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”

Soft Sugar Cookies

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A soft, chewy and flaworful sugar cookie that you will love! 

 

Is the most wonderful time of the year! Without a doubt Christmas is the best holiday! Is the time we’ve all been waiting for all year long. Even though sometimes it can be a little nostalgic, it’s full of hope and magic. Therefore, I think that the best way to start this holiday is by making a good batch of Christmas cookies.

I’ve been making these cookies for the last three years and I love them! What I like about this recipe is that you have two types of cookies in one. Yes, you read me right! Simple, if you like cookies buttery and crispy avoid the cream cheese and lemon zest, if you like a softer and chewy cookie with a balanced flavor then add the cream cheese. For sure you will love both versions, like I do. This recipe yields 2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on the cuter size. What I do is that I make the dough in advance, usually the first week of Christmas, then I divide the dough in three small portion. I bake one portion and I freeze the rest for Christmas Eve or to make a goodies gift. You can decorate these cookies however you want. Also, you can make cookie sandwiches with fruit jam or Nutella, or make them more festive with some royal icing, which is always fun for the kids!

Well, I think I have covered the basic, so let’s enjoy this pinch of sugar and Merry Christmas !!!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for 1 hour
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the royal icing that I usually make, visit: Royal Icing Recipe & Video

 

Let’s Bake:

  1. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, or a stand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese with the sugar. Beat for several minutes, or until light and fluffy. Then add the egg, vanilla and almond extracts, and lemon zest.
  1. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl, then gradually add it with a spoon to the butter and sugar mixture until fully incorporated and a soft dough is formed.
  1. Divide the dough into 3 balls. At this point the dough can, and should be, chilled or frozen.img_4388
  1. Refrigerate the dough that you will baking for at least 1 hour. Then freeze the rest of the dough balls, wrapped in plastic wrap and into a freezer bag, for up to 2 months. To thaw, leave in the refrigerator overnight then proceed with the recipe.
  1. Once the cookie dough is chilled, roll it out onto a floured surface or between two parchment papers. You want these cookies to be on the thicker side (closer to 1/4 inch rather than 1/8). Note: When you take the chilled dough out of the fridge you may need to let it sit for a few minutes before is soft enough to roll out.
  2. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or a Silpat. Cut cookies out of the rolled dough and place on the prepared baking sheets.img_4820
  1. Bake cookies for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness. Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack.
  2. Cool completely before icing or decorating, and store in a tightly covered container. For Royal Icing Decorating Tips refer to the video mention in the ingredients list.img_6057

 

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Whole Wheat Bread

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This is the kind of recipe that is in constant development and is so easy to improve with other ingredients like grains, nuts, dry fruits or oats. It’s a basic and easy whole wheat bread recipe, but it has two things that I really love. First, it makes a single loaf, and second is a light bread. If you go over the web, most recipes for wheat bread makes two loafs, if you have a huge family go with these recipes, but for a small family like ours this recipe is just perfect.

I just recently made this blog, but I’ve been baking bread for three years now, and I have to tell you, I’m still learning. With bread you will always be learning, so don’t hesitate to start.

Making bread is so much fun and once you make your first loaf, you’ll never go back. Nothing like a homemade bread warm and fresh form the oven.

The key to success with bread is good yeast activation and patience. Bread is something that you can make over the day. For example, you can make the dough, let it rest to proof and then go to shopping or doing whatever task you have to. The more the bread is resting the better the bread will turn out! So, there’s no rush with this bread, he is a lazy guy!  Now, because of the bran and germ in whole meal,  the flour needs moisture to keep preserved, so personally, whole wheat is not a bread I’d love to keep on the fridge. So, try to keep it at room temperature and inside a zip-top bag.

Let me share my secret for this bread… The original recipe doesn’t have honey and gluten; these are my improvements. If there is something that I have learned is that yeast loves sugar and whole meal takes more time to develop gluten, therefore these ingredients enhance the quality of the bread. If you are not gluten intolerant and you don’t mind to having a pinch of sugar on it, go forward and enjoy this piece of bread!

 

Ingredients:

500 g (18oz) strong whole meal flour

400 ml (14oz) lukewarm water

1 tbsp. vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. brown sugar or honey (optional ingredient)

2 tsp. dried yeast

1 tsp. of gluten protein (optional ingredient).

 

Let Bake:

  1. Warm the water, then  add the sugar  and  yeast and leave for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.
  2. Mix the flour, salt and gluten in a bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast/water and the oil. Mix to form a sticky dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Don’t skimp on the initial kneading. You need well-developed gluten to help the dough rise well before baking.  Note: If you will be using a mixer for this recipe mix together all of the dough ingredients. Knead it until the dough is soft. Don’t worry if the dough is not elastic, it will reach its elasticity once the gluten is developed, after the first proof. 
  4. Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover and put in a warm place to allow the dough to double in size.IMG_0640
  5. Knock back the dough on a floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes. Leave to rest for 5 minutes. If you have time,  let dough have a second rise. Put it back in the greased bowl and cover as before. The more the dough develops the gluten the lighter is the bread will be.
  6. Press the dough out into a rectangle with the short side being the same size as the long side of your loaf tin. Roll the dough up starting from the short side. Tuck the ends under.FullSizeRender
  7. Place the dough in a lightly-greased loaf tin, cover with lightly-oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise until it just fills the tin.
  8. Bake the bread at 190°C/375°F in a fan oven, 210°C/420°F for a normal oven, for 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and serve with lots of butter and cup of coffee!! IMG_8200 

                                  You can find the original recipe at :  http://www.thebreadkitchen.com