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Welcome to our April Bakealong challenge. Each month, we’ll announce a new recipe for you to try, along with helpful tips and step-by-step instructions here on our blog. We invite you to bake, then share a photo of your creation, tagging it #bakealong. The New York Times says making it is “no casual undertaking.” Noted food writer David Lebovitz offers a recipe for a stunning version he enjoyed at Honey & Co. in London. Dean & DeLuca sells it online — for $28 a loaf. What is this mysterious bread, and is it really worth it? Take our Chocolate Babka Bakealong challenge, and find out!

Chocolate babka, a dense, rich loaf swirled with an equally rich chocolate/butter/sugar/nut filling, is a classic eastern European Jewish bread. Here in the U.S., chocolate babka has gradually spread from its native big city bakeries into suburban bistros and coffee shops — and thence to the kitchens of those of us who enjoy an interesting yeast bread project. This Chocolate Babka #bakealong offers everything you need to create a spectacular loaf. While we agree baking babka is “no casual undertaking,” it’s also attainable by bakers of any skill level — even beginner. Simply follow the steps one by one and before you know it, you’ll be pulling a couple of gorgeous loaves out of the oven.

CHOCOLATE BABKA

Ingredients:

For the Dough

1 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water

2 large eggs, room temperature

6 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup milk powder

2 tablespoons instant yeast

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons kitchen salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Filling

1/2 cup muscovado sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup cocoa, Dutch-process or natural

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

1/4 cup melted unsalted butter

1 cup finely chopped semisweet chocolate

1 cup diced pecans or walnuts, toasted

For the Glaze & Topping

1 large egg, beaten with a pinch of salt

4 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup all purpose flour

Method:

  • Combine all of the dough ingredients (starting with 1 cup water), mixing until everything is moistened.
  • Add extra water if necessary to enable dough to come together. Cover and let dough rest for 20 minutes.

  • Then mix/knead it until it is soft and smooth. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and cover bowl.
  • The dough is going to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it is quite puffy. Now gently deflate the dough.

  • Divide the dough into halves. Set the pieces aside, covered with plastic wrap, while you make the filling.
  • To make filling, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and espresso powder and stir in the melted butter.

  • The mixture will look grainy and slick. Shape each half of the dough into a 9″ x 18″, 1/4″-thick rectangle.
  • Smear each piece of dough with half the filling, coming to within 1″ of the edges. Scatter half of the nuts.

  • Then add half the chopped chocolate over each piece. Starting with a short end, roll each piece into a log.
  • Seal the seam and ends. Working with one log at a time, use sharp knife to cut the log in half lengthwise.

  • Be careful to prevent filling from spilling out. With exposed filling side up, twist the 2 pieces into a braid.
  • Tuck the ends underneath. Repeat with the other log. Place each log in a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

  • Brush each loaf with the egg glaze. Mix the topping ingredients till crumbly and sprinkle over each loaf.
  • Tent each pan with plastic wrap, and let the loaves rise until they are puffy for about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.

  • Towards the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 300°F. Bake for 35 minutes and tent lightly with foil.
  • Bake for another 15 to 25 minutes (for a total of 50 to 60 minutes); loaves should be deep-golden brown.

  • Remove the loaves from the oven, and immediately loosen edges with a heatproof spatula or table knife.
  • Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out of the baking pans onto a rack to cool completely.

  • Slice babka and serve at room temperature or rewarm individual slices briefly in a toaster before serving.
  • Store any leftovers, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days or freeze them for longer storage.

KAF April 2017 Challenge

Oatmeal pancakes immediately conjures up the idea of something thick and heavy that does not sound like it might be remotely appealing on a breakfast table. This could not be further from the truth when you end up grinding your own oat flour for these super light, almost fluffy pancakes from Smitten Kitchen. It is also true that most people are too lazy to come up with a decent breakfast spread, though it is repeatedly claimed to be the single most important meal of the day. I tend to agree that early morning may not exactly be the best time to spend in the kitchen unless you happen to run a boulangerie or likewise. Pancake batter, however, has the advantage of being prepared in advance and stored in the fridge until ready for use, making it convenient for early and late risers to enjoy a delicious homemade breakfast.

OATMEAL PANCAKES

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (90 grams) oat flour

1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar

2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon Kosher or coarse salt

1/2 cup cooked quick-cooking oatmeal

1 cup lukewarm water + 1 pinch salt

3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (295 ml) whole milk

1 tablespoon (20 grams) molasses

2 large eggs, room temperature

Method:

  • To make oat flour, pulse rolled oats into a food processor or spice grinder until finely ground.

  • Whisk dry ingredients (oat flour, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) together in a large bowl.

  • In a small bowl, whisk butter, milk, cooked oatmeal, honey and eggs together until combined.

  • Gently fold wet ingredients into dry ones. Using a light hand is important for tender pancakes.

  • Although best if it’s used immediately, the batter can even be kept overnight in the refrigerator.

  • The batter should be slightly thick with a holey surface. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron pan or griddle.

  • Heat over medium heat until water sizzles when splashed onto the pan. Lower to medium-low.

  • Working quickly, dollop 1/4-cup mounds of batter onto pan, shaping 2 or 3 pancakes at a time.

  • Once bubbles have begun to form, flip pancake over and cook till bottom is dark golden-brown.

  • Serve hot, straight from the skillet or keep them warm in a low oven. Makes about 18 pancakes.

Oatmeal Pancakes

Instead of the clichéd chocolate desserts, get creative this year for Valentine’s day and think out of the box. Impress the man of your life with more than gifts and flowers by cooking for him instead of booking a table for two in some damn expensive restaurant. If you dnt feel like messing your kitchen for dinner, keep the surprise for the following morning with these absolutely divine cinnamon rolls bursting with colour and flavour.

Stuffed with fresh juicy strawberries and smothered in cream cheese icing, these yeasted sweet buns, from Tatyana’s Everyday Food, can be assembled on the eve, defrosted and baked in the morning as you lay the table for breakfast and he gets ready for work. I think it should work just as well for guys who want to win over their lady love with their kitchen skills on V-day.

STRAWBERRY CINNAMON ROLLS

Ingredients:

For the Yeast Dough

1 cup warm milk

2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

1/2 cup white granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon kitchen salt

4 cups all-purpose flour

For the Strawberry Filling

1 cup brown sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 cup butter, softened

3 cups chopped strawberries

3 to 4 tablespoons flour

3/4 cup heavy cream

For the Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz. cream cheese

1/4 cup cold heavy cream

1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of kitchen salt

Method:

  • For dough, combine the warm milk and sugar in a large bowl, then sprinkle the dry yeast over the top.

  • Allow the yeast to proof for about 5 minutes then whisk until smooth. Add the melted butter and eggs.

  • Add the salt and whisk it again. Begin adding the flour, whisking at first, then switch over to a spatula.

  • Once dough comes together, turn out onto a well floured surface. Knead for few minutes until smooth.

  • Set the dough in a warm corner of your kitchen area to proof until it is doubled in size for about 1 hour.

  • After proofing, turn it out on a floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out into a large rectangle.

  • It should be about 13 x 20-inches. Spread softened butter over it, making sure to spread to every edge.

  • In small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle the mixture over the butter.

  • Make sure to spread to every edge. Top with strawberries and sprinkle with a few tablespoons of flour.

  • Starting at one edge, gently roll the dough into a Swiss-roll like log, ending with the seam facing down.

  • Using a sharp knife, divide the log into 12 equal pieces. Spray a glass baking dish with non-stick spray.

  • Transfer the rolls into the prepared pan. Cover the pan with a towel and allow the rolls to proof again.

  • Proof the rolls for about 30 to 45 minutes till they double in size. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F.

  • Bake proofed rolls in preheated oven for 10 minutes. At the 10 minute mark, remove rolls from oven.

  • Pour over heavy cream. Return the rolls to the oven and continue baking for about 20 to 25 minutes.

  • Remove from oven when rolls are golden brown. Transfer them to a rack so that they cool completely.

  • Meanwhile, prepare icing. Whisk together cream cheese, cream, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth.

  • For thinner icing, add more heavy cream. Spread icing over hot cinnamon rolls. Makes 12 large rolls.

Strawberry Cinnamon Rolls

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PrerrnaMirchi
Mauritius

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