Rhubarb and Vanilla Bean Compote

Fresh Cut Rhubarb | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Here in Minneapolis, otherwise known as gardening Zone 4, we jump for joy when we see ramps and rhubarb. Rhubarb is the first thing to come up in my garden and it gives me tremendous joy! A sign of life, hope for warm weather and it just happens to be delicious. I love the tartness, combined with a bit of sugar and vanilla it is near perfection, which is why I made this rhubarb and vanilla bean compote.

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Vanilla Pastry Cream

Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Pastry cream is one of the most versatile recipes in a professional pastry kitchen (and your home). It is used for the filling of eclairs, napoleons, fruit tarts, banana cream pie, trifle, and just scooped out of the bowl with a spoon. It is essentially “kick-ass” vanilla pudding, to quote one of my former bosses. It can be scented with vanilla, in fact I always start with vanilla pastry cream and then add flavors to it. I’ve made everything from Thai chili-chocolate to passion fruit pastry cream. Here is the basic vanilla pastry cream recipe to start with!

This is an old post with old photos (I’ve come a long way with my camera since then)…

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Creme Anglaise (Vanilla Sauce)

Creme Anglaise is one of the most versatile sauces in the pastry kitchen. It is wonderful served with chocolate cake, as the sauce for floating island and as the base for lots of ice creams. It is also a creamy contrast to fruit desserts such as my tropical fruit vacherin, where I added mango puree to add a bright flavor to the sauce.

I always start with a simple vanilla flavored sauce and then add flavors to it to suit my dessert.

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Butter Shortbread Cookies

Butter Shortbread Cookies | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Last week was my aunt Kristin’s birthday, and she had only one request of me: butter shortbread cookies. She is a woman of very discerning tastes and gave me explicit directions on just how she wanted them baked. They were to be thick, delicate, not too sweet, a light dusting of very fine sugar and above all else, buttery! As some of you may have noticed, my aunt Kristin is one of my pastry muses. She doesn’t bake much herself, but she has a keen sweet tooth and can recognize a great recipe, without ever making it.

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Homemade Graham Cracker

This homemade graham cracker recipe couldn’t be any easier or more satisfying. The graham flour (aka whole wheat flour) gives these crackers their nutty flavor. I sweeten them with both brown sugar and honey. It is everything we love about our childhood memories of this cracker/cookie, but they are fresh and even better. This recipe will give you more than you need for a single cheesecake, but once people smell them baking they can’t keep their fingers off the extras! Read More

Homemade Ricotta Cheese with Red Wine Poached Cherries

Homemade Ricotta Cheese with Poached Cherries | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

This week I discovered something that has changed my kitchen forever. I made my own ricotta cheese. It was a suggestion from one of the people at eGullet. We were discussing the recipe for calzone from the book and we were lamenting the state of ricotta cheese that is available in the supermarkets. No sooner had we complained than a recipe for homemade ricotta cheese appeared on the screen. Not one, but several.

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