Pineapple Polenta Upside-Down Cake!

Polenta Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Recently I participated in a benefit auction for one of my favorite charities, the Children’s Heartlink. We auctioned off a “celebrity” chef bake-off to be held at General Mills test kitchen. Assembled were a team of my favorite pastry chefs in the Twin Cities as the coaches and some heavy hitting celebrity judges. Dr. Jim Rice bought the event and invited 20 of his friends to join him for a great evening. The pastry chef coaches came up with recipes, were allowed to talk the team through the process, but weren’t allowed to touch anything. My team was a blast, they had a great time and produced a gorgeous dessert, which got them second prize!

My friend and exquisite pastry chef, Michelle Gayer’s dessert won the gold! She is the chef/owner of the Salty Tart in Minneapolis (co-author of Charlie Trotter’s Desserts) and her dessert kicked A–! It was a pineapple polenta upside-down cake with caramelized macadamia nuts. I meant to ask her for the recipe, but she was off to Disney World with her family. Well, great minds think alike and it turns out that Johnny Iuzzini has a dessert that is just like it in his new book Dessert FourPlay. While I wait to get Michelle’s recipe I decided to give Johnny’s a go. Two world class pastry chefs’ version of a classic!

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Saffron Panna Cotta (From one of my favorite new books!)

Saffron Panna Cotta Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

My husband is going to have a fit when he realizes that I’m talking about his diet on my website. It really does have some relevance to this post, so I hope he will forgive me! He went to the doctor recently and was basically told he needed to cut back on butter, cream and puff pastry. Hahaha. Can you imagine how a request like that goes over in my house. We both stared at the contents of our refrigerator and sighed. After the shock wore off we decided to approach his doctor’s advice as a challenge. How can we continue to satisfy our love of eating and cooking, but do it in a way that fits his new diet. I immediately saw it as an opportunity to buy more cookbooks.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift from the Splendid Table just came out with a fantastic book How to Eat Supper. It has encouraged us to try new things and rethink some of our classic recipes. Much like the philosophy Jeff and I have written about in our book about bread, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, they use for cooking. The food we cook should be fresh, made with great ingredients, fit into our busy schedules and above all else taste great! They deliver on all fronts and I just love this book!

One of the desserts I’ve tried from it is Lynne’s saffron panna cotta recipe. Read More

Basics: Homemade Rolled Fondant! part two

More than half of the cakes I do for clients are covered with fondant. It is gorgeous, sleek and can be simple or ornate.  Over the years I’ve tried just about every product out there and have loved some and loathed others. Some are easy to use but have no taste feel like chewing gum in your mouth. Others are melt in your mouth and have a pleasant flavor, but are nearly impossible to work with unless the conditions are just right. Not to mention the cost. For those of you who have worked with it you know it is very spendy, as we say here in MN. So make your own and get the flavor, the texture and the price you like. It is very easy, albeit a tad messy, but most of all fun! Read More

Basics: Génoise and Homemade Rolled Fondant! part one.

Génoise Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I’m gearing up for my one year blog-iversary next week and I’m making myself a cake. On the way to that celebratory occasion, I’ve made a few of the basic elements in the pastry kitchen: génoise and homemade rolled fondant. As Sherry Yard says in the opening of her génoise recipe from The Secrets of Baking, this simple cake is a test of pastry chefs technical prowess. It is used in competitions and in restaurant job interviews to see if you were paying attention in culinary school. Génoise is a basic cake used for weddings, birthdays, jellyrolls, petits fours and many more classic desserts. I love this delicious, light and versatile cake when it is baked well. You can add flavored syrup to it without it disintegrating into mush, it holds up to buttercream, ganache, fondant and anything else you can think of. It may seem old school, but I think génoise really is essential and can be easy if you have the right recipe and the proper technique. Read More

Wild Blueberry Tart

Wild Blueberry Tart Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

The end of August brings a shift in everything from the weather, to the fruit and our schedules. This week we went to meet my sons’ teachers and visit their classrooms, a day filled with excitement and a touch of dread. They are excited to reunite with all of the kids they haven’t seen over the summer, but the freedom of their/our summer schedule seems to be coming to an abrupt end. All of a sudden we are more conscious of their bed time and reluctantly reconnecting with the basic properties of writing a sentence. Oh, so much is forgotten in the heat of summer. Our carefree and shoe free days are ending, as is berry season. Read More