Raspberry Custard Tart (Flan Parisien)

Raspberry Custard Tart | Zoe Francois(3 of 6)

This is a wonderful tart filled with vanilla custard. It’s one that you’ll find in every patisserie in Paris, but have likely never come across here in the states. Its rustic simplicity it exactly the kind of pastry I love. It’s really quite easy to create; a tart dough (this recipe uses a bit of potato flour, which makes it even more tender, because there is less gluten to get excited and tough) that goes up the sides of a ring mold baked with a pastry cream. I added raspberries to give it a bit more character, some tartness and they’re just pretty.  (more…)

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Chocolate Mousse with Toasted Meringue

chocolate mousse Pretty Simple Cooking (4 of 4)

My friends Sonja and Alex, otherwise known as the parents of the most adorable little boy, Larson (and some may know them for their excellent blog a couple cooks), just sent me their new cookbook. As I flipped through all the gorgeous recipes, I was stopped in my tracks by a picture of chocolate mousse topped with meringue. For anyone who follows me on Instagram, you know I am a huge fan of the ethereal sweet topping; whipped up pretty and then lit on fire with a blow torch. I always knew I liked these two and their recipes, but it turns out that Alex also has a thing for blow torches, so they just got even cooler IMHO.  This is a super simple and quick chocolate mousse recipe you can whip up at the last minute for Valentine’s Day and your sweetheart will never know it just took a few minutes to make. The bit of crunch in the middle is just brilliant and adds that contrast of texture that makes for a great dessert. They’ve generously agreed to share the recipe, but you should all go out and find their book, Pretty Simple Cooking! (more…)

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Bûche de Noël ~ Christmas Yule Log

bwca (2 of 5)

This is a classic French dessert that is served at Christmas time. Bûche de Noël translates as the “Christmas Log” and is meant to look like the piece of wood you are about to toss into the fireplace. It is a rather odd tradition and yet I find myself making one every year. It always reminds me of the TV station that plays Christmas music and shows nothing but a burning log in a fireplace. I thought those were just memories of my long ago childhood, but I was amazed to see that the burning log still finds its place on YouTube even today.

Despite my unglamorous association there is something quite elegant and beautiful about the Bûche de Noël. According to Larousse Gastronomique the yule log cake tradition started in the 1870s when Parisian pastry chefs decided to replace the less elaborate brioche style fruit loaf with this more festive confection. Although I am quite partial to the Panettone style breads, I can see why pastry chefs created something a little more fussy to work on, that is just how we are!

If you came to this post through Instagram, you will see that this cake is slightly different than the one in my video, but the process is the same.


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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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Cheese Blintzes

Blintzes | ZoeBakes (4 of 4)

When I was a kid, in the 70s, my mom, my uncle, Jay, and I would go to a tiny Ukrainian restaurant on 2nd Ave in NYC called the Kiev.  Finding a table was nearly impossible; I remember it being so crowded that we’d climb over people to get to our seats. Once we were situated, the waiter brought bread to the table. When the tower of challah came we could no longer see each other, which forced us to crane our bodies around this centerpiece to talk to one another. The crazy pile of delicious bread wasn’t even the main event. We were there for the blintzes. The slightly sweet, farmer cheese stuffed crepes. By the time they hit the table I was stuffed with challah, but I managed to eat everything in front of me. I loved that place and the feeling of leaving full, really full.

I just googled the Kiev to see if it is still there and I am sad to report that only a glossy reproduction exist. To me it was the tight, atmosphere-free dining room, stuffed to the rafters with blintz-eating patrons that made it special. I am disappointed that I will never get to take my boys. Instead I’ll make them blintzes at home. All that’s missing is a tower of challah (I’ll save that for another day) and the slightly surly servers, but my blintzes are well loved. The key is finding fresh farmers’ cheese, not the dry crumbly version. I use a crepe recipe from my sister-in-law, Maxine, who spent her high school and college years in France. Top the creamy blintzes with whatever you like or just eat them plain with a brush of butter, and maybe some sour cream.


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Poached Pear Ginger Cake

Pear Ginger Cake| ZoeBakes (1 of 6)

This is the quintessential fall cake.

Poached pears were the symbol of a sophisticated dessert when I was a kid. Not that we ever had them, but I saw them standing tall on the pages of Gourmet magazine and always thought how magical it would be to eat something so beautiful. They’re just so elegant and complex and generally boozed up with wine.  I poached these in a chai tea cider mixture and they are just as satisfying without the buzz. The cake is spicy with a kick of freshly grated ginger and tons of warm spice from cloves and cinnamon. It’s by no means an overly sweet cake, which is how I like them. The molasses gives it color and that edge of bitter that I love. I’ve made it using more molasses and I love it, but I mellowed it down by adding some brown sugar to the mix. I think this is a perfect Thanksgiving dessert!

Pear Ginger Cake| ZoeBakes (6 of 6) (more…)

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