butter 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 of this Rhubarb and Brown Butter Tart in my instagram videos. (more…)

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