Mother’s Day Meringues (light and simple summer desserts)

On mother’s day, I personally think there should be over-the-top displays of appreciation and beauty. This will come in the form of children helping their mom plant flowers in the garden, cleaning the garage, a foot massage, a favorite meal (basically anything cooked by someone else) and, of course, a gorgeous dessert. After eating the before mentioned  favorite meal, she may long for something light and ethereal. Meringues. This is one easy recipe, served three different ways. It can be made by children of all ages, maybe with a little help from dad. By adding flavors to the meringue, you can personalize the dessert. Read More

Dacquoise with Peaches and Cream – a perfect dessert for our 20th Anniversary!

Toasted Almond Dacquoise | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Yesterday was my 20th wedding anniversary. I asked my husband what he wanted to have for dessert on our special day. After being together for 25 years I could predict what he would pick; either Madeleines or the nut cake his mom used to make him when he was young. The nut cake won instantly. My mother-in-law used to make the cake with ground hazelnuts, Cool Whip and canned peaches. She gave me the recipe for the cake once, but it read like something out of a fairy tale, “a thimble full of this” and “a jigger of that,” nothing was ever written down and she did the entire thing by feel. I have been meaning to spend a day in the kitchen with her to get the recipe written down, but for our anniversary I used one of my all time favorites, toasted almond dacquoise. It is light, which is perfect for the last days of August, and both chewy and crunchy at the same time. I toast the nuts first to give it a richer flavor and add an extra dash of salt to contrast the sweetness. Combined with chocolate ganache, freshly whipped cream, the summer’s juiciest peaches and candied almonds, it was not exactly my MIL’s recipe, but my husband declared it “perfection!” This, my friends, is why we are still married after 20 years. 😉 Read More

Flourless Chocolate Lava Cake for Passover

Flourless Chocolate Lava Cake with Blackberries for Passover (gluten free) | Photo by Zoë François

The chocolate lava cake has got to be one of the most popular desserts to ever hit American dessert menus. The story goes that Jean-George Vongerichten created it in New York, sometime in the 80s. Others claim it goes farther back in history and should be credited to the French. Whoever was the first to pull a chocolate cake from the oven too soon, to discover that it was thoroughly baked on the outside and still warm and gooey on the inside, was a genius. Since the 80s nearly all restaurants have created a version of chocolate lava cakes. Some of the recipes, including Vongerichten’s, are not actually flourless, but for Passover it must be. The version I have created is made with bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder, butter and egg whites. It is just a touch lighter in texture than many recipes, due to the whipped egg whites. If you need to make the dessert parve (no dairy), you can replace the butter with your favorite margarine or butter substitute, but not oil. These can be prepared a few days ahead, refrigerated and baked just before serving. Read More

Minty Macarons for St. Patrick’s Day!

minty macarons recipe for St. Patrick's day | photo by Zoë François

Everything about a macaron says France. They are sophisticated, gorgeous, delicious and have a romance to them; a certain je ne sais quoi? (That was gratuitous, but I couldn’t help throwing in one of the few French phrases I can actually pronounce.) But, it is true, they have a mystique to them that is both alluring and intimidating, like a really gorgeous woman; think Catherine Deneuve and Brigit Bardot. When you bite into them they are just as beautiful on the inside, and inviting, even seductive. I can eat my entire body weight in these nut-meringue cookies and still want for more. What on Earth does all of this have to do with St. Patrick’s day you might ask? I admit it is a stretch, but I really wanted to make them and they are adorable in green. I added a bit of mint to the ganache and voila, you have minty macarons for St. Patrick’s day! Read More

Going Bananas for Mardis Gras – Banana Pudding, Caramelized Bananas and Bourbon Banana Sauce

Banana pudding topped with bananas foster | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Banana pudding is a thoroughly classic Southern dessert. It comes in many forms, but almost all involve vanilla pudding with slices of bananas and a layering of vanilla wafers. This combination, quite frankly, reminds me of going to Morrison’s Cafeteria with my grandmother in Clearwater, Fl. Although I have fond memories of those outings, the food was neither good, nor memorable. It seems to me that banana pudding should be made with bananas, not just as an accessory. This may be a conclusion based on the fact that I only had two overly ripe bananas in my fruit basket when this recipe came to me. I pureed them and added them to the vanilla pudding as I whisked it. The result is a rich flavor, which beats the pants off of the unnatural “banana extract” or liqueurs many recipes call for and it has a silky smooth texture. I thought it should be topped with something warm, caramel-y and have just a slight bite of Bourbon. Banana Foster on top of the pudding, an ode to Mardi Gras! For those who just can’t fathom banana pudding without vanilla wafers, by all means you should crush some up and sprinkle them over the top.

I’d like to thank YOU and Babble.com for voting Zoë Bakes on to the list of Top 100 Mom Food Blogs 2011! It is a crazy honor to be listed with such talented women. Read More

Ultra Peanut Butter Cookies – Introducing Peanut Flour

Ultra Peanut Butter Cookies (gluten free) made with peanut flour | photo by Zoë François

I have made a discovery. It is peanut flour. Maybe you already know about this richly flavored, silky smooth, gluten-free, low-fat, protein packed ingredient? I just found it recently. Actually, the Peanut Board in Georgia sent me some to play with and I went gaga over it. Then, I was perusing the aisles at Trader Joe’s, as I am apt to do, and there it was in their minuscule baking section. Which means I am NOT the first to know about this.

Unlike other nut flours this one is defatted, which means they remove a portion of the fat, so the peanuts can be milled to a powder. The result is an amazingly smooth texture, with lots of healthy protein and very little fat. These peanut butter cookies seemed an obvious recipe to start playing with the flour. I wasn’t expecting the flavor to be enhanced as much as I was looking for a gluten-free alternative to the classic cookie. Boy was I wrong, the flavor was more intense and the texture is smoother and more tender than my old recipe. I’d never thought to do a peanut butter cookie post before, because honestly it just didn’t excite me enough. Now I can say I am all atwitter about these cookies! The trick to their success is slightly under baking them so the center is a bit soft and the outside is crisp. I also used a chunky peanut butter for even more peanut taste and texture.

See my pastry movie recommendation at the bottom of this post.

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