Monday, May 16, 2011

Give Us This Day...EFing Bread

Let me begin by saying I LOVE GARAGE SALES!  I love going to them.  I love hosting them.  I love helping other people with them.  I love the idea that you can spend a couple of days outside in the nice weather, sit on your butt, take people's money and end up with less stuff in your house.  I am not interested in your cost benefit analysis of how I spend hours and hours pricing, sorting, folding, hauling, unpacking, and sale-ing; how garage sales are a haven for creepy people and thieves; how the whole thing is a dirty disgusting mess and how it's not worth the effort.  For me, it's fun.  And I'm good at it.  That being said...

I had a garage sale on Friday afternoon of last week.  In comparison to every other garage sale I have had in the past, and there have been many, this most recent one, was a total failure.  Early in the week the weather reports were calling for rain, so I almost didn't even have the sale.  Friday morning, when I woke up and the sun was shining, I threw things together quickly, raced around putting stickers on stuff, hauled my tables out of storage and began at 2pm.  I committed a cardinal garage sale sin and relied on the neighbor's signs and newspaper ad.  She was having a sale up the street and all her traffic had to drive right by my loaded yard...many folks were curious and stopped.  Yay for me!

I only ran it for 3 hours because at 5pm it got cold, the traffic slowed down, the drizzle started and I was ready for a glass of wine.  Saturday morning was really cold and rainy so instead of opening the sale again, I hid in the garage and packed up the leftovers for donation.  Fail.  Or so I thought.

Trying to move forward from what seemed like a waste of time, the wet, cold Saturday inspired my bread choice for this week.  It is also possible that I needed something to cheer me up after my garage sale failure, and my mind went directly to chocolate.  Babka.  Mmmmmmmm.  Getting screams of joy from my people when I asked them if they'd like a little babka after their lunch, I began my preparations.  I didn't even have to go to the store for my well stocked pantry!  Mix.  Knead.  Rise.  Sprinkle.  Bake.  Mmmmm, smells like chocolate.  Ack!  What's that burning smell?  Aaaaahhhhh!  The babka is getting too brown!  Fail.  Or so I thought.

Now.  People.  I ask you.  Does this look like a bread failure to you?

Yeah.  Didn't think so.  It was totally yummy.  Completely edible.  And although compared to all the other times I have made babka, and there have been many, this one was not as successful, it was certainly not a total failure.  It was, what I like to call, an edible failure.  An EF.  Which made our rainy Saturday afternoon treat, an overly browned blob off "EFing" babka.

I am capable of producing spectacular bread.  This was just really good.  I am also capable of hosting spectacular garage sales.  This one was not so good.  But I did end up with more cash and less crap.

I think it's about setting your expectations.  And adjusting your reactions.

Just because it wasn't perfect.  Just because it wasn't as good as you're capable of.  Just because it wasn't as good as every other time you've ever done it or as good as the next time you try it...doesn't make it a failure.

Chocolate Babka

This is more treat than bread, I can't fathom what kind of meal it could accompany, and it never ever provides any leftovers.  It is quickly gobbled up by eaters who start to hover at about 20 minutes into the baking time because the whole house starts to smell like bready chocolate heaven.  You could buy 4 oz. of actual bakers chocolate and chop it for the filling, but I have discovered that semi sweet chocolate chips work just as well, and take way less effort.  Give yourself at least 3 hours for this recipe.

1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm milk, any % will work
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour, divided, plus more for kneading
1 1/4 cups bread flour
5 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces and softened
Cooking spray

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter, softened

  • 1.  In a medium bowl, combine 1 teaspoon sugar with yeast.  Pour warm milk over mixture and let sit for 5 minutes until it gets foamy.  Stir in the additional 6 tablespoons of sugar, vanilla, salt and egg yolk.  Mix well until combined.  Add 1 1/3 cups of the all purpose flour and all of the bread flour to the bowl and beat until well blended.  Add the 5 tablespoons of butter.  At this point, sometimes the mixing gets tricky.  The warm butter causes the dough ball to slip around in the bowl and sometimes it is difficult to incorporate it into the dough.  You might have to use your hands...yes, buttery, messy, flour covered hands.  I have found that adding in the last 1/3 cup of all purpose flour at this point actually helps to incorporate the butter.  After you have most of the butter mixed in, turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for 8 minutes adding more flour, a tablespoon at a time, to keep it from sticking to you and your surface.  This dough is very soft and sticky.
2.  Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray and turn it to coat all sides with cooking spray.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 90 minutes.  The dough will nearly double in size.

3.  Line the bottom of a 9x5 inch loaf pan with a piece of parchment cut to fit the size of the bottom of the pan.  Coat the sides of the pan with cooking spray.

4.  Prepare the filling by combining 1/2 cup sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and chips in a small bowl.

5.  When dough has risen, turn it out onto a well floured surface.  Roll it into a square about 16 inches on a side.  A rolling pin works best here, but I stretched it and pulled it into a square by hand once when I couldn't find my rolling pin.  Sprinkle the filling over the flattened dough leaving a 1/2 inch of space around the edge.  Roll it up as tightly as you can, pinch the ends and fold them over to prevent the filling from spilling out.  Gripping the dough roll with both hands, twist it 4 times like you're wringing out a towel.  Fit it into the prepared pan.  It will be too long, so just bend it into an 's' shape and stuff it in there.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again, in a warm place for 45 minutes.  It will double in size again.


6.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

7.  Combine the powdered sugar, flour and butter to make the streusel.  Use a fork to press it together, mixing until it gets crumbly.  Sprinkle it all over the top of the dough.  It's fine if some slips down into the side of the pan.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Cool bread in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack and cool further.  Do not attempt to slice the bread when it first comes out of the oven or the pan.  It is a hot melty mess and you won't get anything even resembling a slice.  Hold off on slicing it as long as possible.


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