Poland: Chocolate Babka

chocolate babka

If you’re like us, you know Chocolate Babka from the episode of Seinfeld called The Dinner Party.  Jerry and Elaine make a stop at Schnitzer’s Bakery on their way to a dinner party to purchase a Chocolate Babka.  They forget to take a number, and as a result the bakery is sold out when they reach the counter.  They’re forced into buying a Cinnamon Babka, which Elaine considers ”a lesser babka.”  Here’s a clip:

Chocolate babka is a Jewish dessert popular in Eastern European countries like Ukraine, Czech Republic, Belarus and Poland. Babka is sweet yeast bread, popular in most of Eastern Europe, similar to coffee cake. Arthur Schwartz, author of Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking wrote, “Babka, in its original form, was stout and round, just like grandmothers used to be before they went to aerobics classes and practiced yoga.”

Chocolate Babka
  • DOUGH:
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 4 C. flour
  • ¼ C. butter
  • ¼ C. white sugar
  • ¼ C. water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ C. butter, softened
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used chocolate chips)
  • 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ C. sugar
  • ¼ cup confectioners' sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup butter, chilled
  • 1 egg beaten with
  • 1 tablespoon water for glaze
  1. Add yeast to warm milk and allow to foam for 5-10 minutes. Next, add flour, butter, sugar, water, eggs and salt. Mix using a dough hook until smooth. Set aside to rise for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut dough in half and roll each section into 10x18 inch rectangles. Spread butter evenly on both halves. Spread chocolate pieces, cinnamon and sugar on top of the butter. Roll lengthwise, sealing ends shut. Place each loaf in a parchment-lined bread pan.
  3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, butter and egg/water. Brush the tops of each loaf with glaze before placing in the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

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Pinterest, You’re a Fickle Bitch (aka Black Forest Cake)

black forest cake

Pinterest, You’re a Fickle Bitch (aka Black Forest Cake)

The gorgeous Pinterest images of the Black Forest Cake made me think I could re-create the same thing at home.  It’s EASY they said.  It’s SIMPLE they said.  Silly Pinterest.  She’s a fickle bitch.  She’ll lure you in with her pretty pictures and promises of the good life then leave you on your own when things don’t work out quite the way she promised.

What’s pictured above is a my version of the REAL WOMAN’S Black Forest Cake.   It’s not quite Pinterest Fail bad, but not nearly what was promised me.  Still as tasty, just not as pretty (kind of like real life). She may not win any beauty contests, but this one won’t abandon you when you need her most.

PicMonkey Collage


The “Pretty” image source: http://www.beerenberg.com.au/71/Recipes/category/1/Desserts-and-sweet-treats/1/Black-forest-cake

Germany: Black Forest Cake
  • 2 C. flour
  • 2 C. sugar
  • ¾ C. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 C. milk
  • ½ C. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 1 jar pitted cherries
  • 1 C. sugar
  • ¼ C. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 C. heavy whipping cream
  • ⅓ C. confectioners' sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch, round, cake pans; cover bottoms with waxed paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, 2 cups sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil, and 1 tablespoon vanilla; beat until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Loosen edges, and remove to racks to cool completely.
  4. Drain cherries, reserving ½ cup juice. Combine reserved juice, cherries, 1 cup sugar and cornstarch in a 2 quart saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cool before using.
  5. Combine whipping cream and confectioner's sugar in a chilled medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form.
  6. With long serrated knife, split each cake layer horizontally in half. Tear one split layer into crumbs; set aside. Reserve 1½ cups Frosting for decorating cake; set aside. Gently brush loose crumbs off top and side of each cake layer with pasty brush or hands. To assemble, place one cake layer on cake plate. Spread with 1 cup frosting; top with ¾ cup cherry topping. Top with second cake layer; repeat layers of frosting and cherry topping. Top with third cake layer. Frost side of cake. Pat reserved crumbs onto frosting on side of cake. Spoon reserved frosting into pastry bag fitted with star decorator tip. Pipe around top and bottom edges of cake. Spoon remaining cherry topping onto top of cake.

This was inspired by a black forest cake recipe I found on Allrecipes.com.

France: Almond Financier Cakes

France: Almond Financier Cakes

French Almond Financier Cakes

Everyone knows that grandmothers have a special kind of clout in the culinary world.  Their recipes have stood the test of time, and their cooking skills well-honed.  So when you stumble upon a foreign recipe from a real-life foreign GRANDMA, pay attention.  It’s probably pretty darn good.

One of workout buddies, Christophe, is French.  Every month at SNAP Fitness we have a birthday party and bring in yummy, ever-so-fattening treats (don’t judge– we’re allowed to pig out after all the hard, physical exercise, right?).   In December, Chris brought these for our joint 43rd birthday party.  They were so good.  Not just ordinary good, but melt-in-your-mouth I-could-eat-a-HUNDRED-of-these kind of good.   Plus, they were nice enough to give me the recipe when I asked for it.

In doing my research, I learned that these little almond cakes are called financiers because they were popular in the financial districts of Paris.

My kids don’t care for nuts, but they liked these.   The almonds are ground finely enough to hide nicely inside.

When I first made French Almond Financier Cakes I used muffin tins.  However, I found these cute petit fours molds at TJ Maxx for just $6.99 and thought they were cute.  It’s important to have cute food, right?

France: Almond Financier Cakes
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 6 large egg whites
  • ½ C. flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 C. finely chopped or ground almonds (I used whole almonds and ran them through my coffee grinder)
  • 1½ C. powdered sugar
  • 1½ sticks butter
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Butter 18 muffin tins (traditionally, you’d use a Financier Mold but if you don’t have one the muffin tins you have at home already work well too).
  3. In a medium bowl, combine egg whites and almond extract. Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add egg whites to the dry ingredients. Add melted butter and give a quick stir until a light batter is formed. Pour into muffin tins.
  4. Bake 6 minutes at 450 degrees then lower heat to 400. Bake an additional 5-6 minutes until golden brown. Baking it first in a super-hot oven will crisp up the outside, while reducing the baking temperature to finish keeps the inside nice and moist. Allow the cakes to cool slightly then remove from the tins.