Friday, December 2, 2011

Chocolate Coffee Cake, AKA Chocolate Babka

This is my all time favorite chocolate coffee cake. It isn't hard to make, it just takes a lot of time. The upside is that it makes 3 loaves so you have 1 for you and 2 to give to as gifts. Or, if you really loves these, freeze the other two and pull them out as needed. Please note that coffee cake is never as good as it is when it is freshly made. This is a big serving and in my opinion it is best when you serve it people you really, really like. Or really want to impress!

So here it is, Martha Stewart's....

Chocolate Babka

When shaping the babka, twist dough evenly throughout the length of the roll a full 5 to 6 turns. The babka can be prepared up to step 8 and frozen for up to a month before baking. When ready to bake, remove from freezer; let stand at room temperature for about 5 hours, and bake.
Martha Stewart Living, May 2000
  • Yield Makes 3 loaves


  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk, 110 degrees
  • 2 (1/4 ounce each) packages active dry yeast
  • 1 3/4 cups plus a pinch of sugar
  • 3 whole large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for bowl and loaf pans
  • 2 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Streusel Topping (at bottom of page)


  1. Pour warm milk into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar over milk; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and egg yolks. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add egg mixture, and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Change to the dough hook. Add 2 sticks butter, and beat until flour mixture and butter are completely incorporated, and a smooth, soft dough that's slightly sticky when squeezed is formed, about 10 minutes.
  4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few turns until smooth. Butter a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  5. Place chocolate, remaining cup sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut in remaining 1 1/2 sticks butter until well combined; set filling aside.
  6. Generously butter three 9-by-5-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pans; line them with parchment paper. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon cream; set egg wash aside. Punch back the dough, and transfer to a clean surface. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Keep 2 pieces covered with plastic wrap while working with the remaining piece. On a generously floured surface, roll dough out into a 16-inch square; it should be 1/8 inch thick.
  7. Brush edges with reserved egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of the reserved chocolate filling evenly over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Refresh egg wash if needed. Roll dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch ends together to seal. Twist 5 or 6 turns. Brush top of roll with egg wash. Carefully crumble 2 tablespoons filling over the left half of the roll, being careful not to let mixture slide off. Fold right half of the roll over onto the coated left half. Fold ends under, and pinch to seal. Twist roll 2 turns, and fit into prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of dough and remaining filling.
  8. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of streusel topping over each loaf. Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place 20 to 30 minutes.
  9. Bake loaves, rotating halfway through, until golden, about 55 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until babkas are deep golden, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from oven, and transfer to wire racks until cool. Remove from pans; serve.
  • Yield Makes 3 3/4 cups

Streusel Topping


  • 1 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature


  1. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, and butter. Using a fork, stir until fully combined with clumps ranging in size from crumbs to 1 inch.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Dinner for Lions

Tonight Tim has Lions and he has asked me to make dinner for them. So he promised everyone meatloaf, so I'll be making that later today. I love to combine beef and pork together (50/50) with whatever else sounds good at the moment. I usually add egg, breadcrumbs, parsley and onions (and of course salt and pepper!) what comes after that is the mystery! I have picked up a good little trick along the way: Pinch off a small piece of the meatloaf mixture and fry it up in a pan with some oil. This is your best way of finding out what your meatloaf needs while you are still in a position to fix it!

Of course you can't just have meatloaf for dinner. You have to have potatoes. But I am not much of a fan of gravy. Don't get me wrong, I love a good gravy, but I just don't feel like making any. So I picked up box of sweet potatoes instead. I was going to bake, skin and mash them but I think my life will be infinity easier if I just bake them and let everyone do what they want to them.

I will do something for a salad, not sure yet what that will be. I am also going to send some rolls along for dinner. I loooooove me some dinner rolls with a thick slice of butter melting in the middle of a roll. Mmmmmmm. So here are te rolls I am going to make for this evening. I wanted something simple that wouldn't take a lot of my time shaping and rising and rolling and all that stuff. So I chose these: Classic Dinner Rolls - Fine Cooking Recipes, Techniques and Tips.

Lastly, my favorite part of almost any meal is dessert! I wanted to bake a cake, but unless I use a mix I have run out of time. So I think I'll make some bar cookies that I have been eyeing in "Baked: New Frontiers in Bakin" by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, their Peanut Butter Crispy Bars (page 133, if you have the book). I think I will also send the leftover chocolate truffles from Linda and Steve's 40's Wedding Anniversary Party. Now that was fun!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Super Easy Crockpot Pork Tenderloin

My step-mother-in-law (love you, Joyce!) used to make a great slow-cooker pork for Sunday dinner when the family would go to visit her and dad in Ramona. (Unfortunately for us, she moved to Texas and took her yummy down home cooking with her.) Joyce said she just threw it in with some water and a package of onion soup mix and cooked it, but it sure didn't taste that way. I always thought it was something special. The meat was juicy without being yet, and came apart in chucks just the right size. So, finally, I decided I would believe her, that it was really that easy, and make her famous slow-cooker pork for dinner.

Well. I did it. And I have to say (and my husband agrees), that mine was just as good as hers, and maybe even better!

Here is what I did, and what you can do to update this old family classic and stand-by. Feel free to tweak this to make it your something special. Think of this dish as your After Church/Work/Soccer Practice/Ballet Class/Carpool/Or Whatever Pork Tenderloin

1. In the crockpot your going to cook your pork in, add 1 cup of chicken broth. Homemade is best, but low-sodium from the store will do just fine.

2. To the chicken broth add 1 package of brown onion soup mix, the type typically use to make onion dip. Next add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce and 4 tablespoons of soy sauce. Mix this up and let sit while you work on Step 3.

3. In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite cooking oil, I like olive oil. Pat the pork dry with a paper towel and add the pork to the hot grease. Let the pork sir undisturbed for several minutes to brown the outsides to give the meat some color. Your're not trying to cook it. Just give it some color so you don't pull out a monotone piece of meat later on.

4. Once the meat is lightly browned remove it from the pan and lower it into the chicken broth and onion soup mix. Add more chicken broth until the meat is covered. You may also add some water in place of broth, if you so desire.

5. Cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6 hours. Test meat for doneness. The best way to see if the pork is cooked through is to use an instant read thermometer. Test the meat in the very center. The thermometer should read 145 degrees. (You can find inexpensive instant read thermometers at restaurant supply stores. They also sell them in the baking aisle of most grocery stores and in the cooking section of most department stores as well as many discount stores such as Target and Walmart.) If you don't have a thermometer, use 2 forks to see if the meat is done. The meat should flake apart and there should be no pink inside.

The pork is great with mash potatoes or even a side of rice. Add a bag of salad and you have an easy dinner for the family that only requires the minimum of prep.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Quick Chicken Parmesan

If you love ordering chicken parmesan when you go out to eat at an Italian restaurant, then you are going to love this...and you'll start to look for other things on the menu to try at that restaurant. Honest. This is just that good and that easy to make.

Quick Chicken Parmesan

Serves 4

Click here to find out more!
Nonstick cooking spray
2-1/4 oz. (1/2 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
4 thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets (about 14 oz.)
Kosher salt
5 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (use the small holes on a box grater)
4 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
One 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes (preferably Muir Glen fire-roasted crushed tomatoes)
1/4 cup packed fresh basil, chopped (1/2 oz.)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the flour and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a wide, shallow dish. In a second wide, shallow dish, lightly beat the eggs with 1 Tbs. water. Put the panko in a third wide, shallow dish. Season the chicken with salt and coat each piece in the flour, tapping off the excess, then the egg, and then the panko, pressing the panko to help it adhere.

Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, cook the chicken, flipping once, until the crumbs are golden and the chicken is almost cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side, adding 2 Tbs. more oil for the second batch. Transfer the chicken to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the chicken with the Parmigiano and then top evenly with the mozzarella. Bake until the cheese is melted and the chicken is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, wipe the skillet clean and set over medium heat. Pour in the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and then add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and 1/4 tsp. salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the sauce over the chicken.
(To see this on go here: Chicken Parmesan - Fine Cooking Recipes, Techniques and Tips. Recipe by Melissa Gaman)

This is a truly excellent dish and super easy to make. To make this Tim & Jen style substitute crushed saltine crackers for panko and add some of those Topper's lightly salted crispy onions (used for salad) or the ones you use on green bean casserole. We also used a bottle of our favorite marinara sauce instead of making the quick tomato sauce.

This is a great dish to make extra of and freeze. We had a lot of chicken and went ahead and fried up a bunch of breast strips and then froze them on a baking sheet with the cheese on top. From there it was easy to wrap up and freeze for later. Later turned out to be less than a week. This was just too good to keep in the freezer! To reheat just turn the oven on and cook as directed. It may take a minute or two longer, but not much. We found this defrosted and cooked very quickly.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Steak and Blueberries

Last night we had Suzann, Bill, Linda and Steve over for dinner. It was a great group, and I planned it so I actually got a chance to sit down and enjoy my guests.

First, I set the table ahead of time and decided, since we were such a small group, to serve the meal family style. Also, I  went super easy on the appetizers, which just left the salad and corn, and lighting the candles (Tim handled the main dish) as last minute items.

Our original menu included chips and salsa and a bowl of olives to much on, but at the last minute we decided to leave them off as we had more than enough food. Instead we just opened a container of pub cheese from Trader Joes (TJ’s), some herbed goat cheese, a box of wheat thins and I sliced up the stag salami we got in London at the Borough Street Market while we were on holiday this summer. I finished that off with a plate of green and black grapes with a sprinkling of strawberries for additional color. Alternating the grapes on the plate made the fruit look nice and gave it an additional panache.

For the main event Tim cooked sirloin steaks with a new rub we found in Food Magazine and we served it with individual ramekins of the accompany steak sauce, both of which went over well. I axed the twice baked potatoes, mainly because I remembered them too late and also because we didn’t need them. There was plenty to eat with the fresh green salad (which I topped with sliced beets from TJ’s, carrots, homegrown tomatoes from a friend, red bell pepper and mushrooms) and corn on the cob. I cooked the corn in the microwave, tossing the ears whole the way they come off the plant silk and all. Two ears take about three minutes. Lastly I made fantail rolls from scratch, which we served with butter.

For dessert everyone joined me in the kitchen as I whipped up fresh whipped cream which was spread on top of the Chocolate Pavolva followed by a generous sprinkling of raspberries. I also served a blueberry and lemon marmalade infused with a hint of lavender loose form tart. The tart was my own spin off something I saw on TV and it was delicious! We offered vanilla ice cream for those that wanted it. It was a wonderful meal and a spectacular dinner because we shared great food with great friends. That’s the winning combination!


Steak Rub

1/4 cup ancho chile powder
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Whisk everything in a bowl. Pull steak out of refrigerator about 20 minutes before you want to grill it. Sprinkle rub on one side of steak and let sit. Grill rub side down. (Food Network Magazine June 2010, page 149)

Steak Sauce

1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl, cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving. (Food Network Magazine June 2010, page 149)

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova
(Food Network Magazine June 2010, page 140)

Blueberry Tart with Lemon Marmalade infused with Lavender

Puff Pasty
Tuberino Sugar

Preheat oven to 400. Defrost 1 sheet of puff pastry. Once the pastry is defrosted roll it out on a very lightly dusted cutting board. Transfer pastry to a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread a good amount of marmalade in the center and as far out as the blueberries will go. Mound blueberries in center. Sprinkle with a dash of tapioca and some sugar. Fold up the edges of the pastry and brush with water, sprinkling with sugar afterwards. Bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is cooked. Cool.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tim's Back from Texas

Yup. Tim is back and it is great, make that beyond fantastic, to have him home again. He had a wonderful visit with his step-mother, Joyce, and his dad. He came back with lots of pictures of Denton ( which I was just told are not up yet, but there are tons of great photos just the same.

Anywho, he had a good trip, a hot gay-motorcyclin' cowboy named Justin tried to pick him up at Fuzzy's Taco Shop (I think the name of the place says it all!). He ate BBQ at The Prairie House, Tex-Mex at Fuzzy's (stop thinking that!) & good old home-style-Ramona cooking at Joyce's. Unfortunately he did not get to any of the places on our list! So keep any eye out here as we plan to order some mailorder goodies from the bakery & popcorn place for sure. Who knows, maybe you'll be over at our house for dinner when that happens!

Move Over Original Pancake House!

Last night I promised Tim I'd make him something special for breakfast in the morning. You see, last night I opened up "The Best of Fine Cooking: Sweet Cakes", it is one of those super expensive, extra huge magazines they put out every so often. I wasn't looking for breakfast foods. I was looking for some cake recipe to inspire me into a fit of baking. I found one, an applesauce-walnut cake that I've been eyeing for a while, but it was too late to start anything. But as I was flipping I ran across Skillet Puff Pancake, which looks a lot like the Dutch Boy Pancake they serve at The Original Pancake House. So there I was, looking at the Skillet Puff Pancake, ignoring the Parsnip & Pecan Sour Cream Muffins on the same page, but finding my eyes drawn across the next page and the Fastest-Ever Cinnamon Buns across the way. Hmmm. What to do?

This morning Tim decide that the Skillet Puff Pancake sounded better than the Fastest-Ever Cinnamon Buns, and since we didn't want to shower, hop in the car and drive to the Original Pancake House it was a go.

Skillet Puff Pancake (serves 2)
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
dash of salt
2 oz (4 tablespoons) butter

Heat oven to 450F and put a large skillet or shallow Dutch-oven in to heat, cast iron is perfect. In a bowl, beat eggs, flour, milk and salt. It's important to mix all ingredients together at once; otherwise, your pancake won't puff. The more air you beat into the batter, the higher it will rise in the oven.* When the oven is hot, toss the butter into the skillet and let it melt. Pour the batter into the skillet and return it to the oven. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until the pancake is puffed and golden. Cut in half and serve immediately with warm maple syrup, coffee and the newspaper. (Fine Cooking Magazine)

This has become a favorite weekend breakfast for us. Tim and I love it! It is easy, fast and if you start your bacon in the oven and then make the pancake they'll both come out about the same time.

*I have made this using a KitchenAid and just a run of the mill wire whisk. I promise you, the whisk makes a better pancake. You can beat in a lot more air with a whisk then with the whisk attachment and it takes so little time you'll spend half of it just pulling out the mixer if you're like me and store it under the counter. Use the whisk! Use The Whisk! USE the Whisk!!!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tim's Off to Texas

Tim is off to Texas soon and I just happen to have a list of places I would like him to try while he's there. And of course I also want him to pick up a little something for me!

Machacek Bakery (300 Grant Ave, Strawn, TX 76475). You might be wondering how on earth you pronounce that, right? Well think I'm a hot chick and just remove the "I" part. So it is M-a-hot-chick Bakery, which is famous for their Kolaches. Kolaches are little pillows of dough with a filling set in the middle, where a hole would be if they awere donuts. I have to say that the pecan ones are the one I am drooling over (Tim, make a note: bring me a dozen Pecan Kolaches, please!).

I am also interested in Cornucopia (1914 Guadalupe St. Suite B Austin Texas 78705), which is in Austin Texas. Recently I tried some popcorn at Costco (different company) and wow, what a revelation. I am hoping that Tim will be able to go here and pick up some yummy popcorn to bring home. One of their signature flavors is Dill Pickel, which I think I might just skip. I will have to try the Cheddar, because that is my favorite popcorn flavor of all time. And the Peanut Brittle sounds delicious, as well. I have made Peanut Butter & Chocolate popcorn and it was devine, so we might as well put that on the list too. In fact, I think I might just order a sample box of flavors and let Tim skip this one. Popcorn does take up a huge amount of room, and I'm afraid he'll eat it all before he gets home!

The last place in Texas is the one Tim will want to try the most, famous Black's BBQ (215 North Main Street, Lockhart, Texas 78644) in Lockhart, Texas. Black's is Texas' oldest, continuously run BBQ restaurant owned by the same family, and according to their site, they are also the best! It sounds as it they are famous for their homemade smoked, double sausage, among other things. But if I know my husband it will be the brisket, but I would want the sausage. Their sausage is not made with the scraps of things no one wants to eat, instead it is made with premium meats, just like the rest of their food. Let's go to Black's!

That is all I have for now, and I'll tell you why. I just started writing down all, the places I want to try, as seen on TV. I have been talking about compiling a list for years so that when we travel we know where we want to eat and things we want to try. So here is what I hope will be the first of many such posts. Keep coming back - we'll keep adding things to make it worth your while.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chocolate Cake with Ganache Icing

Chocolate Cake
This make a 9-inch layer cake

Preheat over to 350 and grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line pans with parchment and grease parchment.

Sift the following together into a large bowl:
3/4 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Add to the dry ingredients:
1 cup buttermilk*
2 extra large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
(At this point if you wish to make a mocha cake add 1 tablespoon espresso powder to boiling water, mix well)

Whisk everything together until well incorporated. Divide batter between pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a knife, toothpick or such comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pan before removing. Cool completely before frosting with Ganache Icing

*if you don't have buttermilk (or don't want to go to the expensive of buying it just for this recipe) add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar OR lemon juice to 1 cup milk (minus 1 tablespoon) and let sit for 5 minutes before using.

Ganche Icing
This makes plenty for the cake, plus enough for a few cupcakes as well.

1 cup heavy cream
10 ounces semi sweet, dark or bitter-sweet chocolate, finely chopped**

Put cream in heavy pan (big enough for both the cream and the chocolate and some wiggle room) over medium heat until bubbles appear around edges. Take pan off heat, add chocolate; shake the pan to submerge the chocolate and leave it to melt for a few minutes. Using a whisk stir gently to mix the chocolate to a smooth cream. Do not beat the mixture or you'll get unwanted bubbles and you'll loose the pretty glossy sheen.

Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes on counter to thicken. You'll want to stir it a few times as the edges will thicken faster than the middle.

Using a wide spatula or icing knife, test the ganache by putting some in the center of the bottom layer of cake. It should fall in thick waves but not run off completely. Allow to set up before serving.

This cake is best at room temperature, but you can refrigerate it. The original recipe suggests sandwiching the cakes together with your favorite jam. I am a bit of a purist and just want chocolate, so  have omitted this step completely.

**For best results do not use chocolate chips. Fresh and Easy has some inexpensive but delicious chocolate. Remember the yummier the chocolate the yummier the icing!


From the cookbook "Serena, Food & Stories: Feeding Friends Every Hour of the Day" Cheating Chocolate Cake and Ganache.