Red, White & Blue Berry Cheesecake for 4th of July

Raspberry, Vanilla and Blueberry Cheesecake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I’m not sure anyone would describe me as a perfectionist? My house is neat enough, but it is clearly lived in.  I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who irons my sheets, my table clothes or even my clothes, but so far it’s just a fantasy. The only place I admit to being really obsessive is my work. I’ve been known to make a recipe over and over and over, until I am happy. It also has to pass the test of the François family, which can often feel like an episode of Chopped. They are neither shy, nor sparing with their criticism (and praise), but it seems they enjoy the criticism even more and I’ve come to trust and rely on their opinions. So, when I cut into the first round of this blueberry cheesecake, they didn’t hesitate to tell me it was “WAY TOO SWEET!” None of us are a big fans of cloyingly, teeth-on-edge, sweets.  We prefer to taste the vanilla, the berries and even a touch of sour cream in cheesecake.  After a bit of adjusting and a lot of testing, I’ve got it “Just right!”

Red (raspberry), white (vanilla bean) and blue (blueberry) layers of distinct flavors, all work beautifully together in this 4th of July Cheesecake. The fresh blueberry topping is held together with just enough gelatin to give it a gorgeous, glossy look and makes it easy to cut. In order to achieve the clean layers you’ll need to have some time to let each one set, so it isn’t a recipe for a last minute dinner party. It’s super easy and completely worth the extra time to present such a fun dessert at your holiday party. Read More

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Almond Crunch and Amaretto Cream

Pumpkin cheesecake with candied almonds and amaretto whipped cream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Pumpkin is an ingredient I get obsessed with this time of year. Its bright orange shell is such a relief during a season when color is fading away and the grey of winter is settling in. In fact, I am determined to paint a room the color of roasted pumpkin this year. But, my love of pumpkin goes beyond its mood lifting color, I adore its luscious texture, its ability to marry with both sweets and savory, and its earthy sweetness. I’ve heard there are folks that don’t share my enthusiasm for this gorgeously colored gourd, but I’ll eat roasted pumpkin with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt. It is even more wonderful in desserts; pumpkin creme brulee, classic pie, breads and cheesecake. When it is pureed smooth, it has a custard like texture, so it lends itself beautifully to this silky pumpkin cheesecake. For a contrast to the velvety cheesecake, I’ve added candied almond crunch and a dollop of Amaretto whipped cream. Read More

I’m Making Cheesecake on the Cooking Channel this Saturday!

Kelsey Nixon and Zoe Francois

On a lark I entered my Chocolate Glazed Praline Cheesecake in a Cooking Channel contest and WON. Oh my, what an adventure. It meant a trip to NYC, an appearance on The Cooking Channel’s Kelsey Nixon Show, a tour of the Food Network Kitchens and an excuse to eat my way across NYC. All of that happened in February and the segment we taped is airing this Saturday 6/30 on the Cooking Channel. I hope you will tune in and see my cheesecake on TV.

As if that wasn’t enough I also met one of my baking/writing/career/life mentors, Dorie Greenspan… Read More

Mint Cheesecake for St. Patrick’s Day

Mint Cheesecake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

When I was growing up in Vermont we celebrated St. Patricks Day at school by dressing up in green. It was fun, although green really isn’t my color, but I had no idea what any of it meant. It never occurred to me that it went beyond shamrock knee-highs, until I went to Chicago on March 17th, quite by accident. The city shut down at noon and people flooded the streets wearing green and carrying beer of the same color. Even the mighty river was dyed green in honor of the 4th century Saint. Although few people probably know the origins of the festivities, we still honor this religious man all these centuries later by wearing green and celebrating Irish culture. Even for those of us who have no ties to Ireland, it is too fun to miss out on.

This mint cheesecake is my nod to the day. It seemed fitting to go green, but I wanted to do something particularly fun. The stripes are easy to create and make for a terrific “Wow” moment when you slice into the cake. The trick to the color is a dash or two of food coloring. I do use fresh mint in the batter, which adds a bright, fresh flavor, but on its own, it is honestly a bit lack luster in color. The chocolate crust makes the whole thing taste like a super-lush “thin mint.” Read More

Thanksgiving Desserts

Thanksgiving Desserts | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I have so much to be thankful for this year. From the health and well being of my family, to the fact that my computer is back up and running. Sometimes it is the small stuff that really snaps us into a space of giving thanks. As those of you who follow me on Twitter and FB know, last week was my birthday and it was quite a memorable one. My adorable boys brought me coffee in bed and we sat and talked. The fact that they sat still long enough to hang out was remarkable and a gift. After that loving moment passed, they were off and running and I changed the course of my day with a single move. I jostled my coffee cup and spilled the tiniest bit on my laptop. I swear it was no more than a tablespoon, but that is enough to ruin your day, week. My husband took the lifeless piece of equipment to the genius bar at the Mac store, as I salvaged the rest of my birthday by taking a photography class with Susan Powers. Nothing like creative inspiration to lift your spirits. Not only were the geniuses able to fix the computer, but I didn’t lose anything. Small miracle. The price I paid was being without a computer for nearly a week, which in the end was like a forced vacation. After being on book tour, it was a much needed, albeit unasked for, rest. So, yes, I am actually thankful that my computer was down for the week, although next time I will just turn it off.

Some of my favorite Thanksgiving desserts from past years:

Here is a post I did on the difference between a Sweet Potato vs Yam? Turns out there is quite a debate.

Perfect Apple Pie

Bourbon Pumpkin cheesecake

Caramelized Pumpkin Bread pudding

Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Pie

Apple Pumpkin Cake

Coconut Cream Cake

Caramel Apple Pear Cake

I hope your holiday is filled with joy and you manage to keep your motherboard dry. Happy Thanksgiving!