Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The only thing better than a single peanut butter cookie, are two with chocolate and peanut butter mousse between them in the perfect Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies! My friend and business strategist extraordinaire, Stephani, is pregnant and manages to work peanut butter sandwich cookies into every conversation we have. There’s no stopping the cravings of a pregnant woman and I think they may be contagious. These cookies are from the pages of the newest baking book from Bake From Scratch, The Cookie Collection. The book is a compilation of many recipes from their magazine and special issue editions and even includes some recipes from yours truly. I had Stephani in mind when I chose to make these, instead of my Piñon Mexican Wedding Cookies or Caramelized White Chocolate Sables with Sea Salt, which are both terrific, but I’ve made them many times and well, cravings! In the recipe from The Cookie Collection, they made the sandwiches with jelly, which seems like the perfect lunch box treat, but I went with a ganache instead, both ways will satisfy.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François  

You can watch me make these Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies in my Instagram video and recipe below. (more…)

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Funfetti Birthday Cake with Chocolate Feathers

Funfetti Birthday Cake with Chocolate Feathers | ZoëBakes photo by Zoë François

Last week my youngest son turned 18. It hit me that he’s a man and about to head out into the world to make his mark. I am so excited for him and looking forward to watching him and his brother become their own men, but it’s a touch bittersweet to watch them take off into the world. This birthday will be marked by several cakes and desserts, as we do around here. For his actual birthday, I was traveling and left him a flan, a long time favorite birthday request. The next day, when I returned from my trip I was met by the latest Bake From Scratch cookbook and immediately flipped to the Birthday Cake chapter. Sometimes we just want the classics, and there is nothing better than a really good white cake with vanilla buttercream. It’s probably the most popular cake combination, for good reason. I am perhaps the last baker on the internet to make a Funfetti Birthday Cake, but this occasion called for a bit of celebratory color!! I simply added sprinkles to the Bake From Scratch White Cake.

In the spirit of my son’s birthday, I have partnered with Brian Hart Hoffman and the excellent folks at Hoffman Publishing to Give Away a Copy of the Bake from Scratch (Vol 3): Artisan Recipes for the Home Baker cookbook, just leave a comment below about your perfect birthday cake. You can DOUBLE YOUR CHANCES TO WIN, by heading to my instagram page and signing up there too! Oh, and I have a few holiday cookie recipes in this cookbook, so I hope you’ll bake those as well! 

Funfetti Birthday Cake with Chocolate Feathers | ZoëBakes photo by Zoë François

People ask me where I find inspiration and the truth is, EVERYWHERE! The decorations for this funfetti birthday cake were inspired by a Netflix special and a place card. I was watching a documentary about the fashion designer, Alexander McQueen, and I told my husband his dresses would make incredible cakes, especially a dress covered in feathers that already looked like a cake.  The place cards from my friends at The Punctilious Mr. P’s Place Card Company arrived and they were pictures of gorgeous birds that looked like cake toppers. It wasn’t inspiration as much as fate! The feathers are easy to make with white chocolate, which you can watch me make in my instagram video. Funfetti Birthday Cake recipe and chance to win the book are below! (more…)

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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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