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  • Chocolate Babka
    • Monday March 29, 2010

      Via Smitten Kitchen, from Martha Stewart

      Difficulty Rating: 7 out of 10 (For me, personally, I'd rank this closer to 8 or 9, being a first-timer and having to make the dough twice, but I'm pretty sure my own miscounting caused a lot of my trouble, so we'll keep it at 7.)

      • 1 1/2 C. warm milk, 110 degrees
      • 2 (1/4 oz. each) packages active dry yeast
      • 1 3/4 C. plus a pinch of sugar
      • 3 whole large eggs, room temperature
      • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
      • 6 C. all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
      • 1 tsp. salt
      • 1 3/4 C. (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for bowl and loaf pans
      • 2 1/4 lbs. semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
      • 2 1/2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
      • 1 Tbsp. heavy cream
      • Streusel topping (below)

      Making the streusel topping:

      • 1 2/3 C. powdered sugar
      • 1 1/3 C. all-purpose flour
      • 12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

      In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour and butter. Using a fork, stir until fully combined with clumps ranging in size from crumbs to 1 inch. (This made more than I ended up using. Do not feel like you have to use a third on each loaf. Just use what looks good to you.) Set aside.

      Making the dough:

      (I recommend heating your oven to 200 degrees and then turning it off once it reaches the preheated temperature. This should allow it to cool back down some while you prepare the dough, leaving you with a warm place to let your dough rise once you reach that step.)

      Warm milk in a small saucepan, using a thermometer to achieve the desired temperature. Remove from heat, then sprinkle yeast and a pinch of sugar over milk; let stand until foamy, about 5-10 minutes. (Mine took longer than 5, so I’m upping the range here.)

      In a bowl, whisk together 3/4 C. sugar, 2 eggs and egg yolks. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.

      In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add egg/yeast mixture, and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated, about 20-30 seconds, scraping the sides with a spatula as needed..

      Change to the dough hook. Add 2 sticks butter (cut into pieces), and beat until flour mixture and butter are completely incorporated, and a smooth, soft dough that’s slightly sticky when squeezed is formed, about 10 minutes. (Ours was ready in about 8, so keep an eye on it.)

      Butter a large glass bowl. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few turns until smooth. Then place dough in bowl and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place (hey, that warmed oven looks like a good spot!) to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

      Making the filling:

      While the dough rises, you’ll have plenty of time to chop your chocolate. After cutting the chocolate into manageable chunks, you can use a food processor to speed up the rest of the process.

      Place chocolate, remaining 1 C. sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut in remaining 1 1/2 sticks of butter until well combined; set filling aside. (Avoid the temptation to shove your face into the bowl.)

      Building the babka:

      Generously butter three 9-by-5-inch loaf pans and line them with parchment paper.

      Beat remaining egg with 1 Tbsp. cream; set egg wash aside.

      Get your bowl of dough and punch back the dough, then transfer to a clean surface. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Keep 2 pieces covered with plastic wrap while working with the remaining piece. On a generously floured surface, roll dough out into a 16-inch square; it should be 1/8 inch thick. (I have no earthly idea how to measure or eyeball this. I just rolled the approximate 16 inches and left it at that.)

      Brush edges with reserved egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of the reserved chocolate filling evenly over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border.

      Roll dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch ends together to seal. Twist 5 or 6 turns.

      Brush top of roll with egg wash. Carefully crumble 2 tablespoons filling over the left half of the roll, being careful not to let mixture slide off. Fold right half of the roll over onto the coated left half. Fold ends under, and pinch to seal.

      Twist roll 2 turns, and fit into prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of dough and remaining filling.

      Heat oven to 350 degrees.

      Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of streusel topping over each loaf (or however much looks good to you). Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place 20 to 30 minutes. (For me, the warm place at this point was the top of the oven as it preheated again.)

      Note: Bake loaves, rotating halfway through, until golden, about 55 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until tops are deep golden, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from oven, and transfer to wire racks until cool. Remove from pans; serve.

      Babkas freeze well for up to 1 month. If freezing any loaves, complete the recipe all the way until, of course, the step where you bake them. (Meaning, go ahead and throw on the topping and put in a warm place for 30 minutes.) When you're ready to bake them, remove from freezer, let stand at room temperature for 5 hours, then bake. 

  • Pineapple Upside-down Cake
    • Monday March 22, 2010

      From smittenkitchen.com, adapted from Gourmet.

      Difficulty rating: 5 out of 10 (For the caramel only because of the potential burning factor. And, I suppose, if you actually peeled and cored a whole pineapple. The cake itself is simple.)


      • 1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, cored and quartered lengthwise
      • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
      • 3/4 C. light brown sugar


      • 1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
      • 2 tsp. baking powder
      • 1/4 tsp. salt
      • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
      • 1 C. granulated sugar
      • 2 large eggs
      • 1 tsp. vanilla
      • 1 Tbsp. dark rum
      • 1/2 C. unsweetened pineapple juice
      • 1 to 2 Tbsp. dark rum to sprinkle over cake

      Special equipment: 10-inch cast iron skillet, seasoned. (If you don’t have one of these, you can make the caramel in a small saucepan and then pour into a 9-inch cake pan to bake instead.)

      Preheat oven to 350°F.

      Making topping:
      Cut pineapple crosswise into 3/8-inch-thick pieces.

      Melt butter in skillet. Add brown sugar and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring, for four minutes. (Adjust heat level to your stovetop, but err on the low side. You can always cook it longer or turn up the heat, but you can’t un-burn it!) Remove from heat.

      Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in concentric circles, overlapping pieces slightly, from the middle to the edge of the skillet/pan. (See above photo for an example.)

      Making batter:
      Sift flour, baking powder and salt into small bowl.

      Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and rum.

      Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in pineapple juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended.

      Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

      Let cake stand in skillet five minutes, then lay a plate over skillet and invert cake onto plate. (I inverted mine directly onto my cake stand.) Replace any pineapple that may have stuck to the bottom of skillet. Sprinkle rum over cake and cool on plate on a rack.

      (We stopped at 1 Tbsp. of rum because it already smelled pretty strongly of rum at this point for one thing and also, Katie & Patrick don’t drink, so we didn’t want to douse the cake too heavily. It was perfectly delicious this way.) 

  • Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes with Mint Cream
    • Monday March 15, 2010

      From smittenkitchen.com: Cupcakes adapted from Bon Appetit; Frosting adapted via Claudia Fleming.

      Difficulty Rating: 3 out of 10

      Makes between 9 and 12 cupcakes. (I got 11.)

      Making the mint cream:

      • 2 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
      • 3 oz. heavy whipping cream
      • 1/8 tsp. peppermint extract
      • (Optional: 1 drop green food coloring; add after mixing in the peppermint extract.)

      Do this first so it has time to chill. 

      Chop the white chocolate into small pieces and place in a small bowl.

      Bring the cream to a simmer, then pour over the chocolate and let sit for a minute to melt the chocolate, then whisk well. Add the peppermint extract and whisk again.

      Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the cream and chill for about two hours.

      Making the cupcakes:

      • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I found both chocolate blocks at Whole Foods. Though for accuracy's sake, I'm going to have to invest in a scale.)
      • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
      • Heaping 1/4 tsp. espresso or instant coffee powder
      • 3 large eggs, separated
      • 6 Tbsp. sugar, divided
      • 1/4 tsp. salt
      • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

      Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin pan with paper liners.

      Stir butter, bittersweet chocolate and espresso powder together in a medium saucepan over low heat until mostly melted, then remove from heat and whisk until smooth. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally.

      Using a hand mixer, beat egg yolks and 3 Tbsp. sugar in medium bowl until mixture is very thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Briefly beat lukewarm chocolate mixture, then vanilla extract, into yolk mixture.

      Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 3 Tbsp. sugar and the salt, beating until medium-firm peaks form.

      Fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions.

      Divide batter among prepared cups, filling each three-fourths of the way.

      Bake cakes until tops are puffed and dry to the touch (some may crack) and a tester inserted into the centers comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 15 minutes, adding a few minutes if necessary.

      Cool in pan on a cooling rack, where the cupcakes will almost immediately start to fall and shrink.

      Lastly, take the mint cream out of the fridge and beat with hand mixer until soft peaks form. Remove cupcakes from pan, arrange on a platter. Fill the center of each top with a dollop of white chocolate mint cream. (I just cut a hole in the corner of a sandwich baggy when icing any cupcakes, having still not puchased a pastry bag. Someday I'll get one!) Top with shaved chocolate. 

  • Tiramisu Cake
    • Friday March 12, 2010

      From smittenkitchen.com, taken from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

      Difficulty rating: I think a 3 is fair. None of the steps are especially difficult, but there are a lot of them.

      Note: There is a very small amount of alcohol in this recipe, but if you abstain completely, just be aware.

      Tip: Give yourself at least 5 hours if not more to make this since it needs to chill for a few hours when you're all done.)

      Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350. Grease two 9" round cake pans with butter or shortening and dust the insides with flour, tapping out all but a thin layer.

      Making the cake:

      • 2 C. cake flour 
      • 2 tsp. baking powder
      • 1/8 tsp. baking soda
      • 1/4 tsp. salt
      • 1 1/4 sticks (10 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
      • 1 C. sugar
      • 3 large eggs
      • 1 large egg yolk
      • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
      • 3/4 C. buttermilk

      Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

      Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat for 1 minute after each addition, adding the egg yolk last. Beat in the vanilla.

      Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk a little at a time, alternating flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients are just blended. Pour the batter evenly into both pans and smooth the tops.

      Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Make sure a toothpick (or other small poking object) comes out clean, then place cakes on a wire rack and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the cakes and pop them out, then let sit right-side up on rack until completely cool.

      Making the espresso extract:

      • 2 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
      • 2 Tbsp. boiling water

      Heat the water in the microwave until just boiling, then stir in the espresso powder until blended. Set aside. Note: You will use some of this to make the espresso syrup (below) and the rest will be added to the frosting later on. Don't confuse this extract with the following syrup.

      Making the espresso syrup:

      • 1/2 C. water
      • 1/3 C. sugar
      • 1 Tbsp. amaretto, Kahlua or brandy

      Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil, then pour the syrup into a small glass bowl and mix in 1 Tbsp. of the espresso extract and the 1 Tbsp. of liqueur or brandy; set aside. 

      Making the filling & frosting:

      • 1 8-oz. container mascarpone
      • 1/2 C. powdered sugar, sifted 
      • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
      • 1 Tbsp. amaretto, Kahlua or brandy
      • 1 C. heavy cream
      • 2 1/2 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 1/2 C. mini chocolate chips

      Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla and liqueur/brandy in a large bowl and whisk until just blended and smooth.

      Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. (I used a medium speed and it took somewhere between 5-10 minutes. Don't overdo it or it'll re-mush.) Using a rubber spatula, stir about a quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.

      Putting it all together:
      If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife to even them.

      (I didn't need to do this, but in retrospect, I'd recommend doing it regardless, because it would remove the crust layer of the cake, making it texturally more like ladyfingers.)

      Place a piece of waxed paper or something similar to cover your countertop and begin building your cake on it. Don't transfer to your cake stand or plate until you're ready to frost because these steps can be a little messy.

      Using a pastry brush or small spoon, soak the top of the first cake layer with about 1/3 of the espresso syrup. (About 2 oz.) Smooth about 1 1/4 C. of the mascarpone filling over the layer and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling.

      Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup (2 oz.), then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup. (2 oz.)

      For the frosting, whisk 1 Tbsp. of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling. Taste the frosting as you go to decide if you want to add more extract. (I stopped at 1 Tbsp., though it was most of what was left anyway.) If the frosting is too soft to spread over the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate both it and the cake for 15 minutes. 

      Frost the cake, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours (or for up to 1 day) before serving.

      Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa. Feel free to cut out your own fun stencil from waxed paper. Chocolate-covered espresso beans would also make a tasty decoration.

Copyright 2004-2020 Elizabeth Shiver