Orange Spice Babka Ring

It’s been quite a week.

First, our A/C had a malfunction. Broken air conditioning + tiny apartment + upper floor = stuffy, hot misery. Plus, turning on the oven to cook or bake anything just wasn’t an option. Which, wasn’t fun.

Fortunately after 3 days, it was fixed and now things can get back to normal.

Orange Spice Babka Ring5

There’s a story behind today’s recipe. Ready to hear it?

I really needed to wash/condition my hair, but I also really wanted to bake. So I decided to do both. I made the dough, then left it for it’s first rise. I went away to wash/condition my hair. I came back, shaped it, then left it for it’s second rise. I rinsed the conditioner out of my hair. I came back and put the bread in the oven to bake. I blow-dried my hair. The bread finished baking.

And that’s it. That’s the whole story. I was multi-tasking. Pretty exciting, huh?

The ‘how’ may not be too enthralling, but I promise you everything else about this babka certainly is.

Babka’s made an appearance before on this blog a few years ago during the 12 Days of Christmas with this Sticky Caramel Pecan Babka Loaf. The word ‘Babka’ itself derives from Bábovka, a yeast based cake from Eastern Europe that manifests in German, Jewish and Polish baking. The dough is usually very enriched, buttery, eggy and spiced. There are countless variations out there and this time I decided to put a little different spin on it from the one I did before.

The last babka was flavored with cinnamon brown sugar and pecans. This one’s filling has a bit more: there’s brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger inside, along with some orange zest. If you’re fond of them, I did include an option to include golden raisins and walnuts to that mixture (I left them out of this loaf, but please do include them in yours in you’re a fan). As you can see, the filling forms a lovely ribbon on the inside once it’s baked, which brings me to the next step.

The method starts out the same as before: the babka dough is rolled out into a large rectangle after the first rise, the filling is sprinkled on top, then the whole thing gets rolled tightly into a thick cylinder. Then, you take a pair of kitchen shears or a very sharp knife and cut down the middle of the cylinder to create two halves. Those two halves get braided together.

Now, whereas before I arranged the braid straight into a loaf pan, this time I laid the braid into my tube pan and smushed the two ends together to form a ring. After you let the ring rise and bake it off, you get…this.

It’s perfectly fine on its own, but if you’re feeling naughty you can go ahead and add the orange flavored icing on top that literally takes under 5 minutes to throw together and drizzle on top.

I’m telling y’all: the extra effort that comes with baking babka is SO WORTH IT. You won’t regret a single step. I never do–not even when I’m multi-tasking with other things to do around the house. And you certainly won’t regret one single bite of this rich, spiced bread that smells and tastes like pure Heaven.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #234, co-hosted this week by Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog and Deb @ Pantry Portfolio.

********************************************************************

Orange Spice Babka Ring

Recipe Adapted from Tyler Florence

Print

Ingredients

For Babka

  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For Filling

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, optional
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • 1/4 cup melted butter, cooled

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • A few tablespoons of orange juice

Directions

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the white sugar on top of that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until proofed and frothy.

Add the remaining sugar, melted butter,  eggs and vanilla extract to the bowl and use the paddle attachment to mix well until combined.

Switch to the dough hook and add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating switching to kneading with hands as dough thickens. (You may not need to use all 4 cups, this varies according to location & time of year). Continue to mix until the dough holds together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl; the dough should still be very soft.

Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto it and use your hands to knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed.  Grease the standing mixer bowl with the vegetable oil, place dough back inside and cover with plastic wrap and a damp clean cloth. Let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.

Grease and flour a 16 cup tube pan. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, orange zest together in a bowl. Sprinkle the work surface with a bit more flour and roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 10 by 18-inches. Brush it down with the melted butter, then sprinkle the sugar mixture on top. (You can use a spatula to help you spread it into a even paste if you like). If you’re using the raisins and nuts, sprinkle those on top of the sugar mixture.

Starting from the short end, roll the rectangle up tightly into a log. Pinch the dough ends firmly into the log to seal. Either use a very sharp knife you’ve dipped in water, or a pair of kitchen shears to gently, but swiftly, slice the log down its entire length, creating two halves with lots of layers. Turn the halves so that the layers are facing up. Press the two halves together at the top, then twist the halves around each other, creating a spiral braid. Press the halves together again at the bottom. Gently lift the braid into the tube pan, arranging into a ring with the layers facing up, and tucking one end of the braid under the other. Cover with plastic wrap & a damp cloth and allow to rise for another 50-60 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake on the middle rack for 45 minutes to 1 hour until your babka is golden brown (covering with foil if browning too quickly if need be). Cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then turn out and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For Glaze: Mix the sugar and OJ together in a bowl, until the sugar dissolves. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps; drizzle it over the top of the babka and allow to set until hardened.

Honey Cardamom Cut Out Cookies

I’ve been making a lot of cookies lately. The reasons are varied, but as that’s just where things have been at in the kitchen, y’all can expect a few of the next posts in the coming weeks to be cookie-themed. Personally I think it’s impossible for there to be too many cookie-anything, but that’s just my opinion. And while you’re here, I might as well give another one:

Cut out cookies are the best kind.

What ARE cut outs?

Cut out cookies are cookies that are baked with the intention of holding a particular shape. Mostly, they tend to fall on the sugar cookie flavored spectrum. This is different than say, a drop cookie (like chocolate chip cookies), where the dough is dropped from an ice cream scoop or teaspoon. Most cut out cookie doughs are sturdy and durable in order to be able to withhold being rolled out by a rolling pin and pressed out by cookie cutters.Drop cookies are undoubtedly less laborious than cut outs, as you don’t have to bother with cutting out the shapes. Because sugar cookies tend to be my favorite, I still prefer cut outs. Provided you have a tasty flavored dough, I feel that they are worth the extra effort.

I’ve said it dozens of times before and I’ll keep saying it for anyone who may be reading this post and thinking that cut outs are too hard to attempt: it really does come down to how you treat the dough. Cut out cookie dough (heck, MOST cookie dough) requires very specific treatment in order to get the pretty, magazine quality aesthetics that you want. I’ve baked hundreds (maybe even thousands at this point) of cookies at this point in my baking adventures and I’ve been truly mortified to find that too many of the recipes out there omit what I believe is the most important step in cookie baking:

Chilling the dough.

I just don’t understand it. SO many cut out cookie recipes I’ve seen instruct you to bake the cookies just minutes after putting the dough together.

This is just…not good advice.

In the first place, the fat (butter) in the dough should be thoroughly creamed and softened by the time that you’re finished mixing it. This is what makes the dough sticky. Room temp, sticky cookie dough WILL produce cookies that spread, and spread a lot. This completely defeats the purpose of cut out cookies–the more that they spread, the more that the shapes you spent all that time cutting out will be warped by the heat of the oven. Even drop cookie dough that is baked when too warm will produce cookies that are flat as pancakes instead of puffy, craggy cookies that at least resemble domes. Ask me how I know.

Cookie dough should be VERY cold when it hits the oven. Not warm and sticky. Not cool. COLD. The colder it is, the easier it will be to cut out, and the better your shapes will hold up.Therefore, In almost every single one of the cookie recipes I share, I will tell you to refrigerate the finished cookie dough for at least one hour (but preferably overnight) in order to give the butter in the dough plenty of time to firm up. Additionally, whenever I make cut outs, I take it a step further and chill the cookies for a few minutes after I’ve cut them out. Excessive? Maybe. But I’d prefer to let the results speak for themselves.

I made these primarily because they were a departure from the usual vanilla sugar cut out cookie that I make and I was curious as to how they would turn out. They’re sweetened with both white sugar and honey, and spiced with cardamom and ground ginger. After cutting them out, I also sprinkled the tops with cinnamon sugar to give them a bit of texture. You don’t necessarily need to cut out the middles if you don’t have a tiny cutter, or if you just don’t want to. Just please give your dough the proper amount of chilling time in the fridge so that the shapes you cut them in will hold up.

These aren’t overly sweet, and the spices do most of the work flavor-wise. I also found that they also improve in flavor the longer that they have to sit, so they may taste even better on the second or third day after you make them then they do on the first. Just place a slice of bread in the container you store them in, and they’ll be sure to stay soft (that’s a tip from my bag of tricks that works for any baked cookie, actually).

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #222, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

******************************************************************

Honey Cardamom Cut Out Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Bake from Scratch

Print

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the  flour with the cardamom, ginger, salt and baking soda with a fork. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld one) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolk, honey and vanilla and combine until just combined. Add the flour mixture in batches, mixing until just combined.

Scrape the dough out and onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a disc, wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the one.

Sprinkle a clean work surface (like a pastry mat, wax paper or a cutting board) with powdered sugar or flour. Roll out the quarter of dough to your desired thickness (I wouldn’t go thinner than 1/4 inch) Cut into whatever desired shapes you like. I used a 2- to 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and placed on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. I then used a ¾- to 1-inch round cookie cutter, and cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary. Also don’t throw away the centers, as they make delicious mini cookie bites.

Place the sheet pans in the freezer for around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon sugar, and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool on pans for 3 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

Cardamom Print Wafers

Cardamom Print Wafers2

I’ve only done actual Christmas caroling a handful of times in my life- but I remember that I loved it. One of the times I can clearly remember is when I was still in elementary school and the children’s choir went caroling to the governor’s mansion. It was a quiet, slightly snowy night and after we sang a few songs, I can remember being invited inside to a big beautiful ‘house’ where we got served hot chocolate, cookies and candy in a ‘study’ type of room with bright golden lights. As long as you don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t mind if 1 or 2 of the people in your group are off-key and love to laugh, then caroling is a blast. Plus, people usually give you free food as a way to say ‘thank you’.

Cardamom Print Wafers3

Everyone ‘s got their own favorite Christmas carols, and I’m no exception. However, my favorites have shifted throughout the years. Now I’m willing to admit that I just can’t pick one as my favorite. I’ve got several. Okay, more than that.

The Holiday Playlist on my ipod’s got over 100 songs. Yeah. I really love Christmas songs.’

When I was very young, around 5 or 6, my favorite Christmas carol was The First Noel. I loved the melody and would always hum the last part to myself, “Born is the King of Israel,” over and over again.

Cardamom Print Wafers1

Then when I was around 8 or 9, it was Silver Bells- but that was because at the time (mid 90’s), there was a commercial that would constantly come on at Christmas time with the Silver Bells melody playing in the background that I really liked. After that, I think it was Angels We Have Heard on High- although to be honest, I went YEARS without even knowing what some of the lyrics were because I was too young to understand that some of the lyrics were in Latin (“in excelsis deo IS Latin, right? Right??).

Christmastime is Here was my favorite Christmas Carol in middle school; I heard it played once on the piano at a holiday party and just fell in love with it. That one’s still remained one of my favorites over the years, and I have a few versions of it on my playlist, including the Vince Guaraldi classic from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Cardamom Print Wafers4

Honorable mentions should also go out to Give Love on Christmas Day, The Christmas Song, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Christmas Tree, O What a Merry Christmas Day, All I Want for Christmas Is You, and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Carol of the Bells.

As many of them as I like, there are also other carols that I don’t really care for: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Away in a Manger. I guess I just don’t really like the ‘story’ Christmas carols all that much.

Cardamom Print Wafers6

Today’s recipe is super, super easy to put together, but still packs a great punch. These cookies are thin, slightly crisp but still somewhat chewy in the centeer. The cardamom gives it a very unique spicy bite that combined with the cinnamon really reminds me of a delicious Speculoos biscuit. Hands down, these are meant to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea. I decided to leave them plain and just let the design from the cookie stamps speak for themselves- these are honestly good enough to stand without icing or sprinkles.

If you still need to catch up on the 12 Days of Christmas Series we’re doing, I’m still including a list of the past recipes and posts below 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Day 9: Biscochitos

Day 10: Cardamom Print Wafers

Cardamom Print Wafers

Recipe Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens Cookies for Christmas

Print

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp, ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

 Directions

1. Stir together flour, cardamom, cinnamon and salt.

2. In a small mixer bowl, beat til fluffy, Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

3. Stir in flour mixture till well mixed. Cover and chill about 2 hours, or preferably overnight.

4. Shape into 3/4 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten firmly with a floured cookie stamp or the bottom of a glass with a design in it.

5. Bake in a 350° oven about 8 minutes. Remove and cool.

Orange Spice Banana Bread

Orange Banana Bread1

It seems strange for me to think of now, but there was a time when the thought of cooking really and truly intimidated me. The idea of actually cooking something that wasn’t a pre-made mix, or didn’t involve using the microwave was crazy. I knew that the raw meat that I saw my mom, grandmother and older sister buy from the grocery stores ‘somehow’ turned into delicious cooked dinners like fried chicken, roast, stews, and stir fries- but I didn’t have a clue how it was accomplished.  Baking was a complete enigma filled with things like measuring cups and spoons, ovens, cake tins and flour- things I didn’t want to have any part of, for fear I would mess something up.

Orange Banana Bread2

Cooking became to be almost like math to me- I was in awe of the people that were good at it, but was fairly convinced that it would always be something that was completely beyond me. It was something that I would only embarrass myself at when attempting to do,  and that try as I might, I just didn’t get it.

It didn’t bother me at first, but when I got older and went to college, it did. I know that this may sound anti-feminist or sexist, or whatever politically incorrect terminology that you want to use, but not knowing how to cook began to make me feel like ‘less’ of a woman. That’s not to say that men can’t be great cooks (I know some myself) it’s just that I come from a line of traditional Southern women and in my family, the women cook. And they cook well. Not being able to share in that tradition kinda got under my skin for a while, until one day I just decided to swallow my insecurity and try to do something about it.

Orange Banana Bread3

I remember when I first started to really try to learn how to cook, my mom told me that cooking boiled down (no pun intended) to one all inclusive rule: follow a recipe, then when you get confident in your knowledge of ingredients and spices, change it to whatever you want. So that’s what I did. And I practiced. A lot. I wish I could say that there was more to it, but there really wasn’t. Beginning cooks just need to stick to those 2 rules, and you’re bound to get good: practice, and follow recipes. Then when you get comfortable enough with spices and ingredients, do whatever you want with them.

Orange Banana Bread4

This bread is a prime example of those rules. I had a bunch of brown bananas sitting on my table that I knew I didn’t want to let go to waste, but I wasn’t in the mood for straight banana bread. I wanted to do something a little bit different. I also happened to have a small bottle of orange juice in my fridge, and the idea of bananas with oranges was an interesting flavor combination to me. I found a recipe on Taste of Home that seemed to suit my purposes, but I still wanted to add more flavors to the bread to give it a kind of ‘kick’. So I decided to add in some spices that I would normally see in a spice cake- ginger, cardamom and coriander- and hoped for the best.

It was a winner. In fact, even now as I am writing this post, I’m rather pleased to announce to all of you that the bread you see in the pictures is now completely gone. It’s been devoured by my appreciative family. Not gonna lie, I’m a little irritated seeing as I only got one slice out of the entire loaf. But there’s always the option of making more, isn’t there?

********************************************

Orange Banana Bread

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 medium ripe bananas, mashed (about 1-1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract or orange oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

Directions

1. In a bowl, combine the sugar, oil and eggs; mix well. Stir in bananas and orange juice.

2. Combine the dry ingredients; add to banana mixture, beating just until moistened.

3. Pour into two greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans.

4. Bake at 325° for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pans to a wire rack to cool completely.

*****************************************