Do You Believe In Magic?

Man, out of all the food “diets” that have come and gone, I think Paleo rubbed me the wrong way the most. I could post a few dozen articles explaining why it’s a bad idea to not eat whole grains and beans, and how a diet based on meat is, frankly, elitist. But I won’t. I will, however, take this opportunity to mention a former colleague who microwaved herself a sweet potato for lunch every fricking day, hogging the one machine on the entire floor. She sucked.

magic-shell

If there is one good thing to come out of Paleo, it is that it brought coconut oil to my attention.  I have some Paleo cousins who swear by the stuff, so I bought a jar, and then forgot about it. The truth is, I prefer cooking my food in butter or olive oil, and I saw no need for its purpose.

But I am here to share with you the one recipe I use coconut oil for. It’s basically the opposite of what Paleo folks had in mind, and the irony only makes it more delicious. I’m talking about Magic Shell.

Yes, Magic Shell. You remember that hardened chocolate shell that covered the ice cream scoops of your childhood? One moment it’s liquid, but after it touches the ice cream (or after you tuck the bowl in the freezer for a minute or two) it forms a hardened shell, a thick varnish you have to whack away at with your spoon. Perhaps not as satisfying to crack as the crust on a crème brulee, but it’s loads simpler to make.

The magic in Magic Shell is the coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, but melts when heated, and then solidifies as it cools down, like when it hits ice cream. To make it, all you have to do is melt chocolate – in chip form or otherwise – with the coconut oil. That can be done in a double boiler on the stove, or in the microwave. Just zap on high for 30 seconds, check, stir and repeat until it’s melted enough to be stirred smooth with a spatula or spoon.

So, thank you, Paleo diet. Because of you I was able to recreate a beloved treat from my childhood in mere seconds. I guess you were good for something after all.

Magic Shell

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s done by ratios, so you can scale up or scale down depending on your needs.

Ingredients

1 cup of chocolate, chopped

2 Tablespoons coconut oil

Directions

Place coconut oil and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.

Microwave, in 30 second intervals, stirring intermittently, until both are completely melted.

Pour or spoon the chocolate sauce over ice cream. Place your bowl of ice cream in the freezer for a minute or two to aid in the magic.

All Of Us Under Its Spell

Ever catch one of those Tasty videos in your Facebook feed? Mesmerizing, right? Lilli caught one over my shoulder a few months back, and ever since she’s been hooked on watching recipes on the Internet. It wasn’t long before she and I discovered that you can basically watch a recipe of anything on YouTube. Her favorites are the intricate cake recipes, of which she, and now I, have watched have watched far more times than I would like to admit.

done

There are teen bakers, baking bloggers who do all sorts of incredible things with food coloring and pastry bags, an Australian baker who leans heavily on using chocolate bars on his cakes. Lilli likes this last one a lot, and so I promised her we would make our own cake using her leftover Halloween candy. This turned out to be a lie, because certain adults in the house have been nibbling away at it over the past three weeks. Ahem.

But we finally made our cake this weekend, and it went off without a hitch, just like we saw on the Internet. I didn’t use person’s recipe per se, but created one out of what I learned watching countless hours of online videos.

What I have prepared for you are directions on how to make a rainbow cake. I promise you it’s easy; it just takes a little bit of patience and time. (Ours took about two hours from start to finish.)

batter

First thing’s first: Find yourself a vanilla cake recipe. Make sure it’s a vanilla cake, not a yellow cake, because that will mess up the colorings. This is the recipe we used.

Next, secure your frosting recipe. I always vote for cream cheese frosting, and this is my go-to, but if you have a vanilla frosting recipe – remember, it has to be white – then use that one instead.  Take out the ingredients for your frosting to come to room temperature when you start preparing your cake batter.

Now, I had never used food coloring until this cake. I’ve always been a little skittish about such things, so I went to the nice kitchen store in town and bought them there. The ones they had on their shelf were the same ones that the online bakers all use. But if you have a favorite brand you use, then please, do what you feel.

We used Kit Kats around the outside of the cake and M&Ms to decorate the top. The Halloween sized ones would have been the right height for the cake, but fortunately the large bars we used also fit when cut in half. Skittles will work as well for the décor, but I’m the only one in the house that likes fruity candies, so I would be the only one who’d eat the cake. I’m actually not a fan of M&Ms, so this was a guarantee that I wouldn’t sit and eat the entire cake myself.

Now that you’ve assembled the ingredients, assemble the cookware and utensils you’ll need. Grab as many 9-inch cake pans as you have. I had three so I ended up using each one twice for my six separate colors. I had Lilli butter them, but then I sprayed a layer of Baker’s Joy on top of that.

If you are using six separate colors, then get out six separate bowls and six separate spoons. An ice cream scoop, if you have one, is very useful.

Now, it’s time to start making your cake. As you can see from my photos, it was six very thin layers. If you want a cake that will have your friends and family oohing and ahhing, I mean, even more than this, then double the recipe to make thicker layers.

Now that your batter is prepared, evenly divide it into the six bowls. This is where the ice cream scoop comes in handy. Next, add your food coloring. We had to mix colors to make the orange and the purple, and it was a fun way to practice our colors. I hope you’re wearing an apron!

use-a-scoop

making-colors

Now it’s time to bake. Carefully scrape the first bowl of colored batter into your first cake pan. It’s probably very thin, so gently push the batter to the sides of the pan with the spoon.

I baked my cake layers three at a time in the oven. Please keep an eye on them; mine were done in about 13 minutes. When they are baked through, remove the pans from the oven and set them on cooling racks to cool, which they will do very quickly. Turn the cakes out, let the pans cool, wash them, then repeat baking the remaining colors of batter.

with-a-spoon

While this is going on, have a small child practice their sorting skills by separating the Skittles or M&Ms into small bowls. This is also when you can make your frosting.

sorting

Lilli, auditioning to be a roadie for Van Halen.

Once your cakes are completely cool, it’s time to assemble. I find the easiest way to frost a cake is by placing it on a plate covered in wax paper, and place that on a Lazy Susan, if you have one.

Layer of cake, little bit of frosting on top, spread with an offset spatula, then next layer of cake, and so on.

 

It’s honestly up to you to choose a design. Rich pointed out that I’d actually stacked my cake layer colors in reverse. Make sure you save enough frosting to cover the outside and sides of the cake; your frosting acts like a glue.

in-the-process

Once it’s assembled, put it in the fridge for about an hour to set and firm up.

And how was it? Very tasty, although Lilli simply picked off the M&Ms and Kit Kats, ate those, and left the cake.

PS – This was Lilli’s theme song all summer long.

A Spoon Also Works

Last week I made a terrible curry. Well, maybe terrible is too strong a word, but not by much. Lately I’ve been testing out different slow cooker cookbooks that have made their way to my mailbox. With the full time job and two little girls, I’m trying to find just the right recipes for our weeknights, with the hope, of course, to share the really good ones with you.

Bea in a Bjorn

The big issue with this curry was the carrots. The recipe called for thin slices of the vegetable to be cooked for five or six hours on low, but they were still crunchy when it was time to have dinner. Rich had less of an issue with the recipe than I did and dutifully ate all the leftovers for the following week. Lilli, who I have taken to calling “Picky Picky”, ate the rice.

Still, the curry wasn’t a complete disaster because it meant I had a leftover cup of coconut milk in the fridge. I had bookmarked a recipe a year ago that called for a scant cup of coconut milk, which had I promptly forgot about until last week. So the recipe I have for you today is for coconut curd; yes, like lemon curd, but with coconut instead. And yes, it’s just as amazing as it sounds. I think when I licked the spoon while I was working on it I actually said out loud in my empty kitchen, “Oh dear God, this might be one of the best tasting things I’ve ever made.”

It’s from Artisan Preserving, a really beautiful cookbook I was sent last year. It’s full of really incredible sounding preserves and jams and curds, like black pepper and cumin jelly, gingered plum chutney, and, irony of ironies, Thai curry paste. Apparently coconut curd, also known as Kaya, or Coconut Egg Jam, is a popular preserve in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. The authentic version calls for screwpine, or pandan, leaves which apparently have a pine and citrus taste. I am including it here, just in case you happen to have a screwpine tree growing in your backyard. If you do have a screwpine tree growing in your backyard, can I come over in say, mid-February? Coconut curd is served on toast, although I think a spoon also works.

robot

The recipe calls for a balloon whisk, but I just fudged it with the whisk I had in my kitchen. I’ve always fudged on sterilizing, but Ms. Macdonald made it sound so simple that I went and did it, and it was! She offers several ways to sterilize a jar, and I am only including the version I chose as it was the easiest. My sister Amanda gave me these bright green rubbery heat resistant oven gloves for my birthday, which were absolutely perfect for handling the hot metal lids and glass jars.

As for other ingredients, I still had palm sugar in the house from when I made this secret eggplant salad. I found the bag in the food section of Home Goods, a wonderful aisle full of goodies like fresh vanilla beans and pink peppercorns. Please don’t let not having palm sugar stop you from making this; I think brown sugar will make a fine substitute.

Coconut Curd from Artisan Preserving by Emma Macdonald

Ingredients

Scant 1 cup coconut milk

¼ cup palm sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

4 fresh screwpine (pandine) leaves (optional)

4 large eggs

Makes about 10 ounces (1 cup). Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 25 minutes

Sterilize enough small jars in the oven so that they are ready to use (directions to follow)

Put the coconut milk, palm and granulated sugars, and screwpine leaves, if using, in the top of a double boil set over gently simmering water. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.

Break the eggs into a bowl and, using a balloon whisk, beat together well. Whisk the eggs into the coconut mixture.

Heat gently and cook about 20 minutes, whisking frequently, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not let the mixture boil or it will curdle. If the curd does start to split, remove from the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth.

Remove the screwpine leaves, if you have used them.

Pour the curd into the warmed, sterilized jars. Cover immediately with sterilized lids. Let cool completely before storing in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Once opened, eat within 3 days.

Sterilizing Bottles & Jars

The importance of sterilizing cannot be emphasized enough; it is essential so that your preserves do not deteriorate during storage. Always sterilize an extra bottle or jar in case it is needed. Remove any labels if you are reusing bottles or jars, and wash all in very hot, soapy water.

Do not dry the washed bottles or jars but put them upright on a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, and put in the oven. Turn on the heat to 350F and once the oven has reached this temperature, leave the bottles or jars in the oven 20 minutes to ensure they are completely sterilized. Most preserves will be hot when they’re canned so it makes sense to keep the bottles or jars in the oven until needed; reduce the temperature slightly. Wear protective oven mitts when handling the hot bottles and jars.

Sterilizing lids: Put the lids in a pot of water, bring to a boil and boil 10 minutes. Make sure they are dry before using to avoid condensation forming. An alternative method is to fill the hot sterilized bottles or jars with the hot preserve, screw on the lids and then turn the bottles or jars upside down 1 minute. Wear protective oven mitts or cover the bottle or jar with a kitchen towel when you do this to avoid burning yourself. This effectively sterilizes the insides of the lids.

Eating My Words

This week I did something I’m not proud of: I flipped through Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook Deceptively Delicious in the cookbook section of my local library. When her book came out not quite 10 years ago, I scoffed at its premise. Hiding vegetables in foods? I shook my head at parents who served their children pizza and chicken fingers for dinner. Just feed them what you eat; enough with the coddling of palates.

Of course, now I look back at the childless me and shake my head at my ignorance and naiveté. My toddler subsists on a diet of Cheerios, fruit, yogurt, cake, cheese, pizza, fish, rice, farro (?!), and plain pasta. It has to be plain: last week Rich deigned to put a pat of butter on her noodles and Lilli promptly announced it was now “garbage.”

mac and cheese

Oh look, a toddler eating mac and cheese.

I asked the pediatrician for advice. And you know what she said? Make sauces of things and hide them in foods she will eat. So there I stood in the library, looking through Mrs. Seinfeld’s cookbook. Let me be clear: Lilli loves helping out in the kitchen. She loves going to the grocery store with me and requesting mushrooms and broccoli and carrots. She loves choosing cookbooks off the shelf and bringing me photos of recipes that look good to her. She loves pulling up her Kitchen Helper to watch me slice summer squash and helps move it into a bowl. She just won’t eat what we cook.

But then it occurred to me: She loves learning about new foods, loves preparing vegetables and adores baking. Why not combine those things into one dish? And that’s how I found myself having her press the “on” button on my food processor as we grated zucchini for a very nice chocolate zucchini cake.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: is chocolate cake really the right sort of thing to be sneaking veggies into? But my approach was validated this week by our Shabbos dinner guests. Ellie, a very bright political science student at UMass, exclaimed that her mother Deborah used to do the exact same thing when she was a kid. Considering that Ellie seems poised to run the government some day, I think I might be on to something.

We found our recipe in Marcel Desaulniers Death by Chocolate Cakes: An Astonishing Array of Chocolate Enchantments. This book was handed off to me by my friend Gayle, who, if I’m not mistaken, just posted a recipe for chocolate zucchini cake on her own blog. I’d never heard of this baker, but Rich tells me there used to be a television show with the same name.

touchdown!

The recipe is called Mimi Montano’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake, and it is pretty simple to throw together, although you have to wait a bit for it to cool down. Although the recipe says to bake for about an hour and 50 minutes, I found it was done in about an hour. I suspect it meant to say bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Whenever I see the direction to sift dry ingredients, I always whisk them in a bowl a few times. Works like a charm every time. I melt by chocolate in a glass in the microwave in 20 second spurts. If you use Earth Balance instead of butter this recipe can be parve.

And did it work? Did we succeed in Lilli eating food with zucchini folded into it? Not really, and really chocolate cake is not a healthy vehicle for even the most virtuous of vegetables. But Rich and I enjoyed slices for breakfast, trimmed slices whenever we walked by it in the kitchen, and were also happy to have it on hand when friends stopped by unexpectedly.

If you don’t need to sneak any vegetables, consider this a recipe to get rid of some of the zucchini your neighbors have been leaving on your front porch.

Mimi Montano’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 large zucchini (about ¾ pound), washed and stem removed

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1 ½ cup vegetable oil

3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped and melted

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (one 12-ounce package)

Directions

Preheat oven to 325F. Liberally coat the inside of a 9 ½ x 4-inch nonstick Bundt pan with the 1 tablespoon melted butter. Set aside.

In a sifter combine 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. Sift onto a large piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) and set aside until needed. (Or, just mix all these ingredients in a bowl and stir with a whisk a few times.)

Grate 1 large zucchini in a food processor fitted with a medium grating disk (or use a box grater). Set aside.

Place 1 ½ cups sugar and 4 eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes until light in color and thickened; then use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Operate the mixer on medium while slowly adding 1 ½ cups vegetable oil in a steady stream (it’s a good idea to use a pouring shield attachment or to cover the top of the mixer and sides of the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap to avoid splattering oil outside of the mixing bowl). Combine to mix until the batter is yellow in color and thick, about 1 ½ minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the melted chocolate and mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Continue to operate the mixer on medium speed and slowly add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the grated zucchini and mix on low for 15 seconds. Add 2 cups chocolate chips and mix on low for another 15 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter until thoroughly combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared Bundt cake pan, using a rubber spatula and spreading evenly.

Place the pan onto a baking sheet with sides on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted, between 50 minutes and an hour. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan for 30 minutes at room temperature. Unmold the cake from the pan. Place the cake, baked top facing up, on a cake circle (or onto a cake plate) and cool at room temperature for 1 additional hour before slicing.

To Serve: Heat the blade of a serrated slicer under hot running water and wipe the blade dry before cutting each slice. Serve immediately, or wrap in plastic wrap and take a piece or two of cake along for the ride.

 

For the Kids

Ever watch Gilmore Girls? If you read my blog, the answer is probably yes. Do you remember the episode where Lorelai and Sookie decide to do small, private parties, complete with catering by Sookie? They’re charged with planning a kid’s birthday party, and Lorelai gives Sookie explicit instructions to do mac and cheese and pizza and all sorts of kid-friendly foods, and Sookie makes jalapeno mac and cheese and all sorts of adult foods, and it’s a complete disaster?

Lilli in the Yard

We nearly had a similar incident at a brunch we hosted on Sunday. I should make it clear that the meal wasn’t a disaster, and everything worked out in the end, but only because Rich played the role of Lorelai to my Sookie. We hosted a friend from college and his family. His daughter Sara is about four, and his son Alex is just a touch younger than Lilli. I was thrilled at the chance to set up a Sunday morning spread and was quite pleased when I reviewed the menu with Rich on Saturday night: Broccoli frittata, a salad of greens topped with maple roasted pears, walnuts and blue cheese, with a brown sugar vinaigrette, breakfast potatoes, hummus and crackers. (There was also a pumpkin bread that I forgot to serve, so we’ve been working on that during breakfasts this week.)

“Waffles. You need to serve waffles for the kids,” Rich responded after my menu review. Annoyed, but in agreement that he was probably onto something, I got out Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book, his birthday gift from a few years ago. We’ve done the waffles before, and thought they were really great. They’re a yeasted waffle that’s done overnight, so it take a bit of planning.

Turns out Rich made the right call, and little Alex went nuts for them. He loved them so much when they left he was holding an entire one in his hand for their road trip back to Philadelphia. His dad wrote me this afternoon for the recipe, which reminded me it was time to share it with you guys.

As Cunningham explains, the recipe is from an early Fannie Farmer cookbook, and “is still the best waffle I know. The mixing is done the night before and all you have to do in the morning is add a couple of eggs and some baking soda. These waffles are very crisp on the outside and delicate on the inside.”

Raised Waffles from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

Ingredients

½ cup warm water

1 package dry yeast

2 cups milk, warmed

½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 eggs

¼ teaspoon baking soda

Directions

Use a rather large mixing bowl – the batter will rise to double its original volume. Put the water in the mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand to dissolve for 5 minutes.

Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar and flour to the yeast mixture and beat until smooth and blended. (Cunningham often uses a hand-rotary beater to get rid of the lumps.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.

Just before cooking the waffles, beat in the eggs, add the baking soda, and stir until well mixed. The batter will be very thin. Pour about ½ to ¾ cup batter into a very hot waffle iron. Bake the waffles until they are golden and crisp.

This batter will keep well for several days in the refrigerator.

 

Cottage Industry

Like many of you reading this, I bought a tub of cottage cheese about two months ago for Passover. I did not, however, open the tub of curds during the holiday, or in the following weeks. (I was basically vegan for the holiday, save the butter for the mandatory matzo crack.) But about six weeks after Passover ended, I decided it was time to do something with the cottage cheese, lest it rot and end up in the trash.

cheese patties

With a little tinkering, I made some very tasty sweet cheese pancakes, with a hint of vanilla. We ate all of them for dinner, and, as we were cleaning up, Rich said, “Those were really good. Were you recipe testing for Shavuot next week?” Nope, I responded, just trying to do something with the cottage cheese from April. “Do you think you could do a savory version of them?” he asked.

I was surprised, given Rich’s sweet tooth, to hear him ask for savory. But I accepted the challenge and came up with this recipe for savory cheese pancakes a few days later, in time for Shavuot. (We’re calling them pancakes, although we think we can say latke as well.) They were such a smash that we had them a few nights later for Shabbat dinner.

The key for me was bright, fresh green herbs that are such a welcome taste after this dreadful winter. I used piles of fresh basil, parsley and scallions. If you wanted to do some tinkering on your own with other herbs, I would encourage you to keep a light tone – tarragon, although I love it, sounds off to me here.

Although I served these for a holiday and Shabbat, they are actually a terrific choice for a quick weeknight meal. The batter pulls together in seconds. The thing that takes the longest is cleaning the herbs. My trick is soaking them in large bowls of cold water and letting the dirt and grit fall to the bottom of the bowl. You can even clean your herbs a few days before you use them; I keep them wrapped in a paper towel in the fridge for an easy reach when I’m cooking.

I don’t have a preferred brand of cottage cheese –I used Stop & Shop brand the first time, only because it was kosher for Passover. The second time I used Star Market’s store brand. Aleza swears by Friendship brand dairy products. I actually had salted butter in the house (from the matzo crack) which added a nice layer of flavor to the patty. If you use unsalted, be sure to adjust the seasonings.

I’m also including the sweet version of this patty just because it was a nice treat. I’m also making sure to include a photo of Lilli in this blog post because I received some complaints, offline, that she was missed in the past few posts. For all the Lilli junkies out there, feel free to follow Cheapbeets on Instagram.

Next Passover, swap out the flour for potato starch and you’re good to go.

Savory Cheese Pancakes

Ingredients

One tub cottage cheese

Three heaping tablespoons chopped basil and parsley

Three chopped scallions

½ cup flour

1 egg

Pinch salt

A few grinds of fresh black pepper

Directions

In a medium sized bowl, crack egg and whisk it. (Or do it with a fork. It doesn’t really matter.) Add the rest of the ingredients. Using both your freshly washed hands, mix everything together.

Heat a tablespoon butter (salted if you have it) in a non-stick skillet. Using your hands, grab about a golf sized ball of batter, flatten it a bit in the palms of your hands, and add it to the hot melted butter in the skillet. Fry the patty for about three minutes on each side – do not move it around or flip it for at least three minutes – give the patty the time to make a brown crust. About three minutes in, flip the pancake and fry the other side of the patty.

You should get six patties with the tub of cottage cheese. They are great warm, fresh from the pan, but also make a quick cold breakfast the next day.

For the sweet version, eliminate the herbs and salt, and add one teaspoon vanilla and no more than a tablespoon of sugar. Honey would probably be nice as well.

 

I Remembered In Time

About two days before my birthday this year, Sylvie popped up online. “Do you already own this cookbook?” she asked, sending me a link. I told her I didn’t but that it looked promising. She was pleased and apologized for being so blunt. The next day, the cookbook arrived.

The Passover recipes – more than 45, the front cover boasted – looked great. Literally — I must have flipped to the recipe for the lemon tart with basil nut crust and gazed at the photo every night for about a week. Alas, the recipe called for a candy thermometer, and I didn’t own one that is kosher for Passover. Also, I don’t have time to stir a lemon cream for 30 minutes. Maybe when Lilli is 6.

Cheese Babka

But while I had the cookbook out, I figured it made sense to check out the Shavuot recipes, as that was the next holiday to think about. I settled on the cheese babka, and then promptly forgot about it until last week, when I started poking around my cookbooks for cheesecake recipes. You’ll be pleased to know I remembered this recipe in time, and, actually put it together this morning while Lilli and I hung out. If I’m going to be up before 6AM on a Sunday, I might as well get a babka out of it.

Now, you’re probably wondering, if she doesn’t have time for a lemon tart, why would she make a babka, which calls for yeast? I’ve discovered that yeasted things are actually a safe bet because it’s just a matter of putting together a dough and then literally walking away for at least an hour to do what needs to be done. In our house, that probably means watching Cookie Monster on Youtube.

I have to say, this recipe is flawed. Things like what sort of pan to bake the pastry on were flat out missing from the instructions. As I tested the recipe I kept thinking I wasn’t going to actually end up talking about it. But then I removed a golden ring of light, sweet pastry from the oven and all was forgiven.

I’m posting this up tonight in hopes you’ll get a chance to make it in time for the start of Shavuot on Tuesday night. I had everything already in the house. I hope you do too.

A few things about the recipe: My dough did not rise after 45 minutes so I turned my oven on to 275F and placed the metal bowl on top of the stove for another 45 minutes. If it had been winter, I would have just put it over the heating grate; that always works. My cream cheese filling did not come together the way it was supposed to, but I’ve had that problem before when baking with cream cheese. I ended up putting the wet mess of cheese in the freezer while I made the topping and the dough continued to rise. But the results were great, and I’m sure your cream cheese mixture will be just fine.

Cheese Babka from The Holiday Kosher Baker by Paula Shoyer

Dough

1/3 cup (80 ml) milk

¼ ounce (1 envelope; 7g) dry yeast

¼ cup (50g) plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided

2 ½ cups (315g) all-purpose flour, plus one tablespoon, if needed, plus extra for dusting

½ cup (1 stick; 113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature 30 minutes

1 large egg plus 1 white (reserve yolk for glazing)

Filling

8 ounces (230g) cream cheese (not whipped)

½ cup (100g) sugar

1 large egg, divided

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Crumbs

½ cup (65g) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (75g) light brown sugar, packed (I only had dark and had no complaints)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter

To make the dough

Heat the milk over the stovetop or in a microwave oven until warm, not boiling. Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, until thick. Add the remaining ¼ cup (50g) sugar, 2 ½ cups (315g) flour, butter, and egg plus one white. Combine the ingredients with a wooden spoon or with a dough hook in a stand mixer on low speed until they are all mixed together. If the dough sticks to the bowl, add the additional tablespoon of flour and mix it in; the dough should come together into a ball. Cover the bowl with plastic and let the dough rise for one hour.

To make the filling

MEANWHILE, remove the cream cheese from the fridge and put it in a medium bowl. Let the cream cheese soften for 45 minutes. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla and combine using an electric mixer. (I moved the dough to another large metal bowl, washed the mixing bowl and used it for this part of the recipe.) Cover and place in the fridge until the dough is ready.

To make the crumbs and bake the babka

MIX THE FLOUR , brown sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Add the butter and rub the mixture between your fingers until you have small clumps. Set the bowl aside.

PREHEAT OVEN to 375F (190C). Sprinkle a 12×14-inch (30×36-cm) piece of parchment paper with flour. Roll the dough on top of the parchment paper until you have a 12×14 inch (30×36-cn) rectangle. Sprinkle more flour on the parchment paper if the dough sticks to the rolling pin. Remove the filling from the fridge and use a silicone spatula to spread it evenly over the dough. Roll the dough up the long way. Bring the ends together into a large ring, and press them together. Use a sharp knife to make cuts in the dough, every inch or so, on the outside of the ring, but cut only about three-quarters of the way into the ring, not all the way through. After you have made all the cuts, pull the slices apart slightly and turn each one so the swirl part is facing the next slice, partly facing up. Repeat all the way around.

The recipe falters here, but I moved the ring to large rimmed baking sheet covered with a silpat liner. If you can manage to get that piece of parchment paper you’re working on on to a rimmed baking sheet that will also work.

BRUSH THE DOUGH all over with the remaining egg yolk mixed with a teaspoon of water. Sprinkle with the crumbs. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden. Let it cool for about 20 minutes. Store covered at room temperature for up to three days or freeze for up to three months. Reheat to serve.