Tiramisu

tiramisu | ZoeBakes

By the time I became a pastry chef in the mid 1990s tiramisu, the decadent Italian dessert that defined the 80s, was banned from all high-end restaurants. It was a matter of bad PR, not because it wasn’t well liked or frequently requested. In fact, it was its very popularity that took it down. We pastry chef types just got bored with making it all the time to satisfy the demand. The same fate took down the molten lava cake and flourless chocolate torte. But, as happens with all good things, they find their way back in fashion. I predict the humble tiramisu will find its way onto a menu near you. If I happen to be wrong about this, we can have our own revolution and make it at home.  This version was inspired by a recipe from  Joanne Chang’s book, Flour. Yes, she apologizes for making it. I stand proud and layer espresso sponge cake, soaked with coffee and booze with rich mascarpone mousse, then top it all with chocolate ganache and raspberries. The trick is to soak the layers just enough to impart flavor and make them delicate, but not so much that they become soggy mush. The bite of the coffee and liqueur is perfectly mellowed by the custard, but none of it is overly sweet. I built them as individuals, using PVC pipe that I had cut to the right size (super cheap), but you can buy circular pastry molds (kind of expensive) or even washed out cans (sweetened condensed milk is just the right size). You can do this exact same recipe in a small trifle bowl or in short water glasses.

Andrew Zimmern was my very first boss out of culinary school –  in the 1990s high-end restaurant I mentioned earlier. It was a wild and creative time in my life. He wasn’t eating freaky things, but he was pushing the culinary palate in Minneapolis, and I was lucky enough to be part of that ride. Last week he invited me to visit with him on his podcast Go Fork Yourself. We talked about baking bread in a crock pot, cooking in a dishwasher, vegan egg replacer that is changing the world, to be, or not to be gluten-free and the merits of a sexy index (my new book has one), plus the first time I told him to go fork himself! You can here the podcast here. (more…)

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Going Bananas for Mardis Gras – Banana Pudding, Caramelized Bananas and Bourbon Banana Sauce

Banana Pudding is a thoroughly classic Southern dessert. It comes in many forms, but almost all involve vanilla pudding with slices of bananas and a layering of vanilla wafers. This combination, quite frankly, reminds me of going to Morrison’s Cafeteria with my grandmother in Clearwater, Fl. Although I have fond memories of those outings, the food was neither good, nor memorable. It seems to me that banana pudding should be made with bananas, not just as an accessory. This may be a conclusion based on the fact that I only had two overly ripe bananas in my fruit basket when this recipe came to me. I pureed them and added them to the vanilla pudding as I whisked it. The result is a rich flavor, which beats the pants off of the unnatural “banana extract” or liqueurs many recipes call for and it has a silky smooth texture. I thought it should be topped with something warm, caramel-y and have just a slight bite of Bourbon. Banana Foster on top of the pudding, an ode to Mardi Gras! For those who just can’t fathom banana pudding without vanilla wafers, by all means you should crush some up and sprinkle them over the top.

I’d like to thank YOU and Babble.com for voting Zoë Bakes on to the list of Top 100 Mom Food Blogs 2011! It is a crazy honor to be listed with such talented women. (more…)

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Pineapple Polenta Upside-Down Cake!

Recently I participated in a benefit auction for one of my favorite charities, the Children’s Heartlink.  We auctioned off a “celebrity” chef bake-off to be held at General Mills test kitchen. Assembled were a team of my favorite pastry chefs in the Twin Cities as the coaches and some heavy hitting celebrity judges. Dr. Jim Rice bought the event and invited 20 of his friends to join him for a great evening. The pastry chef coaches came up with recipes, were allowed to talk the team through the process, but weren’t allowed to touch anything. My team was a blast, they had a great time and produced a gorgeous dessert, which got them second prize!

My friend and exquisite pastry chef, Michelle Gayer’s dessert won the gold! She is the chef/owner of the Salty Tart in Minneapolis (co-author of Charlie Trotter’s Desserts) and her dessert kicked A–! It was a pineapple polenta upside-down cake with caramelized macadamia nuts. I meant to ask her for the recipe, but she was off to Disney World with her family.  Well, great minds think alike and it turns out that Johnny Iuzzini has a dessert that is just like it in his new book Dessert FourPlay. While I wait to get Michelle’s recipe I decided to give Johnny’s a go. Two world class pastry chefs’ version of a classic!

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