Holiday Sugar Cookies

Holiday Sugar Cookie House | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This is an updated post from one of my very first blogging efforts back in 2007. The recipe is wonderful, but my photos were a bit rough back then. You can see them at the end of the post, I kept them, because they are sentimental. This Holiday Sugar Cookies recipe is perfect for simple cut out cookies and for building a more intricate house. I live in a big house that makes me think of a wedding cake or confection. I have been meaning to create it out of cookies since I moved in and I finally did it. I think it will become an annual tradition and I imagine I will get more and more detailed with every try. This one was so much fun. I am lucky to have the original blueprints for the house, so it made it easier to trace the outline of the house, but I just approximated where I to, since it didn’t have to be built to stand for very long! 😉

2007 Post: My aunt Kristin is a great collector of recipes. She sends me packages of them, often! The recipes come from magazines, books, cooking shows, gourmet grocery stores and various people she meets. They are far too numerous to try all of them, but I use them as a constant source of inspiration. This past week, just in time for Christmas she sent me a sugar cookie recipe by Dorie Greenspan she had clipped from Bon Appetit and a set of snow flake cookie cutters. I am always searching for the perfect sugar cookie. I’m not sure yet if this is THE ONE, but it is really great. The flavor is not too sweet, slightly lemony (because I added the lemon zest) and the texture is crisp but not at all tough.

I decorated the holiday sugar cookies and house with royal Icing made with lemon juice, which is tasty, quite stunning and strong enough to hold up as the glue for the house. I’ll admit that I love the fussy work of intricate decorations on sugar cookies. It is the closest I will come to ever using my BFA from college. If you don’t share my enthusiasm for precision piping then just sprinkle them with colored sugar like my boys did and they are delicious and festive!

Obviously this recipe and technique are great for Valentines Day, Easter and any other holiday or special occasion when you celebrate with sweets! Which means every day…

See my instagram video for baking, decorating and assembling tips.

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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!

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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.

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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 Junior’s 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 Junior’s 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 Junior’s 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.

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Awesome Almond Apple Crisp

A small cup of Almond Apple Crisp topped with cranberry ice cream

This Awesome Almond Apple 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).

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Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Bundt Cake

Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Bundt Cake | ZoeBakes by Zoë François

I made this Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake with my friend Andrew Zimmern. 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 chocolate pumpkin bundt cake I made with Andrew has a rather thin line of chocolate streusel and I went for a bolder chocolate layer when I put the recipe in my book, Zoë Bakes Cakes. 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.

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