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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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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Flaky Biscuits (plus, picking the right flour for all your recipes)

Flaky Biscuits with jam | photo by Zoë François

Biscuits. Flaky biscuits. Nothing better!

There are three things that guarentee you will have tender, flaky biscuits every time. Flour, Fat and Folding. The type of flour you use will take your biscuits from tough to tender. I use a combination of cake flour and all-purpose flour, so that I have enough structure in my biscuits to create the flaky layers, but are tender when I break into them. I’ll talk more about flour in a minute. Then there is fat. You want it cold. It should be blended into the flour, but you also want some pieces to stay in tact to create the flakiness. This is just like making pie dough. Lastly there is folding. By folding the dough, you create even more layers and the biscuits are guaranteed to be flaky. (more…)

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Puffy Popover Pancake

Puffy Popover Pancake filled with raspberries | ZoëBakes | Zoë François

Last week, and the week before that, I got emails from my brother Carey, with pictures of puffy popover pancakes he’d made. One was stuffed with mulberries and the other with pear & apple compote. I adore that he makes stuff like this for himself and his wife. His emails reminded me that I hadn’t made one for my boys in a very long time, so I set to it. This popover pancake recipe is both easy and tasty, and one of my boys’ most favorite breakfasts. It was also one of the very first recipes I ever posted on ZoeBakes, so some of you (mom and dad) may remember it, but most of you probably haven’t gone back that far. I was struck by the tiny hands of my boys in the pictures from way back in 2007.  One of them is now taller than me and the other is on his way. Time cruises on, but some recipes are tried and true and worth revisiting.  (more…)

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The Ultimate Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins in a Muffin Tin | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I had a forehead thumping moment recently when a friend asked me for a blueberry muffin recipe. In all the years I’ve been doing this site, I’ve never posted the most basic of breakfast treats. How did I get away with this, especially when they are one of my favorites. For me the perfect blueberry muffins are light, fluffy and bursting with blueberries. I added a touch of ginger because it perks up the flavor of the berries, but not so much that it’s overpowering. The topping is buttery, sweet and bakes into a lacy crust. I like to bake them in large “Texas-sized” muffin cups, so there is lots of muffin top and just as much of the berry center. They are great small, but I am always left wanting for more and for some reason I feel less guilty eating one big one, instead of two little ones.  (more…)

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Kitchen Basics – Homemade Crème Fraîche

Homemade crème fraîche | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Homemade crème fraîche is the sophisticated French cousin of sour cream.  Its texture is smoother and the flavor more subtle, not quite so sour, but still a bit sharp. It is simple to make and requires only two ingredients, so it is no wonder it is a staple in most French kitchens and a must have for pastry chefs. Fresh heavy cream is blended with just a splash of buttermilk and then left to sit, it does all the work on its own, and the result is luscious. I like to finish sweet desserts with the cultured cream; a thin layer on my butterscotch pot de crème, a dollop on top of a berry pie or stirred into chocolate ganache. It can be used in place of sour cream or most places you might use heavy cream. (more…)

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