Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Chocolate Mousse was one of the very first recipes I tried to make, way back when I was a middle schooler. Making a quintessentially French dish was an assignment for my French class, so I set off with a copy of Time Life Books: classic French cooking and did my best. Which wasn’t very good. Actually, it was terrible. The recipe called for coffee, which at the time, before I became an avid consumer of the beverage, was a confusing ingredient. Did they mean coffee grounds or brewed coffee. Well, I chose very wrong and went with the grounds, probably because I didn’t know how to brew coffee. It was like eating chocolate with sand in it. Not good. I made it again with brewed coffee and it was a revelation. The texture was like silk, the taste of the chocolate was so rich and luscious, unlike anything I’d every eaten. It was like a very distant cousin to chocolate pudding, but altogether superior. I was so proud that I’d made something this delicious. It was one of the first times I was excited about a school assignment and it set me off on more baking adventures.

When Fanny sent me her book, I flipped through it, saw her Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake and I knew it was the one I would make. This recipe is traditional in that it uses uncooked eggs; whipping both the whites and the yolks separately and folding them into the chocolate. The result is glorious. For those who are squeamish about using raw eggs in a recipe, you can find pasteurized eggs, which are deemed safe to eat without cooking. I used fresh eggs from my neighbor’s chickens and it was not only exquisite, but I am also still here to talk about it.

Fanny’s recipe was pure and simple, which is a lovely thing in a day of over complicated recipes, but I decided to add a bit of coffee flavor to the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake, to recreate the flavor of my childhood memory.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

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Raspberry Paris Brest

Raspberry Paris Brest | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This Raspberry Paris Brest is a beautifully nontraditional take on a very traditional French pastry. The name, Paris Brest, comes from a bicycle race that happens in France between (you guessed it) Paris and the town of Brest. According to Larousse Gastronomique, a pastry-cook, whose shop was along the route of the race, got it in his head to make a pastry shaped like the wheel of a bike from choux paste (the same pastry used for eclairs and profiteroles). He filled it with a butter-rich, praline flavored pastry cream. My take on this classic involves lots of Driscoll’s Raspberries to lighten up the dessert and make it even more beautiful. Instead of stirring praline into the pastry cream, I made an easy raspberry quick jam out of fresh berries and then mixed it in. The result is fresh and light, which will be a welcome end to your holiday dinner. What makes Driscoll’s Organic Raspberries the perfect choice for this is that Driscoll’s has spent years carefully breeding Raspberries, and with thousands of berry varieties they select the top 1% to sell under the Driscoll’s name.

You can watch me make this raspberry pastry in my instagram video.

#BerryTogether GIVEAWAY: For the past few years, Driscoll’s has been championing this belief that life is better spent around the table, over food, with friends and family – #berrytogether, in other words.  Things don’t have to be fussy or complicated to have a good time and to get in the mood for the holidays you can enter to win some sweet prizes from Driscoll’s – (a KitchenAid® Artisan Stand Mixer, a Williams Sonoma Stoneware Pie Dish, Set of 3, and Berries for a Year); see the bottom of the post for details.* (more…)

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Strawberry Charlotte Royale

Strawberry Charlotte Royale | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The truth is the last time I made a Strawberry Charlotte Royale was in culinary school and that was a very long time ago. I have been meaning to make one, but just never got around to it. Then I bought a copy of Soulful Baker, by one of my favorite bakers, Julie Jones, and she had the most beautiful Charlotte Royale in the book. I took it as a sign that I needed to make this regal (it’s in the name) dessert. Julie was my muse, but being incapable of leaving things well enough alone, I wanted to make the filling in two separate flavors. I made a Grand Marnier Bavarian Cream and then added Strawberry coulis to it for the second layer. It’s not quite as simple as a banana bread, so I’ve made a video on instagram to walk you through the process. The steps are not at all difficult, but they do require a bit of planning and some timing. (more…)

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Profiteroles

Choux Paste | Zoe Bakes(11 of 5)

Pâte à choux translates from French to mean “cabbage” in English. It is a far less romantic word, so we stick to the French. The truth is the puffs look just like little cabbages when piped and baked. Pâte à choux is the dough used for cream puffs (profiteroles) and eclairs. It is rich with butter and lots of eggs, but made light when those eggs expand in the oven and create hollow cavities, which are meant to be filled with anything from lobster to ice cream. I pretty much only think in terms of sweets, so I’ve gone with the latter. The ice cream is made with sour cream and lemon, so it is tangy and refreshing. I top it with glossy chocolate ganache and call it classically perfect.

The texture of your Pâte à choux will depend on what liquid you use. In culinary school we used whole milk, skim milk and water to compare what the fat and sugars of the milk would do to the dough. I prefer the taste of the whole milk, but the crisp texture of the water, so the skim milk is a good compromise. You can do the same experiment and determine which you prefer.

You can watch me make these profiteroles in the videos on my Instagram page(more…)

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Macarons – easier than you think, just watch the video!

Easy pink macarons | photo by Zoë François

The first time I had a true French macaron was while sitting at the now shuttered WD50 in New York City. It was the wild child restaurant of chef Wylie Dufresne, who was one of the first American chefs to deconstruct ingredients and synthesize them into new forms. It was all very mysterious and pretty tasty, but the most memorable thing we ate that night came out of my cousin’s purse. Samira works in the fashion industry and lives an impossibly global and glamorous life, which includes frequent trips to Paris. She and her brother, Riad, who was sitting with us, had a tradition of sharing a particular pastry from Paris every time she went. She pulled out the box and nonchalantly pushed it to Riad. This was so normal to them, that they barely acknowledged the act or the beautiful box as anything special. I, on the other hand, was near crazy with anticipation and finally told them to “open the &%$#ing box.” Inside were perfect, and I do mean perfect, macarons. They were like jewels. All different colors. Pink, gold, lavender and jade. They were delicate to the point of brittle on the outside and like a cloud on the inside, with a layer of super rich ganache or buttercream. I’ve made macarons, but they were never as ethereal as the one’s Samira brought home from Ladurée. This is no surprise. I was happy enough with mine and they were cheaper than a trip to Paris, but still not perfect. Then I watched Colette Christian’s Craftsy class on miniature French pastries and I figured out the small tricks I’d been missing. Turns out they are much easier than I thought. I’ve been making them constantly ever since.

This last batch I made for Passover and colored them purple to honor Prince. His passing has struck me in a deep way, deeper than I would have ever expected. His music was the sound track to my entire high school life and that was long before I moved to his home town. Back in the day I choreographed a dance to Little Red Corvette to audition for the dance program at my school. I danced my heart out to that song and got into the group. We were hardly Alvin Ailey, but it was my whole life at the time. I remember that audition like it was yesterday. I just hope Prince had even an inkling of his profound influence over so many people, not just musicians, but all of us who loved his music. I wish he could see how the world has exploded into a party to honor his legacy. Purple macarons and dancing in my kitchen are what I have to offer the celebration.

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Almond Dacquoise Cake with Lemon Curd, Cream and Berries

Dacquoise | ZoeBakes (3 of 3)-2

The dacquoise is a delicate cake layer that is sadly under used by home bakers. It is a cousin to a pavlova, but has the richness of nuts. It is made of French meringue that has nuts (almond meal and coarsely crushed roasted almonds) folded into it and baked in a thin layer. The dacquoise is crisp and used to add a sweet, nuttiness to your cake layers or can be used all on its own. I’ve piled the layers high with whipped cream, lemon curd, mixed berries and topped the whole thing with shards of white chocolate painted with edible luster dust. Without the chocolate it is really a very simple dessert, but if you are going to a party its nice to fancy it up a bit.
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