Chocolate & Almond Babka (Vegan)



I can’t even begin to describe my passion for any kind of brioche. I simply adore them. I love the simple version, the chocolate one, the one with walnuts, or poppy seeds, or Turkish delight, or coconut meringue. Any kind, really. I’m not picky at all.  One of my favourite recipes is Babka, chocolate brioche with Polish origins. So I decided to make a vegan version and the result vas a fluffy golden brioche with a decadent chocolate-almond filling. A vegan brioche which is not only looks incredible but also tastes absolutely amazing.

Ingredients (for 2 loaves):

500g all-purpose flour

250ml almond milk

90ml safflower oil

1 satchel active dry yeast

120g powdered sugar

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp turmenic

1 tsp vanilla extract

zest of 1 orange

for the filling:

100g dark chocolate

100g ground almonds

60ml coconut oil

50g powdered sugar

30g cocoa powder


Method:

Mix sugar with lukewarm milk and stir until combined. Add yeast and leave aside for 15 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl sift the flour together with the turmenic powder. Add the milk mixture, orange zest and vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the salt and continue mixing until you form a ball.

Turn the dough on to a floured working surface and knead adding one teaspoon of butter at a time. Knead for 15 minutes adding flour if necessary. Put dough back in the mixing bowl, cover with a towel and let it rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes.

Prepare the filling by melting the chocolate and the coconut oil in the microwave. Ass the sifted cocoa and powdered sugar. Mix until well combined.

Put dough on a floured working surface and knead for 2 minutes. Divide it into 2 smaller balls.

Take the first ball and toll it out with a rolling pin until you have a 1cm thick rectangle making sure it has the same length as the tray.

Spread ½ the quantity of the chocolate cream over it, leaving a 2cm wide clean border. Sprinkle half of the almonds over the chocolate cream.

Brush the left border with almond milk. Begin rolling the loaf from right to left, making sure the left end sticks well. Take a sharp knife and divide the log into two halves. Take one end and begin twisting them. Place the loaf in a parchment paper- lined tray and proceed the same with the second brioche.

Cover them with a clean towel and leave the aside to rise for another 60 minutes. Bake them in the preheated oven at 180°C / 350°F (gas mark 4) for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Let them cool down on a wire rack for at least 2 hours until slicing.

Challah Bread

Challah is a braided bread made traditionally in the Jewish cuisine. This spectacular bread has a golden-brown, shiny crust and a airy and pilowy slightly sweet interior. It’s more than possible I’ve made challah more than two dozen times, in fact I bake it each and every time I want to surprise my guests. Beside the wow factor, this bread surprizes with its amazing taste as well.

Besides the usual ingredients, such as flour, water, salt, yeast and sugar, this bread is usually enriched with vegetable oil or melted butter and eggs,  which give challah a golden color and an unmistakable richness. These ingredients also allow this bread to remain soft for several days. If you’ve never tried to make challah before, I encourage you with all my heart to give it a try!

Ingredients (for a 45x15cm loaf):

  • 630g all-purpose flour (22 oz)
  • 225ml lukewarm water (8 oz)
  • 1 satchel active dry yeast (7g)
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar (30g)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (8g)
  • 55ml vegetable oil (2 oz)
  • 4 egg (2 egg + 1 yolk for the dough and 1 egg for the wash)
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp poppy seeds

Method:

  1. Activate the yeast. In a small bowl combine water, sugar and yeast and let aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the mixture should be frothy.
  2. Form the dough. In a large bowl sift the flour and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture (point 1) and the oil, 2 eggs and 1 yolk and mix with a wooden spatula. Add the salt and continue mixing until you form a ball.
  3. Knead the dough. Bring the dough on a floured working surface and knead it for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, the dough should be smooth.
  4. Let the dough rise. Place dough in the bowl, cover with a clean towel and let it rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes (or until doubled in size).
  5. After 90 minutes, place the dough back on the working surface and knead vigorously to knock out the air bubbles.
  6. Form the ropes. Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Elongate each ball of dough with your hands until you form a 45cm rope. Proceed the same with the rest of the dough.
  7. Braid the loaf. For a six-rope braid, I’ll leave you below the step by step pictures, as well as a gif.
  8. Preheat the the oven at 180°C / 350°F (gas mark 4).
  9. Place the loaf on a parchment paper-lined tray. Cover with a clean towel and let it rise for about 45 – 60 minutes.
  10. After about 1 hour give the apply egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
  11. Bake it in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  12. Place it on a wire rack and let it cool down for about 30 minutes before slicing.

Source: www.thekitchn.com

Česnica with Homemade Phyllo Dough – Traditional Serbian Christmas Pie

Cesnica is a wonderful dessert made in the Serbian households on Christmas Eve. Two years ago I prepared it using store bough phyllo pastry, showing you an easy, no fuss way to make it. This year I decided to step up my game and make it old school, from scratch, just like my beloved grandmother used to. The person who prepares this delicious dessert always hides a coin inside it. The coin brings luck to whomever finds it.

I couldn’t have been more than seven when I saw my grandmother make the dough from scratch for the last time (it is quite labor intensive). But those images are still alive in my memory like an old black and while movie that goes on and on in my mind. This charming old movie marked my childhood more than anything else. I still remember vividly all the steps, sifting the flour, melting the lard, kneading the dough, leaving it to rest, grinding the walnuts, placing the tablecloth, pulling the dough, making the walnut filling, placing that shiny coin, cutting the pie, baking it to perfection…

Since it’s been quite a while since I last saw my grandmother making it from scratch, there was a solid chance that my memory could play some tricks on me, so I interviewed several women from the Serbian community, so this recipe is a fusion between my personal knowledge and their wonderful tricks learnt from a lifetime experience.

 

Ingredients (for a 30x22cm tray, which means 20 servings):

for the pastry:

  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 255ml lukewarm water (beetween 36 – 38°C)
  • 75ml any neutral vegetable oil / melted pork lard
  • 10ml vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp salt

 

for greasing the pastry sheets:

  • 45ml any neutral vegetable oil / melted pork lard – 3 Tbsp
  • 45ml milk 3 – Tbsp
  • 3 Tbsp honey (optional)

 

for the filling

  • 300g walnuts
  • 225 white granulated sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 3 coins (washed with water and soap and sterilized by boiling)

Method:

  1. In a large bowl sift the flour and salt and make a well in the center.
  2. Add the oil, water vinegar and mix with a fork until you form a ball. Knead the bowl of dough in the bowl for 3 minutes, or until the surface is smooth.
  3. Place the dough on a working surface and knead it vigorously with your hands. Slap the dough down to the working surface for 50 times.Wrap the dough in a plastic bag, cover it with a clean towel and and let it rest for 1 – 2 hours (resting the dough is vital for relaxing the gluten).
  4. Sterilize the coins by boiling them in hot water for 30 minutes.
  5. Grind the walnuts and zest the lemon. Take two bowls. Mix walnuts, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl. In another bowl mix the oil with the milk.
  6. Take a large tray and line it with parchment paper.
  7. After the dough has rested I divide it into 3 relatively equal pieces. Leave one piece of dough on the working surface and place the other two in the same plastic bag.
  8. Place the first piece of dough on the floured working surface and roll it with the rolling pin until it gets about 1/2 cm thick.
  9. Cover the table with a clean table cloth (a clean sheet does the trick as well). Place the back of your hand under the sheet of dough and I begin stretching it from the center to the outer edges, working your way around the sheet of dough. If you don’t feel the sheet moving, let it relax for a few moments. It is ready when it’s so thin that you can read the newspaper under it. Take a knife or a pizza cutter and cut it into 4 equal pieces.
  10. Take one sheet, place it in a tray, remove the thicker outer edges with a knife and grease it with the milk mixture. Place the second sheet on top and grease it as well.
  11. Over the second sheet sprinkle about two handfulls of walnut mixture.
  12. Cover the walnut mixture with the third sheet, grease it as well and sprinkle a handful of walnuts.
  13. Continue with the layers until you place the sixth sheet. Grease it, sprinkle a handfull of walnuts and place the coins.
  14. Proceed the same until you reached the 10th sheet, grease it and sprinkle it with the remaining walnut mixture.
  15. Cover it with the eleventh sheet, grease it  cover with the last one. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the surface of the pie into 20 squares. Grease it with the milk mixture and bake in the preheated oven at 375°F/190°C (gas mark 5) for 30 minutes or until golden.
  16. Remove it from the oven and pour on top of it a mixture made form 3 Tbsp honey and 1 Tbsp water. Cover it with a towel and let it cool. This step is totally optional, some households prefer it moist, while other households love it dry.

 











Mocha Cake (Coffee Cake with Whipped Ganache Cream)

cake

cake-slice

sponges

chocolate

Today VespressoCooking turns 1. I can’t believe it! I have no idea how time flew by but it did, and I’m so glad I had the courage to launch myself, head first, in this project. It was such a wild year, I shifted my career, I discovered my infinite passion for photography, I’ve created a poultry microfarm, I graduated from culinary school and became a chef. I hope I don’t sound cheesy but I feel the need to thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for every visit, for every line that you’ve read and for every recipe that you’ve saved!

Whenever there’s an anniversary, there has to be a cake, and this particular cake is nothing but extraordinary. It is a chocolate and coffee cake, a mocha delight, if you will. It is a well known fact that coffee and chocolate are a match made in heaven but this cake somehow surprises me with every slice. The sponge is the perfect balance between dense and airy and the whipped ganache is simply divine.

The sponge is in fact „torta al Caffé”, an Italian coffee cake. This particular sponge is very popular in northern Italy, and it’s served for colazione, breakfast that is. I felt in love with its texture and its taste at first bite and I wished I could make it in my own kitchen. Persuasive as I am, I convinced the pastry chef (which happens to be a close friend) to give me the recipe and since then I’ve been been baking it at least twice a month.

There’s not much to say about the ganache. Ganache is a cake filling made with chocolate melted in warm whipping cream. The proportion of those two ingredients give the ganache its texture. I use the following scheme: Continue reading Mocha Cake (Coffee Cake with Whipped Ganache Cream)