The Best Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream – roasting is the secret.

Strawberry ice cream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Last weekend my folks presented me with a container of fresh strawberries they picked up at an Amish Farmer’s Market. They were ruby red and absolutely gorgeous, in a not-from-the-supermarket way. Their shapes were slightly distorted, their sizes uneven, and yet, they smelled like pure strawberry, in a way Bonne Bell Lip Smackers can only wish for. The beauty of growing your own fruits and vegetables or buying local is that they have a certain ugly beauty, which is not an oxymoron at all. The Japanese call this gorgeous imperfection “Wabi-sabi” and it is what makes a piece of pottery (or fruit) special and clearly not mass produced.

My husband’s favorite ice cream is strawberry. In fact, it can be a point of frustration between us when we go to Convention Grill for dinner. We always split a malt, and it always has to be strawberry. Their malts, even a 1/2 order are fit for a family of 4, so I can never finish one on my own and prefer to share, but does it ALWAYS have to be strawberry? Yep, married for 20 years in August and that is what the man likes, so be it. When I saw the container of strawberries from the farmer’s market I knew instantly that I would use them in ice cream. The color was outrageous and they just begged to be dipped in cream, but not until I roasted them in a touch of balsamic to add even more character. I roasted them to concentrate the sugars and to get rid of the excess water content before mixing them in the vanilla custard ice cream base. This produced a more intense strawberry flavor and a much smoother, less icy consistency. I like to leave some chunks in my fruit ice cream to add texture and drive the favor home, but not if those chunks are hard as a rock. Roasting the fruit first created the perfect flavor and texture. I even made a malted milk shake for my husband with it, which was CRAZY good! Read More

Sneak Peek: Tilia’s Summer Dessert Menu!

Strawberry Fool with Frambois Lambic Foam

The moment has come to switch from the cool weather comfort-food dessert menu and embrace the heat of summer with some cool treats. Here is a teaser of what we’re working on, which we hope to launch next weekend! There will be a few flourishes (not captured in these photos), so you will have to come taste the final unveiling at Tilia! Read More

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

This is a strawberry-rhubarb crisp I created for my Cooking Channel Weekend Baking post. There is really nothing better than the combo of sweet berries and tart rhubarb. If you are one who has never tasted rhubarb, or tried and decided it is not your thing, I beg you to try it again. Maybe you won’t want to grab a stalk out of the garden and plunge it, raw, into a jar of sugar. That is a more advanced move. The trick is to start gradually, combine it with lots of strawberries and a sweet crunchy crisp. This is not cheating, the rhubarb is still playing an essential role in the flavor of your crisp. It is adding a tart dimension to a potentially overly sweet dessert;  like adding lemon zest to balance sweetness, but it is even more interesting. Pretty soon you will have a rhubarb plant growing in your yard and long for the first stalks to poke out from the spring snow and then dread the last days, when the heat of summer has made the plant too tough to eat. That is why I make this plea now, when rhubarb is at its best! Read More

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp with Creamy Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry rhubarb crips topped with strawberry ice cream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

This spring has been intense, seemingly more so than others, but maybe that is just a matter of forgetfulness. As you may have noticed I’ve not posted in a while. There are many reasons for this, mostly I was overcome with writing our 3rd book, an obnoxious computer virus and tendonitis. Perhaps most of all I was reconnecting with my family after being on the road to promote HBin5. Nothing devastating, but when added up, it felt overwhelming. This is all to say that I miss spending time on Zoebakes. This is my playground, my sanctuary and where I come to recharge my creative juices. While I have been absent I have received emails and comments from some of you and I can’t express how much that meant to me. I put my heart into this website and it is an absolute joy to know you are enjoying the desserts. THANK YOU!

The gift of spring every year in my garden is the rhubarb. I didn’t plant it, I don’t care for it, but every spring it pops up and provides me with such a thrill. As soon as the stalks are thick enough to hold the weight of their leaves I start to pluck them out of the ground. I really should wait, but those first tender stalks are the best of the year and I can’t resist. They usually just get dipped in sugar and eaten as is. Now the rhubarb leaves are enormous and starting to take over, the stalks are heartier, but still tender and ready for baking. Strawberry rhubarb crisp, in fact, with fresh strawberry ice cream. I wish I could say that the strawberries came from my garden as well, but the squirrels did those in a few years ago and I haven’t planted new ones. Maybe this year! The flat of strawberries I bought at the store were excellent, it bodes well for the season. Bright in color, sweet and firm.  My husband’s all time favorite ice cream is strawberry and I’ve been trying to make the perfect batch. I think this one is the closest. It has to have intense flavor, but not be icy or grainy from too much fruit. The technique I use for making sorbet, mixed with an ice cream base I adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop turned out to be the key. Read More

Peach-Raspberry Jam + Blue Ribbon Jammin’ with Barb Schaller!

Jars of Plum jelly and Peach-Raspberry jam

(Jars of Plum jelly and Peach-Raspberry jam)

I’ve come to understand that the key to really great jam is a good dose of humor and a dash of sass! No one better to have taught me this lesson than the blue ribbon jam lady Barb Schaller. She does magic with fruit and pectin and never steps foot into the kitchen without her pearls (a nod to June Clever). She has been winning ribbons at the Minnesota State FAIR since 1981 and holds its Prestigious Processor of the Pantry award along with countless blue ribbons. She also has developed 2 jams for M.A. Gedney Company’s Award Winning State Fair Recipe line of preserves.

I met Barb, and her charming husband Rob, at a book signing for ABin5. She handed me a bag of home made jams and I’ve been a devout follower of hers ever since. I’ve been begging to get in the kitchen with her for well over a year and this past weekend she graciously allowed me and my friend Jen to watch. What an incredible honor to spend a day in the kitchen with a true master of her craft and watch this year’s blue ribbon recipe in the works.

Barb Schaller’s Peach-Raspberry Jam: Read More