Blueberry Babka Rolls

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. My mother passed away in 1978 but even after 42 years, time has changed nothing. I still miss the sound of her voice, the wisdom in her advice, the stories of her life and just being in her presence. I miss her today as much as the day she left us and I always will.

It is also with very loving thoughts, I celebrate my mother-in-law, Dolores, for her loving and kind ways and for raising that ‘special’ man I love sharing my life with. Love to my sisters, who gave so much of themselves to be the great mom’s they are.

Babka ….. an old world beauty with roots in both the Jewish and Eastern European communities. A cake like, sweet yeast bread, richer than that of a cinnamon bun but not as rich as a Danish pastry. The name Babka means ‘little grandmother’ in many European languages.

Traditionally, babka was filled with seeds, nuts and sometimes even honey or filled with layers of cinnamon sugar or chocolate. This classic baked good has been making its way into every corner of the food world. A great babka dough is a blank canvas for almost any filling. Many other flavors have been developed and have become equally popular.

Fruit lovers can now indulge in apple-cinnamon or raspberry and apricot cream cheese babkas. There is also a Middle Eastern favorite using halva (sesame candy) or a completely savory version with sun-dried tomatoes.

This bread seems very fitting on our Mother’s Day blog.

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Blueberry Babka Rolls
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ROLLS
Ingredients
Babka Dough
Blueberry Filling
Streusel Topping
Servings
ROLLS
Ingredients
Babka Dough
Blueberry Filling
Streusel Topping
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Babka Dough
  1. In a small bowl, place water & sprinkle with the yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir to combine. Allow to stand until frothy, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups of the flour, sugar & salt. Make a well in the center of the flour & add eggs, yolk & oil. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix the yeast, eggs & flour with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface & knead for about 10 minutes. If the dough seems very sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, smooth & holds a ball-shape.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap & place in a draft-free area. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Blueberry Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugars & salt. Add water & blueberries; cook until clear & bubbling. Remove from heat & add lemon juice; cool completely.
Streusel Topping
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, powdered sugar, salt & baking powdered. Cut butter into small chunks & add the flour mixture. Using your fingertips, work the butter into the flour mixture until it forms LARGE, coarse crumbs. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into a rectangle, roughly 40 X 60 cm (15" X 24"). Spread half of the filling on center third of the dough. Fold one of the sides over the center & spread the remaining filling on top. Next, put opposite side of the dough over all & gently press together.
  2. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut 15 strips, between 2 - 2.5 cm (3/4"-1") thick. Twist each strand of dough a few times then, holding one end between you thumb & forefinger, coil the dough to form a circle. Finish by pinching the outer end to the ring, so it holds the circular shape when baking. Repeat with remaining strips. Place rolls on lined baking sheet as you make them. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap & set in a draft-free place until rolls have doubled in size.
Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush rolls with egg wash. Sprinkle streusel & chopped nuts evenly over the tops, pressing lightly so the crumbs adhere to the rolls. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & place on a cooling rack.

Mango Bread Pudding with Chai Spices

Bread Pudding ….. its just bread plus eggs plus a sweetened, spiced milk mixture. What makes it special is the blend of spices mixed into it and the sauce.

When done right, bread pudding should have the perfect balance of gooey goodness and chewy texture. That’s why stale bread is important. The bread needs a degree of crunch otherwise you will have ‘mush pudding‘.

For today’s recipe, I started by making a loaf of Challah bread. This is an ‘eggy’ bread that can soak up custard without collapsing. It will toast nicely on the outside and leave you with a creamy pudding inside.

Challah is a very straight forward bread to make. The dough is enriched with eggs and oil, while a few tablespoons of sugar add some sweetness and it doesn’t require any fussy techniques. Because challah is traditionally braided, proofing is key…. if the dough is not properly proofed, it will tear in the oven while baking.

Here’s where it becomes ‘comfort food‘ made with glorious challah, tropical mangos and spices inspired by the world’s love affair with Indian chai.

Chai, which is sometimes overlooked, adds a distinct warm flavor and depth. It can include a number of different spices. Cardamom is the most common ingredient, followed by some mixture of cinnamon, ginger, star anise and cloves. Pepper, coriander, nutmeg and fennel are also used but they are slightly less common.

For the finishing touch, I made a rum sauce. Who says bread pudding has to be boring!

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Mango Bread Pudding with Chai Spices
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Instructions
Challah Bread
  1. In a small bowl, place lukewarm water & sprinkle with yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir to combine. Let stand about 5-10 minutes until frothy. In a large bowl, place 4 cups flour, sugar & salt; whisk to combine.
  2. Make a well in the center of flour mixture & add eggs, egg yolk & oil; whisk to form a slurry. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Combine with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
  3. On a floured work surface, turn out dough & knead for about 10 minutes. If dough is sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky. The dough should be soft, smooth & hold a ball shape. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise, in a draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Divide the dough into 3 or 6 equal pieces, depending on the type of braid you wish to make. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 16-inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest 5 minutes to relax the gluten & then try again. For the 6 stranded braid as I made, the name of the game is 'over two, under one, over two'. Carry the right-most rope over the two ropes beside it, slip it under the middle rope, then carry it over the last two ropes. Lay the rope down parallel to the other ropes; it is now the furthest strand. Repeat this pattern until you reach the end of the loaf. Try to make your braid as tight as possible. Once you reach the end, squeeze the ends of the ropes together & tuck them under the loaf.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the braided loaf on top & sprinkle with a little flour. Cover with a tea towel & allow to rise about 1 hour. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350 F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with 1 Tbsp. of water & brush carefully over challah. Bake 30-35 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Remove from oven & cool before cutting up for bread pudding.
Bread Pudding
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish; toss bread & mango cubes together in it. In a medium bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients together & pour over the bread & mangoes; allow the mixture to soak for about 5 minutes. Bake about 1 1/4 hours, or until set.
Rum Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Mix together sugar & cornstarch; stir into the melted butter. Slowly pour in milk, stirring frequently until mixture begins to lightly boil. Continue cooking until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in rum. Serve warm over bread pudding.

Pulled Corned Beef with Sprouts & Potatoes

Although brussel sprouts fall in that ‘love to hate them’ category for many, not so for me. I remember my mother growing them in her garden. They just seemed so unique … little mini cabbages on a stem! The fact that we can buy them pretty much year round takes away from these Autumn jewels somewhat.

But, it seems more people have realized that soggy, boiled, overcooked sprouts are a thing of the past. These tasty little treats are often dressed up with salty bacon, sweet balsamic vinegar or nutty Parmesan cheese. The smaller the sprouts, the more tender they are and even more tender and sweet after a frost. I probably appreciate the texture as much as the flavor.

In this casserole they are paired with some very tender corned beef, potatoes and Parmesan cheese. In regards to the corned beef, the key is either to slow roast at a very low temperature or a long, slow simmer in a liquid infused with spices. The ‘corned’ part of the beef refers to the brining process. The meat is submerged in a brine mixture which is flavored with spices. This process usually takes about seven to ten days. At this point its ready to cook.

Most often you can buy a piece that is sold in a vacuum sealed pouch which is in a spiced ‘gel’ mixture. All you have to do is rinse it in cold water, place it in a baking dish with a bit of fresh water and roast at about 250 F. until it becomes ultra tender.

This was such a nice fall meal. The flavors came together so well.

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Pulled Corned Beef with Sprouts & Potatoes
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 250 F. Rinse spiced gel off of corned beef. Place in a shallow baking dish; add a small bit of water & roast until VERY tender. Remove from oven; using 2 forks, pull meat apart & set aside.
  2. Peel & slice potatoes into 1/4-inches slices. Slice the shallots & Brussels sprouts thin; set aside
  3. In a large saucepan, add the sliced potatoes & cover with milk & butter. Bring to a boil, lower heat & simmer 8 minutes. Remove from heat; lift potatoes from milk with a slotted spoon & reserve the milk & butter for sauce.
  4. Adjust oven temperature to 375 F. Coat a 9 X 13-inch baking pan with oil or butter; layer the potato, then corned beef, shallots & Brussels sprouts. Repeat again using all the ingredients. Whisk the flour into the cooled milk/butter combo. Pour sauce over all; sprinkle with garlic powder & top with Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil & bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; cool for a few minutes & serve.

Sweet & Sour Cabbage Casserole

Stuffed cabbage rolls are a unique blend of various flavors. The art of seasoning is about far more than adding a few grinds of salt and pepper. It’s more about sorting out the sweet, sour, savory and bitterness balance.

Food history tells us cabbage rolls have their roots in the ancient Middle East and spread to Eastern Europe as trade routes flourished with various ethnic groups migrating. Many countries lay claim to their origin, which accounts for the several interesting versions on the traditional recipe. For example:

Ukrainian holubtsi  are typically vegetarian, filling pickled cabbage leaves with either buckwheat and wild mushrooms or a mixture of whole grains and root vegetables, braised in tomato juice or vegetable stock served with perogies.

Poland’s golabki, translating to ‘little pigeon feet'(named after the French dish that wrapped cabbage around cooked pigeon), stuffs the leaves with pork, beef, rice or barley, accompanied by sour cream and sweet paprika.

Romanian sarmale combines ground pork, caramelized onions and rice nested in a pickled sauerkraut leaf, then smothered in dill and tomato sauce. It is often topped with bacon or smoked sausage.

The Asian variation wraps Chinese cabbage around seafood blends, tofu and shiitake mushrooms.

Egyptian mahshi kromb are simmered in an aromatic tomato-based sauce with mint, cumin and other Middle Eastern herbs and spices.

Jewish holishkls are a combination of ground beef, rice and raisins enveloped in cabbage leaves and simmered in a sauce of brown sugar, lemon and tomatoes.

Today’s blog recipe gives you some of those same traditional flavors without the fuss of rolling the cabbage and meat. Brion and I really enjoy this particular version. Of course, it’s a given that most recipes will always need tweaking to account for the different cooking conditions and personal tastes.


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Sweet & Sour Cabbage Casserole

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Instructions
  1. Remove 5 large leaves from a head of cabbage; steam until tender. When cool enough to handle, roll up & cut into 1/2" slices; set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, combine beef, cooked rice, minced garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper & 2 Tbsp parsley.

  3. In a large saucepan, heat oil. Cook onion & chopped garlic for a couple of minutes until fragrant but not brown.

  4. Add sugar, lemon juice, tomatoes & pineapple juice; bring to a boil. Add 2 Tbsp parsley & cook for 15 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with spoon. Season with salt & pepper.

  5. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 2 L casserole with 1/3 of the cabbage slices. Spread with half of the meat mixture & 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat with cabbage, meat & sauce. Top with remaining cabbage & sauce.

  6. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours until a meat thermometer reads at least 160 F. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp parsley & allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Bagels

Its always the story behind the food — not just the bit that we hold in our hands or put in our mouths that makes it so much more than just something to eat.

The origin of the bagel is still an issue for debate. Most food historians have come to the conclusion that the bagel is of Jewish origin. Apparently originating in South Germany, migrating to Poland and then to North America. This boiled and baked roll with a hole, has endured through the centuries not only because of its heroic legend. It also had the advantage of lasting longer than freshly baked bread due to the boiling process giving it an outer sheen and crunchy protective crust.

In the early 1950’s, Family Circle included a recipe for bagels. The copy read: ‘Stumped for Hors d’oeuvers Ideas? Split these tender little triumphs in halves and then quarters. Spread with sweet butter and place a small slice of smoked salmon on each. For variations, spread with cream cheese, anchovies or red caviar.

The morning combination of bagel, cream cheese and lox (smoked salmon), rose in popularity thanks to the advertising efforts of Joseph Kraft for Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It soon became an alternative to Eggs Benedict or the other Sunday trilogy of bacon, eggs and toast.

I remember being in California in the late 70’s and tasting a bagel with cream cheese & lox for the first time. The bakery/cafes were very popular little boutique restaurants at that time and  it was there that I acquired the taste for this glorious combination. 

Bagelmania, replaced, to a certain extent, the doughnut shops of the earlier 20th century. Their popularity was largely because they didn’t taste ethnic. To the bread and sandwich loving population, the bagel was simply a craving for innovation, but not different enough to appear ethnic.

In the 1960’s, preservatives helped create bagels that stayed fresh for more than a few hours and engineers created mixers that didn’t tear themselves apart trying to work the dough.

For classic bagels you require two ingredients that most home bakers’ generally don’t have in their pantries. One is high-gluten flour and the other is malt syrup. Both should be obtainable at natural food markets. If you can’t find high-gluten flour, use bread flour, preferably unbleached. Regular all-purpose doesn’t contain enough gluten to make a proper bagel. As far as the barley malt syrup goes, honey or brown sugar are acceptable substitutes.

All that being said, if you are still up for making a few bagels here is a recipe from cdkitchen.com you might like.

 

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Homemade Bagels
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Servings
Ingredients
Dough
Water for Boiling Bagels
'Everything' Topping
Servings
Ingredients
Dough
Water for Boiling Bagels
'Everything' Topping
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Dough
  1. In a large bowl, stir together water, yeast & sugar. Let rise for 5 minutes. With a wooden spoon, stir in oil, malt & 1 cup of flour. Add salt then enough of remaining flour to make a stiff dough.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead for 10-12 minutes. Cover with a floured dish towel & allow dough to rest on board for about 15 minutes. Divide dough into 8 sections & form each section into a ball. Push your thumb through the center, creating a hole, (this method prevents the dough ring from separating as there are no seams). Place on a lightly floured surface, cover & let rest 15-20 minutes, rising about halfway & becoming slightly puffy. In a small bowl, mix all topping ingredients together. Set aside.
Water for Boiling Bagels
  1. Fill a large cooking pot 3/4 full with water. Add the malt syrup & salt. Bring water to a boil. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. If desired, sprinkle with cornmeal. Set aside.
  2. Line 2 other baking sheets with a kitchen towel, set near stove. Reduce boiling water to a simmer & cook 2 bagels at a time (do not overcrowd pot). Simmer bagels for about 45 seconds on one side, then turn & cook other side for another 45 seconds. Drain bagels on the towel-lined baking sheet.
  3. Carefully place bagels on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle bagels with 'everything' topping, leave plain or use a topping of your choice. Place in the hot oven, immediately reduce heat to 425 F., bake about 17-25 minutes. When almost baked, turn bagels over with a pair of tongs. When golden brown remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.
Recipe Notes
  • For a few sweet versions try cinnamon with raisins or use some dried blueberries or cranberries.