If you’re looking for an awesome dessert, this is it.  This babka is fantastic and rich, and as Deb points out, even if you think it looks not that pretty, that syrup makes everything look fantastic.  And plus, it gives you two loaves – one to share with friends, because you’re nice like that, and one to keep and eat for you.  Or maybe use for things like french toast.

(Better) Chocolate Babka
Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

Dough

  • 4.5 c flour
  • .5 c sugar
  • 1 packet instant yeast (2 t)
  • (zest of lemon or orange; didn’t add this this time)
  • 3 large eggs
  • .75 t sea salt
  • 2/3 c unsalted butter (just take 2 1/3 sections of a stick of butter)
  • (optional oil to grease)

Filling

  • 4 oz dark chocolate (equivalent to one baking bar)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • .5 c powdered sugar
  • 1/3 c special dark cocoa powder
  • cinnamon to taste

Syrup

  • 1/3 c water
  • 6 T sugar

Combine all your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, zest) in a bowl, and mix together with your eggs and water until the dough comes together.  If you have a stand mixer to do this, great!  If not, you’re gonna be using a plastic spoon.  It might be a bit dry – if it doesn’t quite come together, don’t be scared to use some extra water.  Add in your salt and butter, and mix together until the dough is completely smooth (see picture 3).  This took about ten minutes of working the dough with my hands to have it come together perfectly – the dough should start pulling away from the sides of the bowl once it’s ready.  

Coat a bowl with oil, transfer the dough to the bowl, cover, and put in a fridge overnight (or half a day if you’re doing it same day).  The dough won’t quite double, but it will grow by at least half.

When you’re ready to assemble the babka, take your dough, let it warm up slightly, and split it in half and then roll one half out into a 12 by 10 rectangle.  After rolling out the dough, make your filling.  Melt your butter and dark chocolate over medium high heat (put your butter in first, and break the bar down into small chunks), and then stir in the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and cinnamon until you have a nice paste, and remove from heat.  Take half the filling, scoop it out onto the rolled out dough, and use a rubber spatula to spread it out all over the dough, leaving a half inch border, like so:

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To assemble the loaves, brush the furthest end from you with water (in this case the right end) and then roll into a long tight cigar, like so:

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Seal the water dampened end onto the dough.  Cut off a half inch off each end of the log and then slice each loaf in half length wise, so that it looks like picture 6.  Lay them so that they’re laying long ways with the cut sides laying up, and pinch the two top ends together.  Lift one side over the other to form a nice twist so that the cut sides face up and fan out, making a nice S shape (see picture 7).  Repeat this with your other dough, and feel free to make a small little baby babka like I did with the dough ends.  Transfer into greased loaf pans (or a rectangular cake pan in my case), cover with a damp hand/tea towel, and let rise for an hour and a half.  Preaheat your oven to 375.

Once the hour and a half is up, put the loaves in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes.  You’ll know it’s done when you’re able to stick a fork or skewer into the middle of a loaf with no restistance (instead of it feeling rubbery/bouncy).

While the babka bakes, make your syrup by simmering together your water and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.  As soon as the babka is ready, take it out of the oven, drizzle the sugar syrup over the two loaves, and enjoy the fantastic.  The final pic is how your babka will look after you drizzle the syrup on it.  This was what was left of the babka less than twenty minutes later:

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It’s good shit.

This was the recipe I used to break in my fancy new gas oven, and man, I cannot describe how fucking perfect it is (both the recipe and the stovetop, lol). Farmers market cherries, a sweet vanilla chilled cream, and a wonderful syrup of Kahlua, red wine, and sugar makes this all incredibly decadent. Be warned, though, this is incredibly alcoholic; you’re cooking the pint of cherries in an equal amount of Kahlua, red wine, and sugars. The end resulting cherries are some of the sexiest things I’ve ever had, though.  Like, if you’re looking for a way to get someone in bed, make these. 

The sweet cream recipe is originally from the Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook; however, with help from my baby sister, I did make some alteration to the directions, as my first attempt got me a severely overcooked custard rather than a smooth pourable cream. The second version is still a bit on the overly thick/cooked side, but it’s a lot closer to what it should be. It’ll take you multiple times to get it right; don’t be afraid if you fuck it up the first few times. 

You could also probably safely double the recipe for the sweet cream and the amount of cherries used.

Kahlua Cherries and Sweet Cream
Lasts 3 to 4 lunches as a dessert

Ingredients

  • 1 pint fresh sweet cherries, pitted (see cherry almond dutch baby recipe for pitting tips)
  • 1 c Kahlua
  • .5 c red wine (I used Cupcake Winery’s Red Velvet)
  • .5 c dark brown sugar
  • .5 c sugar

Sweet Cream

  • 1 c heavy whipping cream
  • .5 c sugar, divided
  • 5 egg yolks
  • vanilla extract to taste

Bring the Kahlua, red wine, brown and white sugar to a boil over medium high heat, and then reduce to a simmer for three minutes. Then, add your pitted cherries and simmer for an additional ten minutes, stirring here and there.

To make your sweet cream, take your heavy whipping cream and half of your sugar, and bring to a light simmer.  While you bring it to a simmer, whisk together your egg yolk, the rest of your sugar, and however much vanilla extract you want. Once the sugar cream mixture is simmering, remove it from the heat and slowly drizzle it into the egg yolk vanilla mixture, whisking constantly to blend. 

Now, you can do this one of two ways: cook it in the pot over medium heat, while stirring constantly in figure 8s in all directions.  This is the method I used (thanks to some pointers from my baby sister, and some trial and error) both times, and it will usually thicken to the point of coating the back of the spoon within five minutes using the direct heat method; anything longer and it will overcook. Look at the difference between pictures 5 and 6 for a good example of what it’ll look like once done. The original also recommends putting it in a double boiler or putting an ovenproof glass bowl over a pot of simmering water; I haven’t tried it this way, but it will likely take closer to 8 to 10 minutes that way.

Once both are done, chill separately in the fridge, and then combine, and enjoy the alcoholic decadence. 

venneh:

This was a quick little experiment that I did, as I had some leftover feta, and a desire to try it marinated. So, I cut it up into cubes, put in some cumin, coriander, oregano, marjoram, and crushed red pepper in the layers of cubes, and poured the olive oil over it. The result was quite tasty, especially with the roasted olives.

I made this recipe for 3 reasons: 1) because I needed to use up my leftover bacon, 2) I needed something to help me time the tomato bacon chutney being finished, and 3) I honestly hadn’t made this recipe in a while, and that needed to be fixed.  The recipe on this was a bit approximate, as my brown sugar was hardened when I used it, and it’s been long enough since I made this that I I forgot the exacts on how I used to get the perfect candied bacon.  But trust me, I will eventually update this post once I’ve got it down.

Candied Bacon
Makes 2x how ever many bacon strips you have

Ingredients

  • bacon
  • dark brown sugar

Preheat your oven to 325 (mine was at 300 because of the normal running hot thing). Cover a baking sheet in foil, cut your strips of bacon in half, and cover them in brown sugar (the shown amounts were okay, but I need to make it again to get a better idea of where it should be).  Put your strips in the oven for 20 minutes (which gave me the second picture), and be sure to remove the strips right away after they’re done, because they otherwise kind of harden to the foil.  

The resulting candied bacon, though? Heaven.  Absolute friggin’ heaven.

These were made on something of a last minute whim, as the students at my new workplace are having a brunch-ish thing for Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and I wanted to have something interesting but still breakfastish to provide. And thus, these, which have been sitting in my to-make queue for a while, seemed like the perfect choice.  

They’re pretty time consuming (I’ve been working on these since about 6:30 this evening), but absolutely worth it (I nommed the last picture down pretty quickly after taking it). A few pointers – I mixed some existing vanilla sugar I had with some normal sugar for this, and even if you don’t have vanilla sugar made up, straight up normal sugar will be great. And if you don’t have a pastry bag/tip, no worries – all you need to do is take a ziploc bag, cut off one corner, and just squeeze the bag.

Chocolate Cream Filled Vanilla Sugar Donuts
Makes appx 14 or so donuts

Ingredients

Donuts

  • 2 T water
  • 1 package active dry yeast 
  • 3.5 c flour
  • 1 c milk
  • .25 c (.5 stick) butter, melted
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 T sugar
  • .5 t cinnamon
  • 1.5 t salt

Vanilla Sugar

  • 1 1/3 c white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • pinch salt
  • (alternatively, if you have some on hand, mix however much you have with white sugar to make about a cup)

Chocolate Pastry Cream

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • .25 c white sugar
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 3 T cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 c milk
  • 3 oz bitterwsweet chocolate, chopped small
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • at least enough vegetable oil to fill your pot two inches deep

To make your donut dough, mix your water and yeast together and let sit five minutes, until foamy.  Then, add all remaining ingredients and mix them together (either using a stand mixer or a wooden spoon and your hands) until you have a ball of sticky, soft, coherent dough. Cover the bowl with a towel, and let that dough sit for about two hours, until it’s doubled in size (see the below inserted picture, and the second picture for an approximate size difference). 

While your dough rises, make your chocolate pastry cream.  Mix your yolks, sugar, corn starch, cocoa powder, and salt together in a pot, until you get a thick mixture.  Then, slowly whisk your milk in, and turn the heat to medium high, stirring constantly so that the eggs and yolk don’t cook.  Right before the mixture starts to boil, it’ll rapidly thicken (see pic 2, row 3); when it gets to that point, remove it from the heat, and stir in your chocolate, butter, and vanilla extract.  Whisk until smooth, and once you have a smooth, thick cream, put it in a bag (pastry, ziploc, whatever works best for you), and chill for two hours.  

While everything is chilling and rising, if you haven’t made your vanilla sugar, do that by combining all ingredients (sugar, salt, vanilla bean scrapings) in a small bowl, or mixing your premade vanilla sugar with the white sugar. Whichever works best for you.

After your donut dough is done rising, sprinkle a work surface with flour, and roll out till about a foot wide and a half-inch thick.  Use whatever sort of cutter you usually use (I honestly just used my glasses) to cut out round shapes from the dough, and line them up on a baking sheet of some sort.  Cover the circles again with a towel, and let them puff up a bit for another half hour (see pic 4). 

Meanwhile, pour about two to two and a half inches of vegetable oil in a pot, and heat to medium high.  Do this about ten minutes before your half hour is up.  That way, you can throw your dough right into the oil, and fry for about two minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Use a spatula or slotted spoon to flip the donuts in the oil, and then remove to where your bowl of vanilla sugar is waiting.  Flip the donuts a few times in the sugar, until coated, and then remove to some waiting paper towels to dry.  Repeat this until you run out of dough.

Once completed, either take the stem end of a spoon and dig a hole into your donut, or, if you’re me, give up and slice the donut open.  Then, take your pastry cream, and squeeze until you think there’s enough cream; if you sliced it open, its gonna look like a sandwich.  

Don’t worry if it’s not that pretty!  It’s fucking delicious, and that’s all that matters!

So, these have been one of my favorite snacks/breakfast foods since back in elementary school.  I can remember my mom making these for me, and learning to make them on my own has been a weird thing for me. Because, on the one hand, awesome grown-up independentness. On the other hand, I still kind of want to have my mom be the one making these.  (Growing up, kids.  It’s a weird thing to think about, especially when you’re a touch drunk and coming up on your 25th.)

Nostalgia or not, though, these puffs are absolutely sweet, decadent, and all sorts of fantastic. The recipe I’m giving is for the doubled recipe, which gave me 15 full-sized puffs.

French Breakfast Puffs
Makes 15 full-sized puffs

Ingredients

  • 3 c flour
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • .5 t nutmeg
  • 2/3 c butter, at room temperature (appx 11 T)
  • 1 c white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 c buttermilk

Coating

  • 6 T butter
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 2/3 c white sugar

Whisk your flour, baking powder and soda, and nutmeg together in one  bowl.  Cream your butter and sugar together in a separate larger bowl, and then add your egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Add a third of the flour mixture, followed by a half of the buttermilk, alternating as you blend them in and then finishing with the flour mixture, until combined.  Preheat your oven to 350 (mine was at 325 because it runs hot).

Scoop your dough into a muffin pan, filling the cups about 4/5ths of the way (see pic 2 for reference), which gives you the perfect dome on the puffs.  Bake for appx 25 minutes, until golden brown and puffed up like in picture 4.

While your puffs bake, melt your butter for the coating in a small pot, over medium heat, until the butter’s melted.  If you want to go for browned butter, cook a little longer, stirring frequently, until you get brown bits on the bottom, and it smells nutty.  Mine went a bit longer than it should’ve (see pic 3), but it still worked great. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl or shallow dish, and set aside.

As soon as your puffs are done and have had time to cool, dip in the browned butter, and then in the cinnamon sugar to coat.

These are best eaten warm, but they still hold up very well even if not warm.  Just try not to eat them all at once.

So, my plans for the Emmys ended up falling through Sunday night (which was probably for the best), so I got to make this delicious little treat.  Turns out that bread + butter + sugar + almond extract + oven at low heat = surprisingly delicious.  Also, amazingly simple.  And cheap. So, good quick snack, one I’d recommend if you get the chance to make it.

Japanese Sugar Rusk
Makes minimum 18 slices, depending on how thin you slice + size of baguette

Ingredients

  • 1 baguette (can be small or large, I went small for mine)
  • 2 sticks (1 c) butter
  • 1.25 c sugar
  • 1 t almond extract

Slice your baguette up thin (see picture one for an example), and cream together the sugar, butter, and almond. Preheat your oven to 250.  Spread a thin layer of the butter-sugar-almond mixture on one side of the bread, and place unfrosted side down on a lined baking sheet.  Cook for about one hour, until the underside is golden brown (see pic 3).

Best eaten with a glass of milk to dip, and warmed.