Facing My Fears

May 30, 2011

There’s not too many things in that kitchen that scare me.

And by scare I mean something that I’ll totally avoid.

I’ve conquered my flaming fear, I showed French pastries who the boss around here is, and I’ve tackled gradient cakes, all of which had given me some sort of kitchen nightmares.

But nothing scares me more than yeast!

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I don’t know what it is about yeast, but it seriously makes my hands start to get clammy and my heart beat a little faster.

I’ve tried to use yeast several times and have been met with epic failures. All of which resulted in a small, hard dough ball that never rose in to a fluffy huge mass. I’ve never been able to get past the “rising” stage. This is my moment of trash can dumping, and giving in to the one thing that seems to be my Kryptonite.

When starting this weekend’s yeast recipe I tried starting it with a different approach. A more positive approach. I kindly introduced my self to my yeast packet. (Maybe if we became friends first, he wouldn’t be so mean). I kept my fears at bay and just pretended like this was any other recipe that I had easily conquered.

And things were actually off to a good start.

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I started to get very excited that everything seemed to be going right.

But I wanted to hold back, not to show the yeast how excited I actually was since it seems he really likes to hit you with disappointment just as things are looking up.

I literally held my breath for the two hours that the yeast mixture was set aside to rise. I’ve never been able to make it past this step.

You can imagine my reaction when I saw this,

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HOLY CRAP!!

Ah ha ha!! I had done it!! I, Stephanie, had just befriended yeast and tricked him in to actually doing his job!!

My kitchen dance followed. I ensued in a jumping dance around my kitchen island for a few minutes until the pets started looking at me weird.

I moved on to the rest of the recipe, trying to contain my overjoyed feeling of success.

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Once my loaf was shaped I gave it more well wishes as it was left to rise again.

The second rise happened without a hitch. At this point Lucas was home, and I came running to him from the kitchen screaming, “It rose! It rose!”

At first I got the “you’re crazy look” until he was able to realize what I was talking about and then he, with a huge smile, said “good job Babe”, awe, melted my heart.

After a full day of mixing, kneading, rising, rolling, filling, rising, waiting, it was time for baking! And in 50 long minutes I was met with this.

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Chocolate Banka perfection!

Chunks of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds were embedded in a fluffy, buttery, warm dough.

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I don’t think I’ve ever had a slice of bread taste so good.

Call me biased, but I think since this was my first successful home-baked bread, this will forever be the BEST piece(s) of bread I will have ever eaten in my whole life.

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You know that I could have another slice without pulling out some nutbutter.

I slathered my second who’s counting slice with some sunflower butter.

I. Could. Die.

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I really hope that I have managed to break the yeast curse.

Because I’m headed to the store to buy more yeast packets Smile

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Chocolate Babka
adapted from Epicurious.com

Ingredients

For dough

3/4 cup warm milk (105–115°F)
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
2 whole large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened

For egg wash

1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk

For chocolate filling

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, well softened
2 (3 1/2- to 4-oz) Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds bars, finely chopped
1/4 cup sugar

Special equipment: a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment; 2 (8 3/4- by 4 1/2- by 2 3/4-inch) loaf pans; parchment paper

Directions

Make dough:
Stir together warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in bowl of mixer. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Add 1/2 cup flour to yeast mixture and beat at medium speed until combined. Add whole eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low, then mix in remaining 2 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium, then beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to beat until dough is shiny and forms strands from paddle to bowl, about 4 minutes. (Dough will be very soft and sticky.)

Scrape dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Assemble babkas with filling:
Line each loaf pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper (1 lengthwise and 1 crosswise).

Punch down dough with a lightly oiled rubber spatula, then halve dough. Roll out 1 piece of dough on a well-floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into an 18- by 10-inch rectangle and arrange with a long side nearest you.

Beat together yolk and cream. Spread 2 1/2 tablespoons softened butter on dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Brush some of egg wash on long border nearest you.

Sprinkle half of chocolate evenly over buttered dough, then sprinkle with half of sugar (2 tablespoons). Starting with long side farthest from you, roll dough into a snug log, pinching firmly along egg-washed seam to seal. Bring ends of log together to form a ring, pinching to seal. Twist entire ring twice to form a double figure 8 and fit into one of lined loaf pans.

Make another babka with remaining dough, some of egg wash, and remaining butter and chocolate in same manner. Chill remaining egg wash, covered, to use later. Loosely cover pans with buttered plastic wrap (buttered side down) and let babkas rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until dough reaches top of pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Alternatively, let dough rise in pans in refrigerator 8 to 12 hours; bring to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours, before baking.)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Brush tops of dough with remaining egg wash. Bake until tops are deep golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped (when loaves are removed from pans), about 40 minutes. Transfer loaves to a rack and cool to room temperature.

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