The Perfect Apple Pie

The Perfect Apple Pie | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

The apple pie is practically a national treasure and for good reason, it is just about the perfect dessert. This time of year there are dozens of apples to choose from and I suggest you pick a variety for this pie. Having a mix of apples makes for a great pie, but be sure you pick apples that don’t turn to mush if you want a high, dramatic pie. The Perfect Apple Pie is from Cenk Sönmezsoy’s The Artful Baker, and trust me, I don’t hand out that description without great consideration. It is made in an unusual process, which you can watch in my instagram video. Sönmezsoy uses the ENTIRE apple (including skins & cores), so nothing is wasted and the taste and texture is brilliant. The pie is jammed packed with super thin slices of apples, so that it is dense. If you take the time to stack them, you’ll see the clean lines of apple when you cut into it. This pie takes a little longer to make, but the results are worth every second.

I topped the pie with a scoop of homemade rum raisin ice cream, because it is a family favorite. (more…)

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Blueberry Bars for Back to School!

Blueberry Bars | ZoeBakes photo by Zoe Francois

This post is originally from 2011 and it is hilarious for me to read it, since my boys are now 17 and 19 years old and no longer have little fingers, because they’re 6-feet tall. The only thing that remains the same 7 years later; they still love these Blueberry Bars!

2011: Yesterday was the official end of summer in my house. Back to school for both boys, and I spent the day wishing they were home again. “Seriously?” You may ask. I spent the past several weeks anticipating the beginning of school with a certain glee, which may have bordered on unhealthy. I couldn’t wait to have peace and quiet in my house, for hours at a time. I looked forward to doing my work without interruption, sans little fingers dipping into the bowl. But, when it came to the actual day, I missed them and couldn’t wait for them to get off the bus.* Instead of pathetically staring out the window waiting, I decided to bake them some Blueberry Bars. Every MN kid loves bars.

For those of you from the coasts, I am referring to a layered dessert baked in a pan resembling a brownie/cookie/pie, but can be made with fruit, caramel, chocolate or anything else your pantry contains. Then they are cut into neat bars. I was first introduced to this concept when I moved to Minneapolis in 1993. Bars are generally served on a buffet table with lots of crock pots filled with “hot dish.” Every family has their own recipe, usually a tightly held secret, mostly kept from the neighbors.

To watch me make these bars and for tips on easy lattice and stable fillings, watch my instagram video. Recipe below.

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Perfect Peach Pie with Lattice Crust

peach pie with lattice crust on ZoeBakes. Photo by Zoe Francois

When the peach season is a good one, and this year it is spectacular, it is best to keep peach pie simple. There is nothing more beautiful than a perfectly ripe, juicy, smooth, sweet peach, so don’t fuss it all up with too much extra stuff. This peach pie is really just peaches, a touch of booze, which is optional and some raw sugar (use brown sugar if you don’t stock raw). The trick is binding the peaches enough to keep them together in a neat slice, without adding so much starch that is gets gloppy. This is an art, rather than a science (that’s only partially true), because each batch of peaches produces a different amount of juice. I tend to go on the under-bound edge of the spectrum, so keep that in mind when you are making your filling.

If you happen to get your hands on a bunch of peaches and you want to make more than one pie, you can make the pie, freeze it and bake it later in the summer or even save it (if you have a really good freezer) for chillier weather, when you are desperate to remember the taste of summer.

You can watch me make this pie and I give more details on freezing a pie in my instagram videos.

peach pie with lattice crust on ZoeBakes. Photo by Zoe Francois

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Mango Curd Tart

Mango Curd Tart | photo by Zoë François

In a quest to create the perfect mango cheesecake, I discovered mango puree from the Indian market. I’ve tried making my own with fresh mangos, but the flavor was much too subtle and disappeared in most recipes. I even tried cooking it, to reduce the fruit, which usually works to intensify the flavor. But, it just made the mango taste like squash. So, I asked the internet and my community taught me the ways of tinned (canned) mango puree, which is apparently a known and beloved ingredient in India. There are many types of mangos and the Indian market had them all in puree, so I tried them all. They are mostly sweetened, but I did manage to find one that wasn’t and it was amazing. If all you can find is the sweetened version, you can reduce the sugar in the recipe by a bit.

The mango cheesecake was a big hit (I’ll post that recipe soon too) and I had lots of the puree left over, so I went to work creating more desserts with it. This mango curd tart is the lucky result of that abundance of tinned mango. The curd is made just as you would a lemon curd, but I used a combination of mango and lime. It makes very little sense, but the lime makes the mango taste more like mango and not just cloyingly sweet. Slow cooking the curd over a double boiler is the key to the satiny texture.

You can watch my video of this mango curd tart on my Instagram page. (more…)

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Slice of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | photo by Zoë François

It is rhubarb season and I am doing my very best to use it in as many desserts as I can. This will thrill those of you, like me, who love this vegetable baked in pies, crisps, tarts (try this brown butter rhubarb tart), quick breads and jam, as much as I do. For those of you who have never fallen in love with it, have no fear, it’s a short season. Ha. Having said that, I do hope you’ll give it another try. It adds a wonderful, tart element to this strawberry rhubarb pie, which would otherwise be too sweet for my taste. I love strawberries, but they are a bit too sweet and jammy on their own in a pie. The marriage of rhubarb and strawberries is perfection, because sometimes opposites attract.

No pie is right without an excellent crust. It needs to be sturdy enough to hold up to the filling, but once a fork goes through it, there should be little resistance and lots of flakiness. Every family seems to have their favorite pie crust recipe, which is so wonderful. I am sharing the crust I use most and you can watch me make this whole strawberry rhubarb pie in my instagram video(more…)

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Lemon Honey-Meringue Pie

Lemon Honey-Meringue Pie | Photo by Zoë François

I love lemon meringue pie, as much for the look of it, as the taste. The tart filling is covered in sweet honey meringue. I added a floral twist that adds a subtle scent of lavender to the not-so-subtle taste of honey.

This Lemon Honey-Meringue Pie is very easy to make, but there are some steps to follow that will take your pie from a weepy mess to a magnificent mile-high showpiece. You can watch me make the pie in my instagram stories. (more…)

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