Chocolate Cheese Babka


When I was really little, we would go to my grandparents house for Easter. At breakfast, they always had this really good bread called babka. I had forgotten all about it until a few years ago, when something triggered the memory. I went searching for some, but I could only find one bakery that had them and it was way more than I wanted to pay. Ever since, I’ve looked for them each year at Easter to no avail. This year, I decided I would just make my own already. A quick search of the internet showed me that this was easier said than done – recipes were few and far between, they seemed to have crazy differences (some had tons of sugar and few eggs, others few eggs and tons of sugar), and most recipes seemed like they would feed an army.

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A little research showed me that there are actually two types of Babka – an Eastern European/ Polish kind and a Jewish kind. The Polish babka is an eggy bread that is traditionally served at Easter, while the Jewish version is closer to a cake with a streusel topping. The Polish version was definitely what I was looking for, so I sent out a twitter message asking if anyone knew of any good recipes for it. It actually turned out that Cheryl from Backseat Gourmet was baking Babka that day too, and we shared out progress as we went along. It didn’t take long to realize that the recipe I was using was no good – my dough wasn’t rising at all! Hers was successful though, so she very kindly emailed me the recipe that she used. I gave it another try the next day, with much more success. The resulting bread was light and fluffy, with an eggy and slightly sweet dough that is similar to brioche. I filled my bread with chocolate and cheese, which I thought I remembered from my grandparents, but i think I actually remember it from when I was a little older and we bought babkas at the grocery store. When I read her post about eating raisin-studded babka slathered with butter, I remembered that’s how we ate it back then. Either way thought is delicious, and this would be a special treat on Easter morning.

I don’t have a bundt or tube pan so I made a makeshift one using a springform pan and a ramekin. I just set the ramekin upside down in the center of the pan and twisted the bread dough around it. It worked just fine, so I’m glad I didn’t go out and buy a special pan for this.

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Daring Cooks: Mezze with Homemade Pitas and Hummus


I’m baaaaack!! I apologize for the severe lack of posts over the past few weeks. I was on an extended business trip and even though I had photos and recipes ready to go, I was just too tired to actually write up posts while I was away. But I’m home and rested now and life is slowly getting back to normal – which means I’m ready to resume my regular posting schedule! And what better way to jump right back in than with a Daring Cooks challenge?

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford, and Naomi Dugid. Mezze is a bunch of small dishes that are all served at once – sort of like a Middle Eastern tapas. The required parts of the challenge were to make pita bread and hummus. I also chose to make kafta (spiced meatballs) and taboule salad.

I’ve made pitas before, but I really loved this recipe and will definitely be making it again. Homemade pitas are so much better than what you can buy in the store – they’re soft, fluffy pillows of goodness. I found this recipe to be really easy to follow and the result was pure perfection. They tasted just like the pitas that I get at my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants! They were really cheap to make too, and I loved how they puffed up in the oven. Since I was planning to use them as a wrap, I flattened them while they were still warm. But if you want a pocket that you can fill, Leave them in the balloon shape to cool. The inside will be hollow, so you can cut them in half and fill just like a store bought pita pocket. As written, the recipe will yield 16 breads. I halved it and had no problems. [….]

Low-Fat Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese Icing


People often ask me where I get my inspiration in the kitchen. It’s a hard question to answer, because it comes from all sorts of places. Sometimes its a simple as a restaurant menu, a childhood memory, or a random item that catches my eye in the grocery store. Other times it’s a little more random – a color, a texture, a feeling. The inspiration for these pumpkin cinnamon buns came from a question. Someone on twitter asked how they should use up some leftover pumpkin cream cheese icing. My mind immediately went to cinnamon buns. Pumpkin and cinnamon goes so well together, and I thought pumpkin cinnamon buns sounded fabulous. I did some research, attempted a few recipes, and finally came up with a pan of buns that I couldn’t keep my hands off of. [….]

Homemade Baguettes (+ the World's Best Hot Dog)

When I went to France I ate a lot of wonderful food. But what I remember enjoying the most was the simple street food that I would pick up from a cart or a sidewalk cafe. In particular, I loved the hot dogs, which were serves with spicy dijon mustard inside a baguette. They were the best hot dogs that I’ve ever had, and even though it s been a few years, I still cave them from time to time. To celebrate Bastille Day I decided to try to recreate them at home. With homemade baguettes and hot dogs from a local butcher, these were every bit as good as the ones I had in France. [….]

Rosemary-Thyme and Chocolate Chip Breads + Giveaway!

I think artisan breads are one of the biggest rip offs. I always stop to look at them at the farmer’s market. They’re beautiful and tempting, but I know they’re not worth the $5+ price tag when I can make one at home for just a few cents.

Breads can seem intimidating, but they really aren’t very difficult – especially if you use a “No Knead” method. Although this method requires some advance planning (it’ll need to rise all day), it only takes about 5 minutes of active prep time. [….]