Banoffee Pie Topped with Toasted Meringue from The Farmette Cookbook

Banoffee Pie | ZoeBakes (3 of 7)

There are many beautiful cookbooks coming out of this rich world of food blogging, but The Farmette Cookbook is special. It isn’t at all surprising considering Imen is one of those people who lives a life full of passion, creativity and grace. It isn’t luck exactly, it is a fierce curiosity about food and farming and Ireland and photography and being a mom and a friend and a student of life. She has created a magical life in Ireland, which is nothing short of a real life fairytale. Her book speaks to all those things and is absolutely gorgeous.

Do you have pie questions or need to troubleshoot your recipe? Check out my guide on how to make pie crust.

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Beehive Cake with Honey Buttercream

Beehive Cake (Brown-Butter Banana Cake and Honey Buttercream)

Up until very recently my father has been a beekeeper. He had bee hives at our home in Vermont and then drove them, full of bees to Minnesota. Due to a city ordinance he was not allowed to keep bees in his Edina yard and had to set them up at a friend’s house farther out of the city. My dad would drive out on the weekends to tend to them. His love for bees was made more complicated by the fact that he is very allergic to their sting. He swells up like a balloon when stung, but this never deterred him, even though it seemed to happen with some regularity. As a result of his love for bees I have always had a fondness for them and the delicious nectar they produce. Growing up we ate the precious honey he collected on everything from homemade granola to freshly baked bread. In fact, I never knew any sweetener other than honey and maple syrup before I was about 6. Sugar, in any form, didn’t exist in our house.

This beehive cake is a tribute to both the elegance and ingenuity of honeybees, which are in terrifying danger of disappearing. Hopefully more folks like my dad will step up and continue the tradition. The shape of this cake is based on an ancient beehive called a skep, which was made of a coiled basket. My dad’s bees were kept in a box hive, but that isn’t nearly as romantic. Under the hovering marzipan bees are layers of banana cake, walnuts and honey scented buttercream.

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Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding

Chocolate banana bread pudding | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Almost 13 years ago I had this chocolate banana bread pudding on the menu at The Local, where I was the pastry chef. It was hands down the most popular thing we ever made. Perhaps its success is due to the blend of the comforting banana bread and decadent chocolate ganache, all baked together in a warm pudding. Then I served it with roasted banana ice cream, which takes it to new heights, but I also love it with a bittersweet chocolate ice cream. Try both and decide.

Last night I needed something to bring to an Oscar party. I love the Awards and all the pageantry that goes with it. Watching the show is an annual event with two of my closest friends and my step mother. We sit on the couch in our pajamas and critique the outfits on the red carpet. The evening is the perfect blend of our ultra-casual-comfort while we watch the over-the-top formal event. This chocolate banana bread pudding just seemed to match the contrast; elegant comfort food. Read More

Ice Cream 101

A sweet corn ice cream cone with caramel dripping off

When making homemade ice cream, you have to start with a really great base, which for me means lusciously smooth, with a dense and silky texture. The flavor should be rich, but not too buttery (greasy) and I always start my “French custard” ice cream base with vanilla. So start with my basic vanilla ice cream recipe below (and customize it with your favorite flavors), then try all the other amazing recipes.

If you’re more into sorbet, which is its own icy treat, check out my guide on how to make sorbet.

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Going Bananas for Mardis Gras – Banana Pudding, Caramelized Bananas and Bourbon Banana Sauce

Banana pudding topped with bananas foster | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Banana pudding is a thoroughly classic Southern dessert. It comes in many forms, but almost all involve vanilla pudding with slices of bananas and a layering of vanilla wafers. This combination, quite frankly, reminds me of going to Morrison’s Cafeteria with my grandmother in Clearwater, Fl. Although I have fond memories of those outings, the food was neither good, nor memorable. It seems to me that banana pudding should be made with bananas, not just as an accessory. This may be a conclusion based on the fact that I only had two overly ripe bananas in my fruit basket when this recipe came to me. I pureed them and added them to the vanilla pudding as I whisked it. The result is a rich flavor, which beats the pants off of the unnatural “banana extract” or liqueurs many recipes call for and it has a silky smooth texture. I thought it should be topped with something warm, caramel-y and have just a slight bite of Bourbon. Banana Foster on top of the pudding, an ode to Mardi Gras! For those who just can’t fathom banana pudding without vanilla wafers, by all means you should crush some up and sprinkle them over the top.

I’d like to thank YOU and Babble.com for voting Zoë Bakes on to the list of Top 100 Mom Food Blogs 2011! It is a crazy honor to be listed with such talented women. Read More