Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake | ZoeBakes Photo by Zoë François

I’ve known my husband and his family for 30+ years and in all those decades there is a story about a cake that has been the heart of my career goals. Just to be clear, this is not the cake. This flourless chocolate hazelnut cake is AWESOME and I’m very pleased with it, but it’s not the cake my husband wistfully remembers from his childhood. I have never had the mythical cake, which is my excuse for not being able to recreate it. The joke in my house is that the day I am able to bake that one (hazelnut sponge with whipped cream and canned peaches) I can retire. So, maybe there is part of me that just isn’t ready to nail it.

Okay, let’s talk about this chocolate hazelnut cake. It was inspired by the aforementioned favorite of my husband and a flourless chocolate cake in the book, Bake from Scratch, by Brian Hart Hoffman. For those of you not familiar with this book or Brian, he is the talent behind @TheBakeFeed on Instagram. You should be following them and me, for that matter! You’ll find my feed at @zoebakes where you can keep up with what I am working on every day and watch my video stories, which is my newest playground.

This is like the most elegant brownie-cake you’ve ever had. That really doesn’t do it justice, but you know that fudge texture of a perfectly baked brownie, where the top has a nice crust and the inside is smooth and rich. This is that, but even better and somehow lighter. I gilded the lily with the candied hazelnuts, because it is my favorite man’s birthday and he deserves to have all the fancy bits. (more…)

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No-Bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars

No-bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars | Zoe Bakes photos by Zoë François

These No-bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars are a candy and a brownie all in one. There is no baking, so they are a perfect holiday treat to go along with all the cookies you’ll be trading at your cookie swaps this season. I created this recipe for the wedding of a chef, Jorge Guzman, who wanted a Mexican inspired dessert plate to be served to his guests, in addition to a cake. I kind of fell in love with them and when Bake From Scratch invited me to create some cookies for their Holiday Cookie Issue, I knew instantly that this would be in the mix. The crunch comes from both the toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and feuilletine flakes (which are paper thin cookies that are broken up into what can best be described as dessert-cereal). The pepitas and feuilletine flakes are folded into a chocolate and hazelnut mixture, set firm, covered with ganache and then decorated with more pepitas and edible gold leaf. The result is a sophisticated chocolate bar that is regal enough for a wedding, a holiday party or just a midnight snack. You can watch me make these bars in my instagram video.

Scroll to the bottom of the post to see the Pinon Mexican Wedding Cookies, Chestnut and Honey Madeleines, Caramelized White Chocolate Sables with Sea Salt and and Hazelnut Spice Speculaas I developed for this Special Holiday Cookie Issue.

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Nutella Swirled Banana Bread

Nutella Swirled Banana Bread recipe | photo by Zoë François

The first time I tried nutella was in France, on my honeymoon. I thought French kids were the luckiest people on earth. There was no way my mom would have given me a chocolate hazelnut spread on anything. (For the record it was the 1960s, she was a hippy and didn’t allow any sugar at all. Hence my full on sugar rebellion and career as a pastry chef.) French kids get nutella for breakfast, on their bread at lunch or as a late night snack. They all seemed healthy enough, so I think the French moms are on to something. My honeymoon was 23 years ago and in the meantime we Americans have had a hazelnut spread revolution of our own. Now you can find it on the shelves of Costco and 7-eleven. My house is never without a jar.

I’ve spread nutella on just about everything, but one of my favorites is freshly baked banana bread. In an “aha! moment” I decided to swirl the nutella right into the batter and bake them together. I’m not claiming to have discovered this combo, but I believe this may be the tastiest pairing ever there was. I now always make two loaves of nutella swirled banana bread, otherwise it disappears too quickly. One we eat while it is still warm and a bit gooey, the other sits for breakfast the next day. It is magnificent and super simple to make. (more…)

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Chocolate Glazed Praline Cheesecake with Candied Hazelnuts

There are certain things that happen in a professional kitchen that strike me as magic. They seem unmanageably gorgeous and too difficult to attempt at home, but usually with a bit of guidance anyone can do it. These hazelnut candies are on the list. They look like delicate jewels, standing impossibly tall and thin. They are the perfect accessory to a sleek chocolate covered praline cheesecake and not at all difficult to make.

This cake is about as smooth and rich as is possible. To flavor the cheesecake I used a product by love n’ bake, which is just ground praline made into a paste. You can replace it with nutella (for even more chocolate) or even peanut butter (go smooth for this). The trick to the texture is baking in a water bath at a low temperature to prevent the cake from baking too fast.

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