No-Bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars

No-bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars | Zoe Bakes photos by Zoë François

These No-bake Chocolate Pepita Crunch Bars are a candy and a brownie all in one. There is no baking, so they are a perfect holiday treat to go along with all the cookies you’ll be trading at your cookie swaps this season. I created this recipe for the wedding of a chef, Jorge Guzman, who wanted a Mexican inspired dessert plate to be served to his guests, in addition to a cake. I kind of fell in love with them and when Bake From Scratch invited me to create some cookies for their Holiday Cookie Issue, I knew instantly that this would be in the mix. The crunch comes from both the toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and feuilletine flakes (which are paper thin cookies that are broken up into what can best be described as dessert-cereal). The pepitas and feuilletine flakes are folded into a chocolate and hazelnut mixture, set firm, covered with ganache and then decorated with more pepitas and edible gold leaf. The result is a sophisticated chocolate bar that is regal enough for a wedding, a holiday party or just a midnight snack. You can watch me make these bars in my instagram video.

Scroll to the bottom of the post to see the Pinon Mexican Wedding Cookies, Chestnut and Honey Madeleines, Caramelized White Chocolate Sables with Sea Salt and and Hazelnut Spice Speculaas I developed for this Special Holiday Cookie Issue.

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Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François

In just about a month my newest book, Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, will hit the shelves in stores near you and online book sellers. This is the bread book I have always wanted to write, because I got to bring my pastry chef ways to the pages, with all the sweet and decadent holiday breads from around the world. Below I have shared just a few of the photos from the book that represent so many cultures and their gorgeous breads. I even got to take some of the photos for this book, along with my friend and fellow blogger, Sarah Kieffer. For the first time we have color photos throughout and gorgeous how-to pictures of the process, so even the more intricate breads (like flaky croissants and Danish) are simple to make.

This is the 7th book in our 5 Minute Bread series and Jeff and I could not be more excited or prouder of this one. I hope you enjoy it as much as we loved putting it together.

Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François

The Holiday and Celebration Bread Book is available for pre-order, so you can have it ready and waiting for all the bakers on your holiday gift list! (more…)

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

4th cheesecake zb 16

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 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. (more…)

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Cranberry-Raspberry Upside Down Cake

upside down cake

The color of this cake alone is enough to bring me great joy these days. It is snowing here in MN, which is a blessing and a curse. Snow is a blessing, because it brings new life to the cold and allows my boys to go snowboarding and sledding in the evenings. It’s also a beautiful blanket over all that was gray just yesterday. There is nothing worse than a winter in MN without snow. The cold, dark, seemingly endless season would be unbearable without it. The curse of snow, is that it is…well…cold and I am not a fan of cold. But, I digress.

snow

The cake’s ruby top is a mixture of tart cranberries and sweet raspberries (my son’s suggestion, after tasting the ALL cranberry version, which he found too tart). The Raspberries both sweeten the cake and also creates a more luscious texture. I personally love the tartness of the cranberries alone, but they have so much natural pectin that the consistency was more like tight jam then I wanted. The cake underneath is rich with butter and almond flour. I served it with ice cream for dessert and then had it for breakfast the next morning with coffee.  (more…)

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Puff Pastry Pears

Everything tastes better wrapped in puff pastry. Just like bacon, it makes everything near it better, no matter if the filling is sweet or savory. It’s the thousands of little layers of dough and butter that bake up together into a gorgeously flaky package. Last week I poached a bunch of pears in chai tea, then drizzled them in chocolate. They were delightful and will make a terrific Thanksgiving dessert. But, then I got to thinking about how those luscious pears would taste if they were encased in puff pastry and served warm with the ganache. Well, they rock. I suggest you serve the poached pears for Thanksgiving and then wrap the leftovers in the pastry to bake up warm for breakfast the next morning.

Puff pastry is one of those things that I think is just fine to buy if you are trying to save time. However, if you have a long weekend with nothing else to do, go for it and make your own. You will join the ranks of the proud, brave souls who can boast that they’ve survived homemade puff pastry. Just kidding, it really isn’t difficult, just time consuming, but well worth the effort. Having said that, you can find it in the freezer section of your grocery store. (more…)

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4th of July Sweets!

4th of July cake

I seem to make big life changes on the 4th of July. I moved the Minnesota 19 years ago on this holiday, and this year I am moving again. Luckily it is just down the street, but it might as well be across the world with all the work involved. We’ve been packing for weeks and today I start to dismantle my kitchen. This is exciting and stressful in equal measures. I am happy to be moving to our new home, but there are so many memories in this old house. Not to mention throwing the contents of my kitchen into boxes is going to test the strength of my character.  Wish me luck. Think of me as you are grilling and picnicking.

Here are some 4th of July desserts I recently created for the Cooking Channel. (more…)

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