Chocolate Babka

I have wanted to bake this special cake ever since first seeing photos of it from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem book all over the blogosphere. It always looks stunning and delicious.

This version is an adaptation of the Chocolate Krantz Cakes in Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi from Smitten Kitchen.com. I loved that she had already made this babka FIVE times, and modified the recipe to perfection. Tried and true. Thank you, Deb Perelman! 🙂

Perelman’s adaptations included omitting the nuts, using granulated instead of superfine sugar, large instead of extra-large eggs, and reducing the amount of sugar syrup topping. She also modified the technique for ease. I melted the chocolate and butter in a double boiler and let the dough rise in a proofing drawer as well.

We enjoyed it warm from the oven for Easter dessert. Rich and wonderful.

Yield: 2 loaf-sized chocolate babkas

For the Dough:

  • 4 1/4 cups (530 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast (rapid rise)
  • grated zest of half an orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water (cold is fine) and up to 1 to 2 tablespoons extra, if needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter (150 grams or 5.3 ounces), at room temperature
  • Sunflower, Canola, other neutral oil, or cooking oil spray, for greasing

For the Filling:

  • 4 1/2 ounces (130 grams) dark chocolate (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
  • scant 1/2 cup (50 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Sugar Syrup:

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar

Make the dough:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and zest in the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add eggs and 1/2 cup water, mixing with the paddle or dough hook until it comes together; this may take a couple of minutes. (If it doesn’t come together, add extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a mass.)
  3. With the mixer on low, add the salt, then the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough.
  4. If using the paddle, switch to the dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until dough is completely smooth; you’ll need to scrape the bowl down a few times. After 10 minutes, the dough should begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If not, add 1 tablespoon extra flour to help this along.
  5. Coat a large bowl with oil (or scrape the dough out onto a counter and oil this one) and place dough inside, cover with plastic and refrigerate. Leave in fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight. The dough will not fully double, so don’t be concerned if it doesn’t look like it grew by more than half.

Make the filling:

  1. In a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate together until smooth. Remove from heat.
  2. Stir in powdered sugar and cocoa; mixture should form a spreadable paste. Add cinnamon.

Assemble the loaves:

  1. Coat two 9-by-4-inch (2 1/4 or 1 kg) loaf pans with cooking spray, oil or butter, and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of parchment paper.
  2. Take half of dough from fridge (leave the other half chilled). Roll out on a well-floured counter to about a 10-inch width (the side closest to you) and as long in length (away from you) as you can when rolling it thin, likely 10 to 12 inches.
  3. Spread half of chocolate mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around.
  4. Brush the end farthest away from you with water. Roll the dough up with the filling into a long, tight cigar. Seal the dampened end onto the log.
  5. Transfer the log to a plastic wrap-lined, rimmed baking tray. Place in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. (This allows the log to be cut in half more easily.) Repeat with second dough.
  6. Trim last 1/2-inch off each end of log. Gently cut the log in half lengthwise and lay them next to each other on the counter, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together. Lift one side over the next, forming a twist and trying to keep the cut sides facing out (because they’re pretty). Don’t worry if this step makes a mess, just transfer the twist as best as you can into the prepared loaf pan. (The dough will fill in any gaps by the time it’s done rising and baking, so don’t worry if the pan isn’t filled.) Note: Next time I would try crossing the dough more than once, if possible.
  7. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise another 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a proofing drawer or at room temperature. Repeat process with second loaf.

Bake and finish cakes:

  1. Heat oven to 375°F (190°C), preferably on convection.
  2. Remove towels, place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. A skewer inserted into an underbaked babka will feel stretchy/rubbery inside and may come back with dough on it. When fully baked, you’ll feel almost no resistance. If your babka needs more time, put it back, 5 minutes at a time then re-test. If it browns too quickly, you can cover it with foil.

While the babkas are baking, make the sugar syrup:

  1. Bring sugar and water to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool somewhat.
  2. As soon as the babkas leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each. It will seem like too much, but will taste just right — glossy and moist.
  3. Let babkas cool about halfway in pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way before eating. (or serve warm!)

Do ahead: Babkas keep for a few days at room temperature. Reheat prior to serving, if desired. If longer, freeze them. They freeze and defrost well.

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Easter Paska

Happy Belated Easter! We had unseasonably warm weather and bright sunshine on Easter Sunday in New York. 🙂 In the afternoon, we visited a local swan to admire her impressive nest.

I made this buttery and eggy Eastern European Paska to enjoy for breakfast over Easter weekend. My daughter braided the dough for the decorative cross. She did such a great job! 🙂 It was such a light and fluffy loaf- really delicious. We ate it topped with butter and jam. It was also recommended to eat with kielbasa or leftover Easter ham.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I used a bread machine to knead the dough and omitted the sugar topping. It could have been used as a beautiful centerpiece as well.

Yield: 1 large loaf

For the Bread:

  • 1 cup (8 oz) lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups (21.25 oz) all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the Topping:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • coarse sugar, like turbinado, optional (I omitted the sugar)
  1. To make the dough: Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough. (I used a bread machine.)
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s noticeably puffy. (I placed it in a warming drawer on the “proof” setting.)
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide it into two pieces, one twice as large as the other. Take the larger piece, roll into a ball, and place it into a well-greased 9″ x 2″ round pan.
  4. Divide the other piece of dough into three equal pieces, and roll each out into a 20″ strand; use the three strands to create one long braid. 
  5. Place the braid around the inside edge of the pan, or use it to form a cross over the top of the larger piece of dough. 
  6. Cover the loaf and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. (I used a proofing oven.)
  7. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection, with a rack in the center.
  8. To make the topping: In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the mixture gently over the top of the risen loaf, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired.
  9. Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it’s a rich golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool before cutting.

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Buckwheat Popovers

My family is happy to eat soup and salad for dinner with a bribe like a warm, eggy popover. This version was earthy and delicious. I had to make them a couple of times to get the baking temperature and cooking times just right. (No worries, we ate the less than perfect ones too. 😉 )

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. We enjoyed them with Spiced Red Lentil Soup, but they would also be wonderful for breakfast with butter and jam.

Yield: 6 Popovers

  • 1 cup/236 milliliters whole milk, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted melted butter, plus more for pans (or use cooking spray)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup/90 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons buckwheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Brush cups of a popover pan (or muffin tin) with butter or coat with cooking spray. (I have had more success with cooking spray.)
  3. In a large measuring pitcher with a spout (this makes pouring easier later), or in a bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, butter, sugar and salt until frothy.
  4. Add flours and whisk until mostly smooth, though a few clumps may remain in batter, which is fine. (If you prefer you can mix everything together in a blender instead of a bowl.)
  5. Pour batter into prepared cups. Bake 15 minutes.
  6. Turn heat down to 350 degrees and bake another 10 minutes until popovers are golden brown and puffed. (Reduce baking time by 5 minutes if using a muffin tin.) Keep tabs on their progress by looking through the window in the oven door. Do not open the oven door until the last 5 minutes of baking or they won’t puff.
  7. Serve warm.

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Applesauce Oatmeal Bread

This wholesome quick bread really caught my eye. I made it as a special after school snack for my kids (and me!). They enjoyed it with a glass of fresh apple cider. I thought it was absolutely perfect for breakfast with a cup of coffee.

The recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I baked the loaf in a Pullman pan, used freshly ground allspice and freshly grated nutmeg, and substituted pecans for walnuts. Yum!

Yield: One standard or Pullman loaf

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or boiled cider
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, plus more for sprinkling top, optional
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • cream cheese, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection. Lightly grease a Pullman loaf pan or a standard 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and soda, and spices.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
  5. Mix in the rolled oats, applesauce, and nuts.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  7. Sprinkle rolled oats over the top, as desired.
  8. Bake the bread for 40 for a Pullman pan or up to 60 minutes in a standard loaf pan, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool completely.
  10. Store cooled bread, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.
  11. Serve with cream cheese, or as desired.

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Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I had a very productive snow day… I made this amazing bread! 🙂 I was inspired to make it with my kids ever since I read this post from Quinn @Dad What’s 4 Dinner. I should have doubled the recipe as he suggested. It was beyond delicious.

I had delayed making it for such a long time, waiting for the perfect time to bake with both of my kids. On their second consecutive snow day, I decided it was the perfect time. What else did they have to do? Ironically, they weren’t really interested in my baking plans. 😦 As disappointed as I was, I really wanted to make it. What else did I have to do? 😉 and… In case you were wondering, yes, they were interested in eating it!

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I made the dough in my bread machine before rolling it out for the filling. I also used a proofing oven for the loaf to rise prior to baking. Fabulous.

Baking Time: 45 min
Total Time: 3 hrs 40 min

Yield: 1 loaf

For the Dough:

  • 361 g all-purpose flour
  • 46 g potato flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 35 g dry milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 35 g granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 57 g butter (about 4 T)
  • 227 g lukewarm water (about 1 cup)

For the Filling:

  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 35 g raisins or currants
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg beaten with 14 g water (about 3 tsp water)

For the Streusel Topping:

  • 28 g unsalted butter, cubed (about 2 T)
  • 28 g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 28 g all-purpose flour
  1. Add the liquid ingredients and butter to a bread machine pan and top with dry ingredients. (If not using a bread machine, combine all of the dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mixing until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl.)
  2. Knead the dough with an electric mixer for 2 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading it for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, or until it’s smooth. If you’re kneading by hand, transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface; knead it for 3 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading till smooth, an additional 8 to 10 minutes. *You can also simply knead the dough using the dough cycle of your bread machine.*
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl (if you’re not using your bread machine’s dough cycle), cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours; it’ll be puffy, if not doubled in bulk.
  4. Transfer the dough to a rectangular piece of plastic wrap or a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into a long, thin rectangle, about 16″ x 8″.
  5. To make the filling, combine the sugar, cinnamon, raisins or currants, and flour in a food processor (mini preferred) or blender, processing until the fruit is chopped.
  6. Brush the dough with some of the egg/water, and pat the filling onto the dough. Reserve the egg wash for the streusel topping. img_8674
  7. Beginning with a short edge, roll the dough into a log.
  8. Pinch the side seam and ends closed (to keep the filling from bubbling out), and place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. img_8676
  9. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 1 hour at room temperature or in a proofing oven, or until it’s crowned about 1″ over the rim of the pan. (Mine took 1 hour 15 minutes.) Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection. img_8678
  10. In a small bowl or mini processor, combine the streusel ingredients, cutting in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. If you’re using a mini processor, watch carefully; streusel will go from crumbly to a cohesive mass in just a second or so.
  11. Brush the loaf with some of the remaining beaten egg and add the streusel, using your fingers to gently apply it to the dough, being careful not to deflate the loaf.
  12. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, then tent the loaf lightly with aluminum foil and continue to bake 15 additional minutes.
  13. Remove the loaf from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, gently remove it from the pan. Some of the streusel will fall off, but you can alleviate this by first loosening all around the edges of the loaf with a knife, then turning the pan on its side and gently pulling it away from the loaf. Streusel will continue to fall off as you maneuver the bread — we’ve never figured out how they make that stuff adhere so nicely on the store-bought loaves! — but you’ll still be left with some nice, sweet topping.

Note: For a deep-dark, moist, cinnamon swirl inside the bread: Blend together sugar, cinnamon, raisins or currants, and flour until smooth. The addition of raisins or currants adds moistness, as well as subtle flavor.

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Gougères

I have wanted to try making gougères for what is starting to seem like forever. As they are dangerous items to have around, I needed a crowd to share them with! When we were asked to bring an appetizer to a friend’s birthday party, I finally had my chance.

Of course, the next issue was selecting a version to try. There was a cheese-topped choux pastry from Food and Wine, a version incorporating milk and less cheese from Ina Garten, or this super-cheesy version adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Mimi Thorisson. My description reveals how my final decision was made. 😉

Elegant and addictive.

Yield: about 50-60 cheese puffs

  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 ounces (about 1½ cups) grated Comté cheese or Gruyère
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring butter, salt, nutmeg, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until butter is melted.
  3. Remove from heat, add flour, and stir to combine.
  4. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and forms a ball, about 2 minutes.
  5. Continue to cook, stirring vigorously, until a dry film forms on bottom and sides of pan and dough is no longer sticky, about 2 minutes longer.
  6. Remove pan from heat and let dough cool slightly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Mix in whole eggs one at a time, incorporating fully between additions.
  8. Mix in cheese and pepper.
  9. Scrape dough into a piping bag fitted with a ½” round tip (#1A) (alternatively, use a plastic bag with a ½” opening cut diagonally from 1 corner). Pipe 1” rounds about 2” apart onto 2 to 3 parchment-lined baking sheets, as needed.
  10. Whisk egg yolk and 1 tsp water in a small bowl; brush rounds with egg wash.
  11. Bake gougères until puffed and golden and dry in the center (they should sound hollow when tapped), 20–25 minutes.

Note: Dough can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Make Ahead: Gougères can be baked 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature; reheat before serving. Alternatively, the baked choux can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; recrisp in a 325° oven for 10 minutes.

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White Sandwich Bread

After all of the heavy eating during the holidays, I was craving a light soup and salad dinner. My daughter is always asking for Tomato Soup, so I made this bread to serve with it so that it would be a substantial enough meal for my husband. It was a bribe of sorts, as I usually do not support the consumption of white bread. 😉

This wonderful bread recipe was adapted from a favorite book, Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook: The Best Recipes from Southampton’s Favorite Bakery for Homestyle Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Muffins, and Breads by Kathleen King. I halved the recipe and adapted the recipe to use a bread machine. My family loved it!

Yield: one standard loaf

  • 2 1/2 T warm water
  • 1 cup warm milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1 1/2 T unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp bread machine (dry) yeast
  1. Combine warm water, warm milk, and butter in the bread machine loaf pan.
  2. Place flour over the top, using a knife to spread it evenly into the corners of the pan.
  3. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the top of the flour.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the yeast.
  5. Set the bread machine to 1 1/2 pound standard loaf and start.

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