‘Tis the baking season and time to give gifts to your loved ones who bake pie, cake, bread, cookies and so much more. I’ve had lots of questions about my favorite baking equipment and what to get the bakers in your life. You can always find the list of what I am using in my kitchen in my “Shop” tab at the top of my website. I only post the products that I actually use and love. You’ll find a link my beloved torch below.
I’m also including some gift ideas from small businesses I love. Enjoy!
Gift Ideas from Small Businesses
The Wreath of Joy – You can DM your orders to Como Harriet Design on Instagram to get one-of-a-kind bespoke silk flower wreaths made by my good friend, Joy Summers.
Silk Oak Designs – My Mom’s leather and stone handmade necklaces can be worn as chokers (as I prefer in the kitchen) or as looser single and double strands. Visit her site to get more ideas and see the selections of designs. They’ve become the only jewelry I wear and each piece tells a story.
When I moved to Minneapolis from Vermont, I hadn’t expected to experience culture shock. I was raised mostly in New England with stints in Northern California. Somehow, those places, as far from each other as they can get on a map, are more alike than the vast land in the middle.
I understood the food of the coasts, including the pie, dominated by apple and pumpkin or even lemon meringue. But, the Midwest has a pie culture all its own. I first learned of French Silk Pie in the 1990s from a local Minneapolis newspaper’s people choice award. Every year Bakers’ Square would win “best dessert” in Minneapolis with their French Silk Pie. I was painfully aware of this because I was baking my heart out at a local restaurant and despite all my efforts, I could never touch this pie’s popularity. I did finally taste one, and IMHO, it was sweet and lacking in any real chocolate flavor, but the texture was certainly worthy of the name. Out of spite (I was young and sillier then), I never served a French Silk Pie in any restaurant I worked at and honestly, this is the VERY first one I have ever baked. It comes from the beautiful new baking book, Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland, by Shauna Sever. Not only did Shauna change my heart about this pie, but has taught me so much about the culture of baking in my own backyard. This pie is everything people loved about the one from Bakers’ Square, but is all about the deep chocolate flavor. Be sure to use a high quality, bitter chocolate (70-75% cacao) or the pie can get very sweet, FAST! In her book the pie is topped with a homemade Cool Whip, which is 100% in keeping with the traditional pie. I left the cream unstabilized and unsweetened, because I like the contrast of the sweet filling to the clean, rich cream on top, you choose which way to go, I offer both ways below. This recipe uses raw eggs, which doesn’t bother Shauna or me in the least, but if you are at all worried about eating raw egg, then buy pasteurized ones.
Do you have pie questions or need to troubleshoot your recipe? Check out my guide on how to make pie crust.
A Dutch Baby, or as I called it way back in the day (1970s), a “Puffy Pancake,” was my first real baking adventure. It was also one of my very first posts on ZoëBakes in 2007. Going back to that original post will give you a glimpse of what blogging looked like when I first started out. The photography was really rough (terrible even), but it was a brand new landscape and the idea of sharing recipes on the internet was almost magical. I’ve kept that post exactly as it was 12 years ago, as a reminder of the times and of how far we’ve come.
I wait all winter long for the rhubarb to pop up, signaling spring has arrived. Then, way too fast, the precious plants are bolting and done for the season. In a panic I pick all the rhubarb from my dad’s garden to bake it and freeze the stalks for a treat later in the year.
The title of Maida Heatter’s new book sums up why I love my job, Happiness is Baking. When I am sad, I bake! When I am celebrating, I bake! No matter where my mood starts out, I’m always carried to a place of joy as I make my way through a recipe.
Maida Heatter has lead me on so many journeys in the kitchen that they are literally countless. I have nearly all of her books and was so thrilled to find out that at the happy age of 102, she has a new one for all of us bakers to enjoy.
I went to a classic recipe, the Maida Heatter Bull’s Eye Cheesecake, because it is so striking and delicious. I believe she developed this recipe for one of her first books in 1974. The recipe stands alone and needs nothing but a plate and fork, but sometimes I just can’t leave well enough alone and I draped the whole thing in a glossy ganache.
You can watch me make the Maida Heatter Bull’s Eye Cheesecake and pour the ganache over the top for a perfectly smooth finish in my instagram videos. Maida Heatter and her publisher have graciously allowed me to share the recipe, which is below.
Oh, you know me, I love a flourish. Sometimes it’s a rose crown on a bundt cake or a ruffle of gossamer apples topping a tart or maybe, just maybe a crazy swirl of toasted meringue on anything! But, sometimes simple is best. A summer snack at the lake, a slice of cake in a lunchbox or a midnight treat with a glass of milk. Those are the cakes we’ll make at the last minute, after a long day of work, just because we want a treat and cake makes everything good. Odette Williams wrote Simple Cake, a book about those cakes; the simple ones that are pure joy. Her book is filled with lots of delicious cakes and simple toppings that are great for a special occasion, but just as good if nothing in particular is going on. This simple chocolate cake is elegant and warm and makes me want to eat all the cake.