Mango Curd Tart

mango tart (8 of 6)

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 tart on my Instagram page. (more…)

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

strawberry rhubarb pie (8 of 11)

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 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 pie in my instagram video(more…)

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Lemon Honey-Meringue Pie

lemon Meringue pie | Zoe Francois(3 of 5)

I love lemon meringue pie, as much for the look of it, as the taste. The tart filling is covered in sweet honey meringue. I added a floral twist that adds a subtle scent of lavender to the not-so-subtle taste of honey.

this pie is very easy to make, but there are some steps to follow that will take your pie from a weepy mess to a magnificent mile high show piece. You can watch me make the pie in my instagram stories. (more…)

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Caramel Apple & Pumpkin Pie

Caramel Apple & Pumpkin Pie | ZoeBakes

Here is a twofer for those of us who love both apple and pumpkin pies. Both great flavors layered together in a flaky, rich crust. I used apples that kept their shape when I caramelized them, so they would add a bit of texture to the pie. Go with Granny Smith and Braeburn or a local apple that you know stays firm when cooked. These days all grocery stores have sugar pumpkins stacked up in the produce aisle, so you can roast your own. It is seriously easy and the taste is heavenly. Having said that, you can also use your favorite canned pumpkin puree.

I am about to give up some of my chef cred with this next statement, but I did a blind taste test of canned pumpkin and I was very surprised by my taste buds. Out of 5 different brands, the hands down winner was Libby’s. They are not paying me to say that, nor did they send me any product. Not only did Libby’s have the sweetest, most “pumpkin” tasting canned pumpkin, but when I looked at them all side by side, it was the most gorgeous color. It claims not to have any color added, in fact, it’s just 100% pumpkin, just like the organic versions. I won’t mention the other brands to avoid, but some were dull, yellow, tasted more like water and had a grainy texture, not good.  (more…)

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PB&J Cheesecake with Poured Ganache (how-to video).

PB&J cheese cake zb 22

Peanut Butter and Jelly is a staple in most children’s diets. In fact, I just read that Americans will consume billions, with a B, of them every year. I can believe it, since my kids picked it for lunch 9 out of 10 times, until very recently. I’ve gone through what must be 100s of pounds of peanut butter and even more jelly. They’re certainly easy to make, which saved me lots of time in the mornings before school, but I felt a little guilty packing it for them EVERY day. I mostly dreaded other parents finding out that my kids ate the same thing over and over. In my head I wanted them to eat bento boxes, with carved vegetables and seaweed salad, but, it was their lunch, their choice and they loved PB&J. The truth is that I love it too; almost everyone does, if we’re honest. Here’s a cheesecake that has all the fond memories of those childhood sandwiches, but it’s way more decadent and sophisticated.

Once in a while I find a new product that changes the way I cook and bake. I felt this way about the Silpat and the Microplane Grater when they first hit the restaurant kitchen scene. It was a eureka moment, since both saved time, money and provided results like nothing I’d used. This Lekue 9-Inch Springform Pan may be the coolest new toy in my kitchen. It is made by Lekue and uses the same technology as the beloved silicone mats. The base is made of ceramic, so it is lovely enough to serve on, which eliminates the need to remove the cake from the base. That, in itself, is brilliant, but the silicone also gives insurance that the cake will not stick to the sides, so there is no holding your breath as you remove it. I baked this cheesecake without a water bath. I need to test to see if it is waterproof, but that is asking a lot of a springform pan and I would continue to wrap the bottom in foil if I used it in water.

 

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Mint Cheesecake for St. Patrick’s Day

mint cheesecake

When I was growing up in Vermont we celebrated St. Patricks Day at school by dressing up in green. It was fun, although green really isn’t my color, but I had no idea what any of it meant. It never occurred to me that it went beyond shamrock knee-highs, until I went to Chicago on March 17th, quite by accident. The city shut down at noon, people flooded the streets, wearing green and carrying beer of the same color. Even the mighty river was dyed green in honor of the 4th century Saint.  Although few people probably know the origins of the festivities, we still honor this religious man all these centuries later by wearing green and celebrating Irish culture. Even for those of us who have no ties to Ireland, it is too fun to miss out on.

This minty cheesecake is my nod to the day. It seemed fitting to go green, but I wanted to do something particularly fun. The stripes are easy to create and make for a terrific “Wow” moment when you slice into the cake. The trick to the color is a dash or two of food coloring. I do use fresh mint in the batter, which adds a bright, fresh flavor, but on its own, it is honestly a bit lack luster in color. The chocolate crust makes the whole thing taste like a super-lush “thin mint.” (more…)

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