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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Servings
ROLLS
Ingredients
Babka Dough
Blueberry Filling
Streusel Topping
Servings
ROLLS
Ingredients
Babka Dough
Blueberry Filling
Streusel Topping
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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.

Hot Cross Bun Loaf

When I think about Easter, one of the first foods that comes to mind are hot cross buns. I’m sure you think I’m going to have a nostalgic memory of my mother’s hot cross buns, but strangely enough, I don’t. The memory I do have from that time in my life is of some very yellow, cylinder shaped loaves. They were soft, sweet and yellow from the many eggs used in the dough. My mother just called it ‘Easter Bread’. It didn’t have icing, candied fruit and nuts or extra spices, it was just plain and gloriously good.

Each year, at Easter time, I really enjoy to make some version of Easter bread or buns (of course, trying to make it just a bit better than the year past). This year I’m going to make a hot cross bun ‘loaf’.

While hot cross buns are now sold and enjoyed throughout the year, they were once reserved for Good Friday alone. There is no one clear explanation … some theories rest in Christian symbolism while there are also more than a few stories that indicate hot cross buns were baked on Good Friday for superstitious reasons.

No matter what the reason, Brion & I have always loved these soft, spicy little buns. No doubt, this ‘loaf’ will probably make some good french toast for an Easter brunch.

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Hot Cross Bun Loaf
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Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
large loaf
Ingredients
Dough
Paste for the Crosses
Glaze
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
large loaf
Ingredients
Dough
Paste for the Crosses
Glaze
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Dough
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, oil, eggs & sugar. Sprinkle yeast over mixture. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, combine 4 cups flour with 3/4 tsp cinnamon. Add to yeast mixture & combine. Mixture will be very sticky. Cover bowl with a tea towel & let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
  3. In a small dish, combine 1/4 cup sugar with cardamom & ginger; set aside. In another small dish, combine paste ingredients for crosses, stirring until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag with a small opening; set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup flour with baking powder, baking soda & salt. When dough has risen, add this mixture & combine. Move dough to a lightly floured surface. Press to slightly flatten dough.
  5. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp spiced sugar & a third of the fruit mixture over the dough. Fold dough over on itself & flatten again. Repeat the process two more times, ending by folding the dough in on itself. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. With floured hands, quickly roll the pieces into balls.
  6. In a buttered, OVERSIZE loaf pan, place 6 rolls then top with remaining 6 rolls. Pipe whatever cross design you prefer on loaf. Cover & allow to rise for about 10 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 30-40 minutes. If the loaf is browning too fast, place a sheet of foil over it to prevent this.
Glaze
  1. Combine sugar & lemon juice. When loaf is baked, warm glaze for a few seconds in microwave then brush over loaf.
Recipe Notes
  • If you do not have an oversized loaf pan, a bundt pan will work just fine.

Mexican Sweet Buns or ‘Conchas’

The quintessential Mexican ‘Conchas’ are a type of sweet roll topped with a cookie crust, shaped for it’s namesake, a seashell. Though its precise origin is not known, all conchas are made from an enriched, yeasted dough similar to brioche or challah. What isn’t really clear, is the point at which a baker decided to cover a small round of sweet dough with a thin layer of cookie dough and then bake it.

Traditionally, the bread roll itself is not flavored, but the cookie dough topping has either a vanilla or chocolate flavor. This topping is an essential element on the sweet roll but the color or the way it is scored or decorated can be done in many different ways. Sometimes, brown or white sugar or even colorful sprinkles are dusted over the topping.

Conchas are sometimes split in half horizontally and filled with anything from whipped cream, custard or even refried beans. Some bakeries have been experimenting with new concha flavors. Cinnamon, walnut, agave nectar with golden raisins and pecan flavor are some that have been introduced.

It seems that conchas are at their best when eaten fresh which makes good sense being made from a yeast dough. It’s going to be interesting to see if I can create some of these little conchas with such a mysterious past.

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Mexican Sweet Buns or 'Conchas'
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Ingredients
Sweet Buns
Servings
Ingredients
Sweet Buns
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Instructions
Sweet Dough
  1. In a dish, add yeast to lukewarm WATER & allow to sit for 5 minutes so yeast can activate. In a large bowl, whisk together lukewarm MILK, sugar, butter, salt & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine. Add flour, about a 1/3 at a time, combining after each addition. Once all the flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes. The dough should be elastic & slightly sticky but easy to handle.
  2. Place dough in a large greased bowl & turn the dough over to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
Topping
  1. In a bowl, beat the sugar, margarine & vanilla together until light & fluffy. Stir in flour & mix until a thick dough forms. Add additional flour if needed. Divide dough into 3 or 4 even pieces & tint each with food color. If the dough becomes sticky from the food color, add more flour. Cover pieces with plastic wrap until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. When dough is ready, turn out on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces ( press dough into a 14 x 14-inch rectangle; with a sharp knife cut into 4 strips in each direction). Shape each dough piece into a ball by tucking the corners under ( don't roll between your palms, this will just deflate the dough & make it tough). Place dough buns on a large baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  2. Roll out the topping pieces on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter or pastry ring. Use the pastry ring to score lines into the dough to resemble the ridges on a seashell (concha). Transfer the scored topping dough rounds to the buns using an offset spatula. If the topping doesn't adhere naturally, use a pastry brush to apply a few dots of water on the underside before applying to the buns.
  3. Allow the buns to rise for about 40 minutes. Before its time to bake, preheat oven to 375 F. Bake buns for 18-20 minutes or until they are just lightly browned on the bottom.
Recipe Notes
  • The topping is made with margarine as it will yield a crunchy & flaky texture.

Moroccan Spiced Fruit Bread

Today, March 28th is the birth date of my mother. Her imprint on my life was huge and I will forever miss her. I read an article recently which I would like to share with you today. It read:

‘I’ve met two kinds of strong women. The first kind is snippy, closed off and only too happy to point out when something isn’t up to their standards. The second kind is like a majestic tree with roots firmly planted and arms open wide. They plant and nurture the seeds of the future and parts of them are passed on through the generations’. My mother was definitely the second type of woman.

When I was thinking about what I wanted to post today, my mind drifted to the recipe archive that lives in my head, eventually making its way to the yeast breads. This is an area my mother had mastered down to a science.

Bread is such a staple food in the diet of most populations and will have featured heavily in most people’s childhoods. This explains why it is one of those smells that evokes such strong memories, particularly of family, childhood and comfort.

I love yeast breads that have spices and dried fruits in them. I recall a combination I had used in another way sometime back so I decided to see if I could make it work in my bread today.

WONDERFUL MEMORIES OF OUR BEAUTIFUL MOTHER!

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Moroccan Spiced Fruit Bread
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Servings
Ingredients
Fruit
Sweet Dough
Servings
Ingredients
Fruit
Sweet Dough
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Instructions
Fruit
  1. In a small bowl, combine fruit, juice & spices. Set aside to marinate.
Sweet Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture 1 cup at a time, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft-free place until doubled in volume.
  4. Punch dough down & place on a lightly floured surface. With your hand, pat & shape the dough into a rectangle 14 X 12-inches in size & about 1/2-inch thick. Using a ruler & a pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut the rectangle into 5 strips. Cut each strip into diamonds about 2-inches long. With a pastry brush, lightly butter tops of 'diamonds' as well as the bottom & sides of a bundt pan with the melted butter.
Assembly
  1. Arrange a layer of diamonds side by side in a ring on the bottom of the bundt pan. Divide fruit mixture in half & sprinkle half over diamonds in pan. Repeat with another layer of buttered diamonds & sprinkle with remaining fruit. Top with last buttered diamonds, arranging each successive layer so that it fits over the spaces left in the previous ring.
  2. Don't concern that the diamonds do not fill all the available space; as they rise & bake they will expand. Cover bundt pan with plastic wrap & a tea towel & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in volume.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake bread for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. To test for doneness, turn bread out & rap the bottom sharply with your knuckles. The bread should sound hollow; if it doesn't, return it to the pan & bake for 5-10 minutes longer. When baked, turn out on a wire rack to cool slightly.
Drizzle
  1. In a small bowl, beat together drizzle ingredients until smooth, adding only enough milk to make preferred drizzle consistency. Spread or drizzle over warm fruit bread & sprinkle with reserved orange zest.

Rosca de Reyes

The tradition of a New Year’s Cake is one that spans countless cultures and is meant to symbolize wealth, prosperity, health and good luck for the coming year. The cake or bread usually contains symbolic items baked inside which is believed to give good luck to the receiver.

Most of the cakes are consumed at midnight on new year’s eve … though some cultures cut their cake on Christmas or the Epiphany on January 6th.

In January of 2019, Brion and I spent some vacation time in Merida, Mexico. We stayed at a wonderful boutique hotel called Hotel Del Peregrino. On the morning of January 6th we were served some Rosca de Reyes (cake/bread) at breakfast. This was the first time either of us had tasted this traditional bread. It was absolutely delicious and yes, you might have known, I would not only have to make some, but learn the history behind it.

January the 6th is a special day in Mexico, known as ‘Three Kings Day’, which represents the height of the Christmas season. This date marks the culmination of the 12 days of Christmas and commemorates the three wise men who traveled from afar, bearing gifts for the infant baby Jesus. The day when the wise men found the baby Jesus is known as Epiphany which is the event represented by the Rosca de Reyes.

The circular form of the rosca represents God’s eternal love which has no beginning or end. The dried candied fruits that adorn the bread symbolize the King’s crown, while the traditional figurines placed inside the bread represent the baby Jesus. Whoever finds this token is obligated to host an upcoming party on the occasion of ‘Candlemas Day’, a Christian holiday which occurs each year on February 2nd. The traditional menu for this event would be tamales and hot chocolate.

In researching the internet for a traditional recipe for the cake/bread it seems orange and vanilla were usually in the actual dough but as for the decorations, there were a lot of fruit and nut choices. Apart from the circular shape it looked like personal preference dictated your decoration design. Here’s my best interpretation of Rosca de Reyes!

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Rosca de Reyes
Instructions
Bread Dough
  1. In a small bowl, combine lukewarm water, yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir with a fork until dissolved. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes in a warm place until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, salt, anise seed & cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the flour & add eggs, yolk, cooled butter, orange zest & vanilla. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry; using a wooden spoon, mix until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
  3. Place on a lightly floured work surface & start kneading until you have a smooth dough. It will take about 10 minutes to get good results. Be careful not to add to much flour to your work area, the texture should be soft, smooth & holds a ball shape.
  4. Place in an buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to proof in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 -2 hours.
Bread Decoration
  1. In a bowl, cream butter with sugar; add egg yolk & mix until combined. Add flour & continue to mix until a soft dough forms. Refrigerate if your not quite ready to use it yet.
Assembly
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. When dough has doubled in size, turn onto a lightly floured surface & knead a few times. Shape the dough into a large ring & place it on the prepared baking sheet. Seal the ends to close the ring. Loosely cover with buttered plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or more until almost doubled in volume.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small dish, whisk together egg wash. Divide the 'decoration dough' into 4-6 equal sections. Roll each with your hands until you get a strip long enough to decorate the ring. Brush dough with egg wash.
  3. Place the 'decoration dough' strips around the ring, try to place them facing one another, then decorate the ring with candied or dry fruit such as mango, pineapple, cherries, figs, citron, orange or lemon peel or quince paste strips or any personal choice you wish. Once the ring is decorated, sprinkle it with sugar & sliced almonds.
  4. Bake the bread for 20 minutes or until the bread is a nice golden brown color. Ovens vary so it may take a bit longer. Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool. After bread has cooled insert the plastic baby dolls from the bottom of bread. Some times the plastic dolls are inserted into the bread before baking, personally I think inserting them afterwards works just fine.

Fruity Swedish Tea Rings w/ Orange Butter

Believe it or not, we are at the eve of Christmas 2019. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is wondering how we got here so fast. This year I thought it would be nice to make some Swedish Tea Rings for gifting.

These sweet bread rings are slashed at the sides to expose the colorful fruit and nut filling. There are different variations of this bread, some do not have any fruit in them at all, just cinnamon sugar.

Swedish tea rings have been around for a very long time and while not much is known about their origin, their roots are definitely Swedish. It is believed that the bread essentially started as Christmas preparation and was a part of the grand Swedish Christmas feast.

It seems, the authentic Swedish tea rings are similar to a cinnamon roll in the shape of a ring or wreath. I have also concluded that cardamom ( one of my favorite spices) is to Scandinavians like vanilla is to us in America …. the backdrop to anything sweet. With that, I decided to go with a fruit bread that brought both cardamom and cinnamon together. Sweet!

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Fruity Swedish Tea Rings w/ Orange Butter
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Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Sweet Bread Dough
Filling
Orange Butter
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Sweet Bread Dough
Filling
Orange Butter
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Sweet Roll Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 1/2 tsp sugar; let stand for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 6 Tbsp sugar, melted butter, sour cream & eggs. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cardamom, cinnamon & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture, 1 cup at a time, combining well after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft free place until dough has doubled in volume.
Filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine butter, sugar, extract & orange zest; set aside. Toss the fruit & almonds with flour; set aside.
Assembly
  1. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, divide in half. Roll each into an 18 x 12-inch rectangle. Spread half of the (butter) filling over each rectangle to within 1/2-inch of edges; sprinkle each with half of the fruit mixture. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side, pinch seams to seal.
  2. Place seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheets. Pinch ends together to form wreaths. With sharp scissors, cut from outside edge to 2/3 of the way toward center of ring at 1-inch intervals.
  3. Separate the cut pieces slightly, twisting each individually to allow filling to show,overlapping with the previous piece. Cover & let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 325 F. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool. In a small bowl, combine orange butter ingredients. Serve with fruit bread. Refrigerate any leftover orange butter.

Savory Ham, Olive & Cheese French Toast

Like so many other dishes throughout history, french toast was created as a way to utilize everything and eliminate waste. Practically anyone who likes bread, milk and eggs will enjoy french toast.

Known by many names around the world, in France itself, the dish is known as ‘pain perdu‘ or ‘lost bread’. The dish is made by dipping hard or stale bread in a mixture of milk and eggs, then fried. In the process, you ‘lost’ the original bread and what you had was a sweet dish held together by the eggs and milk.

Over the years, french toast has seen many gourmet makeovers. Savory or sweet, it can be eaten for brunch, dinner or a late night snack either hot or cold. The best french toast is browned and crispy on the outside while incredibly custardy and rich on the inside. I found there are a few things you might want to avoid to achieve success …. not choosing the right type of bread …. using anything less than whole milk …. not whisking the custard enough …. not soaking the bread long enough …. cooking the french toast at too high of a heat.

The inspiration for this recipe came to me when I had made some ham & olive bread. Out of curiosity, I decided to see what it would taste like as french toast. The flavor was absolutely amazing!

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Savory Ham, Olive & Cheese French Toast
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Servings
Ingredients
Bread Dough
Filling
Egg Dip for 8 thick slices bread
Servings
Ingredients
Bread Dough
Filling
Egg Dip for 8 thick slices bread
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Bread Dough
  1. Cook potato, peel, mash & cool. Combine yeast with lukewarm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well.
  2. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Filling
  1. In a skillet, saute onion with bacon until slightly cooked. Drain well on paper towel. In a large bowl, combine all prepared filling ingredients.
Assembly
  1. When dough has risen, place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a large rectangle then scatter filling ingredients evenly over dough. Roll up like a jelly roll, starting from its longest side. Place in a bundt pan or a 9-inch round spring form pan. Make deep slashes on the top (making sure NOT to go right to the bottom). Cover with plastic & allow to rise in a draft-free place for about an hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Brush with a bit of milk or beaten egg. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until bread has a nice golden brown color. Remove from oven & allow to cool. Nice if made a day ahead of preparing french toast with it.
French Toast
  1. In a small bowl, beat together 1 cup milk & 3 eggs. Slice 8 thick slices from olive bread. Pour half of the egg/milk mixture on to a rectangle plate. Lay bread slices in it, then pour the rest over top. Heat griddle. When bread has soaked up all the egg/milk mixture place slices on griddle & fry to a golden brown. Serve just plain or with butter.

Roast Beef Chili in Cornbread Bowls

It seems anyone who makes chili has their own particular way of doing so. First off, the meat can be ground or in big chunks and as far as the beans go … most any variety you choose will work. Some like their chili extremely hot with spices and others … well, not so much. Toppings usually consist of a choice of sour cream, cheddar cheese or green onion. The bottom line is to just personalize it to your liking and share your ideas. Recipes are made to be shared. That’s how they improve and change and new ideas are created.

Although cornbread might be considered simple and dated, it is the cornerstone of soul food. I have posted cornbread ideas numerous times over the years. I love it! The smell and taste of fresh cornbread are definitely nostalgic for me.

Today, what started out as just a simple bowl of chili with some warm cornbread became much more. My inspiration started with some left over roast beef which became chili and from there it went to ‘why eat chili out of a regular bowl when you could have it in a cornbread bowl’? I thought it might be a bit tricky to use a quick bread recipe with baking soda and/or baking powder as they are usually quite tender. Yeast-leavened cornbread is more bready and less muffin-like in texture. It has the structure for holding up to chili and isn’t inclined to go to mush.

I will not try and tell you this is one of those meals you can put together in 15 minutes but I did think the end result was worth the effort.

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Roast Beef Chili in Cornbread Bowls
Instructions
Cornbread
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/3 cup lukewarm water & mix in 1 tsp sugar. Let mixture sit until foamy & thick about 10 minutes. In a separate bowl combine 2/3 cup sugar, salt, flour & cornmeal; set aside.
  2. When yeast is thick, add oil, eggs & 1/2 cup warm water; mix well with a whisk. Add dry ingredients & with a wooden spoon mix well. On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough until reasonably smooth, adding another tablespoon of flour if necessary.
  3. Grease bowl & place dough in it. Cover with a tea towel & allow to rise for 1 hour. Divide the dough in half & place in greased individual pans. Allow the cornbread to rise for 45 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until they test done with a wooden pick. When cornbread has cooled slightly, hollow out center of each & fill with chili. Yield: 2 large 'bowls'.
Roast Beef Chili
  1. In an ovenproof, heavy bottom pot, fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pot & set aside. Saute onions & garlic in bacon drippings until tender-crisp. Add beef broth & simmer for 5 minutes then add the rest of the ingredients except roasted red pepper, bacon & roast beef.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 F. Bring chili to a boil then place in oven for an hour or so. Check on it part way through & stir.
  3. In the final 1/2 hour, add peppers & bacon. In the last 5 or 10 minutes add the cooked roast beef. Serve in cornbread bowls with preferred garnish. Chili yield is about 13 cups .. around 8-10 servings. Any extra, I portioned & froze for another meal.

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.

Glazed Sour Cherry Yeast Cake

We seem to have had all the right weather conditions this year for our little cherry tree. It’s yield was close to 8 lbs (3.6 kg) of really beautiful fruit. I personally like using these cherries for cooking and baking as opposed to eating them fresh. The sweet/tart flavor lends itself so well to numerous recipes.

While the warmer summer months certainly slow down my baking activities, they never really stop completely. On the cooler or rainy days, I still heed the call to head to the kitchen for some baking therapy.

My recipe idea today was inspired by the 1970’s ‘Poke Cakes’. Originally created to increase sluggish sales for Jello-O gelatin, poke cakes are colorful and easy to make. A fork, chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon is used to poke deep holes all over the top of the baked cake(mix). Next, it is topped with a colorful Jell-O syrup, which trickles into the cake looking like brightly colored streamers. Once it is refrigerated until set, the cake is then slathered with Cool Whip.

Although it seems like poke cakes are a phenomenon born in corporate American kitchens, drenching cake in flavorful liquids is not new, or entirely an American tradition. England’s sticky toffee pudding, a single layer date cake, is poked all over while still warm from the oven with a fork or skewer and drenched in sticky butterscotch sauce. Genoise, the classic French sponge cake, is almost always soaked in sugar syrups spiked with liqueur, not just for flavor, but to keep the cake fresh and prevent it from drying out. Pastel de tres leches, or ‘three-milks cake’, is a beloved Latin American classic. Made from sponge cake soaked in a milky syrup combining evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. All three called for this hole-poking action long before the 1970’s.

Of course, getting back to my German heritage, brings to mind a German butter cake or Butter Kuchen. This classic yeasted cake (actually more like a bread), seems to be very closely aligned with the poke cake idea. After the dough has risen and been rolled out, deep impressions are made for the filling to nestle in.

For our ‘cake’, I used an almond cream cheese filling to compliment the fresh cherries. We really enjoyed it!

Print Recipe
Glazed Sour Cherry Yeast Cake
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cake Dough
Cream Cheese Filling
Glaze
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cake Dough
Cream Cheese Filling
Glaze
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Cake Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture 1 cup at a time, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft free place until dough has doubled in volume.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. Beat together filling ingredients & set aside in fridge until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. Line a 15" X 10"-inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Place dough on paper & press out evenly in pan. Make about 20 deep impressions in dough with your fingertips. Fill each one with a spoonful of filling & top with a couple of cherries. Allow cake to rise 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake cake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile, combine glaze ingredients. Remove from oven: cool for just a few minutes then drizzle with glaze. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Cut into 24 serving pieces.