Christmas Croquembouche

Christmas Croquembouche | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

A croquembouche (kroke-em-boosh) is a tower of profiteroles (cream puffs) stuck together with a thin layer of crisp caramel, which gives the dessert its name, “crocque em bouche” or “crunches in the mouth.” This dramatic pile of puffs is typically served at weddings, but I’ve taken liberties and find it a worthy dessert for any big occasion. A Christmas Croquembouche seems like the perfect way to celebrate this holiday season. The puffs are made of choux paste and are filled with mango pastry cream, which isn’t a flavor you might think of for a Christmas dessert, but it is such a wonderful contrast to the sweet of the caramel. When you break into the cream puffs you’ll find the rich, creamy golden filling.  Just to jazz it up and to continue the holiday theme I added snowflake sugar cookies that I made with an olive oil sugar cookie recipe from my friend Sarah Kieffer’s book, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book, which is one of my favorite cookbooks. Then I spun some sugar into fine threads and wrapped it around the tower of puffs in a garland.

You can watch me make this Christmas Croquembouche in my Instagram video. (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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Contest Winning Coconut Cookies

Contest Winning Coconut Cookies | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

These Contest Winning Coconut Cookies are from the Great Minnesota Cookie Book by Rick Nelson and Lee Svitak Dean. I often bake from books written by other bakers I admire, but sometimes inspiration comes, not from the professionals, but from our neighbors.  The recipes they grew up baking, from their family traditions, have been time tested and in this case, have won first prize in the Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest. That is what this book is all about; real people, baking their hearts out and winning prizes. I love Mounds Bar candies (one of my favorite Halloween candy), which this cookie was inspired by, so this one grabbed my attention. I have a coconut macaroon recipe that is in constant rotation at the holidays, but I am always looking for something new to add to my repertoire. This recipe is super simple and full of coconut goodness. Rick Nelson graciously gave me permission to share the recipe from the book (Snowball Clippers recipe submitted by Becky Varone) with you and you can watch me make them in my instagram video.

I’ve had lots of requests for vegan recipes and I thought this one would be a perfect and easy one to make both gluten-free and vegan, so I have added my notes on how to do that.  (more…)

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Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake

Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

For those of you who have followed my blog since 2007, you’ll know I am a tremendous fan of Dorie Greenspan. I’ve considered her a mentor in my own career as a chef and cookbook writer. She is the absolute top of the game and I look forward to every book she puts out with bated breath. Everyday Dorie is her brand new book and I dove in the second I clawed it out of the packaging. As is my way, I flipped straight to the Desserts section and was instantly seduced by the opening image of this Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake with cream cheese frosting. I’ve never made a cake with parsnip, but imagined it would be the sophisticated cousin to Carrot Cake, which is one of my go-to cakes. I was not wrong, it is just as satisfying and comforting as the carrot version, but it is all its own flavor and delicious. It is perfect with the tangy-sweet cream cheese frosting and tart candied cranberry garnish. You can watch me make Dorie’s cake in my instagram videos and she has graciously permitted me to share the recipe with you.

Triple-Layer Parsnip Cranberry Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François (more…)

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Buttermilk Pumpkin Streusel Pie

buttermilk pumpkin streusel pie | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

I discovered Sister Pie by Lisa Ludwinski and this Buttermilk Pumpkin Streusel Pie, on instagram, where I find so much great inspiration. One of the first things I discovered about Lisa and her bakers is that they dance in the kitchen. These are my people! This pie cemented my admiration. It is all the things I love in a pumpkin pie and more. The pumpkin filling is not too sweet, because of the tang of buttermilk and it is combined with a crunchy streusel made with pepitas and buckwheat. It is a combination of traditional and uniquely Sister Pie. If you have the good fortune of being in Detroit, you should visit their shop, but until then, get the book, it’s a gem.

You can watch me make this pie in my instagram video and Lisa generously shared the recipe us below.* (more…)

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Peanut Butter Cup Meringue Cookies

Peanut Butter Cup Meringue Cookies | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Sometimes you come upon greatness from the oddest paths. When I opened Rebecca Firth’s The Cookie Book, I landed on this Peanut Butter Cup Meringue Cookies recipe, not because of the gorgeous photo (or my absolute love of meringue), which are both strong enough reasons, but for the chapter title, called Jazz Hands. For anyone who knows my instagram stories, you may have seen me dancing around my kitchen. What you may not know is that I grew up in a dance studio. My mom has had the studio in VT since I was two years old. Jazz Hands were a real thing in my world. Something I associate with my childhood and trips to NYC to see A Chorus Line, no less than 5 times. So, when I saw the chapter and the photo of these Meringue Cookies, I really had no choice but to make them. They are a delight and hit the flavor and texture profiles just right. They are just the right balance of sweet and salty, like a peanut butter cup candy, but with the ethereal quality I love about meringue.

You can see me create these cookies and maybe see my Jazz Hands in my Instagram video(more…)

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