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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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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Pomegranate Swirl New York Cheesecake

Pomegranate Swirl New York Cheesecake | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

The first cheesecake I recall eating was from Juniors 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 Juniors 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 Juniors 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.

Pomegranate Swirl New York Cheesecake | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

This Pomegranate Swirl New York Cheesecake started with a base I found in Bake from Scratch Magazine. The texture is luxurious and smooth, but not as dense and custardy as some of my other go to cheesecake recipes. I love all kinds of cheesecakes and this may be my new favorite NY style. Dare I say, better than Juniors. I added a swirl of pomegranate to the cake, because it has a tartness that pairs so well with the rich creaminess of a cheesecake.  I had been seduced by a case of the ruby colored fruit at Costco, so I needed a way to use them up.  I reduced the juice of fresh pomegranates, which was DELICIOUS, but a true pain in the ass. You can watch me juice the pomegranates and create the swirls in the cheesecake in my instagram video. The flavor is incredible, but you can certainly do this with store bought pomegranate juice or any other tart fruit juice as well (Sour Cherry, Passion fruit, Raspberry, Cranberry). The base is a simple graham cracker, because it is my favorite and I far prefer it to Juniors sponge cake crust. (more…)

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Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake | ZoeBakes Photo by Zoë François

I’ve known my husband and his family for 30+ years and in all those decades there is a story about a cake that has been the heart of my career goals. Just to be clear, this is not the cake. This flourless chocolate hazelnut cake is AWESOME and I’m very pleased with it, but it’s not the cake my husband wistfully remembers from his childhood. I have never had the mythical cake, which is my excuse for not being able to recreate it. The joke in my house is that the day I am able to bake that one (hazelnut sponge with whipped cream and canned peaches) I can retire. So, maybe there is part of me that just isn’t ready to nail it.

Okay, let’s talk about this chocolate hazelnut cake. It was inspired by the aforementioned favorite of my husband and a flourless chocolate cake in the book, Bake from Scratch, by Brian Hart Hoffman. For those of you not familiar with this book or Brian, he is the talent behind @TheBakeFeed on Instagram. You should be following them and me, for that matter! You’ll find my feed at @zoebakes where you can keep up with what I am working on every day and watch my video stories, which is my newest playground.

This is like the most elegant brownie-cake you’ve ever had. That really doesn’t do it justice, but you know that fudge texture of a perfectly baked brownie, where the top has a nice crust and the inside is smooth and rich. This is that, but even better and somehow lighter. I gilded the lily with the candied hazelnuts, because it is my favorite man’s birthday and he deserves to have all the fancy bits. (more…)

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No-Bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars

No-bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars | Zoe Bakes photos by Zoë François

These No-bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars are a candy and a brownie all in one. There is no baking, so they are a perfect holiday treat to go along with all the cookies you’ll be trading at your cookie swaps this season. I created this recipe for the wedding of a chef, Jorge Guzman, who wanted a Mexican inspired dessert plate to be served to his guests, in addition to a cake. I kind of fell in love with them and when Bake From Scratch invited me to create some cookies for their Holiday Cookie Issue, I knew instantly that this would be in the mix. The crunch comes from both the toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and feuilletine flakes (which are paper thin cookies that are broken up into what can best be described as dessert-cereal). The pepitas and feuilletine flakes are folded into a chocolate and hazelnut mixture, set firm, covered with ganache and then decorated with more pepitas and edible gold leaf. The result is a sophisticated chocolate bar that is regal enough for a wedding, a holiday party or just a midnight snack. You can watch me make these bars in my instagram video.

Scroll to the bottom of the post to see the Pinon Mexican Wedding Cookies, Chestnut and Honey Madeleines, Caramelized White Chocolate Sables with Sea Salt and and Hazelnut Spice Speculaas I developed for this Special Holiday Cookie Issue.

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Rhubarb and Brown Butter Tart

Rhubarb and Brown Butter Tart | photo by Zoë François

After an epic winter, rhubarb is what gives us hope and the will to live. It is the first delicious sign that we have survived another test of winter. I would love it for that reason alone, but I also love the tart flavor. I am aware that there are people who are not big fans of rhubarb. If you find yourself in this camp of thought, I dare to suggest that you will love this rhubarb and brown butter tart from the newest volume of Bake from Scratch. The tartness of the rhubarb is perfect balanced by the rich, sweet, slightly nutty browned butter filling and it is all held together by a perfectly tender crust. I made the tart and as soon as I was done photographing it, my family swooped in and devoured it within minutes. This is such high praise. My family members are no strangers to dessert and it takes some effort to impress them. This one did just that.

In the book they make individual tartlets, but I don’t have enough tartlet pans to pull that off so I made one large rectangular tart. You can watch me make my version of this Rhubarb and Brown Butter Tart in my instagram videos. (more…)

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