Chocolate Babka

Back in December 2009, I clipped a recipe from Cooking Light magazine for a chocolate-laced bread called babka. Since then, I have attempted that particular recipe on several occasions, only to face undercooked bread, issues with the dough not rising, and bread with HUGE air pockets.

Babka

Chocolate Babka: bread laced with chocolate filling

I have persevered, though, because the swirls of chocolate filling enticed me. I finally tried another sweet bread recipe from Lindsey at Pinch of Yum and combined it with the filling method from Cook’s Illustrated cinnamon swirl bread. Finally, success!

Babka

Aren’t those swirls of chocolate and cinnamon filling gorgeous!

Wondering about the origins of the name babka, I googled it to learn that babka is a Ukrainian sweet bread made for Easter. In my Croatian heritage, my mom and aunt always make Easter bread, which is a tad sweet and dry. Theirs bakes up lighter than this one, but the breads share the same level of mild sweetness. I prefer this one due to the chocolate spirals inside, though. I took it to work (to prevent myself from devouring it all), and my coworkers loved it.

So, I present to you a version of babka that took me five years to perfect.

Babka

Utterly delicious sweet bread

Chocolate Babka

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INGREDIENTS

Dough

  • 1 package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 cups milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 8-9 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • optional: zest of one orange

Filling

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or 4 ounces finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate (or dark chocolate, if you prefer)
  • 3 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 tsp. milk (or you can use orange juice to enhance the orange flavor if you used orange zest in the dough)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

DIRECTIONS

  1. To make dough: In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, allow the yeast to dissolve in the warm water until it reaches a frothy state.
  2. Add the milk, sugar, salt, eggs, orange zest (if using) and 2 cups of flour; using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer, mix on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  3. Switch to dough hook and add 3 more cups of flour; mix at a slightly higher speed. The dough should appear smooth and glossy.
  4. Add the melted butter; mix until dough appears glossy again.
  5. Stir in remaining 3-4 cups of flour a little at a time until a stiff dough forms. You will probably use closer to 3 cups of flour rather than 4.
  6. Transfer dough to a generously flour-coated surface, gently rolling dough around to coat it with flour. Place the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  7. Using mixer, knead dough at low speed until smooth and satiny, about 4 minutes. Place dough into a lightly greased mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and allow it to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until doubled in size (my dough took almost 2 hours to rise).
  8. To make filling: Whisk together powdered sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and salt until well combined.
  9. Grease two loaf pans (I used shortening).
  10. Rolling dough and adding filling: After dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface; divide dough in half (at this point, you can wrap one half in plastic wrap, place in resealable bag, and freeze for another time; to use, allow to thaw overnight in refrigerator and to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or so). Working with one half at a time, roll dough into a large rectangle, roughly 14×16 inches and about 1/4-inch thick.
  11. Using a spray bottle, lightly spray the dough with water. Sprinkle half of the filling mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border on sides. Spray filling lightly with water (FYI: the powdered sugar absorbs water, forming a sticky paste that helps to hold the layers together, eliminating pesky air pockets).
  12. Starting from the longer side of the dough, roll dough away from you into a firm cylinder. Pinch ends closed. Holding dough by ends, gently twist the cylinder 4 times, as if wringing out a towel (this creates a spiral effect with the filling). Place the dough into the prepared pan, squeezing it into an S-shape to fit. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  13. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  14. Brush the loaves with the beaten egg so bread will bake with a golden crust. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 200 degrees F.
  15. Remove from oven, place bread pans on cooling racks for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and allow bread to cool completely on wire rack before icing and slicing.
  16. To make icing: Combine icing ingredients and mix well. Drizzle over cooled bread.

SOURCES: inspired by Cooking Light; adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cinnamon Swirl Bread and Pinch of Yum

2013’s Most Popular Posts

Hubby and I prefer to stay home for a quiet and calm New Year’s Eve. We celebrate by cooking something special, usually lobster. However, two years ago I saved a recipe for Beef Wellington, and this year I’m finally going to try it. Hence, I’ve spent the entire day in the kitchen prepping. If all goes well tonight, I’ll share the recipe later this week.

Anyway, I decided to rest my weary feet a bit and catch up on some emails. Lo and behold, I received my annual report of the most popular posts for 2013 (all sweet treats, by the way), so I thought I’d quickly share them. A couple of the most-searched posts go back to 2011 and 2012!

Wishing each and every one of you a very healthy, happy, and peaceful 2014.

Most popular posts of 2013:

Kahlua Cheesecake

Kahlua Cheesecake

Kahlua Cheesecake: graham cracker crust, ganache layer, velvety Kahlua-flavored cheescake, sour-cream layer, and drizzled ganache topping. Can you say decadent?

Oreo Cheesecake Bites

Oreo Cheesecake Bites

Oreo Cheesecake Bites (2012): Still popular a year later, and rightfully so. These little babies pack a ton of chocolate-y flavor amidst tangy cheesecake. And oh-so-easy to make, too.

Ho Ho Cake

Ho Ho Cake

Ho Ho Cake: This light and airy layered cake garners a lot of oohs and aahs from its recipients. Very yummilicious cake.

Magic Custard Cake

Magic Custard Cake

Magic Custard Cake: Magic indeed as three layers appear from one batter!

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread (2011): Still going strong two years later, this pull-apart bread is simply fun with layers of dough stacked so they pull apart easily after baking. Drizzle with lots of glaze for a glorious treat.

Zucchini Recipe Roundup

Zucchini Recipe Roundup

My garden has three stunted squash plants. Since May. They grew about 8 inches high and refused to grow anymore. Nor have they succumbed to perishing. I don’t get it. Last year’s zucchini plant grew for months and months and months. I even tried a second round of plants this year and same situation: stunted growth.

Hence, we’ve had no zucchini dishes this season. However, since I had quite the abundance the past couple of years and tried numerous recipes and since squash season is in full bloom and since I’ve had quite a few people subscribe to the blog (welcome all!), I thought I’d share my collection. Just click the link below the photos to view the posts/recipes.

How do you like to cook zucchini?

Zucchini Recipe Roundup

Pesto Zucchini Lasagna

Pesto Zucchini Lasagna

Pesto and Roasted Zucchini Lasagna

Zucchini Frittata

Zucchini Frittata

Zucchini Frittata

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake (unbelievably moist and delicious)

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Muffins

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Muffins

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Muffins

Zucchini & Carrot Slaw with Asian Dressing

Zucchini & Carrot Slaw with Asian Dressing

Zucchini and Carrot Slaw with Asian Dressing

Zucchini Cheese Bread

Zucchini Cheese Bread

Zucchini Cheese Bread

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Stuffed Zucchini in Tomato Sauce

Stuffed Zucchini in Tomato Sauce

Stuffed Zucchini in Tomato Sauce

Zucchini Melt

Zucchini Melt

Zucchini Melt

Zucchini Fries

Zucchini Fries

Zucchini Fries

Irish Soda Bread

IrishSodaBread3

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Although we don’t do anything to celebrate, I did make this Irish Soda Bread. Perhaps waking up at 3 a.m. had something to do with that decision. I couldn’t sleep. Neither could hubby. (We have a big trip planned with departure soon and are both incredibly excited. I’ll tell you more in a couple days.) We finally got up at 4am and he made us eggs and bacon for a super duper early breakfast. I then mixed up this bread and popped it into the oven.

It’s incredibly easy to make. It just takes minutes to stir the ingredients, dump it onto a baking sheet (or into a cast iron skillet), shape it a bit, and bake. About 45 minutes later, you have a crusty  ball of bread with a tender interior.

Slather it with plain or flavored butter, jam, curd, chocolate hazelnut spread or whatever your heart desires. I used butter then sprinkled on cinnamon sugar. Yum. Made a terrific morning snack after our ridiculously early breakfast. (Until I typed this out and checked for links, I didn’t realize I had made so many types of spreads!)

I’ve had my eye on this bread since last year around this time when it kept popping up all over the food blogosphere. Again this year it made an appearance on numerous blogs, calling out to me. I had never heard of it until last year, so this was my first experience with this quick bread. Love it. No kneading. No yeast. No long rising times. And you get a dense, crusty, tender loaf to enjoy. Perfect!

IrishSodaBread1

Irish Soda Bread

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INGREDIENTS

  • 4 tbsp. butter, cold
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk, plus a bit more for brushing the loaf

Optional additions:

  • 2-4 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. orange or lemon zest
  • 1/2-3/4 cup raisins or other dried fruit

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a cast iron skillet or baking sheet, or line a baking sheet with parchment paper of a silpat mat.
  2. Place dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple times to mix. You can also mix the dough by hand, so you would whisk it all together at this point in a large bowl.
  3. Cut butter into small pieces and add to food processor. Pulse until butter is mixed in. If mixing by hand, work butter into flour by pinching and rubbing butter into flour, or use a pastry cutter. (I actually started this way but decided the food processor would be much faster.)
  4. Remove chute from food processor, and while machine is on continuous pulse mode, slowly add the buttermilk. If mixing by hand, use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix buttermilk into dry ingredients. The dough will be wet and shaggy at this point.
  5. Use a rubber spatula to push the dough out of the bowl and onto your skillet or baking sheet. Use the spatula to help shape the dough into a thick, slightly flattened ball. (This was a messy process trying to get the dough out of the food processor, but it was certainly a quick method for mixing the butter into the dry ingredients. Next time I’ll probably transfer the flour/butter mixture to a bowl then add the buttermilk.)
  6. Using a sharp knife, mark a large “X” into the center of the dough, cutting from end to end and about 1/2 inch deep. Brush entire loaf with a bit of buttermilk.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees F for 45-55 minutes, checking after 25 minutes. If bread is browning too quickly, place a piece of foil over it. Bread will be done when the center of the “X” is no longer looking wet and shiny. A cake tester should also come out clean when it is done.
  8. Allow bread to cool for about 10 minutes once you remove it from oven, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling. You can actually cut into it at this transfer point. Cutting into it any sooner, though, may result in a gummy textured center.

SOURCE: The Kitchn

Banana Bread

BananaBread3

I have a banana bread recipe that I had used for years…got it from my trusty first-ever cookbook: Betty Crocker, the 1982 edition. However, I switched over to my friend’s recipe that she got from her Home Ec cooking class back in high school, about 40 years ago.

In the summer when she and I are free from teaching, we meet weekly for marathon scrapbooking and cardmaking days, alternating between her house and mine. Often when we meet at her house, she bakes this banana bread. Hers comes out lighter than the Betty Crocker recipe I’ve used, so years ago I asked her to share it with me. I now turn to this bread recipe when I have bananas sitting on the counter growing overly ripe.

I haven’t made banana bread in ages, though. I’ve taken to freezing extra bananas and using them in smoothies instead, but with the colder weather, I felt a need to bake some comfort food, and for me, banana bread falls into the comfort category.

BananaBread

Banana Bread

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3/4 cups (7.88 ounces) unbleached, all-purpose flour (I swapped 1/4 cup whole wheat this time)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 whole bananas)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup chopped nuts, optional

DIRECTIONS

  1. Grease a loaf pan; set aside. (I use shortening for greasing.)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Slightly beat eggs, then add eggs, oil, and bananas to flour mixture. Mix thoroughly (I use a fork to mix).
  4. Transfer batter to greased loaf pan; bake at 350 degrees F for one hour.

SOURCE: my dear friend Marion, from her high school Home Ec cooking class back in the 1970’s

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Yes, I could have easily bought buns to sandwich our pulled pork, but what fun is that? How much more satisfying to know I baked these myself. And aren’t they just gorgeous with that shiny golden brown top speckled with sesame seeds?

I’ve baked with yeasted doughs a few times, and this is definitely the most pliable, easy-to-handle dough I’ve encountered yet. It was a bit tacky initially, but once the dough finished the first rise, it was smooth as can be to handle.

This particular recipe uses potato flour–not something I stock regularly in the pantry, so it did require a special trip to the store. However, I do list an alternative in the recipe below. I learned that the potato flour, though, helps keep moisture in the bread.

It also uses nonfat milk, another item I don’t regularly stock. I have seen it in small packets at the store, though, so you don’t have to buy a big bulky box of it.

This ended up being a fairly easy recipe, so I plan to continue making sandwich buns for us, keeping extras in the freezer to use as needed.

Homemade Hamburger Buns

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast (also called rapid rise yeast) or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast   (.25 ounce packet) (see yeast tutorial to learn about the two types)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. white granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup potato flour (alternative: grind mashed potato flakes in a food processor)
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp. lukewarm water
  • 1 extra large egg

For the egg wash

  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • sesame seeds or poppy seeds, optional

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, melted butter, dry milk, potato flour, water, and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes. Adjust the dough’s consistency with additional flour or water as needed, but remember that the more flour you add, the heavier and drier your buns will be.
  2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball.
  3. Lightly spray the inside of a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place the dough into the bowl; loosely cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and place in a draft-free space to rise until doubled in size, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Gently deflate the dough and divide into 8 equal portions. Roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball and flatten into a   3 1/2-inch disc. Transfer discs to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them       2 1/2 inches apart. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 1 – 1 1/2 hours in a warm, draft-free space.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining egg and 1 tbsp. water. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, if desired.
  6. Bake the buns until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 8 buns

SOURCE: The Galley Gourmet

Bread and Butter

Bread is not a staple in my diet although I grew up with a mom who bought a loaf of fresh-baked grocery store french bread each evening. I love bread but don’t need it to accompany every meal. Sit me down at my parents, though, and I scarf several slices slathered with butter or sopping with my mom’s gravy. Or give me a basket of bread at a restaurant, and I shamelessly down more than my fair share. Especially if the bread is warm and soft.

Macaroni Grill serves one of my favorite restaurant breads–a warm loaf of rosemary bread with a crunchy crust brushed with butter and sprinkled with a touch of coarse salt and a super-soft, chewy interior. The server pours a swirl of olive oil on a plate followed by a swirl of balsamic vinegar. Then he grates fresh pepper over that. Totally yum city to dip that warm bread in the mixture. And forget slicing the bread. Just break off a piece, rustic style, and dip away.

When Mel from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe posted a recipe for Macaroni Grill Rosemary Bread, it soared straight to the top of my “must try” recipes. And shortly after I made it, I dined at Macaroni Grill with a buddy, allowing me the opportunity to compare the two breads. I enjoy the restaurant version, but the homemade dough far surpasses the restaurant version. It’s softer and fresher. My mom spent some time working in the bakery of a grocery store, and the bread doughs all came frozen; the workers used to pop them in the oven to bake; hence, they weren’t really fresh. Same thing at one of my favorite local restaurants. When asked if they made their bread fresh every day, I was told it came frozen.

Well, eating my homemade bread and eating the restaurant bread just a few days apart, I could tell the difference between fresh and frozen dough. The frozen dough has a tougher texture and a slightly metallic taste. I may just have to start baking bread at home more often now after this comparison. The only problem with that is that I would eat far too much of it at one time. Tender bread fresh from the oven is way too hard to resist.

Want to make it even harder to resist? Then try this cream cheese & herb butter that Mel also posted. Oh.My.God! It is freakin’ heavenly. Creamy, tangy, and savory–a trinity of taste sensation. Spread that on top of a warm slice of bread and you will swoon. Ecstasy.  Serious ecstasy. Oh, and super easy to whip up.

Although the bread takes time to make due to the rising-of-the-dough part of the recipe, the time is well worth it in terms of the final product. And the herb butter makes the entire experience doubly divine.

Rosemary Bread

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp. instant yeast (or 1 1/2 tbsp. active dry yeast)
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 3/4 — 4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 3 3/4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped and divided
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • coarse salt for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large bowl (or the bowl of an electric stand mixer), combine the yeast, sugar, and water. If using active dry yeast, let the mixture stand until foaming and bubbly, about 5 minutes. If using instant yeast, proceed with recipe.
  2. Add two cups of the flour, the salt, and 1 tbsp. of the rosemary; mix.
  3. Continue adding flour, gradually, until a soft dough is formed. Judge the dough based on texture and feel. The dough should be slightly tacky to the touch but should hold its shape while still being soft and smooth. Knead the dough by hand or with an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes, adding additional flour only if the dough is overly sticky and not clearing the sides of the bowl.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1-2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
  5. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, a silpat liner, or lightly grease the pan with cooking spray.
  6. Once the dough has doubled, gently deflate the it and divide in half. Shape the dough into two smooth oval-shaped loaves. Place them on the baking sheet, one on each half of the tray so they have room to rise and bake without touching.
  7. Use a brush to slather the melted butter over the top of the loaves. Continue brushing on the butter until it is gone (the loaves will be well saturated).
  8. Sprinkle the remaining chopped rosemary over the top of the loaves, patting down gently to set into the dough, if needed.
  9. Cover the loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap; let them rise again until puffy and nearly doubled, about one hour (again, the exact time will depend on the temperature of your kitchen, so judge the dough by how it looks).
  10. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  11. Lightly sprinkle coarse salt over the top of the loaves.
  12. Bake for 18-20 minutes until browned and baked through. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Yield: 2 loaves

SOURCE: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Cream Cheese Butter Herb Spread

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INGREDIENTS

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1/8 tsp. thyme
  • 1/8 tsp. celery salt
  • 1/8 tsp. salt (Mel’s recipe calls for 1/4 tsp.)

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium bowl, whip the cream cheese and butter until light, fluffy, and smooth.
  2. Add the spices and herbs; mix until well combined.
  3. Serve at cool room temperature (very clumpy and not spreadable otherwise).

SOURCE: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

 

Oh my God, this bread takes FOREVER to make! It has 4 rise times of 45 minutes each. And that’s not counting all the prep time, mixing time, rolling time, baking time, cooling time… Whew, just tires me out to write about it and relive it all again.

But is it worth it? I sure as heck was hoping so as the interminable hours passed waiting for one rise…then another…then another…and yet another.

And once it’s finished baking, you need to let it cool for two hours! Oh, this was killing me!

And to make it worse, I started this entire process after dinner–not the kind of timing I recommend. Start it early in the morning one day when you have all day to hang around and no errands to run or parties to attend.

Make other goodies in between rise times. I mixed up ice cream and made jam and cooked some soup… And of course I had to clean up all the messes I made. I kept busy but my eyes got droopy as the clock ticked closer to midnight. That’s way past my bedtime, people!

But the thought of some homemade cinnamon swirl bread just sounded soooooo good. To add to that, the entire house smelled like a bakery. Cinnamon wafted into every corner, totally teasing my taste buds and triggering a drool factory.

By the time the bread finished baking, I had to wait for it to cool, but at this point, I was just glad I could go to bed. I was okay with not tasting it yet.

And YES, the following morning I awoke bright and early, eager to cut a slice. Oh my, people, IT WAS WORTH THE PAIN.

Delicate, light, airy bread laced with slightly gooey cinnamon sent shockwaves through my taste buds. I had to practice some serious raging willpower to not scarf the entire loaf right then and there. And I’m not kidding.

I can imagine it made into french toast. Good thing this makes two loaves so I can freeze one to try that out later.

Now, let me share a few observations I made along the way. This is easy to mix with a big stand mixer; I imagine it would be a nightmare without one.

The dough is very sticky after the first mix. Once butter is added (a lot of butter, I might add, but it helps create a tender bread), the dough looks very slick yet it grows quite elastic and easy to handle at this point. After rising, gas bubbles appear. I left them alone, for the most part.

Read the directions carefully; otherwise, you’ll mess up like I did on the rolling and sprinkling of the cinnamon swirl. I got to the step about patting out the dough, folding it into thirds, but totally forgot to then roll that into a ball and split the dough into halves. Hence, I rolled out all of it, thinking this was the step to sprinkle the cinnamon swirl. Oops! It really needed one more rolling and even some rest time somewhere in there. That’s what happens when you work late at night and are droopy eyed with fatigue. Never fear, I just rolled up the dough, cut it in half, and rolled again–and had to simply let go of the fact that I forgot to include rest time for the dough. My bread and swirls still came out pretty and tasty in the end.

As I was rolling, the dough had more of the gas bubbles and kept letting out the gas. It was quite hilarious. Lots of popping noises going on.

Bottom line: if you are up for a long process and a deliciously delicate-tasting final product, by all means try this recipe. I will definitely try this again some day…just not in the evening!

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

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INGREDIENTS

  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 1/4 cups (20 2/3 oz.) bread flour, plus extra for dusting work surface (recipe calls for 3 3/4 cups flour, but when I measured 20 2/3 oz. on my scale, it came out to 4 1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup (2 3/4 oz.) nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/3 cup (2 1/3 oz.) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz.) golden raisins (I omitted these)

Filling

  • 1 cup (4 oz.) confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Dough

  1. Cut butter into 32 pieces and toss with 1 tbsp. flour; set aside to soften while mixing dough (tossing butter with flour helps the dough grip the butter and pull it into the dough, resulting in a lofty baked loaf).
  2. Whisk remaining flour, milk powder, sugar, and yeast together in bowl of stand mixer. Using stand mixer fitted with dough hook, add water and egg and mix on medium-low speed until cohesive mass forms, about 2-5 minutes, scraping down bowl if necessary. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove plastic wrap from mixer bowl, add salt, and mix on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 7-15 minutes (the long kneading time creates more elasticity and better traps gas for a taller rise).
  4. With mixer running, add butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to knead until butter is fully incorporated and dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 3-5 minutes longer.
  5. Add raisins and mix until incorporated, 30-60 seconds.
  6. Transfer dough to a large greased bowl and, using bowl scraper or rubber spatula, fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees; fold again. Repeat 6 more times for a total of 8 folds. (All this folding incorporates more air into the dough, encouraging it to expand and rise more.) Cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to middle rack of oven. Place loaf or cake pan on bottom of oven and fill with 3 cups of boiling water (this will create warm, humid air which will stimulate yeast activity and speed rise time); close door and allow dough to rise for 45 minutes.
  7. Remove bowl from oven; gently press down on center of dough to deflate. Repeat folding step (making another set of 8 folds), re-cover with plastic wrap, and return to oven until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
  8. Filling: Whisk filling ingredients together until well combined; set aside.
  9. Grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans (mine were 9 1/2 x 5 1/2 inch).
  10. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and divide into 2 pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough, pat into rough 6 x 11-inch rectangle. With short side facing you, fold long sides in like a business letter to form 3 x 11-inch rectangle. Roll dough away from you into a ball. Dust with flour and flatten with rolling pin into 7 x 18-inch rectangle with an even 1/4-inch thickness.
  11. Using spray bottle, spray dough lightly with water. Sprinkle half of filling mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border on sides and a 3/4-inch border on the top and bottom. Spray filling lightly with water, making sure entire surface is speckled with water (FYI: powdered sugar absorbs water from the dough, dissolving to form a sticky paste that helps hold the layers together as the bread expands during proofing).
  12. With short side facing you, roll dough away from you into a firm cylinder. Turn loaf seam side up and pinch closed; pinch ends closed. Dust loaf lightly on all sides with flour and let rest for 10 minutes.
  13. Repeat with second ball of dough and remaining filling.
  14. Working with 1 loaf at a time, use bench scraper to cut loaf in half lengthwise; turn halves so cut sides are facing up. Gently stretch each half into a 14-inch length. (Cutting loaf and having cut side face up allows any trapped gas to escape during baking.) Line up pieces of dough and pinch 2 ends of strips together. Take piece on left and lay over piece on right. Repeat, keeping cut side up, until pieces of dough are tightly twisted. Pinch ends together. Transfer loaf, cut side up, to prepared loaf pan; push any exposed raisins into seams of braid (so they won’t burn during baking).
  15. Repeat with second loaf.
  16. Cover loaves loosely with plastic wrap, return to oven, and allow to rise for 45 minutes.
  17. Remove loaves and water pan from oven. Allow loaves to rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes longer (top of loaves should rise about 1 inch over lip of pan).
  18. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  19. Brush loaves with egg mixture (this will make crust shiny). Bake until crust is well-browned, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F, tent loaves with aluminum foil to prevent sugar from burning, and continue to bake until internal temperature registers 200 degrees, 15-20 minutes longer (took 20 minutes for me).
  20. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pans, return to rack, and cool to room temperature before slicing, about 2 hours.
  21. Baked and cooled loaves can be wrapped in double layer of plastic and stored at room temperature for 2 days. To freeze bread for up to 1 month, wrap it with additional layer of foil.

Yield: two loaves

SOURCE: Cook’s Illustrated magazine (March & April 2012)

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Muffins

You expect to find bills and annoying flyers crowding your mailbox, but what a delightful surprise to find, instead, a bag with two muffins in it! Now there’s a way to put a smile on someone’s face for the day.

A dear friend of mine had texted me the day before that she had muffins for me, but when I didn’t hear any more from her, I forgot. I think the muffins survived overnight in our mailbox, and they were still freakin’ delicious, as evidenced by the way I inhaled them one right after the other. Thankfully there were only two because I think I could have eaten half a dozen if not an entire dozen.

And thankfully she had included the type of muffins, for I called her immediately after inhaling them to beg for the recipe. She was, however, out of town for the Labor Day weekend. Since I couldn’t take my mind off these little babies, a bit of internet sleuthing led me to my desire.

The combo of lemon and rosemary and zucchini is not something I would have thought to put together. But let me tell ya, it works! The lemon does not overpower the recipe since only the zest is used. Two tablespoons of fresh rosemary (thank you, garden) leave a strong piney scent, so go lighter if you aren’t fond of the herb. As for the zucchini, you can hardly tell it’s in there, but it does offer moistness.

 

For some odd reason, these remind me of cornbread even though the batter isn’t grainy at all. Maybe it’s the yellow color? And I’ve never had cornbread that tastes so light, clean, and fresh like this muffin, but it still reminds me of cornbread.

Remember the abundance of zucchini from our garden earlier in the summer? I had cut up tons of it into 2 inch slices, blanched them for a minute, then vacuum packed them (love our Foodsaver Vacuum Food Sealer) and tossed them into the freezer. Although they do get a bit mushy, they still work to grate them up and use them in breads and soups–and even chocolate cake, but I have yet to post that recipe.  I may end up using all the frozen zucchini for making these muffins now that I’ve discovered how delightful these are.

The actual recipe is for a loaf of bread, but like the ease of muffins: just grab and go. Snack size. Guilt-free size–or is that just a myth in my mind?

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Muffins

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (omit is using salted butter)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter, unsalted
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3 cups grated zucchini (from about 1 pound of zucchini)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with baking cups or prepare two 4×9-inch loaf pans, either coating them with butter or spraying with baking spray.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and rosemary.
  3. Beat the eggs in a mixer until frothy, then beat in sugar.
  4. Beat in melted butter and olive oil.
  5. Stir in the grated zucchini and lemon zest.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, a third at a time, stirring after each incorporation.
  7. Divide the batter into the muffin tins, filling about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. If making as loaves, bake for 45-50 minutes, testing after 40 minutes by gently pressing down on surface of loaf–it should bounce back. Or, insert a thin knife or bamboo skewer into center and if it comes out clean, loaf is ready.
  8. Remove from oven. Let cool for a few minutes then remove from pans to cool on a wire rack.

Makes 18 muffins or 2 loaves.

SOURCE: Simply Recipes

Zucchini Cheese Bread

 

The first year hubby started a garden for us, about four years ago, he allowed the zucchini to grow to gargantuan proportions. One of those monsters would have sufficed for the summer, yet he brought in at least one each day. Needless to say, we gave away a ton of zucchini that summer.

Today’s recipe, Zucchini Cheese Bread, resulted from a search for recipes that summer to use up our harvest. And it remains a favorite of both of ours. Unfortunately, I don’t know where I found it, for my notes are only marked with “internet” as the source.

The bread is dense, giving it heartiness. The green onions and pepper give it a surprise savory twist.  But my favorite part of the bread is the cheddar and parmesan cheeses. I love biting into a thick slice of bread and getting a taste of sharp cheddar in every mouthful.

 

Not only does the bread have bits of cheese throughout, but you sprinkle a portion on top, so it bakes up golden and crunchy and full of tangy, savory cheese flavor. Divine!

Zucchini Cheese Bread

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 oz. (1 cup) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups zucchini, coarsely shredded
  • 2-3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease 9” x 5” loaf pan.
  3. In small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese plus 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese; set aside.
  4. In large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper.
  5. Add 3/4 cup of cheddar cheese and 6 tbsp. of Parmesan cheese; also add zucchini and green onion. Mix.
  6. In medium bowl, beat eggs with fork; stir in milk and oil. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened (batter will be very thick).
  7. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan and spread evenly; sprinkle with reserved cheeses.
  8. Bake 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool loaf pan on wire rack for five minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.