Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding

Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

I think this Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding may be the ultimate comfort food. I always have bread on the counter. Since my new book, Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, came out, I have several loaves going at a time. What to do with all the partially eaten loaves? Cube it up, soak it in a rich custard and bake it. It could not be any easier and the results are warm and so satisfying. Bread pudding is one of the those desserts that also doubles as breakfast, like pie and cake! 🙂 No, really, it is full of eggs and toasty bread and this one just happens to have bits of chocolate and chunks of chestnuts. If you were to serve it with a dollop of creme fraiche instead of ice cream, it would be a simple and elegant Christmas breakfast. Add the ice cream and it is a homey, but decadent dessert.

When I worked in restaurants my bread pudding was always one of the most popular desserts on the menu. Hope you enjoy it!

Chocolate Chestnut Bread Pudding | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

You can watch me make this bread pudding in my instagram video. Recipe below. (more…)

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Lavender Crème Brûlée

Lavender Creme Brûlée from ZoeBakes, photo by Zoë François

Crème Brûlée was the first French dessert I’d ever had in a restaurant. When I was in junior high school, I’d take the train into NYC from CT to visit my aunt. She was fashionable, impossibly sophisticated and took me to lavish meals at restaurants that were way over my head, at the age of 13. When I dipped into the creme brûlée I was instantly aware that this was an adult experience. I felt like I was playing grown up and was certainly aware that I was participating in something special.

The texture of crème brûlée like velvet, because it is made with egg yolks, which make it rich and creamy. Unlike it’s custard cousins, flan and creme caramel, the crème brûlée doesn’t get inverted, so it doesn’t need the strength of the egg whites to hold it’s shape. It is made in a shallow ramekin, so it can be partnered with just the right ratio of burnt sugar. The gossamer thin layer of caramel cracks like glass, but the contrast to the custard below is the perfect yin and yang of the pastry world. In truth creme brûlée is so simple to make, despite it’s reputation of the opposite. There are a couple of tricks to guarantee success and I show you them in my instagram video.

I bought a lavender plant for my kitchen and can think of no better place to use the perfumed plant, than in a custard. You want to use enough to scent the creme brûlée, but not so much that it tastes like the perfume counter at Bloomies (another stop on my trips into NYC). You can flavor your creme brûlée with lavender, tea, spices, coffee, or just about anything else you can steep in the cream. See my instagram video to see how I did this.

Lavender Creme Brûlée from ZoeBakes, photo by Zoë François

Lavender Crème Brûlée

1 quart heavy whipping cream

1 vanilla bean, scraped or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch salt

10 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers or 12 fresh stems of flowers (see my instagram video)

Berries and lavender for garnish

Heat the cream, vanilla bean, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, salt, and lavender over medium heat, until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover and allow to steep for at least 30 minutes, but this can be done the day ahead (stored in the refrigerator) for a more intense flavor. Warm the cream again if you’ve chilled it.

Preheat oven to 300°F

Mix the egg yolks and remaining sugar in a medium bowl. Liaison the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks. Strain the custard mixture into a measuring cup. Fill six 4-inch Crème Brûlée Dish. Bake the creme brûlées on a baking sheet filled with water, to create a water bath. Bake until the brûlées are just set, like set jello, about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the temperature of the custard going into the oven. Allow to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving, but can be made a day or two ahead.

To brûlée the top, dust with sugar and caramelize the sugar with a Blow Torch or under a gas broiler (electric broilers don’t work well for this).

See my instagram video to watch me make, bake and brûlée the tops.

Lavender Creme Brûlée from ZoeBakes, photo by Zoë François

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Butterscotch Pot de Crème (and Pumpkin Version for Fall)

Butterscotch Pot de Crème | Photo by Zoë François

I developed this butterscotch pot de crème recipe for Tilia‘s dessert menu. Steven Brown, the chef/owner wanted a turbo charged version of the butterscotch pudding from his childhood. We went with a Pot de crème, which is essentially as decadent as creme brulee, without the crack of caramel resting on top. The texture is like silk and the taste is lightly sweet, with just a slight bitter edge from the burnt sugar in the butterscotch. Cooking the butter and brown sugar together until it is smokin’ hot (and I do mean smoking) is the key to the flavor. If you don’t bring them to the brink of burning the pudding will be way too sweet for my taste. The crème fraîche (young sour cream) is unsweetened and the perfect balance for the pudding. If you don’t happen to live near Linden Hills (a small village of a neighborhood in Minneapolis), where you can order this at Tilia, you can now make it at home.

You can watch me make this Buttercotch Pot de Crème on my instagram stories.
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Raspberry Custard Tart (Flan Parisien)

Raspberry Custard Tart (Flan Parisien) | Photo by Zoë François

This is a wonderful tart filled with vanilla custard. You’ll find custard tart in every patisserie in Paris, but have likely never come across one here in the states. Its rustic simplicity is exactly the kind of pastry I love. It’s really quite easy to create; a tart dough (this recipe uses a bit of potato flour, which makes it even more tender, because there is less gluten to get excited and tough) that goes up the sides of a ring mold baked with a pastry cream. I added raspberries to give it a bit more character, some tartness and they’re just pretty.  (more…)

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Banana Pudding

banana pudding (2 of 5)

This quintessential southern dessert is found on the back of the box of Nilla wafers. You can certainly use Nilla brand wafers for this and there will be no judgment and it will taste just like you remember when you ate it as a kid. OR you can make your own vanilla wafer cookies and be so glad you did. They are super easy and fast to make and they don’t have any of that cardboard box flavor overtones. Wait, did that just come across as judgy? Either way you are going to love this recipe. I was inspired to make it after an old friend from high school (that’s a very old friend) made it for New Years Eve and posted pictures on Instagram. I found the Nilla wafer recipe in the BraveTart cookbook by Stella Parks.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram you probably have seen my pastry tutorial “stories.” I’m slightly obsessed with working through a recipe in 15 second intervals, often with eclectic baking music. You’ll find this banana pudding recipe made from start to finish on my Instagram page archived in my “highlights.” There are many other recipes and techniques you may want to check out.

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Lemon Pudding Cake

Meyer Lemon Pudding-Cake | photo by Zoë François

It’s a little bit pudding and a little bit cake, all in one recipe. I was first awed by this lemon pudding-cake when I went to a pastry conference at the CIA and met the pastry chef from Craft, Karen Demasco. She served this dessert; made up of a layer of tangy lemon curd baked on top of a sweet delicate cake. They were clearly baked as one, but the two layers were so distinct in appearance and taste. I fell in love. When Karen wrote a book last year I was so excited to see this recipe in it! I have made it with lime juice, grapefruit and even passionfruit juices.

You can use six to eight ramekins for this batch, depending on how tall you want your cake to stand.

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