Chocolate Swirl Babka

Babka is a slightly dry yeast bread (some would argue that it’s cake…I say bread) swirled with chocolate or cinnamon (but I agree with Elaine from Seinfeld…cinnamon is a “lesser babka”). Straight from the oven with a schmear of butter, babka is one of my favorite treats to enjoy alongside a cup of tea. You might think that attempting the signature “twist” is hard, but I assure you, it’s pretty easy!

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I’m a big fan of a 2016 recipe I found in Bon Appetit. 

For ease and reference, here is the recipe below.  Note, I skip the streusel – I don’t think the chocolate needs it. If you try it out, let me know how it goes!

INGREDIENTS

Dough

  • ½ cup whole milk, warmed
  • 1 ¼-ounce envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar, plus more
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces, plus more for bowl

Filling and Assembly

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided, plus more room temperature for pan
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

RECIPE PREPARATION

Dough

  • Pour milk into a measuring glass or small bowl; sprinkle yeast and a pinch of granulated sugar over milk. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

  • Whisk egg, egg yolk, and remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in yeast mixture.

  • Combine salt and 2 cups flour in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add egg mixture and beat on low speed until nearly incorporated, about 30 seconds. Switch to dough hook and add 7 Tbsp. butter; beat on medium-low until butter is completely incorporated and dough is smooth and just slightly sticky, 8–10 minutes.

  • Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times until very smooth (dough will still be wet and a little sticky). Transfer to a large buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1½–2 hours, then chill 45 minutes.

Filling and Assembly

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Generously butter a 8½x4½” loaf pan. Heat chocolate, cocoa, 2 Tbsp. butter, 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar, ¼ tsp. cinnamon, and ⅛ tsp. salt in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until chocolate and butter are melted and mixture is smooth. (Alternatively, microwave on medium power 1 minute, stirring halfway through.)

  • Turn out chilled dough onto a clean lightly floured surface. Roll out to a 22×12″ rectangle and orient so a long side is facing you. Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate filling over dough to extend to the edges. Roll up dough away from you like a jelly roll, pulling lightly on it as you roll to maintain thickness. (Use a metal bench scraper if needed to help dough release from surface.)

  • Cut log in half crosswise. Set halves so they are side by side and touching. A long side should still be facing you. Place one half over the other to make an X, then twist the two ends on one side twice. Repeat on opposite side. (You should have a total of 4 twists.) Transfer bread to pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 30 minutes.

    Another option (and the one I used to achieve the photo above)…cut the log in half (the short way) and cross the two pieces across each other in an X. Then, cross over each end one more time and place into your loaf pan).

  • Meanwhile, make the streusel. Whisk brown sugar and remaining 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar, ½ tsp. cinnamon, and ⅛ tsp. salt in medium bowl to blend. Mix in remaining 2 Tbsp. butter. Add flour and toss with a fork until moist clumps form (streusel will look slightly wet). Whisk egg and cream in a small bowl and brush egg wash over loaf. Scatter streusel over top.

  • Bake babka, rotating pan halfway through, until golden brown, 50–60 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let babka cool in pan 15 minutes, then turn out onto rack, running a paring knife around edges to help loosen if needed. Let cool completely before slicing.

Star Wars Galaxy Cake

I was recently asked by a co-worker to make a cake for his twin daughters’ birthday party. They are obsessed with Star Wars and he wanted something that would fit the theme. I’m not someone who works regularly with fondant or gum paste…so I thought, perhaps a mirror glaze galaxy cake would be the way to go! I showed him a picture of my vision and he agreed!

I started collecting a variety of things that would help make the cake come to life. First, I needed some Star Wars accessories and Amazon didn’t disappoint. There I was able to find edible sugar paper decorations, galaxy lollipops, Pop Rocks and Star Wars silicone molds. 

I made two cakes – one vanilla, one strawberry. I then cut the cakes into thin layers and layered the two flavors with vanilla buttercream and strawberry jam (made fresh by my Mom in Vermont!). You can use any cakes, but if you choose to do buttercream, learn from my mistake: I refrigerated the frosted cake overnight. I should have popped it in the freezer. The buttercream was firm from being refrigerated but it would have come out far better if it had been frozen. So, definitely freeze that cake! You can then store it in the fridge if you are making it the day before an event.

I was a little disappointed that the colors of my glaze weren’t quite as vibrant as the recipe I followed here. However, I do think that it still came out beautifully. I would be more careful next time to make sure that my colors aren’t too dark. I used Chefmaster Liqua-Gel Paste Dye which I definitely recommend for mirror glaze projects. I also grabbed a few edible glitters to amp up the shimmer.

Mirror  Glaze:

  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin (bloomed in 1/4 cup of additional water)
  • gel food coloring (black, blue, pink, and purple)
  • edible glitter

Instructions:

Mix the gelatin in a bowl with 1/4 cup of water, and set aside to let it bloom while you begin the glaze. Over a medium heat, stir together the sugar, 1 cup of water, and sweetened condensed milk. Stir occasionally, until the mixture begins to bubble. At this point, pour in the gelatin, and stir until fully dissolved. Then turn off the heat, and gently pour in the white chocolate chips. Stir slowly, until all the white chocolate has melted (I find that the white chocolate chips don’t always fully dissolve…so I usually try to get them as incorporated as I can). Pour through a sieve into a large bowl, then divide the glaze evenly between four bowls. Color the other bowls with whatever colors fit your theme. In my case, I did dark blue, light blue, purple and “flesh tone”. Continue to stir occasionally to stop a skin from forming, until the glaze has reached 85 degrees, or is about room temperature.

Once the glazes have cooled slightly, pour half of the black into the large bowl. Then pour about 2/3 of the purple, blue, and pink glazes on top of the black, in a swirling motion.

Remove the smoothed buttercream cake from the freezer (must be fully frozen!! Freeze for at least 4 hours before glazing), and place on a circular object (I used a pint glass turned upside down) on top of a large baking sheet (to catch the excess glaze). I placed the cake on a cake board that was the same size as the cake, then slowly poured the glaze on the cake.  Once the cake is fully covered, dust with edible glitter over the top. Let it drip for about 10 minutes, then placed the cake in the fridge until about an hour before serving.

For my candies, I used the silicone molds I found on Amazon. In hindsight, I wish I had take the time to temper some chocolate instead of using candy melts so I would have gotten a pretty shine on them, but they served their purpose. I decorated the top of the cake with the galaxy lollipops (i cut the stems off) and some “space rocks” (Pop Rocks). I cut out my edible decorations and places them on the sides of the cake along with some of my chocolate molds and voila – Star Wars Galaxy Cake!

I see plenty of room for improvement, but for my first try – I think this was a hit!

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Gluten-Free Banana Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Hey y’all! Sorry it’s been awhile. The summer is such a busy time and the last thing anyone wants to do is be stuck in a hot kitchen baking, am-I-right? However, that being said, I have found time to have a little fun and bake some goodies.

My Dad is a major fan of banana. And chocolate. I was reading out a list of recipes I had flagged and as soon as banana and chocolate left my lips…he was like, “I want that, but make it extra banana-y.” Haha, ok Dad. You got it. I have been trying my hand at gluten-free treats as well, so my Mom can enjoy them too. I have found that gluten-free flour (my favorite is King Arthur’s brand as it’s a cup-for-cup substitute) tends to remain very granular until baked. So don’t let the gritty texture of the batter throw you off. It bakes off.

Without further ado, I present Gluten-Free Banana Bundt Cake!


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INGREDIENTS

For the cake:
  • 1½ c sugar
  • ½ c shortening (like Crisco)
  • 3 eggs (room temp)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp banana extract (if you don’t want to amp up the banana flavor, use almond extract instead)
  • 1½ c  gluten free flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 c mini chocolate chips
  • 1½ c bananas, mashed well (about 3 medium bananas)
For the ganache:
  • 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 5 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp water
  • ½ tsp almond extract

INSTRUCTIONS
For the cake:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350* F.
  2. Grease a 12c bundt pan (design of your choice!) Make sure to get into all those nooks and crannies.
  3. Cream together the sugar and shortening. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated. Beat in vanilla and banana extract. Continue to blend in mixer until light.
  4. In a bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add ⅓ flour mixture to batter, then ½ the bananas, then ⅓ flour, ½ bananas, ⅓ flour, mixing well after each addition. Add mini chocolate chips and stir by hand just until incorporated. Pour into greased bundt pan.
  5. Let stand 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool.
  6. Drizzle with chocolate ganache and dust with a smattering of confectioners’ sugar if desired.
For the ganache:
  1. In a double boiler (if you don’t have one, a glass bowl over a saucepan filled with 2″ of simmering water will work), stir chocolate chips and butter till melted. Stir in corn syrup until fully incorporated and then stir in the water.
  2. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper in a cookie pan, then place a wire rack inside the cookie pan. Put the cooled cake onto the wire rack.
  3. Pour ganache over cooled cake (too warm and plenty runs off).

S’mores Cupcakes

Nothing screams summer like camping! And what do you want most when you are camping? S’MORES! I wanted to recreate one of my favorite treats, but in cupcake fashion. After mulling over some ideas, I came up with the idea to do a graham cracker crust, an ooey-gooey chocolate cake and a marshmallow buttercream frosting. It was a cupcake to be eaten with a fork, let me tell you…but oh so delicious. I hope you enjoy as well!

S’mores Cupcake Ingredients
Graham Cracker Crust
  • 1 ½ cups finely crushed regular or cinnamon graham crackers (24 squares)
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
    (skip the sugar, even if your box of graham cracker crumbs tells you to add it)
Cake
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or substitute by putting 1 tbsp white vinegar in a cup then filling the rest up with milk; let stand 5 minutes until thickened)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee (or 2 tsp instant coffee in 1 cup boiling water)
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Frosting
  • ½ cup butter {room temperature}
  • 1 7 oz. jar Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • mini-marshmallows (for topper)
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  2. Mix together graham cracker crust and melted butter. Place heaping spoonful into the bottom of lined muffin tins and press down.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add room-temp eggs (one at a time), buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla extract and beat until smooth (about 3 minutes). Remove bowl from mixer and stir in hot coffee with a rubber spatula. Batter will be runny. Mix in mini-chocolate chips.
  4. Using a cookie scoop, fill muffin tins until 3/4 full and bake on middle rack of oven for about 35 minutes (it may take a bit longer with the graham cracker crust, so watch carefully if you leave in a tad longer than suggested), until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. Cool completely before handling or frosting.
  6. While cupcakes bake, start on your frosting. Beat butter and powdered sugar until fluffy and well mixed.
  7. Mix in fluff and vanilla by hand and mix well.
  8. Add to piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.
  9. I decided to top with a few little mini-marshmallows and use a torch to get them nice and toasty. If you don’t have a kitchen torch, take a baking tray, cover it with tin foil, spray liberally with Baker’s Joy or Pam and stack up a few marshmallows in several piles (I would suggest four on the bottom, one in the center on top) and place under your oven boiler on low. Watch closely and pull as soon as they begin to get brown. Let cool for a minute, then use a spatula or butter knife (coat with additional baking spray for a less sticky mess) and remove from foil and place on top of the frosted cupcake. YUM.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Hello readers! Sorry it’s been awhile…life and work just keep getting in the way…but bakes have been coming out of the kitchen. I thought I’d talk lemon meringue today. Pies aren’t my thing, as I’ve mentioned in this blog before, because I struggle with making that perfect, flaky pie crust that stands up to the moisture of pie filling. I consistently practice, but just haven’t found the right pie crust for me. The struggle is real.

I made my first lemon meringue pie recently and it went, okaaaay. Right out of the oven I thought, “man, I nailed this”! As the pie cooled, I thought, “hmm, something didn’t come out quite right.”

After loads of research, I realized that I allowed the filling to cool for too long before I topped it with the meringue. It’s imperative that you have the meringue ready to top the piping hot filling with because the steam travels up and cooks the bottom layer of meringue. Without this, the heat from the oven will heat up the filling and trap steam in between the filling and meringue resulting in a watery layer that will eventually cause everything to separate and become runny. Yuck.

My meringue came out beautifully and so I do recommend following this recipe below, but time things carefully to ensure that you don’t make my mistake with the filling. Remember, PIPING HOT!

 

Lemon Meringue Pie
Recipe courtesy of Taste of Home

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 tablespoons cold water

Filling

  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

Meringue

  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in shortening until crumbly. Gradually add 3 tablespoons cold water, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball.
  2. Roll out pastry to fit a 9-in. pie plate. Transfer pastry to pie plate. Trim to 1/2 in. beyond edge of plate; flute edges. Bake at 425° for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
  3. For filling, in a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt. Gradually stir in water until smooth. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer.
  4. Remove from the heat. Stir a small amount of hot filling into egg yolks; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in butter and lemon peel. Gradually stir in lemon juice just until combined. Pour into the crust.
  5. For meringue, in a saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in cold water. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is clear. Transfer to a bowl; cool.
  6. In a large bowl, beat egg whites and vanilla until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat in cornstarch mixture on high until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Spread evenly over hot filling, sealing edges to crust. (HINT: multi-task if you have a stand mixer and have your meringue whipping up while you are still stirring your pie filling in the sauce pan!)
  7. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until the meringue is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Easy Key Lime Pie

I have come to a very dangerous realization. Key Lime Pie is insanely easy to make. I’m not sure I wanted to know this. Now that I do, I fear that I will be making it ALL the time. It’s pretty much my favorite dessert of all time and last year, my husband and I trekked to Key West, FL for one of the greatest vacations we’ve ever been on (and we’ve been to quite a few places!) and I tried some of the world’s best. I have to say, this versions kicks some serious a$$.

KEY LIME PIE
(courtesy of Ann Richardson, Allrecipes)

Ingredients 

– 9 inch graham cracker crust (make your own, or store bought)
– 3 cups (16 oz) sweetened condensed milk
– 1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream
– 3/4 cup key lime juice (if you are using key limes, you’ll need about 20 of those suckers)
– 1 tablespoon grated lime zest (HINT: avoid the pith so you don’t get overly bitter zest)

Directions

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees.

COMBINE condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice and lime zest in a mixing bowl and blend well.

POUR mix into graham cracker crust.

BAKE for 5-8 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of the pie. DO NOT BROWN. Chill pie thoroughly before serving.

GARNISH with whipped cream if desired.

It’s literally that easy. The addition of sour cream gives it a velvety smooth texture and cuts through the sour. MMM. Enjoy!

Irish Cream Cupcakes

I love a festive cupcake – heck, I love cupcakes for all occasions. So, even though I’m not an Irish lass, I celebrated with some green and a nip of Bailey’s to mark St. Patrick’s Day!

This super moist cupcake packs a little surprise with the addition of just a few mini chocolate chips and frosting can easily be adult-only or kid friendly to your liking.

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Let’s get started, shall we? Recipe adapted from http://www.food.com

Cake Ingredients

3/4 cup unsweetened Ghirardelli cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
6 tablespoons butter
1 2/3 cup cake flour (you can sub all-purpose if you want)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Frosting Ingredients

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 (1 lb) package confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream (sub heavy cream for kid friendly cupcakes)
1/8 teaspoon gel/paste food coloring

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tin with liners (I made about 24 cupcakes with this batter).

MIX cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl until dissolved; set aside.

MELT the 6 tablespoons of butter in a microwave proof bowl or cup; set aside

STIR flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.

ADD buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and cocoa mixture to flour/sugar mix and beat until fully incorporated.

STIR in mini chocolate chips.

DIVIDE batter among liners. HINT: for perfectly even cupcakes, use a disher (aka, a mechanical cookie scoop) to divide the batter among the liners. If you use the Oxo brand, I use two medium scoops per liner.

BAKE 18 – 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

TRANSFER cupcakes to wire racks to cool.

Meanwhile…

BEAT 1 cup room temperature butter until fluffy.

STIR in confectioners’ sugar until blended.

ADD Bailey’s (or heavy cream) and beat until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).

STIR in food coloring until blended.

PIPE or spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes.

ENJOY!