Chocolate Babka

One of our sisters has a special interest in cooking the foods of other countries. Over time she has heard me repeat many stories of my Ukrainian mother’s experiences with food and what I learned about it through her.

Perhaps my favorite memory is that of packing our picnic boxes for our all-day blueberry picking excursions. These always contained fresh baked babka, lots of butter some fresh boiled eggs from our chickens and a little horseradish root from our garden. Today’s blog features a glorified babka bread filled with chocolate…enjoy!

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Chocolate Babka
SERVINGS
2loaves
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
loaves
COOK TIME
30mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
5 1/2hrs (3 hrs rising, 2 1/2 chilling)

Ingredients

Instructions

Babka Dough
  1. Combine yeast with warm water and let stand until it begins to bubble, about 5-8 minutes.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, yeast, and lemon zest in a mixer on a low speed until combined.
  3. Add eggs and water, and mix on medium speed until dough comes together, 2-3 minutes. Add salt, then butter, adding a few cubes at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed, until dough is completely smooth,and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl during this step!
  4. Place dough in a large greased bowl cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
  5. Grease two 9x4 inch loaf pans with oil and line the bottom of each pan with waxed paper. Divide dough in half and keep one half covered in the fridge.
Filling and Baking
  1. Whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate, and butter until you have a spreadable paste.
  2. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and shape into a rectangle as wide as the pans are long.
  3. Position dough so that a long side is closest to you and spread half of the chocolate mixture over the rectangle, leaving a ¾ inch/2 cm border all around.
  4. Roll up the rectangle like a jellyroll, starting from the long side closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end, then use both hands to even out the roll into a uniform roll and place it on your surface seam side down.
  5. Trim about ¾ inch/2 cm off both ends, and slice the loaf into even 1-inch segments. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for 1½ hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove plastic wrap and place loaves on middle rack of oven, and bake for about 25-30 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven when done and let cool. Babka will stay fresh for 24 hours in an airtight container at room temperature or tightly wrapped--don’t place in the fridge.
  8. Babka freezes well for up to 2 months. To thaw, leave on counter or overnight in the fridge, and leftovers make excellent bread pudding or fabulous French Toast!

Gluten Free Golden Fried Mozzarella Sticks

Looking for the perfect game day snack? How about warm and yummy Fried Mozzarella Sticks. For some reason, I always thought these to be a daunting task until I served them at several Christmas occasions that we catered. In reality, they were quite simple and fun, even when serving for twenty-five guests. I decided to try a gluten-free version so that everyone could enjoy them. They came out more golden and beautiful than the regular ones! Take time to prep them well and give them a good freeze and you’ll be happy with the results. (See tip below for other uses for this recipe.) For that next Big Game, consider trying these out with your favorite marinara sauce.

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Gluten Free Golden Fried Mozzarella Sticks
SERVINGS
4servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
30mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
2hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cut mozzarella into 3 x½" pieces. Place gluten-free flour in a shallow dish and add some salt and pepper to season. Whisk eggs and milk in another shallow dish. Put 1/2 gluten-free breadcrumbs (or panko) in a third shallow dish (refilling dish as needed with crumbs).
  2. Working with one piece of mozzarella at a time, dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg mixture, then coat in breadcrumbs, pressing to adhere. (Tip: Keep one hand clean to transfer from one dish to the next to avoid clumping or keep a bowl of water handy to dip into a bowl between dipping) Repeat steps for a second coating. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mozzarella. Transfer rack with mozzarella to freezer and freeze at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
  3. Using a fry-daddy or a large pot pour in oil to come 2" up sides. Heat over medium-high until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°. Working in batches (don't overcrowd the pan!), fry mozzarella, occasionally turning, until golden brown and crisp, 2–2½ minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt while still hot. Serve with Marinara Sauce.

**Tip: This is a basic "dredging" technique that can be used for chicken, veal or pork cutlets as well. Simply follow the same steps going from seasoned flour to egg/milk mixture to panko or bread crumbs and fry. Delicious!

St. Lucia Bread

Since St. Lucia’s Day (or St. Lucy’s Day) is just around the corner on December 13th, we thought we’d share this special Swedish bread with you – fantastic for the Holidays. The celebration of the day comes from stories that were told by Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden. “St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304. The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head, so she had both her hands free to carry things. Lucy means ‘light’ so this is a very appropriate name.” (see note below**)

December 13th was also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, in the old ‘Julian’ Calendar and a pagan festival of lights in Sweden was turned into St. Lucia’s Day. It is now celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress with a red sash around her waist and a crown of candles on her head. Thus, the wreath of bread dotted with candied “berries.” If you’d like you can also add small candles to the cake as well for a more festive look.

** read more at https://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/sweden.shtml

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St. Lucia Bread
SERVINGS
2loaves
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
loaves
COOK TIME
20-25mins
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
2-3hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a large mixer, soften the yeast in the warm water
  2. Heat the milk until warm. Add the oil and sugar and stir to dissolve.
  3. Add this mixture to the yeast mixture in the mixer
  4. Add salt and saffron
  5. Add the 3 slightly beaten eggs and mix with dough hook.
  6. Add the lemon zest, citron and almonds and continue mixing
  7. One cup at a time, add the flour and mix well after each addition. Stop adding the flour when the dough starts pulling away from the side of the bowl. Adding more flour if necessary.
  8. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5 min, or until dough becomes smooth and elastic; adding flour as necessary.
  9. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 1 hr. (At this point, you can refrigerate the dough, if you want to work with it later).
  10. Divide the dough into six equal balls and roll into large ropes and then braid three together, making two braids.
  11. Pinch the two ends together and tuck under, forming two circular loaves.
  12. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two sheet pans with baking paper, or grease, and put a braided loaf on each pan.
  13. Cover and let rise in a warm place, until doubled.
  14. Combine the remaining egg with a tablespoon of water to make an egg wash, and brush on the braids.
  15. Bake for about 20-25 min or until the loaf feels firm to the touch. If you would like to use a thermometer, the internal temperature should read about 190 degrees.
  16. While the bread is baking, prepare your frosting, mixing all ingredients until smooth and on the thicker side. Cut your cherries in half.
  17. Remove bread from the oven and cool slightly, then decorate, using the green cherries as leaves, and the red as berries.

Cheese Danish Braid

At our Thanksgiving feast we enjoyed celebrating God’s blessings. One of them, the best in my opinion, is of course, lovely breakfast treats. In specific, a golden cream cheese danish with a hint of almond…can you see where were going with this?

Danishes can be a little tricky – below is simple version of the recipe. If you’d like a flakier danish, I suggest doing the square of butter version (see notes at end of recipe).
But either way, with a straight-forward approach and a little bit of time, you can enjoy the sweet, flaky treat for a Sunday brunch or with your mid-morning coffee. We are so grateful to God’s many blessings and pray that you also were able to appreciate God’s goodness this year. Happy belated Thanksgiving!

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Cheese Danish Braid
SERVINGS
12servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
15-20mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
30mins (plus overnight for resting dough)

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, add the yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, and warm water. Let the yeast rest until it proofs (5 minutes). Once the yeast has proofed, add the egg, milk, sugar, and salt. Stir with a whisk, and set to the side.
  2. Place the flour and 1/2 cup cubed butter into a large bowl. With a pastry blender, combine until the butter is in tiny pieces. (You can also use the food processor for this step.) **NOTE** If you'd like a flakier Danish, set aside 1/2 cup of butter and make into a butter square.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the flour and combine until the dough comes together. Place the dough onto a floured work surface and shape into a square. Roll the dough into a rectangle 9 x 13-inches. If you'd like a flakier crust, place the butter square (see #8) in the middle and fold the dough lengthwise into thirds (similar to folding a letter to fit into an envelope). Roll the dough into a rectangle again, and then again fold into thirds. Repeat this process twice more, until you've done it a total of 3 times. Cut the dough in half, wrap each piece in plastic wrap, and place in the fridge overnight. The dough keeps for one week in the fridge and 2 months in the freezer.
  4. Beat Cream Cheese till very smooth and no lumps remain. Combine with rest of filling ingredients.
  5. Remove one piece of dough from the fridge, and save the other for a rainy day (the dough can last in the fridge for up to 5 days and in the freezer for 3 months). On a floured piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough into a 9 x 13-inch rectangle. Spoon some of the cream cheese filling in the middle of the dough. With the dough laid in front of you vertically (so that the smaller 9-inch end is facing you), make 1-inch diagonal cuts down the left and right sides of the dough (imagine you are making a Christmas tree). Once you have reached the bottom, cut away two triangle pieces, so that the dough now has a tree trunk. Fold the tree trunk flap over the apples, then go back to the top and fold each strip over the cheese filling, alternating from left to right and moving towards the bottom.Preheat the oven to 400º F.
  6. Gently lift the parchment paper and the braid onto a baking sheet. Brush the top of the pastry with an egg wash (one egg white and a teaspoon of water). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until brown on top.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon of milk, and vanilla until you get a desired consistency. Add a tablespoon more milk if the icing is too thick. (It should be pourable, but not so thin that it drips off of the pastry.) Drizzle over the top of the braid and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm. The danish lasts for 3 to 4 days. It's best to store in the fridge, covered in plastic wrap, and then reheated in the oven or microwave before eating.

*NOTE: Option for Flakier Dough: Before cubing butter, set aside 1/2 cup of butter. Cut into 4 squares, sprinkle with a little flour and roll to a 1/4" width between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Refrigerate till ready to use in Step #5.

Apple Fritter Quick Bread

Several of us Sisters were recently sharing our favorite fall doughnut flavors, and it seemed the most popular Fall favorite was Apple Fritters. As a child, I remember getting these as a treat at our Fall fairs – crispy on the outside and slathered with creamy frosting, it just takes one quick bite to sink your teeth into the most delightful apple pieces covered with cinnamon. Yum! Just writing about it now makes my mouth water! Since our waistlines aren’t exactly what they were when we were kids, but still just dying to bring the memory back, I stumbled upon an Apple Fritter Bread. With a few modifications, this bread, although slightly healthier, still has those magical flavors. It’s a perfect recipe for young children to participate in making. And the aroma it brings into your kitchen…you don’t want to miss it!

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Apple Fritter Quick Bread
SERVINGS
8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
1hr
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
1 hr15 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9x5 -inch loaf pan and spray with non-stick spray or line with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. In another medium-sized bowl, beat white sugar and butter together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  4. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended in; add in vanilla extract.
  5. Combine flour, baking powder and salt together in another bowl and add into creamed butter mixture and stir until blended.
  6. Mix milk into batter until smooth.
  7. Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the chopped apple mixture.
  8. Sprinkle 1/2 of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture you set aside earlier, on top of apple layer.
  9. Pour the remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining chopped apples, then the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  10. Lightly pat apples into batter; swirl brown sugar mixture through apples using knife or spoon.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 60 minutes.
  12. To make a glaze, mix powdered sugar and milk or cream together until well mixed.
  13. Let cool for about 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.

(add chopped walnuts or pecans if you'd like)

Harvest Muffins

There’s a crispness to the air, a welcome relief to the humidity and heat of our 2018 Cape Cod summer! This past Saturday, our entire community joined in a “beehive” of activity as we
tackled a daunting list of tasks and projects, left in the wake of a busy summer. Digging out attic spaces, weeding gardens, scrubbing the bell tower floor, getting the barn clean and ready to house animals for winter, and cooking meals ahead for an upcoming choir recording were some of the projects accomplished last weekend. But it was also the beginning of harvest time. We culled apples and pears and gratefully recognized what a bountiful harvest it was going to be. The Sisterhood celebrated with brunch on Sunday. And since I was “in the mood,” I whipped up some ingredient-packed muffins that had all the essence of Fall – complete with cinnamon!

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Harvest Muffins
SERVINGS
20muffins (approx.)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
muffins (approx.)
COOK TIME
20-25mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
35mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Grease muffin cups with non-stick spray and line with muffin papers
  3. Beat eggs, oil, orange zest and vanilla in a bowl to blend
  4. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl
  5. Separately, mix carrots, zucchini, apple, raisins, coconut, and almonds together - add the egg and oil mixture
  6. Sift flour mixture into the vegetable mixture and mix all together by hand until well blended.
  7. Using an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin cup with one scoop of batter.
  8. Bake until center of muffin springs back to touch - about 20-25 min.
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature.