Perfect Apple Pie

This pie is Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen’s updated Perfect Apple Pie to her “Even More Perfect Apple Pie.” I had to try it because the filling is loaded with an enormous amount of apples. Yum.

She introduced me to a new technique which I was very surprised to have never seen before or thought of myself! She covers the pie with a foil dome to prevent the crust from over-browning. Absolute genius.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com. The updated pie recipe modifies the baking temperature and cooking time, increases volume of apples (with a link on how to choose pie apples), decreases the thickness of the apple slices, omits the lemon juice and zest, and uses tapioca as the thickener.

The incredible mound of apple filling keeps the finished pie from becoming concave after baking. Beautiful and delicious.

Yield: Serves 8 to 12

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 cup (95 grams) light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnnamon
  • freshly grated nutmeg, to taste, or about 1/4 teaspoon ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 pounds baking apples (I used a combination of several types of apples)
  • 3 T tapioca flour or starch (I used minute tapioca)

For the Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups (315 grams) flour
  • 1 T (15 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces, 225 grams tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten, optional
  • coarse or raw sugar for sprinkling, optional

To Serve:

  • vanilla ice cream, optional

Make the Filling:

  1. Combine sugars, salt, and spices in your absolutely largest bowl.
  2. Peel, halve, and core your apples and cut them into thin (scant 1/4-inch) slices, adding them right to the big bowl.
  3. Toss to coat the slices as much as possible. Set aside for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature.

Make the Crust:

  1. Gather your ingredients: Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside.
  2. In a large, very wide bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
  3. Dice two sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces. (If the butter becomes slightly warm, re-refrigerate until very cold.)
  4. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with a pastry blender, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly.
  5. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas — this won’t take long — stop- even if it looks uneven.
  6. Start by drizzling 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the ice-cold water (but not the cubes, if there are any left!) over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together.
  7. Add an additional 1/4 cup (60 ml) of cold water to bring it together, one tablespoon as a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and use your hands to gather the damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.
  8. Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. I like to use the sides to pull in the dough and shape it into a disk.
  9. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out. (I make my dough a day in advance.)
  10. Once the dough is chilled and ready to go, roll out the first half on a well-floured counter into a 14-inch circle and transfer it to 9-inch standard (not deep-dish) pie plate.
  11. With scissors or kitchen shears, trim overhang to one inch all around. Refrigerate dish and dough until needed.
  12. For a regular pie lid, roll out the second dough half into the same sized circle, transfer it to a large parchment-lined baking sheet and chill this as well until needed. For a lattice or woven pie lid, you can use the same sized circle, or you can just roll it into a rectangle at least 14″ in one direction, and then as long or wide you can get it in the other. Transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill this as well until needed. (I made a 10-piece lattice top.)

Do ahead: Dough will keep in the refrigerator for about a week, and in the freezer longer. If not using it that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells. To defrost your dough, move it to the fridge for one day before using it.

To Make the Pie:

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Stir tapioca starch into the apple pie filling.
  3. Pour filling into prepared bottom crust and use your hands to pack and heap those softened apples as mounded as you can get them, then add a few more.
  4. Pour any juices that have accumulated carefully over apples; do not leave any behind.
  5. Either place your second pie dough round over the filling or cut it into strips to lattice the top.
  6. Trim the top crust or lattice strips to the edge of the pie dish. Fold the overhang from the lower crust over to form a thick rim, and crimp it together with your fingers or a fork to seal it.
  7. Brush top crust with egg, then sprinkle with sugar if desired. If your top crust is in one piece, cut a few vents in it with a sharp knife.
  8. Place a sheet of parchment paper on the large baking sheet for easier cleanup, then transfer your prepared pie onto it.
  9. Bake for 75 minutes, turning once or twice for even color. If your pie is browning too fast, take a large square of foil, mold it over the back of a large bowl into a convex dome, then use that to cover the pie in the oven for the remaining baking time so it doesn’t brown much further. The pie is done when juices are bubbling visibly through the vents or lattice, or when the internal temperature reads 195°F. A tester inserted into the pie shouldn’t hit any overtly crunchy apple pieces. (I added an additional 10 minutes to the baking time t achieve the 195°F internal temperature.)

To Serve: Cool pie for at least one hour at room temperature before cutting into it. However, your filling will not fully thicken until it has fully cooled, ideally in the fridge for a couple hours. You can rewarm slices as you serve them, if desired. Leftovers keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, and in the fridge for 1 week. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Zucchini Bread

As if my CSA zucchini wasn’t enough, my friend brought me more beautiful zucchini from her garden. I made four loaves of this bread (two batches) with a single zucchini! Amazing.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen. I incorporated whole wheat flour. As suggested, I used less sugar and also omitted the add-ins. We ate some, shared some, and froze some for later. This loaf improves with time- perfect to make the night before serving it for breakfast. I imagine it would also be delicious lightly toasted and topped with butter.

Yield: 2 loaves or 24 muffins

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sunflower oil (can also used olive oil or another vegetable oil)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (can also used half (or even all) turbinado or half light brown sugar)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cups grated, packed zucchini, not wrung out (from about 10 oz zucchini)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
  • 1 to 2 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or chocolate chips (or a combination), optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously grease 2 loaf pans (8×4 or 9×5) with butter and flour or with nonstick spray. Alternatively, grease 24 standard muffin cups or line with paper liners.
  3. Whisk eggs, oil, butter, sugar, and vanilla in the bottom of a large bowl.
  4. Sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the wet ingredients and whisk them in well.
  5. Stir in zucchini.
  6. Gently stir in flours, mixing only until incorporated.
  7. Fold in any add-ins, if using.
  8. Divide between prepared pans and bake for 55 to 65 minutes for a loaf, 20 to 25 minutes for muffins, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes on a rack before inverting and removing from the pans. The loaves can also cool completely in pans.
  10. Store wrapped in foil at room temperature for up to 5 days. Loaves also freeze well.

One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes

This dish is amazing summertime comfort food as well as a great dish to make celebrating summer tomatoes. It is a variation of a delicious Martha Stewart Living one-pot pasta dish that I’ve also enjoyed and posted in the past.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites by Deb Perelman, via smitten kitchen.com. I increased the quantity to make 4 main course servings, modified the proportions, and used a Vidalia onion as well as freshly picked vine-ripened tomatoes. (from a friend- lucky me!) The fresh backyard basil was the icing on the cake.

Serves: 4 as a main dish, 3 as a hearty main dish, or about 6 as a side dish

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-pearled farro (the package will note a 30-minute cooking time)(I have used Nature’s Promise farro & Trader Joe’s “10 minute” farro))
  • 1 large onion, preferably Vidalia
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • a generous pound or grape, cherry, or small vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons, for garnish
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving, optional
  1. Place water and farro in a medium saucepan to presoak (5 to 10 minutes is sufficient) while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Adding each ingredient to the pot as you finish preparing it, cut onion in half, and very thinly slice it into quarter-moons.
  3. Thinly slice garlic cloves as well.
  4. Halve or quarter the tomatoes.
  5. Add salt, red pepper flakes (to taste) and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil to pan, and set a timer for 30 minutes.
  6. Bring uncovered pan up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. (I used a medium-size enameled cast iron pot.)
  7. When the timer rings, the farro should be perfectly cooked (tender but with a meaty chew), seasoned and the cooking water should be almost completely absorbed. If needed, cook it for 5 additional minutes, until farro is more tender.
  8. Adjust seasonings as desired.
  9. Transfer to a wide serving bowl. If there’s enough leftover cooking liquid to be bothersome, simply use a slotted spoon to leave the amount you wish to behind.
  10. Drizzle farro lightly with additional olive oil, scatter with basil and parmesan. Serve immediately.

Tomato-Braised Gigante Bean Gratin (Pizza Beans)

This dish could or should be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen called the dish “pizza beans” to make it more appealing to her kids- so I did the same. 😉 She also had the genius suggestion of serving it with garlic bread, giving it even more appeal. Perelman described it as “a mash-up of a giant-beans-in-tomato-sauce dish from Greece and American-style baked ziti, with beans instead of noodles.” Heaven!

My husband and I enjoyed this dish very much. We are already big fans of Greek Gigante beans, by the way. 🙂 With the name “pizza beans,” my kids were expecting pizza, but the flavors in the dish were more like minestrone soup. It may have been more well-received if I had simply called it by the original title, Tomato & Gigante Bean Bake. 😉

This dish would also be wonderful as a cold-weather comfort food casserole. The recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites by Deb Perelman, via smitten kitchen.com. I used a pressure cooker to cook the dried beans, incorporated the pressure cooker bean liquid as well as beet greens, and increased the amount of garlic. I plan to make it again in the winter and give it a different title. I’m sure it will be more well-received. It will be served with garlic bread, of course.

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large or 2 regular carrots, diced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white or red wine, optional
  • 4 ounces (115 grams) curly kale leaves, beet greens, and/or mixed baby greens, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups (550 grams) crushed tomatoes (28-ounce or 800-gram can minus 1 cup; reserve the rest for another use)
  • 1 pound (455 grams) giant white beans such as Italian fagioli corona, Greek gigante/gigandes, Royal Corona, or large lima beans
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) vegetable broth or pressure cooker bean liquid, as needed
  • 1/2 pound (225 grams) mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 1/3 cup (35 grams) grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons (5 grams) roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish, optional
  • garlic bread, for serving, optional
  1. To use a Pressure Cooker to “Soak” the Beans: Place 12 cups of water, 3 tsp of coarse salt and the dried beans in a pressure cooker. Raise to high pressure (2nd ring) for 2 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans.
  2. Cook the Beans in a Pressure Cooker: Place the drained beans with 9 cups of fresh water in the pressure cooker. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Cook on low (1st ring) for 3 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans reserving the bean liquid.
  3. Heat the oven to 475 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. In a 2 1/2-to-3-quart (ideally oven-safe) deep sauté pan, braiser, or shallow Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Season well with salt and black or red pepper. Cook, sautéing, until the vegetables brown lightly, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more.
  6. Add the wine, if using, to scrape up any stuck bits, then simmer until it disappears, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Add the kale/greens, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until collapsed, then add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
  8. Add the beans, and, if the mixture looks too dry or thick (canned tomatoes range quite a bit in juiciness), add up to 3/4 cup broth/bean liquid, 1/4 cup at a time.
  9. Simmer the mixture together over medium for about 10 minutes, adjusting the seasonings as needed.
  10. If your pan isn’t ovenproof, transfer the mixture to a 3-quart baking dish.
  11. Sprinkle the beans first with the mozzarella, then the Parmesan, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on top. If you’re impatient and want a deeper color, you can run it under the broiler.
  12. Finish with parsley, if desired. Serve with garlic bread.

Salad-Topped Hummus Platter

The culmination of my daughter’s summer theatre camp involves days of dress rehearsals followed by matinée and evening performances. She absolutely loves it all and it is worth every second, but it was also difficult to prepare and eat dinner during this time. That’s show business, right? 😉

This genius quick, healthy, and filling appetizer turned dinner saved the day the evening of her final performance. The recipe was adapted from Ina Garten via Smitten Kitchen.com. I made my favorite hummus, added arugula, used a peeled CSA cucumber, and substituted red wine vinegar for lemon juice in the dressing. I could eat it all summer long!

  • 2 cups prepared hummus
  • 2 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces or 225 grams) grape tomatoes, quartered, plus more to taste
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, or multiple small cucumbers, unpeeled, chopped
  • 1/4 medium red onion, chopped small, optional
  • 1 T red wine vinegar or juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp sumac
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, or a mix of parsley, mint, and chives, plus more for garnish
  • 2 large handfuls baby arugula, to taste
  • warm naan or pita, for serving
  1. Prepare hummus in a food processor.
  2. Spread hummus on a large plate with the back of a spoon, creating swirls and cavities. Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, just to freshen it up.
  3. Mix tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, red wine vinegar/lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons olive oil, sumac, plus salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.
  4. Stir in herbs.
  5. Top hummus with arugula. Heap salad on top of the arugula. Finish with additional sumac and/or fresh herbs.
  6. Serve with warm naan or pita wedges.

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Gâteau de Crêpes

This incredible cake was a truly a Father’s Day tribute. I made it for my husband to celebrate what an amazing dad he is to our kids. ❤ We enjoyed it after spending the day at a gorgeous New York State Park, Planting Fields Arboretum.

Making a crêpe cake was also a memorial to my dad. When I was growing up, my dad made crêpes on Sundays for breakfast and he taught me how to make them. When my family brought me to college in Boston, we went downtown to a beautiful Williams-Sonoma and my dad selected crêpe pans to give me as a “going away to school gift.” I treasure them.

I also built the cake on a special cake plate that once belonged to my French grandparents. ❤

I’ve wanted to make a crêpe cake for quite some time. My food-blog friends Suzanne and Mimi inspired me to finally make this fabulous dessert. Thanks, ladies! 🙂 This recipe is from the New York Times, via Smitten Kitchen.com. The original recipe adapted the batter from ”Joy of Cooking” and the pastry cream from ”Desserts,” by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan. I omitted the Kirsch, made the crepes in advance, and increased the sugar in the filling.

I’m sharing this special dessert at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #178. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 12

For the Crêpe Batter:

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 7 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch salt

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter

For Assembly:

  • vegetable oil, such as canola or corn
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or more ( I used 4 T in the cream plus 2 T for brûlée)
  • 3 tablespoons Kirsch, optional
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, optional (if not doing brûlée)

The day before serving, make the crêpe batter and the pastry cream.

To Make the Batter:

  1. In a small pan, cook the butter until brown like hazelnuts. Set aside.
  2. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  3. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter.
  4. Pour into a container with a spout, cover and refrigerate overnight.

To Make the Pastry Cream:

  1. Bring the milk with the vanilla bean (and scrapings) to a boil, then set aside for 10 minutes; remove bean.
  2. Fill a large bowl with ice and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and be placed in this ice bath.
  3. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch.
  4. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then place pan over high heat and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Press the pastry cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the small bowl.
  6. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  7. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

To Make the Crêpes & Assemble the Cake (the next day):

  1. Bring the batter to room temperature.
  2. Place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crêpe pan over medium heat. Swab the surface with the oil (I used a brush), then add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface.
  3. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crêpe with your fingers or a thin metal spatula. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds.
  4. Flip the crêpe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crêpes. (I made 22 crêpes.) Note: I tightly wrapped the crêpes in plastic wrap and refrigerated them for several hours before assembling the cake.
  5. Pass the pastry cream through a sieve once more.
  6. Whip the heavy cream with the 1-4 T sugar and the Kirsch, if using. It won’t hold peaks.
  7. Fold it into the pastry cream.
  8. Lay 1 crêpe on a cake plate.
  9. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup).
  10. Cover with a crêpe and repeat to make a stack of 20 (or 22!), with the best-looking crêpe on top.
  11. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set out for 30 minutes before serving.
  12. If you have a blowtorch for creme brulee, sprinkle the top crêpe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice like a cake.

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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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