Rhubarb Pie – The Joy of Watching my Son Bake

Rhubarb Pie with Lattice Crust Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Today my oldest son graduated from 8th Grade. It struck me yesterday as no biggie, just another last day of school. Today, I find myself thinking about him in a new way. He’s not a small child anymore. This was made clear when I saw him accepting his 8th grade diploma and he was taller than all of his teachers. What, when did that happen? He’s a high schooler now, and that is just plain crazy. Up until this moment, he was still my little boy, just barely able to function on his own. Today I am faced with the fact that he is charging toward manhood at a dizzying pace. I’m trying to be ready, but really I’m not sure yet. The up-side to this realization is that now I’ll have him do more laundry, cleaning, cooking and all the things we adults live for.

Yesterday, when he was still a little boy in my mind (oh, who am I kidding, he’ll always be my little boy) we baked a rhubarb pie together. It was a gift, made even sweeter by the events that followed today. He made the dough, a filling of rhubarb and cherries and he created the lattice. I sat back, trying not to take over, and just watched in amazement as he figured it all out. It was a thing of beauty to see him moving so confidently in the kitchen and the pie, well you can see for yourself, the kid has skill. I was in heaven. Today I am a mess of emotions and I’m so happy to have a piece of his rhubarb pie to make me smile.

Happy Graduation to all you seniors and 8th graders!
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Cherry Chocolate Cake

Cherry Chocolate Cake a.k.a Black Forest Cake | photo by Zoë François

This is a very tossed-together Black Forest Cake, or, as I like to say, when I am too lazy to bring out the piping bag and tips, it’s RUSTIC. All of the components of the classic German torte without the fuss. This cherry chocolate cake has layers of dark chocolate cake, fresh whipped cream and sweet cherries spiked with Kirschwasser (“cherry water,” or clear sour cherry brandy). These flavors are among the most celebrated combinations in the history of pastry making and yet this cake is often cloyingly sweet, overly fussy and conjures images from my 1970s childhood. Honestly, the version I remember was probably made with Cool Whip, Maraschino cherries and a cake from a box. Don’t get me wrong, that was just fine with me when I was 13. But, now my taste buds always cringe a bit at the thought of those Day-Glo-red cherries, a frozen whipped topping, that tastes like anything but cream, and the cake from a box just can’t compete with my Devil’s food recipe. The swoon worthy homemade version is super fast and easy to put together. (more…)

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Sneak Peek: Tilia’s Summer Dessert Menu!

Strawberry Fool with Frambois Lambic Foam

The moment has come to switch from the cool weather comfort-food dessert menu and embrace the heat of summer with some cool treats. Here is a teaser of what we’re working on, which we hope to launch next weekend! There will be a few flourishes (not captured in these photos), so you will have to come taste the final unveiling at Tilia! (more…)

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Ice Cream 101 – One Simple Custard Base, Several Flavors! (Roasted Banana and more…)

Roasted Banana Ice Cream Recipe | Photo by Zoë François

Last week I did a post on the tricks to creating Sorbet and it got me thinking about ice cream. I always tend to make a big batch and then mash other ingredients into it. This way I can tailor the flavor to the dessert I am serving it with or the mood I am in. You have to start with a really great ice cream 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, there really isn’t a flavor that it doesn’t compliment.

When the first frozen dessert was created by the ancient Chinese, it was just a mixture of fruity syrups and snow, basically a sorbet. Not until the 18th century in England did you find the first ice cream made with milk, cream and eggs, no snow. Today homemade ice cream is still made this simple way. The secret to getting the perfect texture and flavor is not only the ingredients, but the technique of creating a custard and then freezing it.  You want to cook the cream, yolks, sugar and vanilla until the eggs thicken slightly, known as creme anglaise (English cream), and then chill the mixture overnight in the refrigerator, about 6 to 12 hours. This last step is a bit of a mystery, but it works to create the best mouth feel. I have heard the overnight chill described as “maturing,” “ripening,” or “aging.” You get the picture, it gets better with age. I find when I do this extra step my ice cream is smooth and less ice crystals form. The way big manufacturers get past this step is to add gums, starches, or gelatin. I’d rather not, so I just wait.

Once you have the base, you can freeze it as vanilla ice cream or add other flavors. For this recipe I am adding roasted bananas, which I just used in a banana bread post I wrote for the Cooking Channel. Roasting the fruit not only concentrates the sugars, but it also expels some of the water in the bananas, which can cause the ice cream to be icy. I don’t stop there, I also mash in toasted maple-pecans, brandied cherries and chocolate ganache into the roasted banana ice cream, for a total of 4 flavors.  What can I say, I like variety! (more…)

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Peach-Raspberry Jam + Blue Ribbon Jammin’ with Barb Schaller!

Jars of Plum jelly and Peach-Raspberry jam

(Jars of Plum jelly and Peach-Raspberry jam)

I’ve come to understand that the key to really great jam is a good dose of humor and a dash of sass! No one better to have taught me this lesson than the blue ribbon jam lady Barb Schaller. She does magic with fruit and pectin and never steps foot into the kitchen without her pearls (a nod to June Clever). She has been winning ribbons at the Minnesota State FAIR since 1981 and holds its Prestigious Processor of the Pantry award along with countless blue ribbons. She also has developed 2 jams for M.A. Gedney Company’s Award Winning State Fair Recipe line of preserves.

I met Barb, and her charming husband Rob, at a book signing for ABin5. She handed me a bag of home made jams and I’ve been a devout follower of hers ever since. I’ve been begging to get in the kitchen with her for well over a year and this past weekend she graciously allowed me and my friend Jen to watch. What an incredible honor to spend a day in the kitchen with a true master of her craft and watch this year’s blue ribbon recipe in the works.

Barb Schaller’s Peach-Raspberry Jam: (more…)

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