Homemade Marshmallows

marshmallows | ZoeBakes (2 of 4)

I really, really wanted to start this post by bitching about the weather. Something my poor family has to endure for much of the winter. But, I’ve decided to rise above the whining-chatter in my head and embrace the weather. It is easy today, at a balmy 42°F. A small, but welcome comfort after an epic freeze. Instead of complaining about the cold, I made hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows. It reminds me of being a kid, when I loved winter and playing outside. There is just something magical about the puff of a marshmallow and how it floats on top of hot chocolate, melting just a little to make a layer of sweet fluff. Totally comforting. Nothing beats that, except now I prefer my hot chocolate with a shot of whiskey and my marshmallows scented with a touch of mint or vanilla or even cardamom.

Last week I was gifted cardamom scented marshmallows by Lee, who owns l.c.finn’s Extracts. Homemade marshmallows are a brilliant idea and one I have never shared on the site. I’ve always made marshmallows by whipping egg whites and then suspending them with sugar syrup and gelatin until they are light as air and chewy. I adore the texture, but I can also detect the faintest taste of the egg white. This doesn’t bother me if I am layering the homemade marshmallows with other bold flavors. But, when I am going for an adornment for hot chocolate, I prefer a recipe that has no egg. This recipe for homemade marshmallows is just a combination of sugars and gelatin, simple as that. You can keep the marshmallows pure or play with flavored extracts and fun colors. They store for weeks in a dry spot, which is super easy this time of year in MN. Anytime you come home after braving the cold, just make up some hot cocoa and float a bit of happiness on top.

I am using sheet gelatin in my recipe, but I have also given the instructions for using the powdered variety. You can watch me use both types of gelatin in my instagram video. I got used to using sheets when I worked in restaurants and just find it easier to deal with. The sheets also have less of that kindergarten-glue flavor. You can find the gelatin sheets on Amazon if you want to give them a try.

You can watch me make the marshmallows in my instagram video.

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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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No-Bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars

No-bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars | Zoe Bakes photos by Zoë François

These No-bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars are a candy and a brownie all in one. There is no baking, so they are a perfect holiday treat to go along with all the cookies you’ll be trading at your cookie swaps this season. I created this recipe for the wedding of a chef, Jorge Guzman, who wanted a Mexican inspired dessert plate to be served to his guests, in addition to a cake. I kind of fell in love with them and when Bake From Scratch invited me to create some cookies for their Holiday Cookie Issue, I knew instantly that this would be in the mix. The crunch comes from both the toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and feuilletine flakes (which are paper thin cookies that are broken up into what can best be described as dessert-cereal). The pepitas and feuilletine flakes are folded into a chocolate and hazelnut mixture, set firm, covered with ganache and then decorated with more pepitas and edible gold leaf. The result is a sophisticated chocolate bar that is regal enough for a wedding, a holiday party or just a midnight snack. You can watch me make these bars in my instagram video.

Scroll to the bottom of the post to see the Pinon Mexican Wedding Cookies, Chestnut and Honey Madeleines, Caramelized White Chocolate Sables with Sea Salt and and Hazelnut Spice Speculaas I developed for this Special Holiday Cookie Issue.

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Japanese Cotton Soft Cheesecake

Don’t be fooled by the picture, this is a cheesecake, not a sponge cake. I have seen Japanese Cotton Soft Cheesecake all over the internet for years, but hadn’t come around to trying it until now. My fellow instagram baker, Silvia Colloca, just sent me her latest cookbook, Love Laugh Bake!, and she has a version of this internet sensation made with mascarpone. The name, cotton soft, refers to the texture of the cake, which is far lighter and almost soufflé-like compared to the New York or custard style cheesecakes in my repertoire. Silvia also used fruit in the batter, so there is a layer of berries that rest along the bottom, creating a base in this otherwise crustless cheesecake. In her book she uses blueberries, but I had raspberries on hand and they worked perfectly. The only other change I made was to use gluten-free flour (there is very little flour in the recipe, so it adapts without compromise), since I was bringing this dessert to a party and the host is gluten-free. It was a big hit and I will be making this cheesecake again and again.

You can watch me make this cheesecake in my instagram video and Silvia has generously shared the recipe below.

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Date and Tamarind Loaf

Date and Tamarind Loaf | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

When I flipped through Nik Sharma’s new cookbook, Season, the Date and Tamarind Loaf struck me with an air of comfortable familiarity. I’d never had this particular dessert before, but the exotic ingredients are some that I adore. I was introduced to tamarind from my husband, whose family is from Trinidad, where this fruit appears in many foods. Tamarind is sticky and sour and used in all kinds of dishes from sweet desserts to savory Indian chutneys and stews. If you have never seen or used tamarind before, I have created an instagram video to show you how to go about it. You can always use the paste or even pureed tamarind, but it is always fun to start with the real fruit. When I read that Nik’s inspiration for this cake was a sweet chutney, I had to make it and that my family would find it comforting.

If you are not familiar with Nik’s work, I do hope you will check out his book. It is stunningly beautiful visually (he has a photography style that is all his own), but he is also a master at telling his story, which is both smart and compelling. The food is the main event, but the book is really so much more. (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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