Back to Basics: The Original Chocolate Chip Cookies

Plate of Chocolate Chip Cookies | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

They are the chocolate chip cookies we all ate as kids and probably still make on occasion. Toll House, of course. The recipe right off the bag. It is the cookie by which all others are measured. The perfect balance of sweet, salty, gooey, chewy and crisp. Most of us, as we got more confident in the kitchen, ventured from the bag and experimented with other recipes. We dared to add oats, nuts, dried fruit, black pepper, and even pumpkin puree to our chocolate chip cookies but there is still a place for the original. Read More

Gougères (snack food with the difficult name!)

Gougères | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

It’s a cheese puff with a fancy name! The exterior is crisp and the interior soft and custardy. Made small, they are a great snack to serve before dinner or make them larger to be filled. Gougères are typically made with Gruyère cheese and thyme, a combination that begs to be filled with sweet orange marmalade (my personal favorite). You can substitute any hard cheese and herbs you desire in the recipe. Read More

Lemon Meringue Bars

Lemon Meringue Bars

It is Minnesota and there is about 6 inches of snow on the ground, not exactly the time of year for a fresh fruit dessert. So what do we Northerners do when we want something sweet and bright, but can’t find berries that aren’t from the freezer or even a decent apple? We turn to citrus. Of course it doesn’t grow here, not even in the summer, but it travels well and there is such amazing variety. For these lemon meringue bars I actually use a combination of lemons, limes and Meyer lemons (for their perfume). The combination is more interesting and has a zing to it that one fruit alone won’t give.

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Making Suvir’s Puff Pastry Samosas

light crisp samosas from Indian Home Cooking

I’ve been cooking from Suvir Saran’s acclaimed book Indian Home Cooking for years and now from his newest triumph American Masala. The pages are dog-eared and stained with turmeric and garam masala. His recipe for puff pastry samosas with green peas is one of the easiest and most satisfying appetizer/after school snacks I make. My kids devour them and yet they are sophisticated enough to serve to guests. Read More

Let’s talk about Pie Dough

I recently got an email from my friend Doris who wrote about her Peach pie woes. The experience of making it had been anything but “easy as pie.” It got me thinking about pie and how that old adage came to pass? Really, for whom is pie all that easy to make? Most people give up at the crust, it is hardly ever as tender or flaky as those you can buy at the bakery, and the fillings are always too runny or too bound up with starch.

I want to demystify pie making for Doris and anyone else who has fond memories of homemade pies but haven’t found a recipe that satisfies. First let’s talk about the dough. In the end it isn’t the recipes that will make or break the pie, so much as the technique used in dealing with the ingredients. I’m going to make a pie with you and show step by step how to deal with the rather simple list of ingredients: Butter, lard (or vegetable shortening), flour, ice water and a touch of baking powder to insure you don’t have a leaden crust. Read More