Nutella Swirled Banana Bread

nutellabananabread zb 15

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 seven-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, 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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Super Bowl Bars

Bars | ZoeBakes

I can’t wait to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. I don’t want you to get the false impression that I follow any team in particular, or even the sport as a whole. I can safely avoid upsetting anyone by picking a side, since I have no idea who’s even in the game this year. I do love the clever ads and I’m a big fan of Bruno Mars. As is the case with most occasions like this, I’m totally in it for the food. My husband  will make buffalo and “mahogany” chicken wings (recipes he only whips out for this event). My sons explained to me, in no uncertain terms, that I need to make bars, and they are not to be “too fancy.” They Fear I’ll show up with some girly, frilly, lacy dessert and be a humiliation to their dude-ness. Granted they are teens, so I am almost always an embarrassment. So, I layered up all the things I could think might be appropriate at a party dedicated to football, including potato chips, coffee, peanuts, and much, much more. Everything but beer. These treats are a bit inspired by the Momofuko Milk Bar Compost Cookies, but I took it to a whole new level with a rich chocolate topping. When my youngest son taste tested them he asked, suspiciously and with a full mouth, if I’d put a layer of mousse on top, which would have placed them in the realm of “fancy.” I did not, but the nutella ganache is very mousse-like and completely awesome. He had another one just to make sure.

A fact about me that not many people know, until now…I was a cheerleader in highschool (and middle school) for the football team. I had two qualifications that made this a more obvious fit than you might think, given my indifference to the game. I was a loud mouth and I was pretty coordinated, having grown up with a mom who owns a dance studio. I had no idea what was going on behind on the field and quite frankly I never really cared. But, when it came to the bake sale to raise money for the team, I was all about it.

Here are my “Not Too Fancy for the Super Bowl, but just fancy enough to make ME happy, Bars”. They are really simple to make, so if you need a last minute treat to bring to your Super Bowl Fête, these are perfect and decadent. Go Bars! (more…)

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How-to Video: Piping Icing on a Cupcake 101 (Ovaltine Cupcake with Nutella Buttercream)

I was amazed recently to find Ovaltine on the shelves at the grocery store. I hadn’t had or thought about it in about 35 years. There are certain memories of childhood that hold space in the brain in a sensory way, and Ovaltine is one of them. I can’t remember an actual occasion of drinking it, but I do remember the excitement and malty flavor from way back. When I drink it now I recall our black and white television, big cars with no seat belts, sans-a-belt slacks and the Brady Bunch. These were simple days, so it seemed to a 7 year old, and Ovaltine was one of the glimmering bonuses that life had to offer. Keep in mind that my household was without Twinkies or Soda, so when Ovaltine hit the threshold it was an occasion, a glorious one at that. It was like drinking a malted milk ball and I was in heaven.

In order to make the cupcakes look as gorgeous as they taste, you’ll want to decorate them like a pro. I’ve put together a video on how to pipe on a perfect base of icing. It can be the foundation for other decorations or leave it alone and it is a classic finish. I will share some tips on how to use the pastry bag and the key to piping anything from stars to roses.

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Cream Puffs and a Nest of Nuts!

It is my birthday and I decided to make myself something fun to celebrate. Now that I am squarely in my 40s I find it especially important to make this occasion a special one. I was in the mood to play with sugar. It has been years, many years, since I have worked in the restaurant world and had the opportunity and excuse to do over-the-top fanciful things with sugar.  It is more the act of creating these wisps of golden caramel that thrills me, even more than eating them. To sit on top this ethereal nest I decided I needed something creamy and decadent; cream puffs filled with pastry cream in three flavors.

The tale of two puffs: (more…)

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