Friday, June 24, 2016

Peanut Butter & Jelly!

You've seen several of my documented attempts at a Peanut Butter & Jelly Babka on here recently.  I haven't posted the last few attempts because it's really gotten out of hand.  I don't need to document every detail of my insane obsession.  But, I don't regret any of the attempts because they have brought me to a recipe that I am proud to share with you!

The pb&j babka has four components: bread, jelly filling, peanut butter filling, and streusel topping. None of the components are difficult. Just break it down and attack one at a time.  

Dough Recipe adapted from Food & Wine
Makes 2 Babkas

The night before you get to eat babka, you make the dough...

Dough Ingredients
4 cups flour
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup whole milk, warmed
2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut in to tablespoon sized pieces

Dough Method
In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.  Set aside.

Combine the milk and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Wait about 5 minutes for it to become foamy.

Add eggs to the milk and yeast mixture, and pour the dry ingredients on top.

Mix slowly with the dough hook attachment until the ingredients are all incorporated.

Let the dough continue kneading.  You can do this at a high or low speed, whichever you prefer.  Knead the dough until it is smooth and springs back if you poke it.

Add the butter in all at once.  Mix until the butter is fully incorporated.  You will have a sticky, but smooth, dough.  This may take some time.  Scrape down the bowl often, and keep going.  It will come together.

Cover the dough and let it stand for 1 hour.

Line a baking sheet with parchement paper.  Spray it with a non-stick spray.  Divide the dough in half, pat them in to two rectangles on the pan.  Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, make your fillings...

Jelly Filling Ingredients
1 ounce package freeze-dried strawberries
5/8 cup strawberry jelly or seedless jam

Jelly Filling Method
In a blender or food processor, pulse the strawberries until they are a fine powder.

Add the jelly to the berries and mix until combined and smooth.

Peanut Butter Filling Ingredients
2/3 cup (176 g) creamy peanut butter
4 tablespoons butter
2 tbsp sugar

Peanut Butter Filling Method
Combine the peanut butter, butter, and sugar in  the bowl of a stand mixer.  With the paddle attachment, mix until smooth.  The sugar doesn't need to be dissolved, but there should not be any clumps.

Streusel Ingredients
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons flour

Streusel Method
Using a fork, combine sugar, butter, and peanut butter.  Add in flour and mix until crumbly.  Chill in the refrigerator.

Assemble and Bake the Babkas
Prepare your loaf pans by spraying with non-stick spray and lining the centers with parchment paper.

On a floured surface, roll out the first rectangle to about 16 x 18 inches.  You want the dough to be about a 1/4 inch thick.

Spread the dough with the peanut butter filling.  It should be evenly spread and not too thick.  Leave a tiny bit of dough uncovered on one of the long edges.  Brush that uncovered dough lightly with water.

Tightly roll up your dough starting at the other long end.  Seal with the dampened edge.  Carefully set this log aside.

Repeat the process with the other rectangle of dough.  Spread that dough with the jelly filling.

Cut each log in half.  Now you have four logs.

Carefully twist one jelly log with one peanut butter log.  Repeat.  Place each twist in to a prepared pan.  Cover with a towel and let rise for 2 hours.

After two hours, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Brush the babkas with an egg wash (1 egg mixed with a splash of water).  Sprinkle with streusel.  If it is falling off, you may need to press it on lightly.

Bake the babkas for about 45 minutes.  They should be deeply golden.  If you have a thermometer, test the temperature.  It should be 200 degrees F or even a little higher.

Cool for a few minutes in the pan.  Then, use the parchment to lift out your babkas to cool on a wire rack.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Latte Freaking Art

I find latte art to be a nearly impossible skill. All kinds of foul language fills my brain when I attempt to create a flower on the top of my coffee. The horrible results sometimes make me laugh, but other times they fill me with rage. I've watched videos, and I've read tutorials. So far, the closest I can get is a white blob that looks like bird crap. Gross. Maybe one day I will figure out where I'm going wrong. Until then, I'll just keep at it.

Please feel free to share any tips. I'll try most anything. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Growing Out a Curly Pixie, 7 months

Wow! I can't believe I'm seven months in to this process. Part of me feels like I should have Lady Godiva hair by now, but mostly I'm pleased with the progress. 

Here it is from one side...

Here it is from the other side...

I don't care for the way it looks above, but I wanted to show the length. I like it tucked behind my ears more...

The curls are way more full now, but the spirals mean it takes forever to see a major change in length. 

*Posting from my cell, and it's a pain to add in links. If you want to see previous months, use the tags below. Thanks. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


I haven't had much blogging time lately, but I have been busy baking. I'll have some more meaty posts soon, but, for now, here's some fluff. 

I've been playing around with royal icing. 

Cranking out some savory tarts...

Scaring off any bad vibes with an evil eye cake...

Other than that, My hair is still growing. Post on that coming soon. Final PB & J Babka post coming soon. And, maybe a millionaire sugar cookie post too. Stay cool. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Baking for Pleasure

I was recently asked by a curious neighbor why I bake so much?  I went on a mental journey to figure out the meaning of my baking.  

So, here I go.  This is why I bake...

Sometimes I bake because I want to treat my loved ones.  Sometimes I bake because I want to satisfy a craving.  Sometimes I bake because I'm trying to practice a recipe, or because I want to test a change to a recipe.  However, most of all, baking brings me joy.  

I like the process, start to finish.  I really enjoy finding recipes.  I like to read the stories that are attached to them.  I like to read through the recipes, and I think about the actions that they require.  From there, I enjoy the prep work.  Measuring, sifting, gathering...all fun.  

Combining the ingredients is one of the obvious fun parts.  Humans love pouring, drizzling, and dumping things.  I watch my kids play in the water, and this is what they do.  They pour water from cup to cup with such focus.  Baking is my chance to play in an adult way.  It's not really socially acceptable for adults to sit around playing with cups of water. Ha.

When things are baking in the oven, I peek through the window a ridiculous number of times.  I like the anticipation.  So exciting!

Finishing touches, like frosting, are where I get to pretend to be an artist for a moment.  I've normally run out of time at this point, but I could really get crazy if I didn't have other obligations.  

Finally, I am so pleased to pause and enjoy the finished product.  I like that baked goods are temporary.  They bring me in to the present moment.  They are enjoyed, and then I move on.  

So, there's my long winded answer to why I bake.  The short answer: it's my pleasure.

Wait, one final note.  There is a part of baking that I don't really love...washing all of the dishes. Ugh.

This sweet cake was made purely for pleasure.  It's carrot cake with chocolate and vanilla icing.  I wanted to try my idea for making stripes, so this was my chance.  I'll post more about how it's done sometime soon.

My roses still look like carnations, but they were fun to make.  I sat on the floor so that my daughter could watch as I piped them.  She was really impressed. :) 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Peanut Butter & Jelly Babka...fourth attempt

I didn't take any beautiful pictures of this one. The main goal was to try out a different method for the peanut butter filling. I spread the peanut butter on to the dough. Then, I sprinkled the brown sugar. I went really light on the sugar. Next time, I'll add a bit more, but overall this method was way easier than mixing the sugar and pb before spreading. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Peanut Butter & Jelly Babka...third attempt

This time I skipped the streusel because I was wanting to try a different peanut butter filling and I didn't want to use up more peanut butter than necessary. As a pleasant surprise, the smooth top was attractive. I egg washed it after the second rise, and it created a tender top crust that I really liked. Hmm, now the streusel is in question too! 

As for the peanut butter filling, it was no longer crackly! It stayed smooth and creamy. It was a mixture of 2/3 c peanut butter with 1 c of brown sugar. It was a little sweeter than I would have liked, and parts of it were heavy. The heaviness caused the layers to collapse in places. Next time I will try it with a little less sugar. Hopefully it will be creamy, not too sweet, and not too heavy. I don't think that's too much to ask! :)