Pear Panna Cotta Cake

Pear Panna Cotta Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

When I was growing up my paternal grandmother made a dessert she called “Swedish Cream” on Christmas day. It was rich beyond imagining (at least when I was a child) and its arrival meant the festivities were coming to a close, because we’d all slip into a Christmas Swedish Cream dream state and the adults dozing off usually followed. Much, much later in life, while at culinary school, I realized it was a sour cream panna cotta that she’d been making all those years. My Pear Panna Cotta Cake is inspired by my Granny’s dessert, but I went a little pastry chef with it. I combined Swedish Cream with a poached pear puree and then topped it with a layer of the poaching liquid delicately set into a Jelly with gelatin and put it on a base of almond joconde sponge cake. The dessert is multiple layers and it takes a wee bit of time, but it is actually super easy to make. You can also stop with one or two layers if that’s all time allows. To decorate the sides I sliced pears on a mandoline and dried them in the oven, which couldn’t be easier and they look so stunning. In her memory I will carry on my Granny’s tradition of ending the holiday meal with a smooth, rich, delicate Pear Panna Cotta Cake. 

You can watch me make the Pear Panna Cotta Cake in my instagram video

Pear Panna Cotta Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François (more…)

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Instant Sourdough Doughnuts

Instant Sourdough Doughnuts | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

In 2005 when my co-author, Jeff, and I wrote the first edition of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, people were just coming out of the Atkins Diet fog and were longing desperately for bread. We offered a simple, fast and delicious approach to baking bread that ANYONE could embrace. Fast forward to today and half my Instagram feed is filled with the most gorgeous loaves of sourdough bread, being baked in shops and at home. But, not everyone has the time to devote to creating, feeding and maintaining a starter. I have one and it mostly sits dehydrated in my pantry. So, when Red Star Yeast* came out with an Instant Sourdough Yeast, complete with real rye-based sourdough culture, I was super excited to give it a try. I’ve used Red Star Yeast products for decades and trust their yeast to ALWAYS get the job done, and with the highest quality. I was thrilled with the results and can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who wants all the flavor of sourdough without the wait.

Because I love sweets more than anything, I wanted to play with the Instant Sourdough Yeast in our no-knead Brioche Dough, based on a recipe from our newest book, Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day. And, well, doughnuts are always top of mind for me. Adding Instant Sourdough Yeast to doughnuts gives them a spectacular flavor and wonderful rise. You can always control the depth of flavor you want. By using the stored Brioche dough just after it is mixed and refrigerated, you’ll have a really mellow sour flavor from the Platinum Instant Sourdough Yeast, that adds a hint of complexity to the doughnuts, but is subtle. If you make more doughnuts from that same batch 24 hours later (you’ll have enough dough for a few batches) the sour flavor increases as the dough ferments, which is true in all of our stored Five Minute doughs. You can also freeze the dough to lock in the flavor you like best. Since there is also instant yeast in the mix, it will ALWAYS rise, without fail. 

I made a Berry Icing to go with the Instant Sourdough Doughnuts, because it is so fresh and sweet. You can dust the doughnuts in confectioners’ sugar or top with a chocolate ganache. 

Coffe, Doughnut and Red Star Yeast Packets | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François (more…)

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Anthropologie Catalog Dessert Recipes: (Poached Pear Tart, Creme Brûlée, Apple Crisp)

Fall Fruit Tart | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

It is with delight that I share with you the desserts I created for the current Anthropologie Catalog, which you can find in the stores and on their website. They invited me to Philadelphia to bake and style the desserts and I had an absolute blast. It is a funny world I occupy, most of it spent alone in my kitchen, virtually interacting with all the wonderfully talented folks I’ve met online. So, when presented with the opportunity to work with the creative force that puts out the Anthropologie catalog, it took me less than an instant to reply with an enthusiastic, YES! And, as if that weren’t enough of an honor, they put my tart on the cover (below). Mind Blown. You can read the lovely piece they wrote about me and you’ll find the recipes for The Poached Pear Tart, Creme Brûlée and Apple Cranberry Crisp below. 

The videos for all of the desserts can be found on my @ZoeBakes Instagram account.

Anthropologie Catalog Tart Photo | ZoeBakes photo by Amy Batog (more…)

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Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The only thing better than a single peanut butter cookie, are two with chocolate and peanut butter mousse between them in the perfect Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies! My friend and business strategist extraordinaire, Stephani, is pregnant and manages to work peanut butter sandwich cookies into every conversation we have. There’s no stopping the cravings of a pregnant woman and I think they may be contagious. These cookies are from the pages of the newest baking book from Bake From Scratch, The Cookie Collection. The book is a compilation of many recipes from their magazine and special issue editions and even includes some recipes from yours truly. I had Stephani in mind when I chose to make these, instead of my Piñon Mexican Wedding Cookies or Caramelized White Chocolate Sables with Sea Salt, which are both terrific, but I’ve made them many times and well, cravings! In the recipe from The Cookie Collection, they made the sandwiches with jelly, which seems like the perfect lunch box treat, but I went with a ganache instead, both ways will satisfy.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François  

You can watch me make these Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies in my Instagram video and recipe below. (more…)

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Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry

Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This fruit tart with homemade puff pastry is made with nothing more than ripe pluots (apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, any other stone fruit or berries will also do), lemon zested sugar and a sheet of puff pastry. Super elegant in its simplicity. The tart is from Rory O’Connell’s new book, Cook Well Eat Well. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting him during my epic tour of Ireland last week, hosted by Kerrygold butter. More to come about that trip, but let me back up a minute to 1998, when I was working at an Irish restaurant in Minneapolis, The Local. It was an Irish pub on one side and fine dining on the other, with a kitchen run by the James Beard Nominated chef, Steven Brown. I was the pastry chef and knew a lot about baking, but nothing of Irish food. I went to the book store and bought The Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle Allen, published in 1977. That cookbook was by my salvation and influenced nearly every dessert I created in the kitchen that year. Last week I went to Ballymaloe and met Myrtle Allen’s children, Fern and Darina, who took over the restaurant and created a cookery school with Darina’s brother, Rory. I am not typically one to fan-girl over celebrities, but being in the presence of these folks was a dream come true. You can see pictures from my visit to the Ballymaloe cookery school, where Darina gave us a spirited and brisk (meaning I couldn’t keep up with her) tour of the exquisite gardens, farm and school. Darina is like the Alice Waters of Ireland and has created the Irish food scene, by educating just about every chef in the country and beyond. If you are at all interested in taking cooking classes as an enthusiast of home cooking or potential professional, I couldn’t recommend this experience more highly. Here is a link to the school!

After our tour of Ballymaloe, we settled in for a cooking class with Rory. Not only is he an accomplished chef, a TV personality and a terrific teacher, but he is one of the most charming and lovely people I have ever met. This happens to be true for everyone we met on our journey through the countryside of Ireland and in Dublin. What a welcoming and generous people. Rory made us several dishes, all quite simple, made with local, fresh ingredients and absolutely delicious. He also gave us a copy of his new book, which is where I found this Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry. I don’t always make my own puff pastry, but it really is worlds above the store bought and not difficult to make, if you have a decent amount of time to devote to it. I will show you how in my Instagram video or you can attend the cookery school in Ballymaloe! Rory would have walked through the gorgeous gardens to pick perfectly ripe fruit, but I had to settle for what’s available in my local farmers market or at the grocery. I went with pluots, because they were beautiful and ripe. They are a combination of plums and apricots; the flavor is sweet, but also tangy, and they are JUICY. Depending on the fruit you use, you can increase or decrease the sugar.

The puff pastry was made with Kerrygold Unsalted Butter. This is a recipe that is four ingredients, flour, salt, water and lots of butter, so use a butter you’re in love with. I walked in the emerald fields, over looking the sea with the cows who produce the milk that goes into Kerrygold. The grass and the dairy cows are revered above all else in Ireland. I heard this from the farmers, but also the taxi driver who took me to the airport. I commented about how lucky we were it didn’t rain the entire time we were there and he said, “but we need the rain for our grasses. Without it we wouldn’t have the beautiful green lands and the milk wouldn’t taste so good.” Seriously, it couldn’t have been better scripted. The cows grazing on those green fields produces a golden butter that tastes good enough to eat alone. The butter in Ireland (and all of Europe) has a higher fat content than the butter made here in the states, so the texture is creamy and luscious. It truly makes for a superior puff pastry, so I highly recommend you find some. This is one of those recipes where it will make a big impact. 

You can watch me make this tart in my Instagram video. (more…)

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Mirror Glaze Cherry Cake

Mirror Glaze Cherry Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

I’ve been intrigued with mirror glaze cakes ever since they started popping up on my instagram feed years ago. There is something so satisfying about the glassy, reflective finish. Aesthetically, it’s not typically my style to create something quite so glitzy and glam, but sometimes ones inner Liberace needs to come out. The technique alone was calling me, I just had to understand how it was done. I have to admit it was simpler than I imagined. I hunted around for a recipe for the mirror glaze and landed on one by my friend, Phillip Fryman of Southern Fatty. His differed from many on the internet because he uses glucose syrup, instead of corn syrup. They are typically interchangeable and you can really use either for this recipe, BUT glucose is WAY thicker and I thought that may be a nice advantage in the glaze coating the cake well. I think my assumption was right, because the glaze was thick and clung to the cake like a champ. 

I often see mirror glaze cakes done in several psychedelic colors, spiraling together on the cake, like candy colored marble, but my cake was inspired by the bright red sour cherries my dad picked for me off of his tree, so I went with the simplicity of one color. The success of the mirror glaze cake is in the finish. If you can see yourself, then you’ve won the day. Not only could I see my reflection, but I captured a video of the clouds passing by out the window as reflected off my cake! It is so cool and you can see that and watch me make the cake in my instagram video. 

Oh, the cake under the mirror glaze is a no-bake cherry cheesecake. (more…)

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