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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Blueberry Muffins

There is nothing more quintessentially breakfast than a blueberry muffin. For me a blueberry muffin has to be chock full of contrasts. It should have enough sweetness to feel decadent, but balanced by the tartness of the blueberries and lemon zest. A perfect muffin also has a top that has a thin crust of spiced streusel and under it is the tender muffin, stuffed with fruit. I tried to put as many blueberries in this muffin as it could possibly hold without losing its structure. Blueberries alone have a subtle flavor, so they are there to add some flavor, but even more moisture to the muffin.

Blueberry Muffins | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë Francois

Muffins are super easy to make, but to have a tender crumb, that doesn’t become tough, you need to mix it just enough to incorporate everything evenly, but stop before you develop too much gluten. You can watch me make them in my instagram video. I baked the BIG blueberry muffins in 7 tulip muffin papers and used individual, straight sided, molds, but they are just as good in regular papers baked in traditional muffin pans.  (more…)

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Perfect Popovers

Perfect Popovers | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François   

When I was in middle school I lived in Westport, CT and would take the train into NYC to spend the weekend with my late aunt, Melissa. She worked in the film industry and seemed impossibly sophisticated in her fashion and food. A favorite tradition was having breakfast at Sarabeth’s. We’d order perfect popovers, which were puffed to the heavens and slathered in her homemade marmalade and/or honey butter. They reminded me of the puffy pancakes my friend Sasha and I had made (when we were just tiny kids) in our commune kitchen, but so much more delicious and light. The perfect popover is crisp on the outside, tender and airy on the inside and at its very best when served right from the oven. This is a super easy and yet very impressive recipe, that even a first time baker can master and feel like they’ve made magic.

The short video I made for these popovers is my first YouTube video in quite some time. When you go to my YouTube channel you will find some vintage Zoë, feel free to ignore those, unless you need a good laugh or want some earnest cake decorating advice. The short video was filmed by Charlie at Lilacs Media(more…)

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Valentine’s Day Cinnamon Rolls

Valentine's Day Cinnamon Rolls | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

There is really nothing more loving or romantic than baking for the ones you love. And, if it happens to be Valentine’s Day Cinnamon Rolls in the shape of a heart, they are the perfect holiday treat for everyone. These buns are based on our most popular, super easy and fast cinnamon roll recipe from Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which is the perfect way to celebrate just about any day, no special occasion necessary. I added crushed fresh raspberries to the cream cheese icing to add a bit of pink and sweeten the deal even more. 

Happy Galentine’s and Valentine’s Day to you all!  (more…)

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Date and Tamarind Loaf

Date and Tamarind Loaf | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

When I flipped through Nik Sharma’s new cookbook, Season, the Date and Tamarind Loaf struck me with an air of comfortable familiarity. I’d never had this particular dessert before, but the exotic ingredients are some that I adore. I was introduced to tamarind from my husband, whose family is from Trinidad, where this fruit appears in many foods. Tamarind is sticky and sour and used in all kinds of dishes from sweet desserts to savory Indian chutneys and stews. If you have never seen or used tamarind before, I have created an instagram video to show you how to go about it. You can always use the paste or even pureed tamarind, but it is always fun to start with the real fruit. When I read that Nik’s inspiration for this cake was a sweet chutney, I had to make it and that my family would find it comforting.

If you are not familiar with Nik’s work, I do hope you will check out his book. It is stunningly beautiful visually (he has a photography style that is all his own), but he is also a master at telling his story, which is both smart and compelling. The food is the main event, but the book is really so much more. (more…)

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Caramelized White Chocolate Peach Scones

Caramelized White Chocolate Peach Scones from ZoeBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I rarely bake scones, since my son was deemed the scone expert in the family. But, I had a craving and he was busy being a teenager, so I set off to make these caramelized white chocolate and peach scones myself. He came home and told me I did a nice job, so that is really all the endorsement you should require to know these are worthy. 😉 The peaches sitting on my counter were ripe, but not busting open with juice, so they were just right for adding to the scone. You want them to have flavor and be ripe, but still have some body, so they don’t turn to mush when you mix them into the dough. Typically I’m not a huge white chocolate fan, but I’ve been on a white chocolate caramelizing kick and thought it would be a lovely match for the peaches. Caramelizing white chocolate give it a bit of a nutty edge that it otherwise lacks and makes it way more flavorful and interesting. Caramelizing the white chocolate is something that requires a touch of patience, so I recommend doing it with a glass of rose wine (not so much that you forget to stir the chocolate) and settle into the kitchen for a bit.

You can watch me caramelize the chocolate and make the scones in my instagram video(more…)

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