Ottolenghi’s Butternut Squash Lasagna Pie

This special pie was the perfect way to use my CSA butternut squash and the very last leaves of my homegrown basil. The incorporation of cumin and coriander seeds gave it a unique flavor profile. Fancy comfort food. 🙂

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yotam Ottolenghi. Lovely.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

For the Pie:

  • 4 T olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan (I used cooking oil spray on the pan)
  • 10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 T cumin seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1 T coriander seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 tsp Aleppo chile flakes
  • 1 (9 to 12-ounce) jar red peppers, drained
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, halved, deseeded and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices (I used a mandoline to slice the squash)
  • 8 ounces dried lasagna noodles, each roughly broken into 3 or 4 pieces (I used oven-ready no-boil lasagna)
  • 7 ounces baby spinach (10 lightly packed cups)
  • 1 packed cup basil leaves, torn in halves
  • 1 cup crumbled Greek feta
  • heaping 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

For the BĂ©chamel:

  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 5 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, plus more if needed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Grease a 9-inch springform cake pan then line it with a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the base and hang over the sides by a couple inches. (I used cooking oil spray.) Place pan on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
  3. Add the oil to a small frying pan and heat over medium. Once it’s hot, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring until fragrant but not browned.
  4. Add the tomato paste, cumin, coriander and chile flakes and cook for 1 minute more, stirring often, until deeply red. Set aside to cool slightly.
  5. Add tomato paste mixture to a small food processor with the red peppers, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper; blitz until smooth. (I did this in 2 batches.)
  6. Empty the mixture into a very large bowl and add the squash slices, lasagna pieces, spinach, basil, feta, Parmesan, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and a good grind of pepper. Use your hands to make sure everything is nicely coated.
  7. Transfer this mixture to your lined cake pan, adding a third at a time and pressing lightly to ensure everything is even and compact.
  8. Using heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap the cake pan all around until tightly sealed, place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.
  9. Toward the last 15 minutes of baking time, make the béchamel: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking steadily, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it starts to smell like popcorn.
  10. Slowly pour in the milk 1/2 cup at a time, whisking with each addition until fully incorporated.
  11. Add the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Use a spatula to stir and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to ensure the bottom doesn’t scorch, until nice and smooth.
  12. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan. *If the pie isn’t done, cover the top with a piece of parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming. The béchamel is easier to handle when warm; if needed, reheat gently with a splash of milk to loosen.*
  13. After the pie has cooked for 1 hour, remove it from the oven and carefully unwrap the top foil and paper, crinkling it down and around the sides of the pan to expose the top.
  14. Spoon the béchamel on top, using a spatula to distribute it evenly over the surface. (Take care not to mix it with the base; you want the béchamel to remain white.)
  15. Turn the oven temperature up to 450 degrees, preferably on convection, and place the cake pan back on its baking sheet and bake for another 10 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until nicely browned on top.
  16. Set aside to cool for at least 15 minutes.
  17. Carefully release the pie from the springform pan, loosening the outer ring then using the parchment to help lift it onto a serving plate or board. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Soft Stamped Gingerbread Cookies with Glaze

These soft gingerbread cookies were my daughter’s favorite in the assortment! I bought Nordic Ware snowflake cookie stamps after seeing them on the beautiful blog The View from Great Island.

The recipe was adapted from Ottolenghi’s dessert cookbook, Sweet, via theviewfromgreatisland.com. I modified the method using another post on the same blog that used cookie stamps.

I also used a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop instead of a 2 tablespoon scoop, resulting in less of the snowflake imprint being transferred. (I need a 2 tablespoon scoop!) I would also thin the glaze even more next time so that it would be more transparent, revealing more of the pattern of the stamp.

Alternatively, instead of the glaze, each cookie could be sprinkled with additional granulated sugar prior to baking.

Yield: 18 cookies (using 1 1/2 T scoop) (6 of each design)

For the Cookies:

  • 6 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 packed cup plus 2 T (7 T) dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (5 T) molasses (do not use blackstrap, which is bitter)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 T Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

To Roll and Stamp:

  • small bowl of granulated sugar

For the Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 T warm water, plus more for thinning
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Put your cookie stamps in the freezer to chill.
  2. Cream together the butter, sugar, and molasses in a stand mixer (or with a hand held mixer).
  3. Beat in the egg yolk.
  4. Sift together the dry ingredients.
  5. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beating on low until the dough comes together.
  6. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until all the floury crumbles are incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk. I did not have to chill my dough before rolling, but if yours is very soft, you may want to.
  7. Use a medium (1 1/2 or 2 tablespoon) cookie scoop to portion out the dough.
  8. Roll the dough into balls and coat in granulated sugar.
  9. Stamp the balls of dough with your cookie stamp. Gently pry it off the cookie stamp by just nudging one corner. The cookie should come right off the stamp. (at this point, you can sprinkle the top with additional sugar if not making the glaze)
  10. Place the stamped cookies in the freezer for 15 minutes. (I placed them on a parchment paper-lined cutting board.)
  11. Place the cold cookies onto fresh parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.
  12. Bake for 8-10 minutes. You don’t want to over bake these cookies, so do a test cookie or two to figure out the best timing for your oven. The cookies will be soft when you remove them from the oven, but will firm up as they cool.
  13. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the pan before carefully transferring to a rack to cool completely.
  14. When the cookies are cool, whisk the glaze ingredients together until they become a smooth thin glaze. Add more water if the glaze is too thick, it should have the consistency of maple syrup or a thin honey.
  15. Brush the cooled cookies with the glaze. You want the glaze to be thick enough to settle into the design for a beautiful emphasis. It will become more translucent as it dries.
  16. Let the glaze set up fully before serving or storing.

Ottolenghi’s Meatball Toad-in-the-Hole

More meatballs! This is an updated version of the classic British dish. Ottolenghi describes the key elements as “well-cooked meat, crisp pancake and velvety gravy.” He modified the popular dish by using ground pork in the meatballs. It was very hearty and rich.

The complete dish was time consuming to prepare, but the components can be made separately and ahead to save time, if desired. This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yotam Ottolenghi. I modified the baking times.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Time: about 2 hours

For the Batter:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup/240 ml whole milk
  • 2/3 cup/160 ml India pale ale or another pale ale (I used Sierra Nevada)
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 3/4 cups (225 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the Gravy:

  • 2 T sunflower or canola oil
  • 1 T (15 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 small onions (about 12 oz (350 g) total), halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups/480 ml chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 T/100 ml India pale ale
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:

  • 7 oz/200 g sourdough bread, crusts discarded and bread cut into 1/4-inch (1/2-centimeter) cubes
  • 3/4 cup/180 ml whole milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds/700 g ground pork
  • 4 oz/115 g pancetta, very finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 1/2 onion or 1 very small onion (about 3 oz/80 g), grated
  • 1/3 packed cup/20 g roughly chopped parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 6 T/90 ml sunflower or canola oil
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  1. Heat the oven to 475°F/240°C, preferably on convection.
  2. Prepare the batter: Add the eggs, milk, beer and mustard to a large bowl, and whisk vigorously until foamy, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the flour and salt to a separate large bowl, making a well in the center, and pour the egg mixture into the well, in about four increments, whisking lightly each time until the flour is just incorporated. Whisk until there are no lumps and the ingredients are just combined, taking care not to overwork the batter.
  4. Set batter aside for at least 30 minutes, or while you continue with the next step.
  5. Prepare the gravy: Add the oil, butter, onions, rosemary and vinegar to a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-centimeter) baking dish (tin)(Do not use pyrex/glass). Bake, stirring a couple of times during cooking, until the onions are thoroughly collapsed and browned, about 20 minutes.
  6. Whisk together the flour, stock and beer in a bowl until smooth. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper, then pour flour mixture into the baking dish.
  7. Return gravy to the oven and bake, stirring twice throughout, until the gravy is thick and rich, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprigs and keep warm.
  8. While the gravy is cooking, prepare the meatballs: Soak the bread in the milk in a small bowl and set aside until the liquid is absorbed, 10 minutes. Use your hands or a fork to break apart the bread into a lumpy mash.
  9. In a large bowl, mix together the ground pork, pancetta, onion, parsley, garlic and lemon zest with 1 teaspoon salt and a generous amount of pepper. Add the bread and use your hands to knead the mixture until it is very well mixed. Shape into 12 large meatballs.
  10. Spread 2 tablespoons oil across the bottom of a large roasting pan (tin), about 9-by-13-inches (23-by-33-centimeters) in size. (I used an enameled cast iron baking pan.)
  11. Add the meatballs and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until some of their liquid has been released. Transfer the meatballs to a baking sheet (tray) lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture. Pour the liquid released from the meatballs in the roasting pan directly into the gravy, and then wipe the roasting pan dry.
  12. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons oil to the meatball roasting pan and return to the oven until very hot and beginning to smoke, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  13. Working as quickly as possible, pour the batter into the pan (it should bubble around the edges) and then add the meatballs and 2 rosemary sprigs. Return to the oven immediately and bake for 15 minutes.
  14. Reduce the temperature to 400°F/210°C (don’t open the oven!) and bake for 20 to 30 minutes more, or until golden and well risen. (If you want, near the end of baking time (when the custard is set), you can sneak the gravy into the oven to rewarm during the last 5 minutes of baking.)
  15. Serve immediately, with the gravy alongside.

Herby Polenta with Corn, Eggs, & Feta

This is another wonderful one-pot vegetarian baked egg casserole that can be served any time of day. The title of the New York Times article about it was, “Polenta That You’ll Never Need to Stir: Baking a classic in a sea of eggs and cheese gives it complexity.” Irresistible. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yotam Ottolenghi. I used my special grits from Charleston, South Carolina instead of polenta. I also increased the amount of garlic, reduced the red pepper flakes, and kept the corn kernels whole. I loved all of the brightness from the combination of fresh herbs. Delicious!

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 9 ounces (255 g) frozen corn kernels (about 2 cups), defrosted
  • 6 to 7 ounces (~200 g) baby spinach (about 10 lightly packed cups), roughly torn or sliced
  • 1 cup (150 g) coarse cornmeal (grits or polenta)
  • 1 packed cup (50 g) finely grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 5 scallions, thinly sliced, 2 T reserved for garnish
  • 1/4 cup (20 g) roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 T finely chopped and reserved for garnish
  • 3 T roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 T roughly chopped fresh dill
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups (530 ml) whole milk
  • 2 cups (475 ml) chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 3 T (40 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 5 ounces (140 g) Greek feta, roughly crumbled (about 1 cup)
  • 8 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red-pepper flakes, plus more for garnish
  • warm naan, pita, or crusty bread, for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 375°F/200°C, preferably on convection.
  2. If desired, add the corn to a food processor and pulse once or twice, just until roughly chopped. (I opted to leave the kernels whole.)
  3. In a large bowl, combine the corn, spinach, cornmeal, Parmesan, scallions, 1/4 cup cilantro, parsley, dill, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a good grind of pepper; stir to combine.
  4. Transfer this mixture to a large, deep, oven-proof skillet, then add the milk, stock and butter, stirring gently to mix through. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  5. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and give everything a good whisk.
  6. Return to the oven and bake until the cornmeal is cooked through and the mixture has thickened, about 20 minutes. Give the polenta another good whisk — it should be quite smooth and not completely set — then stir in half the feta.
  7. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F/220°C, preferably on convection.
  8. Use a dinner spoon to make 8 shallow wells in the polenta. Crack an egg into each well and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining feta all over, and bake until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny, 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, combine the reserved scallions and cilantro in a bowl with the oil. Spoon this mixture all over the polenta and eggs and sprinkle with the red-pepper flakes, if desired. Serve directly from the pan.

Ottolenghi’s Zucchini “Baba Ghanoush”

I knew that I had to make this as a special appetizer after seeing it on Chef Mimi’s blog. It sounded so interesting- a baba ghanoush without eggplant or tahini, but with zucchini, yogurt, and Roquefort cheese. The charred zucchini resembled bananas when they were peeled; cooking it this way gave it smokiness.

It may not be absolutely beautiful, but it was absolutely delicious. Ottolenghi describes its appearance as “rather like a volcanic eruption.” 🙂 It was a little bit time-consuming to prepare, but was worth every bit of time and effort.

This recipe was adapted from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi. I used French whole milk plain yogurt instead of goat’s milk yogurt and used regular chile flakes instead of Urfa chile flakes. I also crumbled the cheese rather than grating it. I definitely plan to make it again- we loved it. Incredible.

Yield: Serves 6 as a starter or as part of a mezze selection

  • 5 large zucchini (about 2.75 pounds/1.2 kg)
  • 1/3 cup (80 g) plain whole milk yogurt
  • 2 T (15 g) coarsely crumbled Roquefort cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 T (15 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 T (20 g) pine nuts
  • pinch of chile flakes
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed in a garlic press
  • 1/2 tsp za’atar, to finish
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • warm naan, for serving
  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Place the zucchini on a baking sheet lined with foil and broil for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice during the cooking, until the skin crisps and browns nicely.
  3. Remove from the oven and, once cool enough to handle, peel off the zucchini skin, discard it, and set the flesh aside in a colander to drain. The zucchini can be served warm or at room temperature.
  4. Put the yogurt in a small saucepan with the Roquefort and egg. Heat very gently for about 3 minutes, stirring often. You want the yogurt to heat through but not quite reach the simmering point. Set aside and keep warm.
  5. Melt the butter in a small sauté pan with the pine nuts over low heat and cook, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the nuts turn golden brown. Stir in the chile flakes and lemon juice and set aside.
  6. Put the zucchini in a bowl and add the garlic, a scant 1/2 tsp coarse salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Gently mash everything together with a fork and then spread the mixture out on a large serving platter.
  7. Spoon the warm yogurt sauce on top, followed by a drizzle of the warm chile butter and the pine nuts.
  8. Finish with a sprinkle of za’atar and serve at once with warm naan.

One Year Ago: Vegetarian Harira

Two Years Ago: Mushroom Spinach Soup with Middle Eastern Spices

Three Years Ago: Orecchiette with Carrot-Hazelnut Pesto

Four Years Ago: Saffron Pappardelle with Moroccan Spiced Shallot-Butter Sauce and  Clams Casino

Five Years Ago: Israeli Couscous with Spinach & Onions

Ottolenghi’s Red Lentil Soup with Chard, Cilantro, & Lemon

Red lentil soup is definitely one of my cold weather favorites. I have made all sorts of versions but all have been relatively smooth in texture. This version has spoonfuls with different consistencies from caramelized red onions, chopped rainbow chard, and cilantro. Incredible.

This recipe was adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I doubled the recipe below, used ground coriander, and added more fresh lemon juice. The authors declared that the squeeze of fresh lemon juice just prior to eating is essential. We ate it with sourdough baguette slices and a green salad.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 1/2 cups (500 g) split red lentils
  • 2 1/2 quarts (2.5 liters) cold water
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 7 oz (200 g) Swiss chard (I used rainbow chard)
  • 3 cups (50 g) cilantro leaves
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 T coriander seeds or 1 T ground coriander
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 1/2 T (50 g) unsalted butter
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • sourdough bread, for serving
  • 4 lemons, cut into wedges, for serving
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Rinse the lentils in cold water.
  2. Place lentils in a saucepan with the water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 35 minutes, until soft. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface during cooking.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, remove about half the lentils from the cooking liquid and set aside in a bowl.
  4. Add a generous pinch of salt to the lentils and water int he pan and process with an immersion blender (or in a food processor).
  5. Return the reserved lentil to the soup.
  6. Peel the red onions, halve, and thinly slice them.
  7. Place onions in a frying pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onions soften and become translucent. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Remove the large stems from the Swiss chard and reserve for another use. Wash and rinse the leaves, then chop coarsely.
  9. Remove the large stems from the cilantro and discard. Wash and rinse the leaves, reserve a few leaves for garnish, and coarsely chop the remainder.
  10. Mix the cooked onions, chard leaves, and chopped cilantro into the lentil soup.
  11. Season the soup with the cumin, cinnamon, and some salt and pepper to taste. Reheat the soup and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  12. With a mortar and pestle, or using the flat blade of a large knife, crush the cilantro seeds and garlic together.
  13. Melt the butter gently in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic and coriander seeds, and fry for 2 minutes, until the garlic starts to color slightly.
  14. Stir the butter mixture and the lemon juice into the soup, remove the pot from the stove, and cover with a lid. Leave the soup to infuse for 5 minutes prior to serving.
  15. Serve garnished with lemon zest and cilantro with lemon wedges and sourdough bread on the side. Make sure everybody squeezes the lemon into their soup.

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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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