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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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Leanne @ Healthful Pursuit May 30, 2011 at 9:25 am

Nicely done! I made pizza’s while we were away (with yeast) and the dough didn’t rise AT ALL. I think it’s because we were using a garbage bag as a substitute for plastic wrap (which doesn’t work all that well). But the pizza still turned out! I love your pictures!!
Also – got myself a doughnut pan and made the doughnuts you shared in a previous post. HOLY DELICIOUS! I used coconut flour + almond flour and they were amazing. Thanks, Steph!

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2 Fallon May 30, 2011 at 9:51 am

That looks fantastic! Congrats on overcoming your yeast fears. ;)

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3 Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean May 30, 2011 at 10:37 am

yay! so glad it was successful! looks delicious

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4 Christina @ This Woman Cooks! May 30, 2011 at 10:47 am

I had the same problem with yeast recently. We were not friends! I tried all sorts of different ways to get my dough to rise and one day I put it in the laundry room…and it worked! Isn’t it such a great feeling? Congrats on conquering yeast. :)

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5 Samantha Angela May 30, 2011 at 11:02 am

Awesome!
I’m a huge huge fan of making yeast breads :)

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6 Ally Lynn May 30, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Congratulations!! Yeast used to be a great fear of mine too. It took a lot of trial and error and research to finally get it to rise, and oh, what a glorious day!

Not to toot my own horn, but I wrote a post about it: http://bit.ly/iigvmE Hope it can help you in the future!

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7 Emily @ Life on Food May 30, 2011 at 1:02 pm

This looks amazing! Clearly you know how to work the yeast. Every time I hear about Babka I think of the Seinfeld episode. I really should try it some day.

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8 Adriana May 30, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Woo Steph! I have a long-running love/hate relationship with yeast too. When it’s good, it’s great, but when it’s not… Your babka looks perfect, though!

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9 lauren May 30, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Congrats on your conquer! This looks incredible

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10 Evan @swEEts May 30, 2011 at 1:29 pm

It’s so funny because devoted a whole post to my conquering of yeast as well! Why is it so scary!? Welcome to the good side though because that bread looks fabulous :)

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11 Happy When Not Hungry May 30, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Wow this babka looks amazing! Nice job! I’ve made babka several times before but never with chocolate. Will def have to try :-)

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12 Belinda @zomppa May 30, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Oh MAN! Babka’s are such a weakness of mine. This is BEAUTIFUL!

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13 Lori May 30, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Woot, woot! Well done with the yeast! You are a force to be reckoned with!! Looks wonderful!

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14 KonstantKraver May 31, 2011 at 1:01 am

That looks so soft and moist , congrats on conquering your fears :)

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15 Annie May 31, 2011 at 5:53 am

I’ve had my fair share of fails with yeast too. Glad you stuck it out and tried again. The babka looks delicious!

BTW, I like to buy the jarred yeast and keep it in the fridge. I think it keeps longer and is easier to measure.

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16 Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels May 31, 2011 at 7:38 am

I’m proud of you for facing your fear of yeast! Your chocolate babka looks AMAZING. Now you’re going to want to bake with yeast all the time. :)

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17 Andrea @ From the Bookshelf May 31, 2011 at 8:41 am

Congrats on overcoming your fears …

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18 Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts May 31, 2011 at 9:43 am

Never had a Babka before. But this looks great! Glad you conquered yeast!

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19 briarrose May 31, 2011 at 11:09 am

Victory! This looks like it came out just perfect.

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20 kita May 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Congrats on your bread! It looks beautiful. And once you’ve tamed yeast its all downhill from there. I’m sure your next loaf and the one after that will be just as stunning.

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21 PolaM May 31, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Wow this looks good! I want to make some!

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22 Charlie May 31, 2011 at 4:04 pm

I was scared of yeast too, but now it only makes me love what I baked with it even more ;) .
I never had Babka but it looks AMAZING!

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23 Karen May 31, 2011 at 4:14 pm

I would be doing a happy dance too! Yeast and I do not get along. Actually, bread baking of any kind is bad news for me. Many attempts have ended up in the trash.
But this gives me hope! It looks delicious too!

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24 Kate@Diethood.com May 31, 2011 at 8:39 pm

That looks amazing, Steph… great recipe!!

Yeast can be everyone’s best friend!!

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25 Celia June 2, 2011 at 1:51 pm

So glad you got over your fear! I looove babka, and have been searching for a recipe for ages. I’m totally trying this one now that you’ve tested it – perhaps adding a streusel topping like the bakery I went to when growing up would make…

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26 Lindsey@Lindselicious June 8, 2011 at 9:21 am

LOL I feel the same way about yeast too! We have a love hate relationship with each other after many things came out looking like hockey pucks. :( Congrats on winning this round! it looks delish.

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