Tea Cup Rose Cakes – Paleo Sweets

Tea Cup Rose Cakes | ZoeBakes (3 of 21)

My story with sugar is long (my whole life long) and a bit convoluted. I was raised by hippies in the the 1960s. We lived on communes, as one did. Until I was about 7 it was really the only life I knew, so never struck me as unusual. It wasn’t until I started to attend school that I understood that my life in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont wasn’t the way the whole world lived. It was sugar that was the first and most profound indication. I’d grown up thinking (being lead to believe) that raisins and other dried fruits were candy. I was perfectly happy with this, until I went to kindergarten and someone produced a Twinkie from their Mickey Mouse lunch box. WTH is that? I was mesmerized and completely distracted by this sweet smelling cylinder of cake. I must have convinced that kid to give me a bite and there began my obsession. It became my life’s work to get more of it. This was no easy chore, considering all I had to trade were peanut butter and honey sandwiches. And when I say peanut butter, I mean the kind we ground ourselves and honey from our bee hives, on bread my Aunt Melissa made from wheat we milled. Today that sandwich sounds like heaven, but wasn’t so popular with those kids eating Ho Ho’s and Twinkies. Every once in a blue moon I’d score something sweet and be amazed.

Eventually in college I went through a naturally sweetened phase. I couldn’t exactly admit that my parents had been right to deny me all the sugary snacks, but I found myself pushing them aside for honey and maple syrup. This was right around the time I started to bake and was really curious about how to make baked goods that were delicious and had a wonderful texture, without sugar. There weren’t a lot of people doing this, not in a graceful way, and I didn’t have the skills to make the recipes up. I eventually went to culinary school to figure out the food science behind baking, with a notion that I’d retool pastry with natural sweeteners. But, their pantry was stocked with sugar and I was too impressionable to resist. I loved what the sugar could do. I was fascinated not only by it’s ability to transform flavor, but it’s ability to take on structure. When heated to just the right temperature I could make candies, both hard and soft, or spin it into gossamer threads. I didn’t really look back to honey and maple, except as a flavor, until I had my boys.

You guessed it. I didn’t let them eat sugar until they discovered it on their own. Yep, I did exactly what my parents had done, and I was a pastry chef. They were little and just didn’t need the sugar, then they got bigger and had a similar discovery that I went through. I wasn’t as hard core about denying them sugar and how could I be, since I worked with it all day. I think I struck a healthy balance and my boys ate their fair share of sweets, but all homemade and I think they didn’t have a Twinkie until they could pay for it themselves and they weren’t as impressed as I had been.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love sugar and all that it can do. I also love playing with honey, maple, agave and other natural sweeteners. They have some nutritional value, true enough, but more importantly they are amazingly delicious. Back in the day, when I was going to culinary school, everyone there looked at me crosseyed when I wanted to make meringue without sugar. Now there are many books on the subject and I am creating all kinds of gorgeous treats that even my folks would have allowed me to eat in my commune days.

These Tea Cup Rose Cakes have no sugar. NO SUGAR! They are also gluten-free (not an issue for me, but is for many of my friends and readers), Dairy-free (if made as the recipe was written, but I did use butter). And, they are delicious and so beautiful, no one will ever know they’re remotely healthy.

Tea Cup Rose Cakes | ZoeBakes (2 of 21) (more…)

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Chocolate Caramel Matzo for Passover (Updated!)

Chocolate Caramel Matzoh | ZoeBakes (1 of 1)-3

This year I added a little extra flavor power to this classic recipe. I made a triple batch to make sure I could send gift bags home after the seder. All the toppings were a hit, but the toasted sesame seeds with the milk or dark chocolate is my new favorite.

Every Passover I make this recipe from Marcy Goldman’s classic book A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. When I was growing up I loved matzo with butter or my mother’s matzo brei, but as a dessert it never inspired me. Until my friend and co-author Jeff introduced me to Marcy Goldman’s recipe she calls: “My Trademark, most requested, absolutely magnificent caramel matzoh crunch!” Despite the main ingredient being matzo it satisfied my craving for a decadent dessert at Passover. The candy was met with rave reviews and is now part of our tradition along with the fruit pâtes. It really is magnificent and a bit addictive, which is why I save it for Passover! (more…)

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Flourless Chocolate-Almond Torte for Passover

Flourless chocolate cake is a long-standing tradition on Passover. I have made several variations, but this one is far and away the most popular. It is made of several layers of a flourless chocolate-almond cake and bittersweet ganache. I make the whole thing without dairy, for those who keep to kosher laws, and you’ll never know the difference. It is one of the few times I use margarine and cream substitute and I promise it is absolutely divine.

The cake can be prepared in advance, wrapped well and refrigerator for a few days or frozen for a couple of weeks. This leaves you with less work to be done on Passover. Just decorate with some fresh berries and enjoy a slice of rich, chocolaty goodness after your dinner. (more…)

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Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing | ZoeBakes (1 of 3)

This is the best chocolate cake recipe I have ever tried and believe me, over the past 20+ years, I’ve tried them all. The dark chocolate cake has a texture that is smooth and rich. The flavor is not overly sweet, because of the intensity of the coffee (you don’t actually taste the coffee, it just cuts the sweet) and the rum (the Devil in “Devil’s Food” perhaps?), which make it a great match for cream cheese frosting sweetened with Lyle’s Golden Syrup. (more…)

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Chocolate Cherry Cake with Marsala Cream and a Book Giveaway

Chocolate Cherry Cake | zoebakes 09

There has been lots of conversation about grains recently. Many opinions and theories and personal stories about whether or not they should be eaten, and if so, which ones, and by whom. One of the voices I trust the most on the topic is Maria Speck. She is endlessly thoughtful and has meticulously researched the subject. You will see both a passionate and intellectual pursuit of delicious grain filled recipes in her latest book “simply ancient grains.” A few years ago I would have warned you that some of these grains are a bit challenging to find, but thanks to folks like Maria, these grains can be found in most grocery stores and easily had online.

Instead of summarizing Maria’s words on the subject of grains, I invite you not only to take a look at her beautiful book, but also to read the words she recently wrote in the Washington Post on the importance of grains.

simply ancient grains | Maria Speck

As I flipped through Maria’s book I was struck by this photograph by Erin Kunkel. I just knew this was the recipe I’d start with. The chocolate cake looked absolutely perfect baked in a loaf pan, but I wanted a slightly more festive presentation, so I took Maria’s exact recipe, but just baked it in cake pans instead. Your friends and family will never know that this cake is made with whole grain Kamut flour (more about that in a minute), they’ll just know it is chocolatey and delicious.

Maria has generously offered to give a copy of her book, simply ancient grains, to a randomly chosen winner. Just leave a note in the comments for a chance to win.

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“Outrageous Brownies”

Brownies ZB 12

30 years ago my dear friend, Sally, gave me a copy of Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts. At the moment neither of us realized how significant that gift would be in my life. It was way before Pinterest and the endless blogs filled with impossibly gorgeous recipes. Who am I kidding, it was before the internet. I had that one cookbook and a shitty student apartment kitchen to bake in. I made almost every recipe in the book and as a result learned how to make everything from cookies, cakes, pudding and even candy, but these brownies were the best thing in the whole book. I would splurge on really good chocolate, which meant something beyond Hershey’s. God only knows what brand it was back then, but I remember spending my entire food budget on chocolate, nuts and butter just to make them. I must have survived on rice cakes and peanut butter for the rest of the week.

30 years later it is still the only brownie recipe I make. I’m pretty good about not eating a bowl of cake batter or cookie dough, but these brownies are a different story. I’m powerless to their seduction, so I can’t make them often.  (more…)

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