French Silk Pie

French Silk Pie | ZoeBakes Photo by Zoë François

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. 

You can watch me make Shauna’s pie in my instagram video and she graciously shared the recipe, which is below.

French Silk Pie | ZoeBakes Photo by Zoë François (more…)

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Pear Panna Cotta Cake

Pear Panna Cotta Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

When I was growing up my paternal grandmother made a dessert she called “Swedish Cream” on Christmas day. It was rich beyond imagining (at least when I was a child) and its arrival meant the festivities were coming to a close, because we’d all slip into a Christmas Swedish Cream dream state and the adults dozing off usually followed. Much, much later in life, while at culinary school, I realized it was a sour cream panna cotta that she’d been making all those years. My Pear Panna Cotta Cake is inspired by my Granny’s dessert, but I went a little pastry chef with it. I combined Swedish Cream with a poached pear puree and then topped it with a layer of the poaching liquid delicately set into a Jelly with gelatin and put it on a base of almond joconde sponge cake. The dessert is multiple layers and it takes a wee bit of time, but it is actually super easy to make. You can also stop with one or two layers if that’s all time allows. To decorate the sides I sliced pears on a mandoline and dried them in the oven, which couldn’t be easier and they look so stunning. In her memory I will carry on my Granny’s tradition of ending the holiday meal with a smooth, rich, delicate Pear Panna Cotta Cake. 

You can watch me make the Pear Panna Cotta Cake in my instagram video

Pear Panna Cotta Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François (more…)

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Anthropologie Catalog Dessert Recipes: (Poached Pear Tart, Creme Brûlée, Apple Crisp)

Fall Fruit Tart | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

It is with delight that I share with you the desserts I created for the current Anthropologie Catalog, which you can find in the stores and on their website. They invited me to Philadelphia to bake and style the desserts and I had an absolute blast. It is a funny world I occupy, most of it spent alone in my kitchen, virtually interacting with all the wonderfully talented folks I’ve met online. So, when presented with the opportunity to work with the creative force that puts out the Anthropologie catalog, it took me less than an instant to reply with an enthusiastic, YES! And, as if that weren’t enough of an honor, they put my tart on the cover (below). Mind Blown. You can read the lovely piece they wrote about me and you’ll find the recipes for The Poached Pear Tart, Creme Brûlée and Apple Cranberry Crisp below. 

The videos for all of the desserts can be found on my @ZoeBakes Instagram account.

Anthropologie Catalog Tart Photo | ZoeBakes photo by Amy Batog (more…)

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Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry

Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This fruit tart with homemade puff pastry is made with nothing more than ripe pluots (apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, any other stone fruit or berries will also do), lemon zested sugar and a sheet of puff pastry. Super elegant in its simplicity. The tart is from Rory O’Connell’s new book, Cook Well Eat Well. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting him during my epic tour of Ireland last week, hosted by Kerrygold butter. More to come about that trip, but let me back up a minute to 1998, when I was working at an Irish restaurant in Minneapolis, The Local. It was an Irish pub on one side and fine dining on the other, with a kitchen run by the James Beard Nominated chef, Steven Brown. I was the pastry chef and knew a lot about baking, but nothing of Irish food. I went to the book store and bought The Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle Allen, published in 1977. That cookbook was by my salvation and influenced nearly every dessert I created in the kitchen that year. Last week I went to Ballymaloe and met Myrtle Allen’s children, Fern and Darina, who took over the restaurant and created a cookery school with Darina’s brother, Rory. I am not typically one to fan-girl over celebrities, but being in the presence of these folks was a dream come true. You can see pictures from my visit to the Ballymaloe cookery school, where Darina gave us a spirited and brisk (meaning I couldn’t keep up with her) tour of the exquisite gardens, farm and school. Darina is like the Alice Waters of Ireland and has created the Irish food scene, by educating just about every chef in the country and beyond. If you are at all interested in taking cooking classes as an enthusiast of home cooking or potential professional, I couldn’t recommend this experience more highly. Here is a link to the school!

After our tour of Ballymaloe, we settled in for a cooking class with Rory. Not only is he an accomplished chef, a TV personality and a terrific teacher, but he is one of the most charming and lovely people I have ever met. This happens to be true for everyone we met on our journey through the countryside of Ireland and in Dublin. What a welcoming and generous people. Rory made us several dishes, all quite simple, made with local, fresh ingredients and absolutely delicious. He also gave us a copy of his new book, which is where I found this Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry. I don’t always make my own puff pastry, but it really is worlds above the store bought and not difficult to make, if you have a decent amount of time to devote to it. I will show you how in my Instagram video or you can attend the cookery school in Ballymaloe! Rory would have walked through the gorgeous gardens to pick perfectly ripe fruit, but I had to settle for what’s available in my local farmers market or at the grocery. I went with pluots, because they were beautiful and ripe. They are a combination of plums and apricots; the flavor is sweet, but also tangy, and they are JUICY. Depending on the fruit you use, you can increase or decrease the sugar.

The puff pastry was made with Kerrygold Unsalted Butter. This is a recipe that is four ingredients, flour, salt, water and lots of butter, so use a butter you’re in love with. I walked in the emerald fields, over looking the sea with the cows who produce the milk that goes into Kerrygold. The grass and the dairy cows are revered above all else in Ireland. I heard this from the farmers, but also the taxi driver who took me to the airport. I commented about how lucky we were it didn’t rain the entire time we were there and he said, “but we need the rain for our grasses. Without it we wouldn’t have the beautiful green lands and the milk wouldn’t taste so good.” Seriously, it couldn’t have been better scripted. The cows grazing on those green fields produces a golden butter that tastes good enough to eat alone. The butter in Ireland (and all of Europe) has a higher fat content than the butter made here in the states, so the texture is creamy and luscious. It truly makes for a superior puff pastry, so I highly recommend you find some. This is one of those recipes where it will make a big impact. 

You can watch me make this tart in my Instagram video. (more…)

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Churros with Chocolate Sauce

I’ve never made Churros with Chocolate Sauce before today! There aren’t many desserts that I have enjoyed at a restaurant, that I didn’t immediately come home and make. How has it taken me this long to realize how easy and delicious they are to make at home. The Churros with Chocolate Sauce recipes from Husbands That Cook, the new book by Ryan Alvarez and Adam Merrin are fantastic and couldn’t be easier. They make a very simple pate a choux (same dough used for eclairs, profiteroles and croquembouche), which is then fried until crisp. The dough itself is not sweetened and they even suggest serving it with a savory soup, which is brilliant. Given my love affair with sweets, I dredged mine in cinnamon sugar and paired it with their lovely, thick, rich, decadent hot chocolate sauce and a bit of cajeta I had on hand.

You can watch me make this lovely recipe from Husbands That Cook in my Instagram video and they graciously let me share the recipe with you here. (more…)

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Rhubarb Berry Crumble

Rhubarb Berry Crumble | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

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. My dad delivered rhubarb this weekend, on the same day I received Sarah Copeland’s dreamy new book, Every Day is Saturday. Her recipes are simple enough for Tuesday dinner, but festive enough to serve at a weekend party. I went immediately for the Rhubarb Berry Crumble, because it is one of my most treasured desserts. In fact, if I had to pick ONE favorite dessert, I would say anything rhubarb and baked into a crumble is always a winner. Sarah’s version is just the right amount of sweet, to take the edge off the puckery pink vegetable, but still tart enough to be true to rhubarb’s best quality. Her crumble is buttery and rich, which is a perfectly balanced partnership with the filling. My only issue with the recipe is that it wasn’t large enough to have leftovers for breakfast. Luckily, she gives instructions for making a bigger batch, so you can have it for dessert or breakfast or both! 

I made a batch of vanilla ice cream and swirled some raspberry jam into it for the top. Whipped cream or just a drizzle of cream would work beautifully as well. You can watch me make this Rhubarb Berry Crumble in my instagram video and recipe below. (more…)

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