Garlic Kale Tamale Tart – yes, the crust is bright red!

Garlic Kale Tamale Tart Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

The July issue of Saveur magazine was filled cover to cover with the foods of Texas. Everything from pecan pie to mesquite grilled steaks. But one recipe caught my eye, not only because it sounds delicious, but because the technique is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It is a tamale tart by the chef Stephan Pyles. His version has a soft masa tart shell, a roasted garlic custard and piled high with crab and hot peppers, it looks worthy of a trip to Dallas just to get a slice from his restaurant. Instead of baking the tart he cooks it in a bamboo steaming basket, just as you would for making tamales. It would seem that the crust might get soggy, but it was perfect. The custard was soft, silky and decadently rich.

Now that I am a backyard urban farmer I have an abundance of fresh kale. I thought it would go beautifully with the garlic custard and ancho spiced crust. So I gave up the crab and created a lovely quiche like dish that was perfect all on its own, but would be lovely served as a side.

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Red, White and Blue Bakewell Tarts

Bowl of cherries | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

The June Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart….er….pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.

This month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge, at first glance didn’t have me all that excited. It is a tart consisting of a simple shortbread crust, a layer of jam and frangipane (almond cream). Bakewell is a classic style of tart I’ve made lots of times and perhaps seemingly dull because I know it so well. But, after a good nights sleep, a cup of coffee and a burst of inspiration, I had renewed longing for the Bakewell tart. It is one of those challenges where you are basically given a blank canvas and told to paint a picture. This tart can take on the personality of the fruit or filling you introduce. I decided to play with many different flavors and add a bit of texture to the filling by adding fresh fruit, that compliments the jam.

In honor of the 4th of July I decided to make Red, White and Blue tarts; Cherry, Coconut and Blueberry. Read More

Apple Blossom Blackberry Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry (two Le Creuset winners!)

Apple Blossom Berry Tart Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I admit I enjoy the detailed work of an elaborate dessert or cake on occasion. I was a fine arts major who couldn’t paint or draw particularly well, but loved being in the midst of all that creativity in the art department. It wasn’t until I found myself in a pastry kitchen that I realized food was the medium that allowed me to express myself. Fussing over gum paste and fondant is relaxing to me. But, there are times I want to create something that is just pure and simple. When flavors are the end all and their natural beauty unadorned.

I’ve been reading A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes by David Tanis. The executive chef from Chez Panisse who has the most enviable career I’ve ever heard of. He spends 6 months of the year cooking at Alice Water’s acclaimed restaurant and the remainder of his time in France. Just one chapter in and you can’t help but hate him for having figured out the perfect life. He eloquently describes shopping in the morning at the outdoor produce market and then cooking with his friends while drinking local wines and nibbling on aged cheeses. His entire philosophy is simplicity. In fact, the book’s one downfall for me is that there is no challenge in any of his desserts, they are all simple to a fault. Gorgeous and as delicious as a fresh fig, but where is all of the fussy detail that I often crave. 😉

I want to be David Tanis when I grow up! Read More

Glitz and Glam Chocolate Tart with Chai Caramel on Oscar Night!

Chocolate Tart with Chai Caramel Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

For the Oscars I thought it would be fun to do a dessert with some bling! There’s nothing like adding gold leaf to a decadent chocolate caramel tart to make it worthy of a black tie affair. I was cozied up in my pajamas with a room full of my girlfriends, but despite our lack of proper attire we sipped champagne and ate gold leaf.

I had lofty aspirations of seeing all of the nominated films, but alas life got in the way and I only saw a couple of them. The film getting all the buzz this year is Slumdog Millionaire, and it is one that I saw. I must say I loved it! The movie, set in India, was complicated, gritty, suspenseful, endearing and touching. All of the qualities that a great movie should have. This movie, along with the newest addition to my cookbook collection La Maison du Chocolat*, was the inspiration for this chocolate tart with chai caramel. I started with the classic combination of chocolate and caramel, but I added the spices of India to the mix.

Cheers and may your favorite film win! Read More

Pear Pomegranate Tarte Tatin

Fresh Cut Pomegranate | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I’m dying to go apple and pear picking. I’ve decided that it is fall and my mind has shifted to the autumnal fruit. Well, there is nowhere to pick yet, so I went to the co-op and bought some seckel pears, from who knows where? I like to bake with seckels because they are very firm, which means you can cook them in the caramel longer and they don’t turn to mush.

It is also the season for one of my favorite treats, the pomegranate. It is one of those foods that is more about the experience than the flavor. Don’t get me wrong, I love the taste, but the fun is picking the seeds out and biting into their tart juices. My boys love them too, because they are a serious mess. I send them out onto the back steps and they eat, with the red juices flying everywhere. Read More