Chocolate Filled Sweet Braid

My percentages of Bread Wins have improved…but I am still far from being a competent bread maker.  More and more I get the feeling that this, in particular, is going to be a life long endeavor.  So if I embrace the philosophy that it’s a marathon and not a sprint, then I’m just happy to make it to the next mile marker.  Doesn’t really matter how many miles are behind me, I’m one step closer to the finish line.

I never would have had the courage to try Chocolate Filled Sweet Braid had it not been for two of my favorite local bloggers, Beth and Lan.  These ladies and I attended a free demonstration put on by King Arthur Flour a few months ago.  The truth is, I probably wouldn’t have gone by myself so it’s only by grace of the fact that they joined me that I went at all…I can be a little introverted that way.  If you happened to be at the Holiday Inn by MOM’S that night, we were the ones causing all kinds of trouble in the front row.  After seeing the uber talented KAF staffer breeze through the dough, I started to think maybe I could too.  I left the demo armed with a shot of confidence, a recipe, and a packet of Red Star Yeast.

Since this is me we’re talking about, you know that I had to have at least one bump in the road to Chocolate Filled Sweet Bread.  And it was a pretty big one.  Once I had done the math to scale the recipe in half and had myself all nicely mis en placed, my sponge didn’t start.  There was no bubbly action going on that I could see.  So I set that bowl aside and started again.  This time the sponge developed some lovely bubbly froth and I was in business.  Maybe the first sponge’s lack of cooperation was The Universe challenging me to see how committed I was to the task at hand.  Or maybe I just manged to mangle things.

Either way, the point is that I persevered…and I marked this particular mile with Chocolate Filled Sweet Braid.

Sweet Braid Dough

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Sponge

  • 1 ounce unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3 ounces warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Dough

  • all of the sponge
  • 3 ounces plain low fat yogurt or buttermilk
  • 2 ounces butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 ounces sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or citrus zest
  • 9 to 12 ounces unbleached all purpose flour

Filling

  • 5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 ounces sugar
  • 2 ounces sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the sponge, combine the warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl and stir to dissolve.  Stir in the yeast and 1/4 cup flour.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for about 15 minutes or until bubbly.

In a large bowl, combine the sponge, yogurt or buttermilk, butter, eggs, remaining sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Once the dough pulls away from the bowl, stop adding flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead with lightly floured hands for 5 minutes until pliable and soft but not sticky.  Spray the bowl you mixed the dough in with nonstick cooking spray while you let the dough rest.  Continue to knead the dough until it is smooth and springy (if you gently make an indentation into the dough with your finger the dough will spring back).

Return the dough to the greased bowl, turn to coat it with the nonstick spray and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a dish towel.  Let the dough sit in a warm place for approximately 1 1/2 hours or until doubled.

Gently deflate the dough and roll into a rectangle approximately 10 x 14 on a sheet of parchment paper.  Using a butter knife or plastic bench scraper, gently score the dough so that it is divided into thirds.  Be sure not to cut through the dough, you just want to mark it for reference.  Cut notches out of each of the four corners and then use your butter knife or bench scraper to cut 1″ wide strips in the two outer thirds of the dough.  The center of your dough will be “fringed” with the strips on each side.  Try to get your strips to line up as much as possible on each side.

Stir 1 tablespoon all purpose flour into half of the prepared filling and spread over the center third of the dough, leaving 1″ at the top and bottom uncovered.  Reserve the other half of the filling for another use.  Sprinkle 6 ounces chocolate chips over the filling.

Fold the top and bottom flaps down over the filling and then bring the strips of dough fringe across the filling on a diagonal, alternating from side to side.  Press and pinch each strip into the side of the dough as you go until the loaf is braided.

Brush the top of the braid with an egg wash of one egg beaten with one tablespoon water and sprinkle the top with coarse sugar.  Loosely cover the braid with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes or until puffed.

While the braid rests and proofs, heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Uncover the braid and slide the sheet of parchment onto a half sheet pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and the internal temperature registers 190 degrees on an instant read thermometer.  Transfer the braid still on the parchment to a rack to cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

{printable recipe}

Applesauce Spice Cake

To stay on top of the blog, I make a concerted effort to write my posts as soon as possible after making a recipe.  I like to cook, photograph, and write within 24 hours.  Otherwise, I get disorganized.  And when I get disorganized, there’s no help for me.

I am just now starting to make sense of the mess of recipes that have been accumulating both on my computer desk and in my “drafts” folder since the end of last year.  What I’m finding is that I’m lucky if I remembered to make some kind of comment, no matter how cryptic, to provide useful insight or commentary on the recipes.  More often than not, I didn’t.

I’m talking about months’ worth of cooking and eating commentary, gone forever.  I’ll be honest, my first inclination is to freak the hell out.  But thanks to the savvy marketing of Keep Calm and Carry On, I can let the stoic British spirit be my guide.  So what if I don’t have a picture, or a bit of wisdom, to append to my post.  I must carry on.

So no, there is no photo available for applesauce spice cake.  Besides, what you really need in order to fall in love with this cake is scratch and sniff.  Sure it’s a beauty to behold but the aroma of the spices is the real show stopper.

Applesauce Spice Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

BAH Note: I made this in a 9 inch round cake pan but according to my pal Beth at 990 square, there is enough batter to make a full size bundt.  Either choice you make, you can’t go wrong.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1 /2 cups unsweetened applesauce

Heat oven to 350 degrees and spray your cake pan with a nonstick spray that includes flour.  If using a round cake pan, you can also line the bottom with a piece of parchment.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl.  In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until pale and fluffy, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the applesauce and mix to combine.

Reduce the mixer to low speed, add the flour, and mix until just combined.

Spread the batter into your prepared pan and bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes then turn the cake out onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Beth’s Cream Cheese Glaze

Adapted from 990 Square

  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla until fluffy.  Add the half and half slowly until the glaze is your desired consistency.  Spread on top of your cooled cake and garnish with the allspice.

{printable recipe}

God Doesn’t Make Mushy Peas

Fresh Peas

There’s been some lively discussion among the Baltimore Food Bloggers recently about peas.  Not just any peas.  Fresh picked peas. From the Farmers Market.  To quote Noel of 990 Square, “And if you have never had peas from the pealady – you simply don’t know what you’re missing. These are the best peas ever. And they never fail to disappoint. These peas are to pea-experiences what the chicken I had in Florence was to eating poultry. A revelation. Am I exaggerating? Check out the line they garner every Sunday – it’s bigger than the Zeke’s line….. and doesn’t really die down until the peas are gone. People ask – why’s the line so long? And you know they have never had these peas. Because if they had, they’d be in line and not asking stupid questions. The line’s long; it’s because it’s good.” Continue reading “God Doesn’t Make Mushy Peas”

Chicken With Wild Rice Soup

image from http://www.istockphoto.com

Earlier this year I had sinus surgery.  For whatever reason, I completely underestimated how completely wiped out I would feel after my little procedure.  I had figured that a couple of days later I would be bouncing around full steam ahead.  The reality was quite different.  It was all I could do to take a shower and get dressed.  Darvocet became my best friend.  We spent quality time together camped out on the sofa.  We drank Diet Coke and lots of smoothies.  We watched crappy daytime television.  And we discovered that bad haircut aside, Holden Snyder looks almost exactly the same in 2010 as he did in 1995 when we last caught an episode of As The World Turns.  Cooking was the last thing on my mind.  But since mine is not the only mouth in this house, and the food doesn’t just magically appear, I had to come up with something for The Mistah to eat besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Continue reading “Chicken With Wild Rice Soup”

Yeast 1 – BAH 1

At the end of 2009, I had to shoot my mouth off and say that I had decided to face my fear of yeast.  I even suggested to The Mistah that The Bread Bible would make a great Christmas gift and sure enough, there was a copy of it under our tree.  And as I sit here typing, that book hasn’t been opened.  Not even once.  Come on, it’s a little overwhelming to take on a project that involves reading a Bible, I don’t care what kind it is.  Bibles are serious stuff, not to be taken lightly, and I’m not yet ready to make the commitment that a Bible requires.  Maybe if we all took our Bible study a little more seriously, even our Bread Bible study, the world would be a different place.  For one, maybe we would be enjoying more homemade popovers, rolls, and english muffins.  And who wouldn’t want to live in a world like that? Continue reading “Yeast 1 – BAH 1”

You Might Be A Food Blogger If…

Tartlets

Ask yourself these questions:

Do you instinctively reach for a camera when a meal is plated?  You might be a food blogger.

Do you push people out of your kitchen so that you can get that picture before the food cools off?  You might be a food blogger.

Do you study which side of your cake, steak, bread, or fish has the best profile?  You might be a food blogger.

Do you track blog hits like other people track the stock market?  You might be a (food) blogger.

Do you find yourself blogging, emailing, or tweeting about the latest episode of Top Chef?  You might be a food blogger.

Do you worry about what the next social networking craze is going to be because it means you’ll have to set up yet another online presence?  You might be a (food) blogger.

Do you refer to people in conversation as Sweet Mary, Dining Dish, or Strawberries in Paris as though that really is their name?  You might be a food blogger.

Do you appreciate the beauty of a Printable Recipe widget? You might be a food blogger.

Do you have nightmares about a certain bowtied cooking show hosts showing up on your doorstep for a smackdown?  You might be a food blogger.  Oh wait, maybe that’s just me. Continue reading “You Might Be A Food Blogger If…”