Pineapple Quesito (Puerto Rican Breakfast Pastry)

Pineapple Quesito and Coffee | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

This is a Quesito (Ke-see-toe) and it is delicious. Seriously, it is so perfect in its simplicity; flaky puff pastry wrapped around sweetened cream cheese and buttery pineapple. And it’s beautiful, in a shabby chic kind of way, nothing fussy, just rustic goodness with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. The best thing is that you can whip this together in about 5 minutes and instantly satisfy your craving for something sweet. I’ve made them three times for breakfast since I returned from Puerto Rico. You see, I am desperately grasping to my memories of being there. I just returned, less than a week ago, and already I miss it. It was paradise, which is enough to make one long for its sandy shores, perfect weather, gorgeous waters, friendly people, and the discovery of Puerto Rican pastries like Mallorca and the quesitos. But, returning to Minnesota and having to shovel my car out from the snow, in APRIL, was frankly, more than I was mentally prepared to handle. So, I make quesitos, shut my eyes, hold a shell to my ear and pretend I am still lying on the beach.

Puerto Rico | ZoeBakes

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Biscuits and Bullets – Life on Masala Farm!

When I grow up I want my very own Masala Farm. The first time I visited Suvir and Charlie’s home I felt as though I belong there. They have created a home in the countryside made of magic, an impeccable sense of style and an art collection from their travels to every corner of the world. Not to mention a kitchen that makes me weak at the knees, as much for the equipment as for the sun light and views. Masala Farm is the perfect blend of The Selby and the city to farm show, Green Acres. Their 120+ chickens roost in a stylish hen house with ample sky lights, so they will lay the tastiest eggs on the planet. The alpacas, sheep and goats share a pasture with the domestic geese, all living in harmony. It inspires the body, heart and soul just to be there. It is not by chance that the place evokes such love, it is Charlie and Suvir who created such a utopia. They seem to have created this wonderland in order to gather their friends and family. The entire upstate NY community has dined with them, their friends travel thousands of miles, from city homes, to restore at Masala Farm. These two men are the most beautiful, creative, gracious, generous people I have ever met. This is reflected clearly in their home, their food and in their new book, Masala Farm.

This past summer my family stopped at Masala Farm after attending my brother’s wedding. We arrived just as the animals were being fed and my boys, who have grown up in the city, jumped right in to help. I realized they know nothing about this kind of life; farming is a theoretical concept, but not a part of their experience. It was a joy to see them fearless in the task of collecting eggs from the chickens to eat for breakfast. What a gift to show them where their food comes from.

Biscuits

Suvir cooked them fresh eggs, with yolks the color of marigolds, and baked biscuits that made us swoon. I believe my exact words were “Holy &%$#, these are good!” They are like nothing I have had before. Suvir made them with Rose Levy Bernanbaum and she had the same reaction, so you know they are something crazy special. The recipe was a gift to Suvir from our mutual friend Bret Bannon, who grew up eating his grandmother’s biscuits for breakfast. Lucky, lucky man. Bret was kind enough to share with Suvir and I am grateful that the recipe found its way into Masala Farm. Suvir said I can share the recipe with you, so I had Bret, the expert, come over and bake them with me.

The bullets come later. (more…)

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Beyond the Box – Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Rice Krispie Treats (plus a short tour of the bakery that inspired them and a wedding cake)

It took the extraordinary pastry chef from Flour in Boston, Joanne Chang, to get me to confess my love for Rice Krispies Treats. She boldly put a recipe for them in her cookbook, next to the cakes and other delicate, fanciful pastries. It was an honest and unpretentious statement, which gives the rest of us the ability to stand tall while admitting we too love these juvenile confections. Until now I have used my boys as an excuse to have them around, but the truth is I love them more than they do. This recipe takes the ordinary to new heights. One may argue the beauty of a recipe on the side of a cereal box is the speed, ease and simplicity of ingredients. Admittedly this version takes a few more minutes, and I do bother to use some pretty special ingredients, but it is so worth the effort and I promise the vanilla bean is not lost on them.

I have been following Joanne’s career since she worked in New York with François Payard. Her talents were recognized even while in the shadow of one of New York’s pastry greats, which is no small feat. Several years ago she took the bold step of leaving Payard and opening her own bakery in Boston, now she has a small pastry empire. When my brother announced that he would be getting married this summer near Manchester, New Hampshire, I immediately made plans to slip into Boston for a day to sample her goodies. (more…)

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Almond Chiffon Cake

Almond Chiffon Cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

There are several perks to writing a food blog, the best being the excuse to have delicious cakes, like this almond chiffon cake, in the house at all times. The only person who has an issue with this is my personal trainer, but I just remind him what job security it is for him. I also have an extensive (300+) cookbook library that I attribute to “research” when my husband asks where we will put them all, now that my book shelves are over flowing. Then there are the products companies send me to critique and review. I have received everything from peanut flour (which I adore) to a confectionery funnel (which is for portion control of pancakes and other runny stuff. Really, you have to make your pancakes the exact same size???). I will never review or endorse a product I don’t actually love and find value in. As I mentioned, my shelves are overflowing and I need to make room for several books that I got for Christmas. So, I’m going to do a series of giveaways to make space. Admittedly this first giveaway doesn’t take up any room at all, but it was an awfully generous gift from Williams-Sonoma and I think you should have it. They sent me two gift cards. One for $50 and the other for $100. They are yours if you leave a comment about the strangest piece of kitchen equipment you own. Do you ever use it? I will pick two random winners next week. The first pick will get a $100 gift card and the second a $50 gift card to Williams-Sonoma. WINNERS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN!

Now back to the baking…this cake was inspired by my trip to Italy this past summer. The man who owned the home we rented introduced me to his favorite cookie, the ricciarelli. They are made from almond paste and egg whites baked into little rich clouds and dusted with pure white confectioners’ sugar. I was completely addicted to them after the first bite. They are available all over Tuscany and when baked fresh you want to sing their praises. The stale ones you buy in the tin are to be avoided and unfortunately that is what most of us have tried. After writing this description I realize I need to create and post a recipe for the actual cookie, but for now I have a cake that it inspired. It is light and spongy, but at the same time decadent because of the almond paste. The cake is great on its own with a cup of coffee for breakfast or with ice cream or coulis for dessert.

For recipe

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Our Roman Holiday (The Pope, Gladiators and Gelato)

After a week in Naples, with its lawless streets and swoon-worthy pizza (see my Naples post here) we were headed to Rome for a few days of art, architecture, gelato and gladiator school. We got so much more than we bargained for and loved every second of it. The boys even tolerated our need to visit as many of the ornate churches the vast city has to offer, with the understanding that there would be plenty of sword fighting gladiator moments, soccer games, pizza and gelato to balance the days. A Mass with the Pope was a bonus to this fabulous stop, one we had never dreamed of. (more…)

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Turkish Spice Market and a Snap Shot of Greece.

One of the most dramatic aspects of traveling to Istanbul were the flavors and smells of the city. Nothing about it reminded us of home and much to my delight (and relief) this was a thrill for the boys. I was a little nervous about starting our month long journey in Turkey. Everything I had read about traveling with kids said to start in a place that has things which are recognizable to them. Italy would have been a safer bet, all kids adore pasta and pizza. But, we ignored the advice and went to the place that resembled home the least. They loved it, perhaps best of all.

On our third day in the city we found our way to the spice and fish markets. Here is just a small portion of what we saw. I only wish this were Smell-O-Vision. (more…)

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