Clams in Miso Ginger Broth

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This past weekend we stopped by our local seafood shop and picked up quite a variety consisting of whole fish, shrimp, shellfish, and fish ribs. It was quite a haul. This time, I thought we would try something new and since I really don’t cook clams it was the perfect thing to begin with. We wanted something light in texture with a delicate flavor. I was thinking of an aromatic broth and narrowed it down to miso and ginger- miso for subtle depth of flavor and ginger to brighten it up. Since clams are naturally salty, it is best not to add additional salt to the recipe and it is also why I kept the miso on the watery side. You just want a hint of miso. The broth will be briny and a touch salty on its own once the flavors meld. This dish comes together very quickly and makes for an easy lunch or light starter.

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Clams in Miso Ginger Broth

Yield: 2 appetizer portions or 1 serving as a main

1 dozen fresh clams, rinsed well

1 ½ cup water

1 ½ teaspoon red miso paste

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 small knob of fresh ginger, peeled and quartered

1 tablespoon sake

2 tablespoons dried wakame (seaweed)

1 tablespoon butter

1 scallion, sliced thin

In a medium sized skillet, bring the water to a boil and add miso paste. Stir with a wooden spoon until miso is dissolved. Add the garlic and ginger and cover, reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let garlic and ginger steep an additional 5 minutes. Remove garlic and ginger, discard. Add the sake and wakame and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover and cook, shaking the skillet occasionally until clams open up. Add the butter as soon as the first clam opens, and continue shaking the skillet to melt and distribute the butter. Remove clams as they open and place into a serving bowl. Pour cooking liquid over clams and garnish with scallions. Enjoy immediately.

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Chicken and Herb Dumplings

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Chichen and dumplings… just like mom used to never make. What can I say, I love this dish for all of its comforting qualities- soft, shredded chicken, vegetables, and light puffy dumplings bobbing in a tasty soup. For someone who did not grow up eating bowls of this delicious soup,  I sure can say I’ve made up for what I missed out on. There’s a restaurant in town that used to have this on their regular menu and despite having other almost equally tempting offerings, I always chose the chicken and dumplings. No matter how much I may want to try something new, if chicken and dumplings in on any menu, guess what I’m eating? Always. Unless there’s chicken pot pie on the same menu. In that case, I want both.

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I found a recipe that works for me and you know how I love to prepare part of the dish in advance. The night before, I prepared the chicken and stock. I put bone in chicken pieces into the slow cooker with celery, peppercorns, garlic, half an onion, and a dash of salt. Cover the entire thing with plenty of water and cook for 6 hours. Remove, let cool, and transfer to a container and refrigerate over night. The next day, all I had to do was put it all together to make the soup and whip up the dumplings.

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Chicken and Herb Dumplings

adapted from Serious Eats

Yield: 4-6 servings

For the soup:

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ½ quarts chicken broth

1 large onion, finely sliced

2 medium carrots, medium dice

3 ribs celery, medium dice

1 pound cooked chicken torn into bite size portions

Ground black pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat until melted. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until pale golden brown, about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in broth. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken, peas, and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

For the dumplings:

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups thawed frozen peas

¼ cup minced fresh parsley

½ teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

½ cup buttermilk

1 egg

¾ teaspoons Kosher salt

In a medium size bowl, combine the butter with flour, baking powder, chives, parsley, and ¾ teaspoon kosher salt. Combine the buttermilk and eggs in a separate bowl. Pour buttermilk mixture over flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy dough.

Return the soup to a simmer. Using a tablespoon measure, drop dumpling dough in 1-inch balls into soup. Cover and cook until dumplings have puffed and feel firm to touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Garnish with additional parsley and serve immediately.

Original recipe can be found here.

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Classic Chocolate Layer Cake

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This past week I had an itch I could not scratch, a craving that could not be satisfied. No amount of cookies or sweet cereal was even coming close. Every once in a while I get mean cravings for a classic chocolate layer cake. No frills, no fancy fillings, just chocolate on chocolate. Truth be told, I have fond memories of supermarket chocolate cake- the garishly decorated ones with crisco-like frosting. I am not even embarrassed to admit that.

I used to love it and up until recently, really enjoyed the indulgence. However, I found this recipe which evokes the same sweet memories of soft sponge-like chocolate cake and decadent, rich frosting (but 100x better). Hands down, this is the cake recipe for me. It’s easy and relatively quick, especially if you bake the cakes the night before. This way, all you have to do is whip up the frosting and assemble the next day.

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Chocolate Layer Cake

from Cook’s Country

Yield: 1-  9”cake, 2 layers

1 ½ cups (7 ½ oz) all- purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups boiling water

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

½ cup (1 ½ oz) Dutch processed cocoa powder

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups packed ( 10 ½ oz) light brown sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

½ cup sour cream, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour two 9-inch or three 8-inch round cake pans lined with parchment. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. In a second bowl, whisk boiling water, chocolate, coaoa, and espresso powder together until smooth.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until incorporated.

Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with chocolate mixture in 2 additions, scraping down the bowl as needed. Give batter a final stir by hand.

Divide batter evenly between prepared prepared pans and smooth tops with a rubber spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are prefect, just not wet), 15-20 minutes (for 8-inch pans) or 25- 30 minutes (for 9-inch pans), rotating halfway through baking.

Let cakes* cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, discard parchment, and let cool completely on rack, about 2 hours.

Chocolate Frosting

from Cook’s Country

Yield: 4 cups enough for 1 two layer cake or 24 cupcakes

2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

2 ¾ cup powdered sugar

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled

2 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pinch of table salt

1 1/2 cups cocoa nibs

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until fluffy, about 30 seconds. On low speed, add sugar, 1 cup at a time and cocoa powder and mix to combine. Beat in melted chocolate and increase speed to high, beating until pale fluffy, about 1 minute.

Reduce speed to medium-low and add milk, vanilla, and salt. Increase speed to high and beat until fluffy, 30 more seconds.

*Cakes can be baked a day in advance. When cooled completely, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, trim the tops to achieve a flat surface and begin assembling and frosting the layers. To apply the cocoa nibs, hold the cake in one hand, tilt slightly and grab a nandful of nibs and press gently into the lower third of the bottom layer.

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Hawaiian Style Poke

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Poke has always been around at family gatherings and everyday meals. It is so common in Hawaii that you can buy it by the pound at the market in the deli section. There are a multitude of varieties of poke that include octopus and shellfish. If you’re new to poke, in its most basic form, it is a raw fish appetizer, cubed into bite size pieces and marinaded in shoyu, sesame oil, and accompanied with fresh seaweed.

My favorite way to enjoy poke is in a simple preparation using ingredients above and adding a dash of yuzu zest to brighten it up. The fish should be the star of this dish and I prefer not to muddy the flavors with too many aditional ingredients. Although poke is usually enjoyed as is, sometimes I will spoon it over rice if I want to make it into a light meal. Either way is delicious. Make sure you get the best fish you can get your hands on which is preferably sushi grade and fresh caught.

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Poke

Yield: 4 as an appetizer

½ pound Bluefin tuna, sliced into ½” cubes

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 ¼ teaspoons light shoyu

½ teaspoon yuzu zest

Small handful fresh seaweed

½ teaspoon white sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and gently mix together. Serve poke chilled and enjoy immediately.

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Lemon Basil Cakes with Rhubarb Compote

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Rhubarb is one of those vegetables that I’ve never come around to trying, until now. Previously, I knew about rhubarb pies, rhubarb and strawberry compotes for topping ice cream, and rhubarb jam. While these all sound fine, they never piqued my interest because: 1) I’m loyal to chocolate and 2) I’m not usually a fan of cooked fruit. Both are good reasons but lately I’ve been feeling like shaking things up and getting out of my comfort zone. Too much of the same can be boring. So, I went all out and paired the rhubarb compote with a basil and lemon cake which to me just screams spring. One bite and the bright flavors combined with the slight tartness of rhubarb and the buttery cake made for a remarkable new dessert.

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Lemon Basil Financiers

Yield: 16

½ cup plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar; additional for dusting

2 tablespoons honey

5 egg whites

7 fresh basil leaves, chopped fine

Zest of one lemon

2 tablespoons melted butter or non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (convection) and place the oven rack in the middle.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until browned bits begin to form. Continue to simmer, frequently scraping up browned bits at bottom of pan, until fragrant and dark brown but not burnt, 6–7 minutes. Scrape butter and all browned bits into a medium bowl. Let cool for 3–4 minutes.

Place almonds and flour in a food processor until nuts are finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl; whisk in 1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar. Add egg whites; mix until smooth. Fold in honey, basil, and lemon zest.

Fold browned butter into batter. Cover and chill overnight and up to two days.

Coat savarin molds or a donut pan with melted butter or non-stick spray. Fill a disposable pastry bag with batter and pipe into coated molds filling to ¾.

Bake until cakes are just golden brown and cooked through, 18- 20 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pan and place onto a cooling rack.

 

Rhubarb Compote

Adapted From Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters

1 pound rhubarb

Juice of 1 orange plus zest

½ cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, scraped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rinse and dry rhubarb. Cut off 1” from the bottom and any leaves. Cut lengthwise into 1/3” strips and crosswise into ½” pieces.

Grate the zest from the orange into a non-reactive baking dish and add 3 tablespoons of its juice. Add the rhubarb, sugar, and vanilla and toss everything together to coat the rhubarb.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until a knife slides easily into the rhubarb.

 

Assemble the cakes:

With a small spoon, scoop rhubarb compote into the center well of each cake. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with a basil leaf. This dessert should be served warm or at room temperature.

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Meringue Cookies: Pistachio and Vanilla

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Santa Ana winds and dry air is not a news worthy event, except serving as a reminder for me to take my allergy meds. Nevertheless, I was overjoyed at this weather pattern as of late. Surely you must be wondering what on earth this has to do with food. Let’s get to it.

I love meringues, the completely crispy and light as air type. Only thing is, they need a very dry environment as moisture of any kind is the enemy of meringues. The absolute devil. I had to take advantage of this dry day before the weather went back to its normal humidity and make a batch of meringue cookies. They are easy and quick to put together, but do take a long time to dry out in the oven. With a little patience and almost half a day you will be enjoying these lettle gems which are crisp and crunchy through and through, with no trace of wet or sticky insides here. An absolute delight.

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glossy meringue with a stiff peak that holds its shape

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piped and ready for the oven

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Meringue Cookies (Pistachio & Vanilla)

Yield: 60- 70 kisses, approximately 1 ½” wide

¾ cup powdered sugar

½ cup superfine sugar

Pinch fine sea salt

4 egg whites, room temperature*

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Purple gel food color

Small brush with fine tip

¼ teaspoon pistachio extract

Green gel food color

Small brush with fine tip

2 disposable piping bags

* It is best to “age” the whites by leaving them partially covered on the countertop in a cool room overnight. This will let some of the moisture evaporate and help with obtaining a more voluminous meringue.

Prepare the piping bags:

Load two disposable piping bags fitted with large start tips (Ateco #8 or similar). Working with one color at a time, paint stripes using the gel color beginning on the inside of the bag as far down toward the tip as you can reach and up to ¾ of the way up the bag. Make as many stripes as you desire.

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Adjust two oven racks to the top and bottom third of the oven.

Sift together the powdered sugar, superfine sugar and salt in a medium size bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the egg whites and cream of tartar. With the whip attachment, begin beating the whites on medium setting until they become foamy (like bubble bath). Slowly add the powdered sugar mixture and increase the speed to high. Continue whipping until the whites become very glossy and stiff peaks form. Test the meringue by removing the whip and inverting it so that the meringue tip points upward. It should hold a peak. If not, continue whipping until stiff.

Separate the meringue into two medium size bowls and add ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract into one bowl of meringue and ¼ teaspoon pistachio extract into the other bowl. Mix gently with a rubber spatula to incorporate the extract. Place into prepared piping bags and begin piping, leaving a finger width between each kiss.

Bake for 3-4 hours until meringue is crisp and not sticky. I test them by feel as well as gently lifting up from the parchment. If they lift without too much coaxing and the bottoms release fairly easily, they are almost ready. At this point, turn the oven off and close the door. Let meringues cool in the oven for an additional hour. Remove from the oven, let come to room temperature and immediately enjoy or store in an airtight container.

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Chorizo and Manchego Cheese Braid

Today’s post is written by K and baked by both of us. Enjoy!

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How do you prepare for Sunday, 2PM?

For a while now, Sunday afternoon has had its own tradition for us. It is a tradition that we adopted while traveling. Sometime around 2 to 3 in the afternoon, when there is absolutely nothing on TV, and it’s too warm to do some shopping, we’re too tired from the cleaning and errands, it’s time to sit on the front porch with a glass of Vermouth and a snack. But what will that snack be? S had mentioned she wanted to bake off a loaf for the weekend and in anticipation of our Sunday Vermouth, we figured we’d do a loaf that was inspired by the Spanish tradition of, Vermouth on Sundays.

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Chorizo and Manchego Cheese Braid

Yield: 1 braid

For the Sponge:

1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast

¼ cup warm water

½ teaspoon honey

½ cup milk, scalded

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

½ cup cold water

 

For the Dough:

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¾ cup all- purpose flour

¼ cup bread flour + ½ cup additional (if needed)

All of the sponge

 

For the Topping:

1 ½ oz butter, softened

3 oz manchego cheese, grated

2 oz Spanish chorizo, cubed very small (brunoise)

2 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped

 

Make the Sponge

Proof the yeast in warm water until dissolved and creamy. Dissolve the honey in the scalded milk after it has cooled a bit. Transfer yeast mixture to a large bowl and add flour, milk, and water. Mix with a rubber spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and let the sponge rise for 2 hours in a warm spot.

 

Make the Topping:

Combine the butter, manchego cheese, chorizo, and oregano in a small mixing bowl and stir to combine. Set aside at room temperature.

Make the Dough

In a medium bowl, mix the salt with ¾ cup all-purpose flour and ¼ cup bread flour. Add by handfuls to the risen sponge and mix with a rubber spatula. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead until dough comes together in a soft and satiny ball. If the dough is too wet, add the reserved ½ cup bread flour a little at a time until the ball is smooth and desired texture is achieved.

When the dough is satiny, form it into a ball and place into a large container covered with plastic wrap until it doubles in size, approximately 1- 1 ½ hours.

Set the oven to convection and preheat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and place a pizza stone on the oven rack and an empty oven safe pan on the bottom of the oven.

Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Gently roll out into a log about 12- 14 inches long. Place the pieces onto parchment paper and braid the pieces, tucking the ends under slightly to seal together. Gently fill in between the braids with the chorizo butter mixture. You will have about ¼ mixture left, set aside. Cover the stuffed braid loosely with a piece of oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.

After the braid has risen, refill the braids with the extra filling since some of the filling may have come loose after the rise.

Place the braid on the stone in the oven and add water to the oven safe pan. It will steam so be careful. Bake for 25- 30 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from oven a place on a rack to cool.

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Jamaica Rolled Tacos

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This post from last week was leading up to something… something exciting to possibly nobody but me. Anyhow, since we’re all here, lets try something new. On our last trip to Mexico City, I was blown away by a platter of simple tacos made with jamaica flowers. We make jamaica every summer or when the weather is hot and I never thought to put the flowers to use. I’m not sure how the restaurant made them, but in my experimentation, the spent flowers worked best. In my eyes, this dish is a win-win and zero waste. Think about it, you get two for the price of one- a refreshing drink plus a meal.

In case you’re wondering how these rolled tacos taste, let me tell you that they are meaty in texture but also tangy from the natural flavor of the flowers. Truly unique, something you simply must try. They are best served with guacamole and cheese, nothing acidic beacuse of the tartness of the flowers.

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Jamaica Rolled Tacos:

yield: 16 rolled tacos

5 oz spent hibiscus flowers

16 tortillas

vegetable oil for frying

Use the spent hibiscus flowers from this recipe. After straining the flowers from the liquid, place into a separate container. Pick through and remove any seeds and tough inner parts of the flower. You want only the softer petals. Discard the rest.

If your tortillas are not freshly made, warm them so that they are pliable. Place a small amount of flowers on the tortilla and roll tight. Secure with toothpicks at each end. Continue until all tortillas are filled.

In a frying pan, heat the oil to approximately 365 degrees Fahrenheit and fry the rolled tacos a few at a time depending on how many your frying pan can accommodate without overcrowding. Fry until tacos are golden brown. Place them on a cooling rack and remove toothpicks as soon as they are cool enough to handle.

Serve with guacamole, queso fresco, and radishes. Enjoy!

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Hibiscus Water

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One night at dinner a long time ago, we were dining with company at a nice Mexican restaurant. As I was browsing the wine selection, out of nowhere comes, “What’s Jamaica?” Um, sorry, what? Isn’t it an island in the caribbean and what does that have to do with right now? Strange, but whatever. Then again, “It says Jamaica right here on the menu– what’s that?” As I glance down to where my diner guest was pointing, listed right below “horchata” was jamaica and not the island. Of course, I busted up laughing. It was the funiest thing at the time. After explaining that jamaica was a sweetened drink made of dried hibiscus flowers and water all was resolved. To this day, when I think of the drink jamaica, it reminds me of that hilarious night at dinner.

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Jamaica is one of my favorite drinks to order with a plate of tacos, especially on a hot day. It is tangy, sweet, and super refreshing. On our last trip to Tijuana, I bought a bag full of jamaica flowers and have been slowly working my way through it since a little goes a long way. I make my hibiscus water super concentrated and water it down as needed along with adding simple syrup to taste.

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Jamaica (hibiscus water):

Yield: 2 pitchers

5 oz dried hibiscus flowers

10 cups cold water

Simple Syrup:

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Place the dried hibiscus flowers in a colander and rinse with cold water. Place into a vessel large enough to accommodate the flowers and 10 cups water. Cover with plastic wrap and place outside in the sun. Let sit for 4 hours or more. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or over cheesecloth into a pitcher. Place in the refrigerator to chill completely.

Make the simple syrup:

Comaine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil (do not stir or agitate the mixture). Reduce heat and let simmer for 1 minute. Let cool completely.

When simple syrup and hibiscuc water are compeltely cooled down, it’s time to combine and get to drinking. Place a few ice cubes in your glass of choice. Fill the glass with 2/3 concentrated hibiscus water and top off with cold water (sparkling water makes it extra special, but not required) and a few tablespoons of simple syrup to taste.

*I keep the concentrated hibiscus water in a pitcher and dilute as I go along. Alternatively, you could split the concentrate into two pitchers and dilute and sweeten both batches at one time so the drink is ready to pour and enjoy without additional preparation. Both ways work equally well.

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Chocolate Swirl Babka

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Bread has always been an intimidating baking experience for me and one that I happily avoided. If I’m being honest here, anything that involved yeast and rising time terrified me. One bad experience and I was scarred for life- almost. Lately, I’ve been more curious about yeasted dough and am ready to start practicing again. It’s high time I got over this irrational fear. Afterall, it’s just bread. This chocolate swirl babka recipe caught my eye and seemed doable, even for me. Luckily, I had K’s help and guidance along the way and we prepared this one together. I have to say, it was a great success and I’m looking forward to more bread baking in my future.

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Chocolate Swirl Babka

from Sift by King Arthur

Yield: 1 loaf

Dough

1 cup (8 oz) water
¼ cup (2 oz) milk

2 tablespoons (1 oz) butter + additional 2 tablespoons, melted for brushing on top)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 ½ cups (14 ¾ oz) unbleached all purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast

 

Filling

1/3 cup (1 oz) unsweetened cocoa

¼ cup (3/4 oz) finely chopped almonds

2/3 cup (5 oz) granulated sugar

 

Crumb Topping

2 tablespoons (1 oz) butter, melted

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup (1 ½ oz) powdered sugar

¼ cup (1 oz) unbleached all- purpose flour

 

For the Dough:

Place all of the dough ingredients (except the additional 2 tablespoons melted butter) into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix for approximately 5-7 minutes until a soft, smooth ball forms. Add additional flour or water as needed. Cover and allow dough to rise for 1 hour.

For the Filling and Topping:

Combine the cocoa, nuts, and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. In another small bowl, use a fork to combine the crumb topping ingredients; it should be moist. Set aside.

To Shape:

After the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly greased work surface and roll it into an 8” x 16” rectangle. Sprinkle the chocolate mixture over the dough leaving a ½” border on all sides. Starting with the shorter side, roll the dough into a log, jelly roll style. Pinch the seam and ends together.

Transfer the log to a greased 9” x 5” loaf pan, laying it seam side down. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until it’s 1” above the rim of the pan, 40- 60 minutes. Half an hour into the rise time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly brush the loaf with the reserved melted butter and sprinkle the crumb topping evenly on top. Bake for 40- 60 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove the babka from the pan and let finish cooling on the rack before serving.

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