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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How-to Videos: Easy Pie Dough and Double Crusted Apple Pie

apple-pie

Today is national Pie Day according the National Pie Council, so there is no better time to perfect our crust.

Pie dough is one of those things that once you master it, your life in the kitchen is a happier place. It frees you to make fruit pies, quiche, potpies and anything else, sweet or savory that requires a crust. But, mastering the dough is not always as easy as one would hope. In my first video I’ll show you how I create a tender and flaky crust that make pies delicious, no matter the filling. Then, I follow up with a video on how to successfully roll out, fill, top and decorate a double crusted apple pie. With these videos I hope you’ll be making pie with confidence. (more…)

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Blueberry Bars for Back to School! (and a MNFoodBloggers Bar Bake-off)

Yesterday was the official end of summer in my house. Back to school for both boys, and I spent the day wishing they were home again. “Seriously?”  You may ask. I spent the past several weeks anticipating the beginning of school with a certain glee, which may have bordered on unhealthy. I couldn’t wait to have peace and quiet in my house, for hours at a time. I looked forward to doing my work without interruption, sans little fingers dipping into the bowl. But, when it came to the actual day, I missed them and couldn’t wait for them to get off the bus.* Instead of pathetically staring out the window waiting, I decided to bake them some bars. Every MN kid loves bars.

For those of you from the coasts, I am referring to a layered dessert baked in a pan resembling a brownie/cookie/pie, but can be made with fruit, caramel, chocolate or anything else your pantry contains. Then they are cut into neat bars. I was first introduced to this concept when I moved to Minneapolis 18 years ago. Bars are generally served on a buffet table with lots of crock pots filled with “hot dish.” Every family has their own recipe, usually a tightly held secret, mostly kept from the neighbors.

Just a couple of weeks ago Stephanie Meyer asked me to judge a MNFoodBloggers Bar Bake-Off. It seems the quintessential task of any MN food blogger, baker or non-baking type, to create the perfect bar. What I forgot when I took on this responsibility is how many members the MNFoodBloggers has and how many bars I would have to eat in one sitting. Luckily, I was not alone in my task, Stephanie March from Mpls/St.Paul Magazine and Joy Estelle Summers from City Pages joined me. We consumed 13, or was it 16, different MN Bars. Some were traditional recipes from grandma’s kitchen and others were a daringly new take on the MN dessert. The winner was Kelli Abrahamian from IHadaDelicousTime.com with her Rosemary Apricot Bars (picture below). Her fantastic herby crust and fruit filling were my inspiration for my Blueberry Bar recipe.  (more…)

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