Chocolate Chip Cookies 101

Chocolate Chip Cookies 101 | Everything you need to make the best chocolate chip cookies ever. | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

When I was at the University of Vermont studying theater, studio art, English lit, philosophy, photography, Latin, art history and everything else a Liberal Arts Degree offers, I decided to throw a business class into the mix. Truth is, I was just fulfilling a math credit requirement. I learned how to balance a checkbook and some basic—very basic—accounting, which went something like this … don’t spend more than you make! Then the professor had us write a business plan. It was the mid-1980s and I grew up eating Mrs Field’s, David’s and Famous Amos cookies, which were the “gourmet” cookies of the day. While in college I was also the “baker” at a favorite breakfast joint in Winooski, VT and spent my free time baking to relax after classes. So, I wrote my business plan based on a fictitious cookie company called Zoë’s Cookies. I can’t remember how I did in the class, but six months later I was standing on Church Street in Burlington, VT, selling my cookies from a hand pushed cart.

This post is your chocolate chip cookie primer: the result of what I learned making those cookies and the countless batches I’ve baked in the 32 years since then. This post offers a really great chocolate chip cookie recipe, but it is also a Chocolate Chip Cookies 101. I want to explain what the ingredients do to a cookie and how baking can change them. You can tweak your cookies to be just how you like them using my cookie guide towards the bottom of the post. (more…)

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Hot Chocolate Layer Cake

Hot Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This Hot Chocolate Layer Cake is the perfect cold weather dessert, although it would be equally as excellent in the summer or spring or fall. You get the picture, it’s great for any occasion. With hot chocolate as its inspiration, it has layers of Devil’s food, slathered with a deep, dark, luscious chocolate icing, that is like whipped ganache, but better, then I topped the whole thing in homemade marshmallows. I am not a big fan of bagged marshmallows, which taste like sweet, dried out sponges, but the homemade version are amongst my favorite treats. When they are toasted, with a torch, of course, they are soft, melty and delicious. You can flavor them with anything from vanilla to cardamom, or even swirl in chocolate.

I made this cake twice, once with my tried and true Devil’s food and then again for my friend, Stephanie Meyer’s birthday. Stephanie (Fresh Tart) doesn’t eat gluten, so I made the cake with a gluten-free flour blend and it came out just great. See me put the hot chocolate cake together in my instagram video and recipe below. (more…)

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Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding

Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

I think this Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding may be the ultimate comfort food. I always have bread on the counter. Since my new book, Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, came out, I have several loaves going at a time. What to do with all the partially eaten loaves? Cube it up, soak it in a rich custard and bake it. It could not be any easier and the results are warm and so satisfying. Bread pudding is one of the those desserts that also doubles as breakfast, like pie and cake! 🙂 No, really, it is full of eggs and toasty bread and this one just happens to have bits of chocolate and chunks of chestnuts. If you were to serve it with a dollop of creme fraiche instead of ice cream, it would be a simple and elegant Christmas breakfast. Add the ice cream and it is a homey, but decadent dessert.

When I worked in restaurants my bread pudding was always one of the most popular desserts on the menu. Hope you enjoy it!

Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

You can watch me make this bread pudding in my instagram video. Recipe below. (more…)

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The Gold Standard Devil’s Food Bundt Cake

The Gold Standard Devil's Food Bundt Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This week has been epic and nothing short of a cake draped in gold seemed right to celebrate all that it brought. It started with a trip to New York to join my friend, Kevin Masse, and the folks at TheFeedFeed, for two events. But, before the official business even started we gathered at Gramercy Tavern to visit with the pastry chef, Miro Uskokovic, and tour his extraordinary kitchen. It was a coming together of some of my favorite bakers on instagram: Erin McDowell (The Fearless Baker), Rebecca Firth (The Cookie Book), Brian Hart Hoffman (Bake from Scratch Magazine) and Erin Clarkson (The Cloudy Kitchen). We took over the pastry prep kitchen for a few minutes to try our hand at shaping the burger buns for service the next day. There was more laughing than rolling, but it was inspiring just to be in that space. I forget how thrilling a commercial kitchen can be. That evening was capped off by seeing David Lebovitz at his book signing for his book, L’Appart. He is the gold standard of writers, bakers and bloggers, this book is as smart and funny as he is.

The next day I sat on a panel of cookie bakers at TheFeedFeed studio and we discussed our love of all things cookies. This is my life! Pinch me. Spending time with folks who love to bake was such a joy. Rebecca Firth and Erin Clarkson baked us all cookies and I got to visit with Jessie Sheehan, whose angel food cake I made several months ago and it remains one of my favorite posts. It is the yang to this Devil’s food’s ying.

The Gold Standard Devil's Food Bundt Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The next day my greatest baking wish came true. I am getting choked up as I write this. I baked with Dorie Greenspan. We each made a recipe from our new books for a Live IG event at Thefeedfeed (you can watch it here). This date was organized by Kevin Masse and it was the most satisfying and joyous event of my career. Dorie’s work is what I hold as the highest mark of cookbooks and her newest is no exception. She made a Salmon Rillettes from Everyday Dorie and I made a cracker lavash and round braided challah from Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day. We baked, laughed and ate; I left that studio beaming. Dorie is humble, kind, generous, and exudes joy, the baking date of my dreams.

Mauviel Copper Pan Giveaway:

As if this week wasn’t glorious enough, I also hit a milestone on Instagram that is worth a celebration of its own. As of yesterday I have 100,000 Instagram followers and as a GIANT thank you, I am partnering with Mauviel to do a giveaway of TWO Mauviel Copper Round Pan, 8″ Bronze Handle. This is an instagram giveaway, so please go to my instagram page and find The Gold Standard Devil’s Food Bundt Cake photo for more details on how to enter.

And, last, but not least, it’s my Birthday!! The Gold Standard Devil’s Food Bundt Cake is simple, but one of my very favorites. I usually pair the cake with cream cheese frosting, but I wanted something a bit more elegant to mark these occasions, so I poured a shiny ganache over the top and draped the top with gold. You can watch me make this cake and enter to win on my instagram account(more…)

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Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Chocolate Mousse was one of the very first recipes I tried to make, way back when I was a middle schooler. Making a quintessentially French dish was an assignment for my French class, so I set off with a copy of Time Life Books: classic French cooking and did my best. Which wasn’t very good. Actually, it was terrible. The recipe called for coffee, which at the time, before I became an avid consumer of the beverage, was a confusing ingredient. Did they mean coffee grounds or brewed coffee. Well, I chose very wrong and went with the grounds, probably because I didn’t know how to brew coffee. It was like eating chocolate with sand in it. Not good. I made it again with brewed coffee and it was a revelation. The texture was like silk, the taste of the chocolate was so rich and luscious, unlike anything I’d every eaten. It was like a very distant cousin to chocolate pudding, but altogether superior. I was so proud that I’d made something this delicious. It was one of the first times I was excited about a school assignment and it set me off on more baking adventures.

When Fanny sent me her book, I flipped through it, saw her Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake and I knew it was the one I would make. This recipe is traditional in that it uses uncooked eggs; whipping both the whites and the yolks separately and folding them into the chocolate. The result is glorious. For those who are squeamish about using raw eggs in a recipe, you can find pasteurized eggs, which are deemed safe to eat without cooking. I used fresh eggs from my neighbor’s chickens and it was not only exquisite, but I am also still here to talk about it.

Fanny’s recipe was pure and simple, which is a lovely thing in a day of over complicated recipes, but I decided to add a bit of coffee flavor to the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake, to recreate the flavor of my childhood memory.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

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Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Bundt Cake

Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Bundt Cake | ZoeBakes by Zoë François

I made this Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Bundt Cake with my friend Andrew Zimmern last year. You can watch us working pumpkin magic in the kitchen together in the video below. I recently made a pumpkin pie and roasted several pumpkins and squash, so I have lots of great gourd puree on hand and this is one of my all time favorite cakes, so I wanted to share it with you. The cake I made with Andrew has a rather thin line of chocolate streusel and I went for a bolder chocolate layer this time. That is reflected in the recipe and directions below. You can roast your own pumpkin or use canned, either is terrific for this easy and tasty cake.

Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Bundt Cake | ZoeBakes by Zoë François (more…)

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