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 18 years ago. 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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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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The Salty Tart Pie Party

Pie Pop Up | ZoeBakes 22

My friend and rock star pastry chef, Michelle Gayer (The Salty Tart), is hosting pie pop-ups in Minneapolis for the whole month of November. To get one (or 3) of her pies, you need to show up at Hola Arepa on Monday afternoons from 3-7pm. Those are the official hours, but she’s been selling out in about an hour, so line up early if you want a pie. (Unfortunately, Hola Arepa is closed on Mondays, so you’ll have to go back the next day to sample their incredible menu and mighty fine cocktails.) Michelle came over to bake some pies with me so I could give you an idea of what she’s up to, but don’t go expecting to see these two on the menu, you just never know what mood she’ll be in and the pie selection will change to match her passing culinary fancy. To get more details you can follow Michelle’s pie Instagram feed.

Pie Pop Up | ZoeBakes 24

I have a lot to celebrate these days, in addition to these gorgeous pies (Michelle left them for me to devour). My latest book Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five came out a few weeks ago and I’ve been on book tour, I also just wrapped up a Craftsy video (the subject is very hush, hush, but I bet you can guess) and yesterday was my Birthday. To celebrate all of that I’ve paired up with my friends at Emile Henry to GIVE AWAY 5 gorgeous PIE PLATES for you. Just leave me a note about your favorite pie and you’ll be entered to win. Sorry, but it is only open to those in the USA.

Here are some more pictures of my afternoon of pie baking with Michelle. Got to love the blow torch and sugar dusting!  (more…)

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