Holiday Spiced Babka

I’ve been making this holiday spiced chocolate babka for the past few years around the holiday season. It is a great treat to make during chilly weather when you have a whole day at home to spare. I love adding cinnamon and nutmeg to compliment the dark chocolate, creating an indulgent melt in your mouth flavor that’s excellent for this time of year.

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Ingredients: 3/4 cup milk, 3 tsp active dry yeast, 3/4 cup and 2 tsp sugar, 3 1/4 cups flour, 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 3/4 tsp salt, 15 Tbsp softened butter, 1 Tbsp heavy cream, 8 oz finely chopped dark chocolate (72% cacao), 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg.

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Instructions: warm up the milk in a saucepan until it’s warm but not boiling. Add milk and 2 tsp of sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and stir gently, then sprinkle the yeast on top. Let stand for about 5 minutes, until it’s foamy. Add 1/2 cup of the flour and beat with a paddle attachment until combined. Add 2 whole eggs, 1 of the egg yolks, vanilla, salt, and 1/2 cup more of sugar while beating constantly. Continue beating and add remaining flour in small increments. Gradually add 10 Tbsp butter until everything is completely incorporated. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in turned off oven for 2 hours.

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Once dough has risen for 2 hours, remove from bowl and cut in half. Sprinkle countertop with flour, and roll out the dough with a pin until you have a large rectangle. Beat the remaining egg yolk in a small dish with the heavy cream, and brush along the sides of the dough. Spread 2 1/2 Tbsp butter on the dough, then sprinkle 4 oz of chocolate, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1 tsp nutmeg over butter.

Roll the dough towards you, and seal along the edge. Then make a circle out of the log, sealing on the ends. Quickly twist the circle twice, and place the dough in a bread pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Cover dough with a new sheet of plastic that has been lightly buttered and place back in the turned off oven. Repeat with the other half of the dough and leftover ingredients. Let loaves rise for another 2 hours.

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Remove loaves from oven and pre-heat to 350F. Remove plastic and brush tops with remaining egg wash, then lightly sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

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The babka will keep for a couple of days to be enjoyed in the morning with hot coffee, or as a dessert in the evenings.

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Gingerbread Mini Bundt Cakes

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The holiday season is in full swing, so I have been baking to my heart’s content. Gingerbread is a classic holiday baked treat, and this recipe is for the true gingerbread lover. The flavor is ultra rich with a perfect amount of holiday spice, which pairs wonderfully with unsweetened coffee and tea. Making the gingerbread as individual sized mini bundt cakes not only makes hosting easier, it also helps for saving them for later – and these mini bundt gingerbread cakes get even better a few days after making.

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Ingredients: 1 cup oatmeal stout, 1 cup molasses, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 Tbsp ground ginger, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground gloves, 1/4 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 3 eggs, 3/4 cup vegetable oil

Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour bundt cake pan, shaking out excess flour. Place in the refrigerator. Add oatmeal stout and molasses to a saucepan and bring to a boil, then add baking soda. Let stout/molasses mixture sit and cool.

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Beat together eggs, sugars, and oil, then add molasses and stout mixture. Add flour, baking powder, and spices and continue to mix until fully incorporated. Pour batter into bundt cake pan, filling to nearly the top.

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Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into cakes). Remove from pan by flipping it upside down onto a cooling rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

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Chocolate Lava Cake

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I’m not a big fan of cake, which puts me in the minority. Lava cake, however, is a thing of its own, and a treat I can have on any given day. I recently made little chocolate lava cakes for a few girlfriends, and it was the perfect ending to a relaxing evening. Each bite, with it’s oozing warm chocolate center was incredibly rich, and each cake disappeared within just a few minutes.

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What’s great about this dessert isn’t just that it’s rich and indulgent, it’s also very easy to put together and most people likely already have all of the ingredients for it in their homes. You can also prepare ahead of time, and bake just before serving for a freshly baked warm treat for guests.

Ingredients (serves 4): 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 4 oz bitter-sweet chocolate, 2 tsp flour, 2 tbsp cocoa powder

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Instructions: Combine eggs, yolks, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat at medium speed. Meanwhile, heat the chocolate and butter on a stovetop over low heat, just until it’s oozy but not completely melted, whisk together to combine. Once the egg mixture has thickened (about 4 minutes),  add the warm chocolate and butter mixture to the eggs, as well as the flour, and beat for a few more seconds to combine.

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Butter four ramekins, and lightly dust with cocoa powder, shaking out any excess. Pour in the batter, dividing equally among each dish. At this point you can either bake immediately, or refrigerate until a few minutes before serving. When ready to bake bring batter back to room temperature, and bake in 450F oven for 7 minutes on a baking tray. You will see that the sides are set, but the middle will still be soft. Invert each cake onto a small plate, and let sit for a few seconds before lifting ramekin. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with fresh berries.

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I plan to make this treat again for Valentine’s Day, and I know I will be making it many times in the future. It is a decadent dessert to enjoy during these winter months, with good friends, or to finish a dinner for two.


Roasted Garlic Knots

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I have finally mastered making delicious garlic knots that are crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. For these decadent knots I used a favorite pizza dough recipe, and instead of chopping up fresh garlic as many garlic knot recipes do, I decided to roast an entire garlic bulb and make a thick paste that thoroughly infused the knots with flavor.

For the dough:

Ingredients: 1 packet active dry yeast, 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting), 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus more to grease a large bowl), 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 teaspoons salt.

Instructions: Add yeast and warm water to a small bowl, gently stir and let sit for five minutes, then add honey and stir.  Add the flour, salt, and oil to a large bowl. Slowly add the water to the flour bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. You should be able to make a slightly sticky large dough ball. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about three minutes. Place dough on a well oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel; let sit for 1 1/2 hours, until the dough doubles in size. Remove dough from bowl and cut into three equal sized pieces. Gently roll the pieces out into balls, cover and let sit for an additional 15 minutes. Roll each dough ball out to flat long shapes, then cut into strips with a knife.

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For the garlic paste:

Ingredients: 1 whole garlic bulb, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dry parsley.

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Instructions: chop off top of the garlic bulb and roast in 350F pre-heated oven for 30 minutes (the cloves will gently start to pop out when ready). Let cool and squeeze out garlic cloves. Mash with a fork in a small bowl, add olive oil, salt, and parsley.

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Brush the garlic paste on each strip to cover one side entirely.

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Tie each strip into a knot, and place on a lightly floured cookie sheet. Brush remaining olive oil onto tops of knots and bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Make sure to eat them when they’re fresh!

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Dark Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

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As I continue to try out new recipes to improve on my baking skills, I still find myself going back to my tried and true recipes. Sometimes I just crave the comfort of a familiar dish that I have made many times over the years, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Banana bread is not only a stable recipe in our home, it is also a perfect treat when you want something just a tad sweet.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup melted butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

2 eggs, beaten

2-3 overripe bananas

1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

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INSTRUCTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 350F. In a large bowl mix the flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda together. In a separate bowl mash the bananas and add brown sugar, honey, eggs, and butter. Mix thoroughly and then add the mixture to the dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips and walnuts then mix with a spoon until fully incorporated.

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Pour mixture into a greased bread pan and bake for 60 – 65 minutes. Stick a butter knife into bread loaf to ensure it comes out clean for thorough baking.

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Let cool for a few minutes before removing loaf from pan. Enjoy with hot coffee or a glass of milk.


Homemade Sesame Pretzels

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As the weather continues to get chillier I have been thinking up comforting treats to bake at home. Now that we have a stand mixer, that task has become even more exciting. Recently, James and I decided to try out pretzel making for the first time. The results were absolutely delicious and the process was both fascinating and a lot of fun. I found a basic recipe online, and made just a couple of tweaks to the process.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 cups of flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon dry yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup baking soda

1 tablespoon salt

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons whole milk

Coarse sea salt and sesame seeds for sprinkling

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INSTRUCTIONS:

In a bowl mix the 2 1/2 cups of flour and 2 teaspoons of salt, set aside. In a small saucepan heat milk until it begins to simmer then turn off and let cool for a few minutes. Add yeast and honey to milk and stir until fully incorporated. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add half of the milk and half of the flour mixture, stir with a wooden spoon to fully meld together. Then add the remaining flour and milk, and mix with paddle attachment for about five minutes. Once the dough is fully mixed switch to the bread hook attachment and knead on medium speed for about ten minutes.

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Add the olive oil to a large bowl and swish around to spread it out. Form a ball with the dough and add to bowl, cover and let sit for 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450F. If you have a baking stone (or in our case a clay baking dish) place in oven while it heats up.

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Once the dough is ready, separate into twelve equal sized pieces.

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Roll the dough out into long strands and twist to form the pretzel shape.

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While you are twisting, bring a pot of water with the baking soda and tablespoon of salt to a boil.

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Gently place the pretzels (up to two at a time) in the water, flipping them over after twenty seconds. You will notice that the pretzels float once they are ready to be taken out. Place them on a rack to dry for a couple of minutes. In a bowl whisk together the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of milk. Brush each pretzel with the yolk mixture and top off with desired amount of sesame seeds and coarse sea salt.

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Place pretzels on a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper underneath and put in oven over the baking stone. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, until pretzels and golden. Dip in your favorite mustard and enjoy!

 


Whole Wheat Honey Pumpkin Muffins

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I’m training for a half marathon and prepping to go wedding dress shopping in two months (eeek!), so indulging in holiday treats isn’t that much of an option for me right now. If you’re looking for a healthy fall treat (that tastes like a cheat), I would highly recommend these muffins. They came out moist, not too sweet, and rich with pumpkin and autumn spice flavors. It’s a great midday treat that we enjoyed with some fresh coffee.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of pumpkin purée

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup of honey (I’ve read using just honey works well too – just double the amount to replace the brown sugar)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

1 tablespoon coarse raw sugar for topping

INSTRUCTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 375F.

In a bowl, mix the flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Sift the dry ingredients together and add the pumpkin puree, oil, eggs, honey, and chocolate chips. Thoroughly mix all ingredients together with a spoon.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners and scoop the mixture evenly into the pan. If desired, sprinkle a little bit of coarse raw sugar over each muffin – it will give the top a sweet crunch and it looks very pretty.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Then try to let them cool before eating…which can be the most difficult part.

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