Chocolate Glazed Praline Cheesecake with Candied Hazelnuts

Chocolate glazed praline cheesecake with candied hazelnuts | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

There are certain things that happen in a professional kitchen that strike me as magic. They seem unmanageably gorgeous and too difficult to attempt at home, but usually with a bit of guidance anyone can do it. These hazelnut candies are on the list. They look like delicate jewels, standing impossibly tall and thin. They are the perfect accessory to a sleek chocolate covered praline cheesecake and not at all difficult to make.

This cake is about as smooth and rich as is possible. To flavor the cheesecake I used a product by love n’ bake, which is just ground praline made into a paste. You can replace it with nutella (for even more chocolate) or even peanut butter (go smooth for this). The trick to the texture is baking in a water bath at a low temperature to prevent the cake from baking too fast.

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Chocolate Blackout Cake + How to Frost a Cake Video

Chocolate Blackout Cake | Photo by Zoë François

Over the holiday break I traveled with my family to Brooklyn to visit my mother. A little respite from the winter wonderland of Minneapolis. I packed all my on-the-town shoes, in varying degrees of heels for walking through museums, dining out and seeing shows. My husband checked and rechecked the NY forecast and weather.com promised the most we’d see was 1/2-inch of snow, which would melt before it ever hit the pavement. By the end of our first full day in NY there was a complete whiteout and some of the subways were cancelled due to the blizzard. This NEVER happens. Our second day was spent shopping for winter boots, something all Minnesotans have plenty of and do not need to spend our vacations shopping for. But, the snow was now up to the boys’ knees and my suede heels were no longer as chic. The next morning we were quite happily trapped in Brooklyn by the snow. We put on our new boots and forged our way to the only open restaurant for breakfast and then watched movies all day, it was relaxing and felt quite luxurious after working so hard these past months.

My mom’s Brooklyn garden during our visit

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Crazy-Good Chocolate Brownies with Mint Ice Cream! (A Giveaway from King Arthur Flour!) WINNERS PICKED!

Chocolate brownie topped with blackberries | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

These brownies have secrets! I baked them, passed them out to my family, my neighbors and my friends to see what they thought. I didn’t say anything, just asked for their honest opinions and this is what I got… “they are so RICH,” “beyond decadent,” “Amazing,” “Great, Can I have another one?” (he is 9) and on and on. Not a bad review in the bunch. No one guessed that they were Gluten-Free and from a King Arthur Flour mix. Yep, two things I rarely play with are gluten-free desserts and mixes. The reason for this tasty little experiment has to do with a young boy I met in upstate NY when I was teaching classes at the Battenkill Kitchen. He suggested that I make them and I couldn’t refuse. I added some dark chocolate ganache, blackberries and possibly the best Mint Leaf Ice Cream I’ve ever had.  Gluten-free or not this is one fabulous dessert!

I’ll start with my ice cream which actually tastes like fresh mint, because that is exactly what it is made with. No hyped up extracts that resemble Trident Spearmint Gum, just natural, summery mint.

*King Arthur Giveaway details below!

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Chocolate Torte for Passover!

Chocolate torte | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I baked this cake for my dear friend Jen’s 40th Birthday. Just a private little torte for one, or 5 if she decided to share with her family. She’d had a lavish soiree at D’Amico Kitchen and phenomenal cupcakes from my favorite Minneapolis bakery, The Salty Tart. On the quiet Tuesday of Jen’s actual birthday she needed a cake. Her favorite sweet combination is chocolate and peanut butter. I decided to combine my devil’s food with a peanut butter buttercream icing. Because Passover is on my mind I tried my devil’s food recipe with matzo meal and it is a revelation, I may even prefer it and that is saying something! Matzo meal is something I usually only have on hand this time of year, but I may start to keep it in my pantry just for this recipe.

To get the evenly spaced stripes on the cake I used a cake decorating comb, which allows you to fancify your torte quickly and easily.

Other Favorite Passover Desserts:

Chocolate Caramel Matzo

Haystack Macaroons

Fruit Jellies

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