Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding

Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

I think this Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding may be the ultimate comfort food. I always have bread on the counter. Since my new book, Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, came out, I have several loaves going at a time. What to do with all the partially eaten loaves? Cube it up, soak it in a rich custard and bake it. It could not be any easier and the results are warm and so satisfying. Bread pudding is one of the those desserts that also doubles as breakfast, like pie and cake! 🙂 No, really, it is full of eggs and toasty bread and this one just happens to have bits of chocolate and chunks of chestnuts. If you were to serve it with a dollop of creme fraiche instead of ice cream, it would be a simple and elegant Christmas breakfast. Add the ice cream and it is a homey, but decadent dessert.

When I worked in restaurants my bread pudding was always one of the most popular desserts on the menu. Hope you enjoy it!

Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

You can watch me make this bread pudding in my instagram video. Recipe below. (more…)

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Bûche de Noël ~ Christmas Yule Log

This is a classic French dessert that is served at Christmas time. Bûche de Noël translates as the “Christmas Log” and is meant to look like the piece of wood you are about to toss into the fireplace. It is a rather odd tradition and yet I find myself making one every year. It always reminds me of the TV station that plays Christmas music and shows nothing but a burning log in a fireplace. I thought those were just memories of my long ago childhood, but I was amazed to see that the burning log still finds its place on YouTube even today.

Despite my unglamorous association there is something quite elegant and beautiful about the Bûche de Noël. According to Larousse Gastronomique the yule log cake tradition started in the 1870s when Parisian pastry chefs decided to replace the less elaborate brioche style fruit loaf with this more festive confection. Although I am quite partial to the Panettone style breads, I can see why pastry chefs created something a little more fussy to work on, that is just how we are!

I created the yule log pictured here for the holiday issue of Better Homes and Gardens. You can find the recipe here and you’ll find a video of me creating one in my instagram video. It is the very first video in my highlights, so you’ll need to scroll all the way to the end. You may find some other videos to watch along the way.

More Bûche de Noël recipes…

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Pomegranate Swirl New York Cheesecake

Pomegranate Swirl New York Cheesecake | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

The first cheesecake I recall eating was from Juniors in Brooklyn. I’d go there with my grandparents and my aunts, Sylvia and Rose, when I was little. There was always a ton of food and loud conversation, but the only thing I remember clearly is the cheesecake. It was tall and smothered in impossibly red strawberries. The last time I ate cheesecake at Juniors was the day I bought my wedding dress at Kleinfeld’s Bridal shop, when it was still in Brooklyn and long before there was a reality TV show about it. All the women in my family piled into the fitting room and the very bossy attendant said, “I have the dress for you!” and left. She came back with a dress, I put it on and everyone started to cry. I did try on a few more, since we’d intended to make a whole day of it, but she nailed it on the first try. We left that fitting room and went to Juniors for lunch. The cheesecake was not as great as I had remembered from when I was a kid, but it was exactly what the day called for, tradition.

Pomegranate Swirl New York Cheesecake | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

This Pomegranate Swirl New York Cheesecake started with a base I found in Bake from Scratch Magazine. The texture is luxurious and smooth, but not as dense and custardy as some of my other go to cheesecake recipes. I love all kinds of cheesecakes and this may be my new favorite NY style. Dare I say, better than Juniors. I added a swirl of pomegranate to the cake, because it has a tartness that pairs so well with the rich creaminess of a cheesecake.  I had been seduced by a case of the ruby colored fruit at Costco, so I needed a way to use them up.  I reduced the juice of fresh pomegranates, which was DELICIOUS, but a true pain in the ass. You can watch me juice the pomegranates and create the swirls in the cheesecake in my instagram video. The flavor is incredible, but you can certainly do this with store bought pomegranate juice or any other tart fruit juice as well (Sour Cherry, Passion fruit, Raspberry, Cranberry). The base is a simple graham cracker, because it is my favorite and I far prefer it to Juniors sponge cake crust. (more…)

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Awesome Apple Almond Crisp

Awesome Apple Almond Crisp | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

This Awesome Apple Almond Crisp is the easy, last minute, under appreciated cousin to the Apple Pie. It is every bit as delicious and I think beautiful in a rustic way, albeit not as refined looking. It can be in the oven in less than 30 minutes and emerges bubbling, crisp (hence the name) and the perfect landing place for a scoop of ice cream. My topping typically has rolled oats, but this time I wanted the toasted almonds to be the clear star, so I used oat flour instead of the old fashioned oats and all-purpose flour, making this crisp entirely gluten-free (and vegan). I used a mix of apples, as I always do, to give the fruit layer more depth of texture and flavor. I also sliced them thin, because I was using a shallow pan and I wanted the apples to create a dense layer that stood up to the topping. For me the ratio should be just barely more fruit than crisp topping, so you’ll see I go thick.

You can watch me make this Awesome Apple Almond crisp apple crisp

Awesome Apple Almond Crisp | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François (more…)

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Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Bundt Cake

Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Bundt Cake | ZoeBakes by Zoë François

I made this Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Bundt Cake with my friend Andrew Zimmern last year. You can watch us working pumpkin magic in the kitchen together in the video below. I recently made a pumpkin pie and roasted several pumpkins and squash, so I have lots of great gourd puree on hand and this is one of my all time favorite cakes, so I wanted to share it with you. The cake I made with Andrew has a rather thin line of chocolate streusel and I went for a bolder chocolate layer this time. That is reflected in the recipe and directions below. You can roast your own pumpkin or use canned, either is terrific for this easy and tasty cake.

Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Bundt Cake | ZoeBakes by Zoë François (more…)

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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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