Simple Chocolate Cake

Simple Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

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. 

I baked Odette’s Simple Chocolate Cake in a pullman pan, because I like the clean shape of the slices. I combined two of the whipped cream flavors she suggested for the cake to create a Vietnamese coffee cream, which was just the right balance of sweet and bitter. I went at the cake with a giant star tipped piping bag and then backed away and realized it needed something quiet and sleek. I just spread the whipped cream over the cake and smoothed the edges. I’m in love with this cake, it calms me. The dusting of cocoa was for drama (I just can’t help myself) and more contrast of flavor. Read More

The Gold Standard Devil’s Food Bundt Cake

The Gold Standard Devil's Food Bundt Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This week has been epic and nothing short of a cake draped in gold seemed right to celebrate all that it brought. It started with a trip to New York to join my friend, Kevin Masse, and the folks at TheFeedFeed, for two events. But, before the official business even started we gathered at Gramercy Tavern to visit with the pastry chef, Miro Uskokovic, and tour his extraordinary kitchen. It was a coming together of some of my favorite bakers on instagram: Erin McDowell (The Fearless Baker), Rebecca Firth (The Cookie Book), Brian Hart Hoffman (Bake from Scratch Magazine) and Erin Clarkson (The Cloudy Kitchen). We took over the pastry prep kitchen for a few minutes to try our hand at shaping the burger buns for service the next day. There was more laughing than rolling, but it was inspiring just to be in that space. I forget how thrilling a commercial kitchen can be. That evening was capped off by seeing David Lebovitz at his book signing for his book, L’Appart. He is the gold standard of writers, bakers and bloggers, this book is as smart and funny as he is.

The next day I sat on a panel of cookie bakers at TheFeedFeed studio and we discussed our love of all things cookies. This is my life! Pinch me. Spending time with folks who love to bake was such a joy. Rebecca Firth and Erin Clarkson baked us all cookies and I got to visit with Jessie Sheehan, whose angel food cake I made several months ago and it remains one of my favorite posts. It is the yang to this Devil’s food’s ying.

The Gold Standard Devil's Food Bundt Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The next day my greatest baking wish came true. I am getting choked up as I write this. I baked with Dorie Greenspan. We each made a recipe from our new books for a Live IG event at Thefeedfeed (you can watch it here). This date was organized by Kevin Masse and it was the most satisfying and joyous event of my career. Dorie’s work is what I hold as the highest mark of cookbooks and her newest is no exception. She made a Salmon Rillettes from Everyday Dorie and I made a cracker lavash and round braided challah from Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day. We baked, laughed and ate; I left that studio beaming. Dorie is humble, kind, generous, and exudes joy, the baking date of my dreams.

And, last, but not least, it’s my Birthday!! The Gold Standard Devil’s Food Bundt Cake is simple, but one of my very favorites. I usually pair the cake with cream cheese frosting, but I wanted something a bit more elegant to mark these occasions, so I poured a shiny ganache over the top and draped the top with gold. You can watch me make this cake and enter to win on my instagram accountRead More

Raspberry Paris Brest

Raspberry Paris Brest | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This Raspberry Paris Brest is a beautifully nontraditional take on a very traditional French pastry. The name, Paris Brest, comes from a bicycle race that happens in France between (you guessed it) Paris and the town of Brest. According to Larousse Gastronomique, a pastry-cook, whose shop was along the route of the race, got it in his head to make a pastry shaped like the wheel of a bike from choux paste (the same pastry used for eclairs and profiteroles). He filled it with a butter-rich, praline flavored pastry cream. My take on this classic involves lots of Driscoll’s Raspberries to lighten up the dessert and make it even more beautiful. Instead of stirring praline into the pastry cream, I made an easy raspberry quick jam out of fresh berries and then mixed it in. The result is fresh and light, which will be a welcome end to your holiday dinner. What makes Driscoll’s Organic Raspberries the perfect choice for this is that Driscoll’s has spent years carefully breeding Raspberries, and with thousands of berry varieties they select the top 1% to sell under the Driscoll’s name.

You can watch me make this raspberry pastry in my instagram video. Read More

The Salty Tart Pie Party

Pie Pop Up | ZoeBakes 22

My friend and rock star pastry chef, Michelle Gayer (The Salty Tart), is hosting pie pop-ups in Minneapolis for the whole month of November. To get one (or 3) of her pies, you need to show up at Hola Arepa on Monday afternoons from 3-7pm. Those are the official hours, but she’s been selling out in about an hour, so line up early if you want a pie. (Unfortunately, Hola Arepa is closed on Mondays, so you’ll have to go back the next day to sample their incredible menu and mighty fine cocktails.) Michelle came over to bake some pies with me so I could give you an idea of what she’s up to, but don’t go expecting to see these two on the menu, you just never know what mood she’ll be in and the pie selection will change to match her passing culinary fancy.

Pie Pop Up | ZoeBakes 24

I have a lot to celebrate these days, in addition to these gorgeous pies (Michelle left them for me to devour). My latest book Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five came out a few weeks ago and I’ve been on book tour, I also just wrapped up a Craftsy video (the subject is very hush, hush, but I bet you can guess) and yesterday was my Birthday. To celebrate all of that I’ve paired up with my friends at Emile Henry to GIVE AWAY 5 gorgeous PIE PLATES for you. Just leave me a note about your favorite pie and you’ll be entered to win. Sorry, but it is only open to those in the USA.

Here are some more pictures of my afternoon of pie baking with Michelle. Got to love the blow torch and sugar dusting! 

Do you have pie questions or need to troubleshoot your recipe? Check out my guide on how to make pie crust.

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PB&J Cheesecake with Poured Ganache (how-to video).

Peanut butter and jelly cheesecake recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Peanut Butter and Jelly is a staple in most children’s diets. In fact, I just read that Americans will consume billions, with a B, of sandwiches every year. I can believe it, since my kids picked it for lunch 9 out of 10 times, until very recently. I’ve gone through what must be 100s of pounds of peanut butter and even more jelly. They’re certainly easy to make, which saved me lots of time in the mornings before school, but I felt a little guilty packing it for them EVERY day. I mostly dreaded other parents finding out that my kids ate the same thing over and over. In my head I wanted them to eat bento boxes, with carved vegetables and seaweed salad, but, it was their lunch, their choice and they loved PB&J. The truth is that I love it too; almost everyone does, if we’re honest. Here’s a peanut butter and jelly cheesecake that has all the fond memories of those childhood sandwiches, but it’s way more decadent and sophisticated.

Once in a while I find a new product that changes the way I cook and bake. I felt this way about the Silpat and the Microplane Grater when they first hit the restaurant kitchen scene. It was a eureka moment, since both saved time, money and provided results like nothing I’d used. This Lekue 9-Inch Springform Pan may be the coolest new toy in my kitchen. It is made by Lekue and uses the same technology as the beloved silicone mats. The base is made of ceramic, so it is lovely enough to serve on, which eliminates the need to remove the cake from the base. That, in itself, is brilliant, but the silicone also gives insurance that the cake will not stick to the sides, so there is no holding your breath as you remove it. I baked this cheesecake without a water bath. I need to test to see if it is waterproof, but that is asking a lot of a springform pan and I would continue to wrap the bottom in foil if I used it in water.

 

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apple-pie

The Best Apple Pie (now with videos)

One of the glorious issues of a 20-year marriage is the honesty, brutal, albeit “loving,” honesty. Here’s the thing, Graham has never been head-over-heels-in-love with my pies. He always loves bits and pieces of them, but never the entire pie. Can you imagine what that does to a girl who prides herself on figuring out all things sugary. Believe me when I say that I have been on a 20-year mission to create THE perfect pie. Not just a great crust, or filling, but the entire package. Well, I can breathe a sigh of relief, and have a moment of marital bliss … because, he declared this apple pie “the best pie I have EVER eaten.” You can not know how important this day has been for me, as a professional pastry chef, as a wife and as a perfectionist. Challenge met.

The keys to my winning apple pie were the apples, I used 6 different varieties, because it is apple season in MN and there are so many gorgeous apples to choose from. They all have different flavors, textures and colors. I like to mix them to create a more interesting pie, although I think you can get a very good result with just two kinds. Then there is the crust, which was made with 100% LARD. Yep, unless you are vegetarian, you really need to try it. I am madly in love with lard. It requires a slightly gentle touch, but follow my directions and it will be tender, flaky and delicious!

Do you have pie questions or need to troubleshoot your recipe? Check out my guide on how to make pie crust.

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