I could barely write that title without laughing. You see Babka has been around at least as long as I can remember and really even longer. Jewish housewives started making it, in the 1800’s, with extra challah dough. It wasn’t the chocolate cinnamon version we know today. It was usually filled with jam or fruit and topped with some kind of streusel. Chocolate Babka hit the scene in the 1800’s and mostly here in America, not so much the “old country”.
When I was growing up, it was one those desserts that was always out on Friday night, Saturday lunch and Sunday dinners. It was easy to bring to somebody’s house and I’m sure my mom ate her share with a cup of coffee while playing bridge and gossiping. As a kid it was a take it or leave it dessert. If there was nothing else on the table then I would take a slice or not.
When babka was first made in Russia and Eastern Europe, it was usually a Pareve, or neutral, dish. This was for the kosher home and meant it could be served with milk or meat dishes because it was made mostly with water and oil. This made for a little bit of a drier cake. Once in America, bakeries started adding butter for a moister, richer cake with a brioche like density.
I knew Babka was having its moment in 2016 when Trader Joes started selling it. It seems only natural that I would share a recipe now. This is one of those that are not super hard to make but will make great impression. You may even bring back some memories and tears for your older friends and family.
As are all my recipes, this Babka recipe is a compilation of lots of recipes. However, I want to give specific credit for technique to Paula Shoyer, http://thekosherbaker.com . in addition to twisting the babka, she opens it before twisting which really allows the flavors to meld together beautifully. Each bite has a little bit of all the flavors.
Pour yeast into warmed (110°) milk, let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.
Meanwhile cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg yolks, until well blended.
Whisk together flour and salt.
Give the yeast mixture a quick stir and pour into egg mixture. Slowly start adding flour/salt mixture into yeast/egg mixture until dough starts to form. I reserve about 1/4 cup of the flour mix.
You want the dough to be soft.
Use some of the reserved flour and turn soft dough out onto floured board. Knead slightly and add flour if necessary. Place kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise for at least an hour until doubled in size.
While dough is rising you can make your fillings and streusel.
Melt together dark chocolate and oil. Set aside.
I like to make the milk chocolate filling in a food processor. Make sure your butter is very cold. Pulse milk chocolate and butter in processor until small pea-sized pieces. Put back in refrigerator until ready to use.
Using the same processor, pulse together brown sugar, flour, and cold butter. It should be very crumbly. Put in refrigerator until ready to use.
Putting it All Together
Cut a piece of parchment to a little bigger than 14"x18". Place it on cutting board and lightly flour it. Roll out your dough almost to the edges, in a rectangle.
Using a pastry brush, spread the melted dark chocolate all over the dough, edge to edge.
Then sprinkle the milk chocolate all over the dough. Try to get edge to edge here too.
Using the parchment paper as a guide, start rolling the dough on the long side. Press as you go to keep the roll tight.
pinch the ends closed and wrap in parchment. Place in refrigerator for 5 minutes to firm up.
While dough is refrigerator line bottom of 2 loaf pans (9X5) with parchment paper, then spray whole pan with non-stick spray.
Take roll out of refrigerator and remove from paper. Cut in half.
Take each half and, making sure the seam side is down, cut the rolls in half length wise, leaving one end in tact. Essentially you are "opening" them.
With cut sides up, start twisting pieces over each other, keep the open side up. Tuck other end under and place in loaf pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise another hour. You should have 2 twisted loaves.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Whisk together reserved egg white and 2 Tbs. milk.
Once dough has risen, brush tops with egg wash and gently press streusel topping into dough.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Here's the trick, if it looks just slightly golden brown but not quite done, it's ok. It will continue to cook in pan and you DON'T want to overcook it or It will be dry.
Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto rack. You can serve it warm or it is certainly good at room temperature.
Chewy, creamy, crispy and sweet. Add the word chocolate and I’ve probably given away that I am talking about S’mores. These delectable treats evoke so many great memories. Whether you made s’mores at sleep away camp or even camping with your family, most of us have a story to tell about making s’mores. I’ve always been a traditional girl with Hershey’s, marshmallow and graham crackers. But I’ve heard tell of s’mores made with Reese’s and Rolos!
When my daughters were younger it was such a special treat to make s’mores at home. We even had a special s’mores making burner and dish. As they got older we would make them in the fire place and when it was too hot to have a fire, we’d make a “dip” in a cast iron skillet. I’d layer Hershey bars and marshmallows in my cast iron skillet and let it melt and brown in the oven. Then I’d serve it with graham crackers. Excellent!
So, when I heard that August 10th is S’mores Day, I was all in. The ideas were endless. How about a S’mores pizza with a chewy graham cracker crust, melted chocolate sauce and brûléed marshmallow topping? I thought about making popcorn and dusting it with graham cracker crumbs and tossing in mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. There were even a couple of cookie options, marshmallow stuffed chocolate chip cookies, anyone?
After looking at so many recipes, I decided on Molten S’mores Lava Cakes and Chocolate Kiss Cookies with Graham Flour and Marshmallows. When I was making the cookies, my thought had been to use my kitchen torch to “toast” the marshmallows and melt the Kiss. I ran out of butane, so, had to go to plan B. I turned on the broiler and put the cookies in for minute and a half, for the first batch. They are the nice golden-brown ones pictured. During the second batch, I got on the phone and, we’ll, I got distracted. I got the cookies out before they were totally burnt. But guess what, in, family we always let our marshmallows set on fire anyway. The second batch tasted just like that perfect burnt marshmallow flavor.
The lava cakes were fascinating to me. When I started my research for recipes, I was surprised to find that it’s not a two-step process, it’s just ingredients. They are also pretty easy to make. There are always lessons to be learned. My ramekins were a little too big; so, the regular size marshmallow I used wasn’t fully covered. I would say to err on the side of too small and just make more. I also think I would use a handful of the mini marshmallows, rather than the regular size. I also cooked them for the full 12 minutes and then cooled for 1 minute. Everyone’s oven is different, but for mine I think I’d bake for 10 minutes then cool for 1 minutes. You really want a good lava ooze.
Summer is, sadly, winding down. However, you decide to celebrate S’mores day, make a special summer 2018 memory!
Preheat oven to 350°
Cream together butter and both sugars. Add egg and vanilla until blended.
In a separate bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. Mix dry mixture into butter mixture until a workable dough forms. Scoop 1 inch balls onto a lined cookie sheet and give them a soft pat down.
Bake cookies for 7 minutes until top is golden brown, do not overcook here. Remove from oven and push a marshmallow, sticky side down, into each cookie. Return to oven and bake another minute or two. Remove from oven again and top each marshmallow with a Kiss.
Here is where I would have liked to use my kitchen torch to brown the marshmallow and melt the chocolate. You can do this or put the cookies under the broiler for a moment or two. WATCH THEM, or they will burn.
Preheat oven to 450°.
Butter and lightly flour 4 6-ounce ramekins.
Melt together butter and chocolate. You can do this in a microwave at 15 second intervals, until melted or over a double boiler. Let cool slightly.
In a medium bowl beat together eggs, egg yolks, sugar and salt, until thick and pale yellow.
Temper the egg and chocolate mixtures by first stirring, quickly, a tablespoon or two or egg into chocolate mixture and then a tablespoon or two of chocolate mixture into egg mixture. Then quickly whisk remaining chocolate into egg mixture and add flour until combined.
Place one tbs. of marshmallows in the bottom of each ramekin and then spoon batter, evenly into each dish. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The sides should be firm but the center should still shake a little.
Remove from oven and cool for 1 minute. Carefully, they will be hot, cover each ramekin with a dessert plate and turn over to unfold the cake.
Garnish each cake with a rim of graham cracker crumbs.
This year I am making Passover seder both nights. While that may seem daunting, I am doing a lot of it ahead of time. This is new for me. I am no martyr. I give out assignments, everyone brings and I make the recipes that are better if they don’t travel. My point is I usually do everything the day of. This year I will join legions of cooks, some that started weeks ago, and freeze and thaw.
I am making my matzoh ball soup early in the week. As long as you freeze the balls in the soup and defrost in the refrigerator, it will still be delicious. Same for the brisket, chicken, macaroons, and popovers. I can make my hard boiled eggs early in the week and even get my tables set. The only things I’ll have to do the day of is put together my seder plates and make my desserts. This year’s desserts won’t necessarily work better made ahead of time.
When going gluten-free became popular, it opened a world of recipes for Passover, too. Not all gluten-free recipes are kosher for Passover, but the flourless chocolate cake is. The one bummer of some of the flourless cakes is they tend to collapse int he middle, after baking. This year I will use that collapse to my advantage and fill with a mascarpone chantilly cream. You can dust it with some chocolate shavings or add some fresh fruit and mint for garnish. It is beautiful a tastes divine.
This cake can be made a day ahead of time. I am making this on Thursday so picture to come
Preheat oven to 350° and lightly butter springform pan and dust with extra sugar. Be sure to tap out excess.
Combine chocolate, oil and butter in heat proof bowl and place over simmering water. Water should not be touching bowl. Stir until chocolae is melted and incorporated. Remove from heat.
In a bowl whisk the 4 yolks plus 2 whole eggs, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt. Temper the chocolate with the egg mixture then whisk all together, until smooth.
Use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites until frothy then gradually start adding 1/2 cup of sugar. Continue beat until you have firm peaks. Fold egg whites into chocolate mix, until just incorporated. You may want to do this in two steps.
Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top level. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbs. sugar.
I like to put pan on a baking sheet and then bake for 35-45 minutes. The top of the cake should be cracking and the edges pulling away, slightly.
Cool completely on a wire rack. Dont worry the cake is suppose to fall inthe center.
Use an electric mixer, start beating the mascarpone then add the heavy cream and sugar. Beat until soft, cloud-like, peaks form.
Once cake is completely cooled, loosen sides of springform and remove from cake.
Mound whipped cream in center of cake and garnish with chocolate shavings or fresh fruit and mint leaves. Enjoy!
Oh, my Grandmother’s brownies! I remember and crave them still. She never made any secret about using a box mix for the brownies. I vaguely remember a Betty Crocker box. But she always made this frosting. It was more like fudge, but she wouldn’t put fudge on a brownie, or would she?
The frosting was thick and chocolatey. It had a graininess that let you know how much sugar was in the frosting, but it was so good. The whole brownie was sweet yet not cloying. My Grandmother always put nuts in her brownies., usually walnuts or pecans. I know that cooks are hesitant with nuts these days. I say give nuts a chance!
I tried many “southern” fudge frosting recipes and none matched my grandmother’s. So, I went to a good old-fashioned fudge recipe and changed it up a little.
It’s not too late for a quick Valentine’s Day bake so quickly run to the store and get your ingredients and get to it!
Follow the directions on the box for your brownies. While they are baking get started on your frosting. If you can pour the frosting over the brownies when they come out of the oven its great!
This summer I had the greatest trip to Spain with my husband. I’ve written about many parts of the trip and shared many recipes. However, it has taken me months to duplicate a most important recipe. Double Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Principal hotel. You have to understand my husband is not much of a sweet eater and chocolate would never be his first choice. So, when he asked the maître d’ if he could have some cookies to take on the airplane home, I almost fell over.
When we did finally arrive at home I made it my quest to duplicate the recipe. I wrote to the chef. I explained how my husband coveted his cookies and asked if he would share the recipe with me. While I waited for his response I played around with some other recipes. I found a few online and even tried a couple of Dorie Greenspan’s. Each time he tried them and each time the verdict was, “Not the same.”.
I was delighted when I got an email from the chef with his recipe, but it was just chocolate chip cookies. I wrote back and explained it was the dark chocolate chip cookies and he replied right away with the adjustments to make the recipe into the dark cookies. I will say that there were still adjustments to be made. For example, Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion wasn’t an exact science, nor were weight measurements versus cup and tablespoon measurements. So again, I made many versions and they were “Not the same”.
One more try and I got it. Let me tell you that my husband really likes a crunchy cookie and it was hard to get that right without having either burnt or just dry cookies. Remember every oven is different and every taste too. Adjust for your oven and preference.
I hope you enjoy these as much as my husband did. Please put your comments. I love to hear from you. Happy Holidays!
Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with White Chocolate Chips
There is a coffee store every 500 yards, on every block. The coffee shelf at your local grocery store has become the coffee aisle and the fact that bakers have been putting coffee in their chocolate recipes for years, is finally out of the darkness. I wanted to find the perfect recipe to encapsulate all I love about coffee and baking, but wasn’t overtly chocolate. Cappuccino Muffins!
I first tried Cappuccino Muffins when my second daughter was in pre-school. One of the Moms brought them in for the Mom’s whose kids were going through transition. At that point in pre-school you start the day with your child and then go sit outside for a while to make sure they can hack it without you. I have to admit, my girls were always independent enough that I could have dropped them off their very first day and they would have been fine. Other Moms didn’t have it so easy and we could hear their kid wailing, waiting for them to come back in. So those perfect muffins, flavored with espresso, and studded with chocolate chips were just what we all needed to settle our nerves and spark conversation.
I had been given the recipe but have searched high and low for my copy and couldn’t find it. Let the recipe testing begin! It was a truly fun day and I might have a mild case of the jitters, from all the caffeine, but I think I came up with just the right flavor and an added perk of espresso cream cheese schmear. I ran out of my instant espresso powder and my local grocer didn’t have it. They did have Starbuck’s Via Instant Coffee in Italian Roast. That worked just fine.
These are great to make ahead and keep on the counter for about a week. You can also make them and freeze them. I would wrap them individually and grab them on the way out the door. By the time you get to work they will have defrosted and be ready to eat. Even better, you can toast them, from frozen, and use a little of the schmear.
Cake for breakfast! Yes it’s a thing and it is all over the Internet. It’s actually not a new thing. It started popping up in my feed in every blog I get, recently. So, I decided to do a little research of my own. Before I get to a really good chocolate cake recipe, that you will probably over indulge in, let me give you some of the Kisses and Nibs of it all.
The original study came out in 2011 and was conducted in the UK. It did say that eating cake for breakfast was a good thing and that you might lose some weight. However, it turns out the study was more about eating a big hearty breakfast than it was about eating cake. It also pointed out that if you’re going to eat sugary unrefined carbs, maybe you want to do it earlier in the day, rather than later. Finally, the UK study was a closed study, meaning that the participants were living and eating in a dorm facility. So the facilitators noted that perhaps the social nature of eating together might have had the participants eating less. Be more social when you eat breakfast, if you can. Talk more, eat less.
The second study was done at Tel Aviv University in 2013. This study suggested that the brain works better when it is stimulated immediately in the morning and that chocolate cake was a great conduit for that. The long and short of this is that chocolate has flavonoids and caffeine; both can act as a stimulant. Flavonoids are also a great antioxidant. Both supply energy to the brain and in my honest opinion are a great way to start your day.
I did the MOST official study of all in 2017. It shows that if you make a chocolate cake, somebody will eat it for breakfast!
Okay, enough with the science! Here is a great chocolate cake recipe. I put it together from several different recipes. Make a double batch of the frosting; one is just not quite enough to frost the whole cake.
Really Good Chocolate Cake
This is three full layers of cake, not one cake cut into three layers! With lots of rich milk chocolate frosting between and all around. Oh yeah!
For Passover, I am always looking for your input. This year especially I wanted to hear from you. I just finished working on a Jewish Holiday Cookbook and I could have easily pulled amazing recipes from there for you and been done with it. Let me tell you, this cookbook is going to be great! However, I asked some friends what were they looking for this year to add to their menus. Of course I heard the plea for desserts. The twist I heard was “Please give me something with no matzah meal!”
If you keep kosher for Passover, you know matzah meal can leave you feeling a little weighted down by the end of the week. So I accepted the CHALLENGE. Obviously, you will still eat matzah and there has to be matzah meal in matzah balls, for the soup. But here are recipes that are great and matzah meal free. You can use these as one menu for your dinner or you can use just a recipe or two. As always feel free to send me your questions and comments. You know I love hearing from you!. Have an easy Passover!
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Trace a 9" circle on parchment using a cake pan or plate. Flip paper over so meringue won't touch pen.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a whisk, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy soft peaks form, about a minute or two. Increase speed to medium-high and gradually add the sugar; continue beating until stiff peaks form. This should take about 8 or 9 minutes. The meringue will be white and glossy.
Sift the cocoa powder through a fine sieve or sifter and add to meringue. Add the vinegar and the chopped chocolate.
Using a large rubber or silicone spatula, fold the mixture until well combined. It should be light mocha colored and no streaks.
Secure the parchment with a dab of meringue in each corner, then mound the meringue in the center of the circle. Even out the sides, slightly with the spatula or a knife. You don't want it to be perfect or overworked.
Place in oven and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes , or until the meringue is puffed and crisp all over. It should still be a bit wobbly underneath, if you touch the center.
Turn the oven off and prop the door open. Leave the meringue in the oven to cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. It is best to let it cool gradually.
In a medium bowl , beat the mascarpone, heavy cream and vanilla until just combined. Gradually add sugar and continue beating. Increase speed and beat until soft peaks form. You soft clouds of cream.
Mound cream in the center of the meringue and spread to just cover top. Top with fresh raspberries and serve. You can shave some more bittersweet chocolate over the top for more decoration.
The Pavlova can be made a day or two ahead of time and assembled up to 12 hours ahead. Just be sure to keep all components refrigerated.
Preheat oven to 425° F.
Grease and line with wax paper a 9x5x3 loaf pan.
Melt chocolate and beat in butter with a spoon or spatula.
Beat egg whites with a hand mixer to stiff peaks; set aside. With same beaters beat egg yolks until thick and light in color.
Slowly add the sugar, beating constantly. Add the flour and beat until just combined. Stir egg yolk mixture into chocolate mixture, then fold egg whites into this mixture. You will have some egg whites still showing.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Reduce oven heat to 350°F and bake 25 minutes.
Let cool completely in pan. Cake will settle like a cheesecake. Turn out. Refrigerate for 4 hours until well chilled. Decorate with abandon!
Toss florets with 2 T. olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl
Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Broil, turning once, half way through, until charred and tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat garlic and remaining oil in skillet an cook, over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Be sure to watch and stir, so garlic doesn't burn. Transfer oil and garlic to a a medium bowl an let cool.
Stir almonds, parsley, chocolate, sherry, salt and pepper into garlic oil.
Toss with cauliflower while it is still hot. Garnish and serve immediately.