My Kitchen Remodel (Before and After)

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François
Photo by Wing Ta of Canary Grey for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

In 2013 my husband and I bought a house. It’s a gob-smacking piece of 1902 architecture with ornate woodwork, the likes of which I’d never seen before. It was built by T.P. Healy, who made a name for himself in Minneapolis building homes for the flour barons and other folks making it big in the milling town.

Our house was once a grand gesture of a time of wheat prosperity, but it fell on hard times, as did the country, when the depression hit and it eventually became a boarding house and then apartments. Luckily for us and for the preservation of history, the house was kept in pretty good condition, considering the number of people who ended up owning it and living there.

By the time we bought the house it was broken up into 4 apartments, which was honestly part of the appeal. Not that we intended to rent the apartments out, in fact, it is only zoned as a duplex, so two of them were illegal. The draw was the 4 kitchens that came with all those apartments. I had visions of having a “family” kitchen and then using one of the others as a studio to work in.

For the first several months that’s exactly what I did. At first it was awesome, I cooked meals on the first floor where I had a great gas range, ran up to the second floor, which had the best oven in the house to bake and then to the third floor kitchen to photograph, because the light is AWESOME up there. This was all good fun, then I realized that I was doing about 12 trips up and down the stairs per recipe. Quite a workout plan, but not exactly efficient for my work day.

None of the apartment kitchens really fit the bill, but as a combined effort they were proving less effective than I’d fantasized. This became abundantly clear while a team of 6 people tried to shoot the photos for The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. We all jogged up and down, which I’d come to think as normal, but they moaned as they baked on one floor and shot on another. The photo shoot also took days longer than expected as a result. The next week I had an architect, Gregg Hackett, drawing up plans for one kitchen that would satisfy all the needs. A few months later Blue construction moved in and built it.

my kitchen remodel before and after | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

We were really lucky to have the original blueprints (above) from 1902 to work from and we tried to put the kitchen back to where it had been originally. This meant taking out a bedroom and bathroom to make space. The pictures below are a before and after of that renovation.

My kitchen has been featured in Fine Cooking Magazine’s Behind the Kitchen Door, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s Home Tour and Lake Society Magazine. 

Below you will see a before and after tour of my kitchen remodel. My Kitchen Essentials Page has all the equipment that I use.

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Installing my new BlueStar Rangetop and Prizer Hood – Kitchen Remodel

Zoe and BlueStar zb 01

Last year I bought a new house. It had 4 kitchens. I thought I would use one for cooking with my family, one for my “studio/work space” and the others were, well I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. There is a decent explanation for all of these cooking spaces; the house was an apartment building when we bought it. My husband and I are just crazy enough to find this project an adventure.  You’ll be happy to know that we are still happily married, we continue to love the house, but the reality of having all those kitchens wasn’t nearly as romantic as I had fantasized. They were all on different floors, so if I left my favorite balloon whisk on the top floor, but I need to whip eggs on the first floor, I had to run up and down again to get it. I ended up losing 5 pounds (not a bad fitness plan) and was getting frustrated in the middle of all my recipes. I could either duplicate every piece of equipment I owned or give up the whole notion and go with one kitchen. After months of using the house as a stairmaster, we decided a single kitchen made the most sense.

I needed to choose new appliances. The ones that came with the house were from the 1960s and no longer worked as they were intended. I originally went with a 48″ Wolf rangetop and hood that I found, virtually unused, on craigslist. It really worked fine, but I wasn’t blown away with the strenth of the burners and I didn’t care for the griddle, which I never used. I always wished I had the extra burners instead. So, when I was approached by BlueStar about being part of their BlueStar Chefs program, I jumped at the chance. I wanted the kind of fire power I had when I worked in restaurant kitchens, at home. I liked the fact that it can cook the pants off the Wolf (the open burners and extra BTUs are a little bit crazy, in a good way). With all that extra power I went with a Prizer hood, which is strong enough to vent the rangetop and it even sucks the smoke from my pizza baking across the room. Since this is my home office and I like to work in a fun space, the fact that I can pick knobs in any color, well that’s just cool too.  (But, every time I pick a color from the 190 choices, my mood changes and I want a new one.) Until I can make up my mind, I’ll stick with the black, which goes with every apron I own.  Now that I have this magnificent fire beast, I’ve vowed to stretch my dinner repertoire.  Read More

Valentine Cookies and a Bright Red Scale!

Valentine cookies | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Did you know that Saint Valentine’s Day dates back to Pope Gelasius in 500AD, not the Hallmark Cards of 1910? The original holiday was a religious one, with nothing to do with romance, flowers, chocolate or red royal icing. The modern Valentine’s Day must have been recreated by a pastry chef.  It is an excuse to make sweet, pretty, heart-shaped treats. There really isn’t another time of the year when heart-shaped desserts are permissible. It’s a shame really, but Valentine’s Day owns the shape, so we must take advantage of the opportunity.

These cookies are not only pretty, but most importantly they are delicious. They are made of a lemon shortbread and decorated with a lemon icing. Often these stylized cookies give way to aesthetics and forget that the flavor still rules supreme. These are both tasty and gorgeous!

As my Valentine’s gift to you I am giving away a Bright Red Baker’s Scale! Just leave me a comment about your favorite Valentine’s Day dessert and I will pick a random winner next week.* Contest Closed! Read More

Halloween Marble Cake! …and a “Best Baking Blog” nomination

I will talk about the joys and pains (luckily there is a happy ending) of this cake, but first I want to Thank You, for it had to be you, who nominated me for the “Best Baking Blog” award from Foodbuzz. Imagine my surprise and delight to see my name on this list of wildly talented bakers:

7. Best Baking Blog:
1. Bakerella
2. Brown Eyed Baker
3. CakeSpy
4. Joy the Baker
5. ZoeBakes

If you have not yet voted for your favorite blogs I encourage you to cast your vote. Thanks!

Before I had two boys it would never have occurred to me to put spiders on a cake.  Thank god for little boys! Of course, there are deeper things that I have learned since parenting, but seeing the world through their eyes has made me happier, younger and sillier, which is such a gift. There is always their homework, cleaning rooms, taking baths, going to bed and eating spinach to keep us aware of our duties as parents, but sometimes it is about having fun. Spiders on a cake is just plain fun.

Although this cake is very simple to make, it took me two tries to get it right. That sounds more intimidating than it really is. The reason was not my fault, really. I read the recipe and thought to myself that it was WAY too much baking powder, but went ahead anyway. I figured the additional baking powder was because of the weight of the chocolate that is folded in. I mixed it up as written and when I looked in the oven as it baked it was bubbling, not something you really want to see as a cake rises. This is a classic sign of too much baking powder. If the ratio of flour and baking powder is off the leavening agent will create bubbles that are too big and the cake will end up falling due to the lack of structure. You want nice tight small bubbles to allow the cake to rise, but not too rapidly or it will collapse. Within 10 minutes I knew I should have trusted my instincts. I remade the cake with less baking powder and it turned out perfectly, the happy ending! I’ll talk more about how to use baking powder properly as I mix up the batter below. Read More

Aebleskivers! (My Baker’s Christmas Wish List continues!)

Aebleskivers Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

This fall I met Chad and his partners at the Mill City Farmer’s Market in Minneapolis. My co-author and I did a bread presentation from our book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. When I came off the stage, there was Chad and these funny round pans, which were filled with little cakey spheres. I’m not sure what pastry rock I have been living under, but this site was completely foreign to me. I had to run off to do a wedding cake that day so I couldn’t stay to see Chad’s explanation or try one of these donut/dumpling/cake/crepe like creations. The following week I went back to find him and his spheres and found out they were called aebleskivers. Here’s what I learned:

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Happy Blog-iversary Cake

This month I am celebrating so many things I felt it necessary to make myself a cake and have a party, with you! As you all know by now it is my blog-iversary, but it is also my birthday in a couple of weeks, the first anniversary of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (75,000 in print, oh my!), the election is FINALLY here and this just happens to be my 100th post! To say the least November is a BIG month for me!

The very talented and generous folks at Crooked Brook, where I get all of my chef jackets, sent me a wonderful apron (see picture below) to give away! Leave a comment and I’ll pick the winner next Sunday and send it off, just in time for Thanksgiving!

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