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!

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.

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)

Yeast-Free Homemade Pita Bread

There’s just something about the aroma of freshly baked bread that brings one back to their childhood – but a torture when allergic to yeast!
I was baking for a friend recently, and this was their story. So, I did a little experimenting to see what I could come up with besides biscuits and quick breads – I really wanted something they could enjoy as a sandwich bread. I never thought pita bread would rise without the presence of yeast, but in this easy and quick recipe, it surely does, AND creates a wonderful pocket of joy that can be filled with your favorite sweet or savory fillings.

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Rating: 2.6
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Yeast-Free Homemade Pita Bread
SERVINGS
8pita pockets
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
pita pockets
COOK TIME
6-8mins
PREP TIME
5mins
READY IN
30-40mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in the water and olive oil and knead to form a moist dough. Form into a ball. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 5-30 min.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  3. Roll out the dough into a long log on a very lightly floured work space.
  4. Cut the dough into 8 equal parts and form 8 balls.
  5. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, flatten each into an 1/8" high flat disk
  6. Lay pita bread on two sheet pans lined with baking paper - spacing the disks apart from each other.
  7. Spray lightly (or brush) with water and bake immediately for 6-8 min. or until puffed and golden. 8. Remove from oven and serve immediately or allow to cool to store for later. Store in a zip lock bag or air tight container.

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.

Challah Bread

This year Good Friday and the start of Passover were on the same day—-a rare occurrence given the difference between the Gregorian calendar used by most Western countries and the lunar calendar observed by the Jewish faith. Indeed, the Seder plate used during the first night of Passover tells the dramatic story of the Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt and includes reminders of their captivity: bitter herbs to signify the bitterness of slavery, haroset which is a reminder of the mortar used between bricks, a shank bone to remember the Passover sacrifice and an egg which represents the new life promised to them after the Red Sea crossing.

Borrowing from our Jewish roots, our own Good Friday dinner was a cross-section of the Judeo-Christian traditions that mark this holy season of the year. Beginning with a candle lighting and blessing at 6:45—the official start of the eight-day Passover festival—and continuing with the meal which included some dishes found at a traditional Passover Seder table including Matzo ball soup, roasted chicken (with haroset stuffing), marinated green beans, Israeli couscous and tabouleh salad. Also gracing our table was one of our year-round favorites: fresh Challah bread baked that afternoon. While Challah—and dishes containing yeast—are not eaten during Passover, we couldn’t help ourselves! This braided bread is so delicious and beautiful to look at and made an honorary appearance on our Good Friday Passover table. Best when eaten fresh, this versatile bread is also wonderful toasted the next morning day. Try out the recipe below and see for yourself!

With wishes for a joyful conclusion for the Passover and Easter seasons, we look forward to the promise of new life this spring!

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Challah Bread
SERVINGS
3loaves
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
loaves
COOK TIME
30mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
1 hr15 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Combine the first three ingredients to dissolve the yeast. Let sit for 5 min. or until foamy.
  2. Add the next 4 ingredients and then the flour and salt, adding as much flour as you need for the dough to start pulling away from the side of the bowl.
  3. Remove to a floured surface and knead until the dough is no longer sticky.
  4. Place in an oiled bowl, turn over once, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.
  5. Divide dough into 9 balls and roll each ball into a “rope” using your hands.
  6. Braid 3 ropes together into 1 braided loaf of bread and continue with the other 6 ropes, making 3 loaves in all.
  7. Let the bread rise again.
  8. Make an egg wash and brush on the bread and bake in a 325º oven until golden and cooked through, about 30 min.