Christmas Croquembouche

Christmas Croquembouche | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

A croquembouche (kroke-em-boosh) is a tower of profiteroles (cream puffs) stuck together with a thin layer of crisp caramel, which gives the dessert its name, “crocque em bouche” or “crunches in the mouth.” This dramatic pile of puffs is typically served at weddings, but I’ve taken liberties and find it a worthy dessert for any big occasion. A Christmas Croquembouche seems like the perfect way to celebrate this holiday season. The puffs are made of choux paste and are filled with mango pastry cream, which isn’t a flavor you might think of for a Christmas dessert, but it is such a wonderful contrast to the sweet of the caramel. When you break into the cream puffs you’ll find the rich, creamy golden filling.  Just to jazz it up and to continue the holiday theme I added snowflake sugar cookies that I made with an olive oil sugar cookie recipe from my friend Sarah Kieffer’s book, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book, which is one of my favorite cookbooks. Then I spun some sugar into fine threads and wrapped it around the tower of puffs in a garland.

You can watch me make this Christmas Croquembouche in my Instagram video. (more…)

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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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The Sticky Rice with Mango and Coconut Cream I Missed In Vegas!

Earlier this month I went on a mom only junket with my friend Jen. We went to Vegas! Our trip there was for the food and not all of the other more “sinful” elements it is known for.  We stayed at the ultra *fabulous* Wynn hotel, which has some of the best restaurants in town. Just like the knock-our-socks-off meal we had at Joel Robuchon the restaurant scene there is very luxurious and expensive. When many of my chef friends recommended a casual Thai restaurant off of the strip, I was eager to try it.

Seriously folks Lotus of Siam is the best Thai food, and perhaps the best FOOD, I’ve ever eaten. It is very casual and lacking in pretension, which is such a breath of fresh air in Vegas. It has been favorably reviewed by countless food magazines and critics. The reviewer from Chow said “Don’t skip dessert, or you’ll regret it deeply!” Well folks, I have to admit I gorged myself to the point of not being able to eat dessert the night we went. It is a decision that I will regret until I am able to go back! Me of all people skipping dessert, it is shameful! The restaurant is famous for their Sticky Rice with Mango and Coconut cream. I have been obsessed with Thai food and creating this dessert since my return. Here is my version.  It is really wonderful and I so look forward to having it at Lotus of Siam next time I’m there. (more…)

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