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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Super Bowl Bars

Bars | ZoeBakes

I can’t wait to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. I don’t want you to get the false impression that I follow any team in particular, or even the sport as a whole. I can safely avoid upsetting anyone by picking a side, since I have no idea who’s even in the game this year. I do love the clever ads and I’m a big fan of Bruno Mars. As is the case with most occasions like this, I’m totally in it for the food. My husband  will make buffalo and “mahogany” chicken wings (recipes he only whips out for this event). My sons explained to me, in no uncertain terms, that I need to make bars, and they are not to be “too fancy.” They Fear I’ll show up with some girly, frilly, lacy dessert and be a humiliation to their dude-ness. Granted they are teens, so I am almost always an embarrassment. So, I layered up all the things I could think might be appropriate at a party dedicated to football, including potato chips, coffee, peanuts, and much, much more. Everything but beer. These treats are a bit inspired by the Momofuko Milk Bar Compost Cookies, but I took it to a whole new level with a rich chocolate topping. When my youngest son taste tested them he asked, suspiciously and with a full mouth, if I’d put a layer of mousse on top, which would have placed them in the realm of “fancy.” I did not, but the nutella ganache is very mousse-like and completely awesome. He had another one just to make sure.

A fact about me that not many people know, until now…I was a cheerleader in highschool (and middle school) for the football team. I had two qualifications that made this a more obvious fit than you might think, given my indifference to the game. I was a loud mouth and I was pretty coordinated, having grown up with a mom who owns a dance studio. I had no idea what was going on behind on the field and quite frankly I never really cared. But, when it came to the bake sale to raise money for the team, I was all about it.

Here are my “Not Too Fancy for the Super Bowl, but just fancy enough to make ME happy, Bars”. They are really simple to make, so if you need a last minute treat to bring to your Super Bowl Fête, these are perfect and decadent. Go Bars! (more…)

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Banana Bread (and Pear Bread) – One Recipe, Two Flavors.

Pear Bread

The fact that Bosc pears taste like spicy, buttery perfume (I mean sweet, pure essence of pear, not old lady soap), may be second to their beauty. I admit I bought this bag of pears to decorate my kitchen. They’re so sleek and statuesque that most every still life painter from Van Gogh to Picasso has captured their elegance.


The carefully arranged bowl was quickly decimated by my family, who didn’t recognize the art in my attempt, but smelled the juicy pears and ate them. The boscs are in their prime. Some years the pear crops are mealy and tasteless, but this year they’re sweet, juicy and the flesh is perfectly smooth. As they ripened the texture is as soft as an overly ripe banana, so I got the idea of making my banana bread recipe with chunks of the ripe pears.  I added a bit of homemade granola, instead of the toasted coconut I usually put in the banana bread. It is essentially the same recipe, but the result is completely and wonderfully different.

The trick to this recipe is using the pears when they are almost too ripe to eat. This means they are at their sweetest and will breakdown when baking. Unlike other banana recipes, this one calls for chunks of fruit, instead of a puree. Try both the banana and the pear versions and let me know which is your favorite. See the banana bread at the bottom of the post.


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S’mores – rainy days can bring sweet inspiration!


Sometimes great ideas can come from the strangest places. Who would have imagined that spending my birthday, in the rain, making S’mores with people I didn’t know, could have been so much fun and such creative inspiration. In November my good friend, and partner in many culinary adventures, Jen, treated me to a luxurious night at a resort. As bad luck would have it, it was pissing rain all night, which may have stopped the average souls from sharing a bottle of wine by the beach. Jen and I bundled up, grabbed blankets, umbrellas and sat in the rain by the fire. Apparently this scene was odd enough to attract the attention of a lovely, adventure seeking couple (Sue and Anton), who pulled up a soaking wet bench and joined us. The only thing missing in this rather bizzarre setting were sticks with marshmallows. Not for long! Sue disappeared and came back with a “S’more kit.” It seemed perfectly right at the moment to be drinking a lovely bottle of red wine and singeing marshmallows in the fire, while balancing an umbrella. They were perfection, albeit too sweet and not as good as I remember them from childhood. The concept of chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers and toasted puffs of whipped sugar is brilliant, but once you hit 40, one’s taste-buds crave a little more complexity and less unadorned SWEET.

This moment deserved remembering and the S’more begged to be reinvented. This small bite of homemade cinnamon graham cookies, chocolate ganache and toasted almond meringue is my take on the classic. But, I added a hidden treasure. Under the cloud of meringue lies coconut and a candied pecan. The texture and richness of the nut are just what the S’more was always missing for me. I suggest you bring them to a superbowl party, but leave a few at home to snack on later. (more…)

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Thanksgiving Desserts


I have so much to be thankful for this year. From the health and well being of my family, to the fact that my computer is back up and running. Sometimes it is the small stuff that really snaps us into a space of giving thanks. As those of you who follow me on Twitter and FB know, last week was my birthday and it was quite a memorable one. My adorable boys brought me coffee in bed and we sat and talked. The fact that they sat still long enough to hang out was remarkable and a gift. After that loving moment passed, they were off and running and I changed the course of my day with a single move. I jostled my coffee cup and spilled the tiniest bit on my laptop. I swear it was no more than a tablespoon, but that is enough to ruin your day, week. My husband took the lifeless piece of equipment to the genius bar at the Mac store, as I salvaged the rest of my birthday by taking a photography class with Susan Powers. Nothing like creative inspiration to lift your spirits. Not only were the geniuses able to fix the computer, but I didn’t lose anything. Small miracle. The price I paid was being without a computer for nearly a week, which in the end was like a forced vacation. After being on book tour, it was a much needed, albeit unasked for, rest. So, yes, I am actually thankful that my computer was down for the week, although next time I will just turn it off.

Some of my favorite Thanksgiving desserts from past years:

Here is a post I did on the difference between a Sweet Potato vs Yam? Turns out there is quite a debate.

Perfect Apple Pie

Bourbon Pumpkin cheesecake

Caramelized Pumpkin Bread pudding

Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Pie

Apple Pumpkin Cake

Coconut Cream Cake

Caramel Apple Pear Cake

I hope your holiday is filled with joy and you manage to keep your motherboard dry. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Ultimate Carrot Cake – revisited and even better!

My Ultimate Carrot Cake first made an appearance on ZoëBakes in 2008, and it has remained one of my most popular posts. I have made it many, many times since then and tweaked the recipe, as I am apt to do, every time I make it. After all the experiments, this is the recipe I have come to like the best. The changes are subtle, because the original was pretty spot on, but this version wins. Try them both and let me know which you like best.

I am gearing up to go on book tour with Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day. You can find my travel schedule on the events page and I would be thrilled to meet you if I am coming to your area. The tour schedule is coming together in bits and pieces, so check back if I don’t have all the details for your city written in yet. Hope to see you! (more…)

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