Date and Tamarind Loaf

Date and Tamarind Loaf | ZoeBakes photos by Zoë François

When I flipped through Nik Sharma’s new cookbook, Season, the Date and Tamarind Loaf struck me with an air of comfortable familiarity. I’d never had this particular dessert before, but the exotic ingredients are some that I adore. I was introduced to tamarind from my husband, whose family is from Trinidad, where this fruit appears in many foods. Tamarind is sticky and sour and used in all kinds of dishes from sweet desserts to savory Indian chutneys and stews. If you have never seen or used tamarind before, I have created an instagram video to show you how to go about it. You can always use the paste or even pureed tamarind, but it is always fun to start with the real fruit. When I read that Nik’s inspiration for this cake was a sweet chutney, I had to make it and that my family would find it comforting.

If you are not familiar with Nik’s work, I do hope you will check out his book. It is stunningly beautiful visually (he has a photography style that is all his own), but he is also a master at telling his story, which is both smart and compelling. The food is the main event, but the book is really so much more. (more…)

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Chocolate Caramel Matzo for Passover (Updated!)

Chocolate Caramel Matzo with a Variety of Toppings | Photo by Zoë François

This year I added a little extra flavor power to classic chocolate caramel matzo. I made a triple batch to make sure I could send gift bags home after the seder. All the toppings were a hit, but the toasted sesame seeds with the milk or dark chocolate is my new favorite.

Every Passover I make this chocolate caramel matzo recipe from Marcy Goldman’s classic book A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. When I was growing up I loved matzo with butter or my mother’s matzo brei, but as a dessert it never inspired me. Until my friend and co-author Jeff introduced me to Marcy Goldman’s recipe she calls: “My Trademark, most requested, absolutely magnificent caramel matzoh crunch!” Despite the main ingredient being matzo it satisfied my craving for a decadent dessert at Passover. The candy was met with rave reviews and is now part of our tradition along with the fruit pâtes. It really is magnificent and a bit addictive, which is why I save it for Passover! (more…)

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Banana Bread (and Pear Bread) – One Recipe, Two Flavors.

Pear Bread

The fact that Bosc pears taste like spicy, buttery perfume (I mean sweet, pure essence of pear, not old lady soap), may be second to their beauty. I admit I bought this bag of pears to decorate my kitchen. They’re so sleek and statuesque that most every still life painter from Van Gogh to Picasso has captured their elegance.

Pears

The carefully arranged bowl was quickly decimated by my family, who didn’t recognize the art in my attempt, but smelled the juicy pears and ate them. The boscs are in their prime. Some years the pear crops are mealy and tasteless, but this year they’re sweet, juicy and the flesh is perfectly smooth. As they ripened the texture is as soft as an overly ripe banana, so I got the idea of making my banana bread recipe with chunks of the ripe pears.  I added a bit of homemade granola, instead of the toasted coconut I usually put in the banana bread. It is essentially the same recipe, but the result is completely and wonderfully different.

The trick to this recipe is using the pears when they are almost too ripe to eat. This means they are at their sweetest and will breakdown when baking. Unlike other banana recipes, this one calls for chunks of fruit, instead of a puree. Try both the banana and the pear versions and let me know which is your favorite. See the banana bread at the bottom of the post.

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Baklava – A sophisticated twist on the classic!

Thanks to Peter @kalofagas.ca (I follow his culinary journey on Twitter), I’ve been craving Greek food, baklava in particular. For some crazy reason I haven’t made it since I was in college, about 20 years ago. I love the crisp phyllo which is layered with ground nuts, sweet spices, bathed in butter and honey with just a touch of rose water.  It is this last ingredient that gives the recipe its magic. The rose water should be so quiet as to be undetectable, but make people wonder why this baklava is so much better than any other!

Too much and you cross the line into a Crabtree & Evelyn fragrance, so take it easy!

I decided to make the baklava as individual desserts instead of the traditional diamond shape pieces. I thought it would be more elegant to serve. It may take a few more minutes to assemble this way, but the presentation is worth the effort! (more…)

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