Italian Lemon Olive Oil Cake

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Well, this is my first Lemon cake recipe posted on the blog but is not my first time baking them. I have done a lot of them in the past. Lemon cake is my favorite! As you know, I am a perfectionist when it comes to a recipe. So, I decided to post this recipe because is a really, really, good one! I found this recipe on an Italian blog. The cake is a traditional recipe from Puglia, they call it Ciambellone, and is a traditional cake for breakfast.

This cake is light, moist and with high notes of lemon flavor. It’s just sweet enough and so tasty that it doesn’t need any topping. But I made a lemon glaze anyways, I do have quite a sweet tooth. I think you will love it! If you prefer it the traditional way you can simply dust it with some powder sugar or garnish with berries, especially strawberries and raspberries. So, let’s enjoy this pinch of sugar!!

 

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Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups flour or cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 3-4 small  lemons (I used Mayer lemons)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup (100 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoon of dark rum(optional)

Lemon Glaze:

  • 2 Cup of confectioners’ sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoon of lemon juice

 

Let’s Bake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and grease a 9 1/2 cake pan or Bundt pan with olive oil, then dust it with flour.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. Add the zest to the granulated sugar and rub together to infuse the sugar with the zest’s lemon flavor.FullSizeRender.jpg
  4. Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the sugar and eggs on medium-high speed until the mixture has lightened in color and doubled in size, 3-5 minutes. Note: this is a key step. It’s necessary to give the cake structure.
  5. On low speed, whisk in the lemon juice and yogurt. Add the olive oil, pouring slowly so that flows in a stream. On the lowest speed (or with a spatula), stir in the flour mixture only until combined. FullSizeRender.jpg-1
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40-50 minutes. (A toothpick inserted in the middle will come out with a few moist crumbs.)
  7. Remove from the oven and cool for 20 minutes. Remove from the cake pan and cool completely.
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  8. For the Lemon Glace, place confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup; stir in lemon juice. (Glaze should be thick, yet pourable). Add more sugar or lemon juice, as necessary.
  9. Drizzle the lemon glaze on top, or if you prefer, decorate it with powdered sugar and some berries and enjoy this pinch of sugar!

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Blueberry Scones

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It’s been a while since my last post. Nothing to worry about, I am more than alive! We took a long vacation to visit my family in Orlando, FL and Puerto Rico. We had a great time! We enjoyed the weather, the beaches and we even stopped by to say hi to Mickey Mouse! Here are some pictures of our trip.

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Well, now to these succulent blueberry scones. I must let you know of my eternal struggle with them! When I moved to the U.S. I noticed that, besides the traditional donuts & coffee, people love scones for breakfast. This pastry was totally new for me. We don’t make scones in Puerto Rico. To be honest with you, my first impression was not the best. The scones were dense and hard as a brick, at least the ones that I tried. To give them a chance a few month ago I made a recipe from The Food Network and it was the same experience. So, making scones was not a priority for me until we had a getaway to Dubuque, WI,  and tried a chocolate chip scone at a coffee shop. This one was totally different! Crumbly, tender and flaky! I fell in love! So, you know me, the research of recipes began. It was not until I read this that I screamed: “I found it!”

“For our ultimate blueberry scone recipe, we wanted to bring together the sweetness of a coffeehouse confection, the moist freshness of a muffin, the richness of clotted cream and jam, and the super-flaky crumb of a good biscuit”. -American Test’s Kitchen post

If you are a scones lover, you must try this recipe! At least for me, these are the best scones I ever tried, apart from the one at the Dubuque Coffee shop! From now on I am an official scones lover!

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen whole
  • 2  tablespoon of melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, picked or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla (optional)
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons of nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Let’s Bake:

  1. Grate 8 tbsp. of butter on large holes of box grater or cut it in small pieces and place in the freezer until needed. (The butter must be frozen for at least 2 hours before this procedure). Place blueberries also in the freezer until needed. Melt the 2 tbsp. of remaining butter and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 °F, and adjust the rack to the middle position.
  3. Mix together the milk, sour cream and the vanilla extract in a bowl, then refrigerate until needed.
  4. In a large bowl sift the flour and then whisk together the rest of the dry ingredient; baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest. Add the frozen butter into the flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated. Note: You can use your food processor for this step. Do not over mix (2 or 3 pulses are enough).
  5. Make a center hole in the flour mixture and add the milk mixture, fold with a spatula until just combined; use your hands as need it. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Dust surface of dough with a little flour and knead it about 6-8 times. Do not overmix; just until it just holds together like a ball.

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  1. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a square of approximately 12 inches. Then, fold the dough into thirds like a business letter. Lift the ends and fold into thirds again to form and an approximate 4-inch square. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for 5 -10 minutes. Note: This is a key step, folding the dough like a puff pastry will give you nice and flaky scones.
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Image from, http://kokblog.johannak.com/category/sweet/
  1. Once the dough is chilled, transfer the dough onto a floured surface and roll into a 12-inch square again. Sprinkle the blueberry evenly over the dough and then press them down. Using a metal spatula, our floured fingers, loosen the dough from the surface and roll it, like a swiss roll cake, pressing the dough to make a tight log. Then press the log to form a 12’’ x 4-inch rectangle.

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  1. Using a sharp floured knife, cut rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles, then cut each rectangle diagonally to form triangles. Transfer your scones to a prepared baking sheet.Brush the scones with melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

 

  1. Bake it for about 18-25 minutes or until tops and bottoms are golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and let them cool for about 10 minutes, then enjoy them the American way, with a cup of coffee.

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Carrot Cake with Walnuts & Dates

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April is my second favorite month of the year, after Christmas season of course. This month has a lot of meaning in my life. It was the month I became a mother to a beautiful baby boy, Ezi, and it is the month we celebrate Lent; two things that lead my life. It’s a time to be thankful for what God has done for me and his blessings over my life.

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Also, April is a month full of Easter and Lent recipes! A whole full month of baking fun! Here in the States is not Easter without a classic Carrot Cake. It’s the classic cake for Easter Sunday at Churches, and for the famous egg hunt.

I love this recipe because this carrot cake is so moist and full of flavor. Carrots, crushed pineapple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and dates. Yes, Dates! It’s the secret ingredient that makes this carrot cake a winner. Usually, southern cakes include raisins, but the sweetness of the dates will give a caramelized taste that takes this cake to the next level. You will thank me later!

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Bonus: This is a sheet cake, which means no intimidating frosting job! Which is perfect for me because I have no cake decorating skills. It’s also great for Easter family reunions since yields up to 16 people.  So, I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup of chopped dates (optional)
  • Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 3  cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Let’s bake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9×13″ cake pan with baking spray and parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, white sugar, brown sugar, carrots, and crush pineapple until light in color.
  3. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; gradually beat into carrot mixture. Folds in walnuts and dates.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.
  5. Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • Combine the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and mix until fully combined and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy.
  • Frost cooled cake with frosting and sprinkle the top with extra walnuts if desired. Enjoy!IMG_9943

Note: I like to refrigerate this cake and then make the frosting the next day. Carrots cakes have the particularity of having a better flavor after two days in the refrigerator.

Recipe adapted from Taste of home

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Irish Soda Bread

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When you live in Northeast Indiana you’re more influenced from the Chicago culture than anything else. And there St. Patrick day is a huge celebration! Chicago has an enormous Irish community, so this week is full of festivities to commemorate St. Patrick’s day. There’s a parade and they even dyed the river green. You can find the traditional Irish Soda Bread at any bakery, restaurants are serving Corned Beef & Cabbage, and of course Irish Pubs are full! So, I’m always looking to bake something new, and breads or desserts from others countries are always my first option. Which means this is the perfect time to bake the traditional Soda Bread.

This is not a yeast bread, therefore its very easy and simple to make. Which is the best part! This bread goes great with any comfort food, but it is the essential side dish in any St. Patrick’s Day meal. Soda Bread goes perfect with any breakfast, served warm with jam, or dunking it into any soup or stew dinner. What I love about this bread is that you can make it at any time, usually you have all the ingredients at home. You can make it more sweet if you like by adding chocolate chips or any dry fruits. You can also make it into a dinner roll, adding herbs and even garlic. This Irish Soda Bread is absolutely delish! I encourage you to make it!!

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar (divided)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp. butter; cold, diced
  • 1 1/2 c. buttermilk (You can make your own buttermilk by just adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar per cup of whole milk)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips (You can substitute with raisins or currants)

Reserve for glaze:       

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. of sugar

 

Let’s Bake:

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease an ovenproof 10” skillet with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper or with melted butter.
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

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  1. Using a pastry cutter, or your hands, work in the butter until it’s evenly incorporated.

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  1. In a separate medium bowl, combine buttermilk and egg. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not over mix!
  1. Fold in chocolate raisins, currants, or chocolate chips.

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  1. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ into the top of the loaf and sprinkle with sugar.

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  1. Bake until golden, or until a toothpick comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Check for doneness after 30 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes as desired.
  1. When you tap the loaf, it should sound hollow. Cool at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

 

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Mama’s Pound Cake

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I always say the simplest things are sometimes the most difficult to achieve. A few weeks ago my husband asked me: “Why you don’t make a pound cake?” You know, a traditional pound cake, the buttery kind that you don’t find at bakeries anymore. What task! Well, after a couple of days searching over my books and the web, looks like I did my assignment well because this old fashioned Mama’s Pound Cake is worth every bite!

The pound cake is made like grandmas use to do it, with a combination of butter and shortening. And let me tell you, the shortening can’t be replaced, is the key to success of this cake! One thing I learned during my search is that most pound cake recipes call for the combination of two or more flavors extracts. That’s what makes that particular pound cake taste. I chose almond & vanilla, since is the more traditional.

To make a long story short, when my husband tasted his first slice he told me : “Oh my! How did you find this recipe?! This is exactly the flavor I was looking for!” So I’m very excited to share this classic recipe with you! And I hope all of you enjoy it with a good cup of coffee of course!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of almond extract

 

Let’s Bake!

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. With a mixer, cream butter and shortening together, add sugar a little at a time. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.
  3. In another bowl, stir dry ingredients together (flour, salt & baking powder), then add to mixer alternating with milk; starting with flour and ending with flour. Mix in vanilla.FullSizeRender
  4. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean  Note: if you are using a bread pan, the baking time is 50 minutes and yield two loaf

Recipe Adapted from, Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook, copyright 1997. 

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Liebster Award

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I want to give special thanks to Nena Baking Recipes for nominating me for the Liebster Awards.  Please feel free to check out her blog, she has great ideas in baking, cooking & cocktails. This is my First award since I started blogging and I really appreciate it. Blogging is one the best hobbies I have done, I love to bake and share my experiences.

The Liebster Awards requires 11 Facts About Me, so here are a few things so you can get to know me a little bit more:

  • I live in Northwest Indiana, but I come from Puerto Rico, a beautiful island of the Caribbean.
  • As you all know, I Iove baking, especially sweet breads.
  • My favorite thing in the world is playing and spending time with my little boy. He’s my greatest blessing from heaven.
  • I became a mom at my 40’s.
  • When I have free time I’m usually baking, and when I’m not baking I love to crochet & knit.
  • I like watching The Great British Baking Show. I think it’s a great show to learn baking techniques.
  • I love Baking Books! I think they are like shoes, you can have enough!
  • My favorite book is the Bible. It’s my guide.
  • I am follower of Jesus Christ.
  • I went to Uganda Africa as Missionary during the summer of 2010. It was one the best experience of my life.
  • And yes, I love shopping, like all women.

Questions For Me:

  1. What do you do during your free time? When I have free time I am usually baking, but if not, I love to crochet & knit.
  2. What is your favorite food? Do you like desserts? As I mention before, I came from Puerto Rico, so my favorite food is a traditional Mofongo (a fried green plantain mashed with butter garlic and bacon, then stuffed with seafood). There’s always room for dessert! Actually, sometimes is better to start with the dessert.
  3. What kind of sport you like? I am not a sporty girl, but I like to do Pilates sometimes during the week.
  1. Have you ever had a pet? What kind of animal you like? Yes, I had various during my childhood. A rabbit, two dogs, a cockatiel and even a rooster! I love dogs and birds.
  2. Which countries do you like to spend your vacation? In first place, my place, Puerto Rico. I also love Spain and Italy.
  3. Do you prefer to live in a cold place or a tropical place? Definitely a Tropical place! Life is better in the Tropics!
  4. What kind of books do you like? Any favorite authors? I Like Christian Books. Authors likes C.S. Lewis, Rick Warren, Lisa Bevere and Joyce Mayer.
  5. What do you prefer to wear, high heel shoes or flat shoes? Well, I am a 40 year old mom, so before my baby I always wore heels, but now I use flats most of the time.
  6. Do you know how to swim? What style do you like? Yes I know how to swim and I prefer freestyle swimming.
  7. What kind of vegetables do you always cook or include to your meals? Broccoli is the number one in my house.
  8. Which one you do like best, diamond or gold? Why? Both, why not!

11 questions for the for the Nominees:

  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. Assuming money was not an issue, what is the one thing you’re dying to do?
  3. What is one international food dish you would love to make or want to learn to make?
  4. What’s your favorite style of music?
  5. What is your favorite season and why?
  6. Do you have any pets? If no, are there any pets you would like?
  7. What’s the most important thing in your life?
  8. What is your favorite dessert?
  9. Can you bake? Do you like to bake?
  10. What are your hobbies?
  11. What have you read or listened to recently that touched you?

My Nominees

Red Velvet Donuts

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Red velvet cake has a very special place in our heart. My husband and I had our first date at San Antonio Riverwalk in Texas and we were walking around the river when we stopped by a coffee shop. Just as we went in, the baker was bringing a tray of fresh red velvet cupcakes. At that very moment we looked at each other and we both had a look that said: “This is heaven on earth!”. We just laughed knowing that for sure red velvet was our favorite cake. Long story short, we love it so much that even our wedding cake was red velvet!

So it’s very common for us to have something with red velvet flavor on Valentine’s day. That’s usually a red velvet cheesecake from a famous cheesecake store, that we all know, or some traditional cupcakes. But this year, oh this year! I found a great red velvet baked doughnuts recipe that rocks our world! These doughnuts were a hit! And the cream cheese glaze that frosts them is just heavenly! My mouth is watering already, so let me share this recipe with you!

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick spray
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup red cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2-3 drops red food coloring

Cream Cheese Glaze

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 Tbsp butter softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 Tbsp milk (more or less to reach desired consistency)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Let’s Bake:

  1. Preheat to 350°F. Spray doughnut pan with nonstick spray and wipe off excess.
  2. Mix flour, cocoa powder, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt in small bowl.
  3. Beat butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
  4. Add eggs, mixing for 30 seconds in between each addition.
  5. Add vanilla. Turn off mixer and scrape down sides. Mix on high for 15-20 seconds.
  6. Then, turn mixer to low. Add 1/3 of flour mixture. Add half of the buttermilk. Repeat, ending with flour. Add red food coloring if desired.
  7. Transfer the doughnut batter to a pastry bag fitted with a round piping tip. Pipe batter into pan, leaving a 1/4” of room. Note: You can spoon the batter into a large ziplock baggie, and cut off a 1/2 inch tip from one corner.img_9113
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until they spring back when gently touched. Let rest for 5-7 min, remove from pan.

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For the Glaze:

  1. In a mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer set on medium speed, blend together cream cheese and butter until well combine and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in remaining ingredients and mix about 1 minute until well combine. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
  1. While the doughnuts are still warm, dip them into the glaze, on the pale side, then give them a little twist as you raise them up out of the bowl. Decorate as desired and set them on the cooling rack to dry.
  1. Baked doughnuts are best when they’re freshly made, so enjoy them warm with a good cup of coffee

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Mallorcas (Majorca Bread)

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Lately, I’ve been missing the traditional pastries of my little island Puerto Rico. Two weeks ago I woke up thinking about some “pastelillos de guayaba”, guava puff pastries, and then it was Mallorcas. How not to miss them?! Back on the island, they were my favorite when I needed a sweet note for breakfast. So I made some a few days ago!

These delicate and sweet nautilus-shaped buns are filled with layers over layers of fat (sweet butter), so they are soft, flaky and rich in sweetness. Pan de Mallorca is one of the most famous breads in Puerto Rico, especially for breakfast, and can be found in nearly every bakery on the island. Is very common to have a warm Mallorca in the morning with a cup of good strong coffee, like we make on the island. Or full of ham a cheese like a sandwich. Yes! The combination of the sweet bread and the saltiness of ham and cheese is simply amazing!!

It’s origins can be traced back to the Ensaïmada, a twisted pastry from the Spanish Island of Majorca. The dough is rolled and coiled to create airy and flaky layers, then these cloudy rolls are baked until golden and topped with plenty of powdered sugar, exactly like we make it in Puerto Rico. Mallorca bread is a common bread in most former Spanish territories in Latin America and the Philippines. Thank you, Lord, for being born in a place where Mallorcas exist!! The best part is that you don’t need to fly to P.R. to have a good Mallorca. As a good hostess, I will share this recipe with you! So enjoy this pinch of sugar!!

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups  all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • ½ cup of water
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ cup of granulated sugar
  • 10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, softened, plus 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) melted
  • Confectioners’ sugar

 

Let’s Bake!:

  1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk milk, water, eggs, and granulated sugar in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until sugar has dissolved.
  1. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and mix until a cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Note: You can make this procedure with a large bowl and spatula, after all ingredients are incorporated, transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form a smooth round ball, about 10 minutes.
  1. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough begins to pull away from sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 5 minutes.
  1. With mixer running, add softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and knead until butter is fully incorporated, about 5 minutes. Continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 3 minutes.
  1. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 3 minutes. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 2 to 2½ hours.img_8635
  1. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter, divide in half, and cover loosely with greased plastic.
  1. Press and roll 1 piece of dough (keep remaining piece covered) into 18 by 12-inch rectangle, with long side parallel to counter edge.
  1. Brush 2 tablespoons melted butter over dough. Using serrated knife, cut 2 inch strips and cover loosely with greased plastic wrap.Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), stretch and roll into 10-inch rope. Lightly brush rope with melted butter, coil into spiral, and tuck tail end underneath. (Repeat process with the remaining dough).
  1. Arrange rolls on prepared sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart. Using finger, gently poke indentation into center of each spiral. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until nearly doubled in size and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 2 to 2½ hours.fullsizerender
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350° F. Bake 1 sheet at a time until rolls are light golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Transfer rolls to wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm. 

Recipe adapted from the book, Bread Illustrated from America’s Test Kitchens

 

 

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Nutella & Walnut Babka

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This year I had the blessing of having part of my family at home. The house was full and the kitchen busy! So, the Friday before New Year Eve I finally had the chance to make a Babka bread for my special guests. Even though I had the opportunity to practice this bread before, this was the first time making it with Nutella and Walnuts, and I was very excited about it.

But what is this Babka bread? Babka is a spongy brioche like yeast cake made mainly in Central and Eastern Europe. It’s traditionally baked for Easter Sunday and the major holidays like Christmas & New Year’s. Traditionally, Bakba doesn’t have any filling and is glazed with a vanilla or chocolate flavored icing and decorated with almonds or candied fruit. But the most famous version of babka is associated with the Eastern European Jewish tradition. This babka is made from a doubled and twisted length of yeast dough and is typically baked in a high loaf pan. Instead of a fruit filling the dough is filled with cinnamon and/or chocolate. This is the version we will be doing!

Until recently, Bakba could only be found in Jewish or Eastern European bakeries, but now you can find this decadent sweet bread in cafes or fine bakeries. None which are near me, unfortunately. So when I started seen this decadent bread all over the web it was a must try for me. And because I like to do it right, it took me months to find a good European recipe that I could say: “Yes! I know what Babka is!!!!” So I hope you like this sweet bread as much as I did!

Here are a few notes before we dive in. Remember, recipes can vary based on ingredients. For example, a high-percentage chocolate might be dry due to less cocoa butter, and more cacao beans, so it’s more about personal taste. But if you’ll be using Nutella, I highly recommend to also use a dark or semi-sweet chocolate to make a balanced combination. Also, some Babka recipes call to add a ½ cup of sugar into the dough, but European recipes ask for simple syrup instead. Which it’s just like icing on a cake! Trust me on this one, the syrup will take this bread to a whole other level of moist goodness. The best part of the syrup is that you can change it up into any flavor, just add a tablespoon of vanilla, almond, maple, or honey.But enough technical talk! Let’s dive into this Backba!

But enough technical talk! Let’s dive into this Backba!

Ingredients:

Babka dough

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • Scant 1/2 cup whole milk very slightly warmed
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour ( reserve 1/4 cup of flour if is necessary to the final kneading process)

Nutella filling

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate coarsely chopped or chips
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds or pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup or more of warmed Nutella

Syrup

  • 1/2 cup  sugar
  • 1/2 cup  water
  • 1 tablespoon honey or vanilla

Let’s Bake!

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the yeast with milk and sugar and 1/3 cup of the flour. Let rest until small bubbles appear and break the surface, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. With the mixer fitted with the dough hook, on low speed, mix in the 3 ounces butter, then the egg and salt. Gradually add the flour until it’s incorporated. *Note: You can make this dough by hand just: Simply mix the ingredients for the dough in a mixer bowl, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead until smooth.*
  3. Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and knead the dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. If your dough seems too soft and is sticking considerably to the sides of the mixer bowl after kneading, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it pulls away from the sides. (The original recipe called 2 1/4 cups, but it depends on room temperature; this last ¼ may not be necessary).
  4. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel until the dough doubles in size, then refrigerate the dough for a minimum of 6 hours, or overnight. The more the dough is refrigerated the easyer is to roll out and bread benefits from a leisurely rise.
  5. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan and line the bottom and up the sides with a piece of parchment paper overhanging the two long sides, which will help you remove the baked babka later.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a rectangle 12 x 20-inches. If the dough contracts and resists when rolling it, roll it out partially into a rectangle, let it sit 5 to 10 minutes, then continue to roll it out to the final dimensions once it’s relaxed.
  7. Spread the Nutella filling over the surface of the rectangle all the way to the edges. Strew the nuts and chocolate bits (if using) over the Nutella.
  8. Starting at one of the long ends of the rectangle, roll up the dough tightly so you have a loaf of approximately 20 inches long.
  9. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough completely in half lengthwise. With the cut sides facing up, overlap the end of one cut half over the other (with the cut sides still facing up), then take the other cut half and fold it over the other, making sure the cut sides are always facing up. Continue making a rope-like formation overlapping and twisting the two halves of the dough together until the dough into one big twist. Any nuts or filling that have fallen out, toss into the bottom of the loaf pan.
  10. Lift the twisted loaf and squidge it into the prepared loaf pan by pushing in on the two ends, so it fits in nicely.fullsizerender-3
  11. Put the loaf pan in a very warm place, such as near a radiator or in an oven that has a pilot light, and let rise for about 1 hour, or until it’s puffy and almost doubled in size. Note: For a golden brown surface, make an egg wash with 2 tablespoons of water and pour it over the dough before baking.
  12. While the dough is rising, make the syrup by bringing the water, sugar, and the honey to a boil in a small saucepan. (If using vanilla extract, or any other alcohol based flavoring, make sure to add it after you remove the pan from the burner.) Let boil for 4 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface with a spoon. Remove from heat and set aside.
  13. Fifteen minutes before you bake the babka, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake the babka on the middle rack of the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 195ºF.
  14. Remove the babka from the oven and spoon or brush the room temperature syrup over the babka and let cool completely before lifting the babka out. Do not try to remove it or slice it while it’s warm, or it will break.IMG_6797.JPG
  15. Serve the babka sliced. It will keep for up to 4 days at room temperature or can be frozen for up to two months, if well-wrapped.

Recipe Adapted from David Leibovitz & the book, Bread Illustrated from America’s Test kitchen

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Continue reading “Nutella & Walnut Babka”

Puerto Rican Coconut Rice Pudding (Arroz con Dulce)

 

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If you didn’t know yet, I come from Puerto Rico, a little island in the Caribbean, and there Christmas is serious business. Just how serious? They last the longest there than anywhere in the world! We start on November, just after Thanksgiving day, and we end it on the second week of January with the “Octavitas”, celebrated after “Día de Reyes” on January 6th.

“Día de Reyes” (Three Kings Day or Epiphany Day) is a Spanish tradition in which we commemorate the moment when the three Wise Men went to visit Baby Jesus and gave him presents. On the night before, kids are to gather hay or grass into a shoebox and leave it by their bed to feed the camels of the Wise Men. In the morning they will find that the hay is gone and in its place the Wise Men left them presents. The “Octavitas”come right after that on January 7th. In the past it was celebrated with a religious background in which they dedicated a day for each of the Wise King, and later three more days for the Three Mary’s. But at this point it is really more of an excuse to continue the Christmas celebrations and parties. And we do love to party!

But among all the traditions and celebrations, adapted from both Spain and the US, food is at the center of it all. This is the case of the Coconut Rice Pudding, one of the most popular Christmas dessert on the island. You can go to any house, any party or any Christmas celebration and you will find a large tray of Coconut Rice Pudding! There are so many things I love about this beautiful dessert. It’s creamy, it’s sweet, a little sticky and it’s  full of coconut flavor. But, what I love is the combination of the spices and raisins that make this rice pudding exceptional. For me “Arroz con Dulce” means Christmas!

I have very good memories of my childhood and this pudding. When my mother’s family was about to make coconut rice pudding the whole family was there to make it. My uncle was outside breaking fresh coconuts and reserving the coconut water, one of my cousins was extracting the coconut meat, meanwhile my grandma was making the coconut milk. Everything was fresh and everything tasted better! These days you can find everything at the groceries store and the process is way more quicker. Even though it’s not longer done from scratch, like my family used to do, I encourage you this Christmas to make this dessert a new family project!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cup of medium grain rice
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • ½ cup Brandy , to pre-soak the raisins (optional)

To make the infusion:

  • 6 cup of water
  • 8 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 start anise
  • ¼ cup of fresh ginger
  • 12-15 clove sticks
  • ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg

 

For the rice:

  • 3 ½ cups of coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoon of butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 can of cream of coconut, about 13 oz
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 1 cup of turbinado sugar or brown sugar
  • ground cinnamon for garnish

 

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, add rice and enough cold water to cover by 2”. Let the rice soak a minimum of 5 hours, or even better overnight. Drain and set aside. Optional: Soak the raisins in the Brandy for 1-2 hours.
  1. Meanwhile, in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring to boil 6 cups of water, cloves, ginger, star anise , cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Lower heat to medium low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove and discard spices. Reserve water in saucepan.
  1. Stir the coconut milk into the reserved water; bring to boil. Add the rice and raisins. Lower heat to medium low. Simmer covered for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  1. Continue checking on rice until is soft and most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the cream of coconut and the condensed milk and stir until well combined. Continue to cook uncovered until creamy, like a soft pudding. It’s OK if it’s a little runny because the rice will continue to absorb the coconut milk as it cools.
  1. Transfer the rice pudding to a large casserole dish; cool at room temperature then transfer to the refrigerator to set.img_6184
  1. To serve, scoop pudding onto serving plate. Garnish with cinnamon, and enjoy this pinch of sugar! fullsizerender-2

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