Apple Tarte Tatin

Apple Tarte Tatin | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

The Apple Tarte Tatin is a quintessentially French dessert. There are really two styles of french pastry, the super fussy, Marie Antoinette style creations that are almost too beautiful to eat and look nearly impossible to create and then the country-side, rustic sweets that are more delicious than beautiful. I say this falls into the second category, but I think it is stunningly beautiful with it’s rich caramel apples and flaky pastry peaking out from under them. Rustic yes, but no less sophisticated than a Croquembouche or Paris-Brest, in my mind. 

I was inspired to make this Apple Tarte Tatin when the latest issue of Bake From Scratch Magazine arrived and Susan Spungen‘s Tarte was on the cover. Before I even opened the magazine I was preparing it in my head. The weather here in MN is news worthy and we are expecting the temperature to fall below -60, so I have to make the Apple Tarte Tatin with the ingredients I have on hand, since I will NOT be leaving the house to shop. I don’t have puff pastry made and although Susan’s extra flaky dough is faster than the traditional dough, it still requires more time than I have today, so I got creative and made a very non-traditional baklava-like crust. I simply layered phyllo dough with honey, butter, vanilla and walnuts until I had a crust worthy of the caramelized apples. It is just as flaky and adds a bit of depth and character. Both ways are terrific and Susan’s article in the magazine is all about the classic and the reinvented (she made gorgeous pineapple and savory tomato versions as well) , so I think she’ll approve! 

You can watch me make the tarte in my instagram videos (along with homemade vanilla extract) and the recipe is below:  (more…)

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Mile-High Lime Meringue Tart

Mile-High Lime Meringue Tart | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This Mile-High Lime Meringue Tart is the more sophisticated cousin to the Lemon Meringue Pie. It has all the tartness of lemon, but with lime, which I just find a touch more interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I am in LOVE with the lemon version, but this one just sings to me. I used a lime curd as the base of my tart, then topped it with so much meringue that it touches the sky. Of course, and you all know why I love this tart so much…I get to use my blow torch to toast the top. If you don’t have a blow torch by now, I urge you to get one, but you can also use your gas broiler, although it won’t come out nearly as evenly toasted. 

The tart pan I used is from Emile Henry and it is a bit different than any of the other tart pans you’ve seen me use. It is ceramic, just like their pie plates, which are my go to and this pan doesn’t have a false bottom. Typically a tart pan’s bottom lifts out, making it easier to slip the tart out of the pan and onto a serving dish. This one is so pretty, I just left the tart right in the pan and presented the whole thing at the table. The tart was much easier to remove than I had assumed, it is just like a pie plate. The other thing to know about this tart pan is that it is quite large, so I made a bigger batch of lime curd and meringue to properly fill the pan. 

Watch me make the tart in my Instagram video and recipe below:

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Ultimate Carrot Cake with Candied Carrot Peels

The ultimate carrot cake with candied carrot peels | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

My Ultimate Carrot Cake with Candied Carrot Peels recipe is one of my favorites and one of the most popular posts on my website. I make it a lot. For birthdays, for Tuesdays,  for family gatherings, it was the first cake my boys ate, because I could justify giving a baby cake, if it had carrots. I’m not suggesting it replace baby food, but for their first birthday cakes, it was my go to.

I was inspired to use the whole carrot after making Cenk Sönmezsoy’s Perfect Apple Pie, which uses every single bit of the apple to make the pie, core, peel and seeds are all used to extract as much apple flavor as possible. I love that he didn’t waste a bit of the fruit. I usually peel the carrots and toss them away into the composter, which honestly doesn’t cause me too much guilt, but why not use them for the cake? I just washed the carrots, peeled them and candied the peels. They go through several stages while baking. First they turn to carrot leather, chewy and soft, then they dehydrate fully and turn to a snappy, brittle, sweet, but earthy candy. Delicious.

The ultimate carrot cake with candied carrot peels | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

You can watch me make the cake and carrot candy (plus a picture of my son eating his first carrot cake – 19 years ago) in my instagram video and recipe below.  (more…)

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Hot Chocolate Layer Cake

Hot Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This Hot Chocolate Layer Cake is the perfect cold weather dessert, although it would be equally as excellent in the summer or spring or fall. You get the picture, it’s great for any occasion. With hot chocolate as its inspiration, it has layers of Devil’s food, slathered with a deep, dark, luscious chocolate icing, that is like whipped ganache, but better, then I topped the whole thing in homemade marshmallows. I am not a big fan of bagged marshmallows, which taste like sweet, dried out sponges, but the homemade version are amongst my favorite treats. When they are toasted, with a torch, of course, they are soft, melty and delicious. You can flavor them with anything from vanilla to cardamom, or even swirl in chocolate.

I made this cake twice, once with my tried and true Devil’s food and then again for my friend, Stephanie Meyer’s birthday. Stephanie (Fresh Tart) doesn’t eat gluten, so I made the cake with a gluten-free flour blend and it came out just great. See me put the hot chocolate cake together in my instagram video and recipe below. (more…)

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Cardamom Pear Cake

Cardamom Pear Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Cardamom is the quintessential flavor of the holidays in Scandinavian countries. I hadn’t used it much before moving to Minnesota, where Swedish and Norwegian baking is part of the fabric of this community’s tradition. It is also the perfect spice for pears, which have such a subtle flavor and absorb the intense spice when poached. I started with very firm pears and poached them slowly, so they would take on as much of the cardamom poaching liquid as possible. After the pears were poached to the point of just succumbing to the tines of a fork, but not too soft as to be mushy, I put them in a cardamom and orange cake batter, that I adapted from a Bake from Scratch recipe. When I put the pears into the batter they want to slump into the cake and bake under the surface. I did a little MacGyver engineering and secured them upright in the pan, so they would be standing straight when they came out of the oven. I must say that I was pretty pleased with the results. Recipe below.

Cardamom Pear Cake | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François   (more…)

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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 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…

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