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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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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Warm Strawberry Crumb Cake

IMG_4627Our special springtime family tradition is to go strawberry picking. We love it. 🙂 This year, our favorite berry picking farm limited the quantity each person could pick because a cold snap in the early spring damaged a lot of their plants. I had to go pick on two separate occasions!

There is always a lot of pressure to put our pickings to good use. Along with my mandatory strawberry jam and pancakes, I also made strawberry muffins and this amazing dessert – my new addition this year. This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Gerard Craft. I made half of the recipe and modified the baking time accordingly. We ate it warm with vanilla ice cream. It could also be a very special breakfast. Fabulous!!

I’m joining Angie’s party with this one over at Fiesta Friday #125 co-hosted by my friends Quinn @ Dad What’s 4 Dinner and Elaine @ Foodbod. Check out their wonderful blogs & the fiesta!

Yield: Serves 6

For the Filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved (4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 1/4 tablespoons of water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

For the Crumb Topping:

  • 1/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick, 4 tablespoons, unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 large eggs (It’s a little tricky!)
  • 3/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

For Serving:

  • vanilla ice cream, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch slurry and vanilla seeds and let stand until the berries release some of their juices, about 30 minutes.
  3. Pour the fruit filling into a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish set on a sturdy baking sheet.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients with your fingers until a coarse meal forms; press into small clumps. (I set this mixture aside in the refrigerator.)
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.
  6. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions.
  8. Beat in the vanilla extract and scrape down the bowl.
  9. Add the dry ingredients to the batter in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
  10. Spoon the batter over the fruit filling, spreading it to the edge. Sprinkle with the crumb topping.
  11. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling, the crumb topping is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
  12. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly. Serve the crumb cake warm or at room temperature.

Make Ahead: The crumb cake can be refrigerated overnight. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: The fruit filling can also be made with a combination of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.

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If you like this you may also like:

Country Apple Fritter Bread

When I recently saw this recipe on The Company She Keeps– I needed an excuse to make it. Thankfully we had a surprise snow day! (We seriously didn’t even know that snow was in the forecast… :/ ) I knew it would be the perfect special breakfast.

This recipe was adapted from The Baking Chocolatess. I modified the recipe to incorporate whole wheat pastry flour, unsalted butter, and coarse salt. I also baked the bread in my favorite Pullman loaf pan. Decadent and delicious.

Yield: Serves 8

For the Cinnamon Sugar:

  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the Batter:

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk or almond milk (I used whole milk)

For the Apple Mixture:

  • 2 large apples, peeled and chopped (any kind – I used Pink Lady apples- my favorite!)
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • walnuts, to taste, optional

For the Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1-3 tablespoons of milk or cream (depending on desired glaze thickness)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Grease desired loaf pan with non-stick spray.
  3. Make the Cinnamon Sugar: Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Make the Batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat granulated sugar and butter together until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended in; add in vanilla extract.
  6. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl. Add to creamed butter mixture and mix until blended.
  7. Add milk to batter and mix until smooth.
  8. Make the Apple Mixture: Combine chopped apples, granulated sugar, and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Add nuts, if using.
  9. Spread half of the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the apple mixture, then half of the cinnamon sugar mixture.
  10. Lightly pat apple mixture into batter.
  11. Dollop the remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining apple mixture, then the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture.
  12. Lightly pat apples into batter; swirl brown sugar mixture through apples using a knife.
  13. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 45 minutes for a Pullman loaf or 50-60 minutes for a standard loaf.
  14. Make the glaze: Mix the powdered sugar and milk or cream together until desired consistency is achieved. Mix well.
  15. Remove loaf from pan. Let cool for about 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.

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Whole Wheat Gooseberry & Almond Squares

Gooseberries were completely new to me this summer. When I received my second batch of gooseberries in my CSA share, I was stumped. I thought I had peaked with my Gooseberry & Blueberry Galette. 😉 I searched far and wide for a special way to use them. This crumbly, shortbread-like bar was a perfect choice! We ate them for dessert with ice cream, and then ate leftovers for breakfast. They were great with a cup of coffee. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Good Food Magazine, via BBC’s Good Food.com. I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of white self-rising, light brown sugar instead of muscovado, and granulated sugar instead of caster. Earthy and nice.

  • 250 g (2 sticks, 1 cup) chilled unsalted butter, chopped
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 125 g ground almonds (almond flour)
  • 125 g light brown sugar
  • 350 g fresh gooseberries
  • 85 g granulated sugar, plus 1-2 T extra for sprinkling
  • 50 g slivered almonds
  1. Heat oven to 325 F (convection) / 170 C fan. Line a 9 x 13-inch (27 x 18-cm) baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Rub the butter into the flour mixture, ground almonds, and light brown sugar to make crumbs, then firmly press two-thirds into the base and sides of the prepared pan.
  4. Toss the gooseberries with the granulated sugar, then scatter over the top.
  5. Mix the flaked almonds into the remaining crumbs, then scatter over the gooseberries.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or up to 1 hour, until golden and the fruit is bubbling a little around the edges.
  7. Sprinkle with the remaining granulated sugar, then cool in the pan.
  8. Cut into squares and enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea or serve as a dessert with ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

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Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

There is still time! Fresh blueberries are still available!! I regret not posting this wonderful cake sooner- my apologies…. I first read about this blueberry cornmeal cake on Sue’s blog, Birgerbird. She described it as one of the best desserts she had ever tasted, and I know that she has tasted some delicious desserts! 😉 I have had it on my “to make” list ever since. It lived up to my expectations. My family and I devoured it. Mmmmm…. We ate this delicious rustic cake for dessert but it would also be wonderful for a special breakfast. It’s not overly sweet and has a fabulous crumb from the cornmeal. Berries and corn are a wonderful match.

This recipe was adapted from Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes From our Kitchen by Zoe Nathan with Josh Loeband and Laurel Almerinda. I weighed the ingredients when possible which I have found not only ensures a better result but also decreases the preparation time. I modified the recipe to use a 9-inch springform pan, and substituted sour cream for the plain yogurt in the batter.

The authors recommend making this cake with gooseberries- I have to remember that when I receive my CSA gooseberries next season! Strawberries can be used as well. This cake can also be modified for the holidays by adding the zest of one orange, cranberries, and both brown and white sugar. Nice!!

Yield: Makes one 9-inch cake

  • 195 g (3/4 cup plus 1 1 /2 T) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 190 g (3/4 cup plus 3 T) granulated sugar, plus 2 T for sprinkling the top of the cake
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 1/2 T canola oil
  • 3 T maple syrup
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 200 g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 120 g (3/4 cup) cornmeal
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup plus 2 T (270 ml) whole plain yogurt or sour cream
  • 130 g (1/2 cup plus 1 T) whole milk ricotta
  • 150 g (1 cup) fresh blueberries

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Line and grease (I used cooking oil spray) a 9-inch round springform pan of a 10-inch round cake pan.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and 190 g granulated sugar, and salt on medium-high, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Incorporate eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl well.
  5. With the mixer on low-speed, pour in the canola oil, maple syrup, and vanilla.
  6. Pause mixing and add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, yogurt, and ricotta. Mix cautiously, just until incorporated. Do not over mix!
  7. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. Top with the blueberries and sprinkle with the remaining 2 T granulated sugar.
  8. Bake for 50 minutes in a convection oven, or up to 1 hour 10 minutes in a standard oven, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Do not over bake! (I am obsessed with not over baking…)
  9. Allow to cool 15 minutes in the pan.
  10. If using a springform pan, release the sides of the pan and remove. (safer & easier!!) If using a cake pan, place a flat plate on top of the cake and pan. Carefully invert the cake onto the plate by flipping both upside down. Then lift the pan off the cake. Gently pull the parchment from every nook and cranny of the cake, being careful not to break the cake. Rest your serving plate on the bottom of the cake and turn the cake right-side up onto the plate.

Note: This cake is best served the day it’s made but keeps, tightly wrapped, at room temperature, for up to 2 days.

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