Monthly Archives: April 2013

Cinnamon Babka

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Babka freshfromtheoven

There’s an episode of Seinfeld called “The Dinner Party” in which Jerry and Elaine are on their way to a dinner party, and decide they need to take something with them for the hosts. They stop at a bakery wanting to buy a chocolate babka, but end up with a cinnamon one instead.  Elaine is unhappy because she considers a cinnamon babka “a lesser babka”.

There are different types of babka, which I believe originated in Poland, but it is traditionally baked on major holidays in a number of Eastern European countries.  Some make babka as a cake, and glaze it with chocolate or vanilla icing and decorate with nuts and dried fruit. For others it is a sweet bread braided and filled with sweet cinnamon or chocolate fillings with streusel toppings.  This latter version reminds me of the Bohemian sweet breads that I love so much, and which tend not to use chocolate.  So for me, cinnamon is definitely not the lesser babka!

Recipe

  • 125g cream cheese
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c caster sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 7g sachet dried yeast
  • 1 1/4 c warm milk
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 c flour
  • 2 T cream

Line 2 large loaf pans with baking paper.

Beat cream cheese, oil and caster sugar until light and creamy.  Beat in egg yolks.

Combine milk and vanilla. Stir in yeast and set aside for 2 minutes to activate the yeast, then fold yeast mixture into egg mixture.  Add flour and salt, and beat until the dough is soft and sticky.

On a well floured smooth surface, knead the dought until it is smooth. Place in a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with a slightly damp cloth and leave in a warm spot to rise (about an hour).

Filling

While the dough is rising, the filling needs to be prepared.

  • 1 1/2 c caster sugar
  • 2 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 125 g butter
  • 1/2 c warm milk
  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • 1 egg

In a medium bowl, beat butter, sugar and cinnamon until light and creamy. Add flour, milk and egg and beat until well mixed.  Set aside until required.

Once the babka dough has doubled in size, remove from the bowl and divide into 4 pieces. Roll 2 pieces into braid-able lengths and set aside. Roll remaining 2 pieces into braidable lengths and then flatten them so they can be filled.

Divide filling into thirds. Using 1/3 of the cinnamon mixture each, place a line of filling along the length of both flattened lengths and gently wrap dough around the filling. Cover the remaining filling and leave in the refrigerator until needed.

Create the 4 lengths of dough together. Cut braid in half crossways and place each piece in a prepared pan. Cover with the cloth and leave to rise again until doubled in size.

Babka braided

Preheat oven to 180C. Brush each loaf with cream and then crumble the remaining filling mixture over the tops. Bake for about 30 minutes or until firm.  Allow to cool in their pans for 5-10 minutes before removing.

Babka sliced

 

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Lumberjack Cookies

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Lumberjack Cookies

There is a place in Massachusetts called Old Sturbridge Village (http://www.osv.org ). It is a living museum depicting life in New England around 200 years ago.  I have very vivid memories of going there as a young child.  I absolutely loved the place. I loved being transported into an earlier time and tasting the life as people would have lived it.   I haven’t been there since I was little, and have no idea how wonderful it would seem as an adult now, but I cherish those childhood memories.

When I think of Old Sturbridge Village I also think about my Aunt Andrea.  She was someone who could actually have been transported back in time and lived comfortably in such an environment.  She was incredibly talented, handy and capable, and was a major influence in my life in my late teenage years.  We shared an interest in cooking and other things homemade, and I am grateful for all the time that I was able to spend with her.

This recipe is adapted from a little book of recipes from Sturbridge Village that Andrea gave me years ago.  The book dates back to 1964 (which means it was published well before I ever went there!) and is called “Hot from the Oven”. The recipe makes the bold claim that the dough will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator – I am not sure I would trust in that, but the cookies are delicious, and one batch goes a long way (about 4 dozen).

Recipe

  • 1 c finely ground raw sugar
  • 1 c butter
  • 1 c golden syrup (or molasses)
  • 2 lg eggs at room temperature
  • 4 c flour
  • 1 t bi-carb soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • ½ c sugar extra

Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Beat in golden syrup, then add eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth and well blended.  Sift dry ingredients together and stir into sugar mixture one cup at a time, mixing well with each addition.

Place additional sugar in a wide shallow bowl. Roll dough into walnut sized balls and coat with sugar (you may need to refrigerate the dough for a while to make the it easier to manage because it will be soft and quite sticky). Place cookie balls on lined baking sheets about 5cm apart.

Bake at 175C for about 10-12 minutes or until set and very slightly darker around the edges.  Leave on the trays for only about a minute once out of the oven before moving them onto a rack to cool.

Lentil Rice and Tomato Bake

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 Tomato Lentil Rice Bake

Someone, I think it was Salsa, once told me that the nutritional value of rice and lentils combined is greater than the nutritional value of them both if eaten separately. I don’t know if this is true, but they taste so good together that I choose to believe that it must be!

This is one of my favourite recipes for a quick but filling and healthy mid-week meal. It is equally delicious in meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan mode…

Recipe

Base

  • 4 c cooked rice (white or brown)
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 T fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 egg (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.  Lightly spray 20 x 30cm baking dish with oil. Spread rice evenly over the baking dish and press down to flatten the surface.

rice base

Second layer

  • finely sliced cooked chicken breast, and/or
  • 8-10 mushrooms, finely sliced, and/or
  • 1 eggplant, sliced and roasted

Layer your choice of ingredients over the rice.

Third layer

  • oil
  • 1 onion, finely  diced
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2  c cooked lentils
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 1 t finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can tomatoes

Saute the onion and celery in oil until onion is translucent. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool  slightly.  Spread evenly over the previous layer.

tomato lentil layer

Topping

  • finely sliced or grated chedder cheese or
  • 2-3 slices day old wholemeal bread

Spread cheese over the tomato layer, or crumble bread into large-ish crumbs, and lightly fry in oil before spreading evenly over the tomato layer.

Bake at 190C until heated through, and cheese has melted, or breadcrumbs have crisped.

Tomato Lentil Bake

Hot Cross Buns

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Hot Cross Buns

Happy Easter everyone!  I hope the day was filled with the joy of life, and perhaps some chocolate!

Most years I actually make chocolate for Easter.  While I am not averse to buying good chocolate I usually make something a bit special to maximise the indulgence factor.  This year I bought new chocolate moulds and a range of accoutrements in preparation but the inspiration didn’t come.

Instead, this has been the year for hot cross buns.  Wal has always loved them, and would buy them year round if he could, so it seemed about time to offer him some home made buns.  It took a bit of effort to fine tune my recipe to meet the collective family requirements (they are becoming quite the critics, these guys!), but these buns are delicious, if I do say so myself! And as with much of what I cook, they are very easy to make.

Recipe

  • 3/4 c scalded milk
  • 170 g butter
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 3/4 c sultanas
  • 4 c flour, sifted
  • 1 T milk, extra
  • 3 T pre-made almond cake icing

Heat milk to almost boiling. Add butter, sugar and salt and remove from heat.

Add water and leave to cool until lukewarm. Add the yeast and mix. Blend in the egg. Mix in the cinnamon and sultanas.

Gradually add the flour. Mix until well blended and soft.

Leave in oiled bowl in a warm area for 45 minutes to rise.

Preheat oven  to 220C. Place dough on floured board while you work with it. Shape into round balls (recipe will make about 20) and place closely together on lined baking tray. Lightly brush with milk and set aside for 3 minutes. Then, using a sharp knife, cut a cross into each bun.

Bake for 20 minutes. Towards the end of the baking time, knead the icing until it is pliable. Roll into a long thin strip.  Working quickly as soon as you take the buns out, fill the cross cuts with icing strips.

Enjoy them while they are still hot!

Hot Cross Bun plated