Author: catherine o'donnell

strawberry mint jam

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oof has it been hot out or what !! i don’t know about you but these past couple of weeks in paris have been broilingly warm. (i just made up a new word! broilingly!) and as expected, there is no air-conditioning in paris. this is something i actually like for the most part but at a certain point, i. need. air. very grateful for cold showers!

despite the heat, i’ve been doing the most and getting up to all sorts of things in paris and beyond. i celebrated the world cup win, rang in my birthday at frenchie bar à vins, welcomed a quick visit from my dear friend bridget, and took a trip to hamburg to see my lovely friend greta. july was good to me.

i realized last month that i was running out of my favorite strawberry jam that i picked up in lille, france at fromagerie philippe olivier. i actually wrote about this shop in an earlier post! encouraged by all the cherry chutney i’ve been making at work each week, i decided to make my own strawberry jam and boy is it easy. i’d made jam in the past and remember thinking it was easy then too but it wasn’t until i started testing for this strawberry mint recipe that i was reminded how quickly jam comes together.

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before we go any further, i must let you know that i’ve *technically* betrayed you with my titling of this recipe. for true jam experts, this recipe is actually a preserve. for more on the differences between jams, jellies, and preserves, bon appetit has a great write-up! and for most others (the unfussy types), this here is a jam recipe.

strawberry jam is one of my favorite things to eat in the morning time. whether it’s spread on a warm baguette like you see here or piled on top of yogurt, it always adds a kick of sugar to your morning. and it doesn’t stop there! as i’m typing, i’m actually eating a snack of ricotta cheese topped with this strawberry jam, olive oil, salt, and pine nuts. just divine! if i were you i’d write down that recipe as well because it’s perfect for an your apéro hour, light dessert, or snacktime.

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a few bites on the cooking of this jam:

  • jams, preserves, jellies, etc. require pectin for the thickening of the fruit. in my recipe, the pectin comes naturally from lemon. if you prefer a thicker jam, i’d recommend using a prepared pectin like pomono’s.
  • canning is a big topic of conversation when it comes to jams. see this handy guide for all the do’s and don’t’s.

s t r a w b e r r y   m i n t   j a m

fixings

1 part strawberries, halved or quartered

2/3 part granulated sugar

1/2 lemon, juiced

4 mint leaves, whole

for one 11oz jar, i used 2.25 cups/450 grams strawberries, and 1.5 cups/300 grams granulated sugar

directions

  1. mix all ingredients together (note: don’t mix in the full 1/2 lemon, just it’s juice) and bring to a boil.
  2. boil on medium-high for 15-20 minutes, until your jam coats a wooden spoon. once the spoon is completely coated and the jam has a thick, syrupy consistency. take off heat and remove the mint leaves with tongs. load jam into your canning jar.

o t h e r   s t u f f 

wondering where i got the beautiful baguette to eat with this jam? it’s from my new favorite neighborhood bakery, mamiche! a must for your next visit to paris.

one of my favorite vintage shops in paris

i’m heading to biarritz (france’s basque country) in two weeks. any recos??


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post67 // foodstuffs presents: how to pick crab 🦀

while back in the states, i spent most of my time at my family’s home on the chesapeake bay in maryland. oh am i lucky! we swam in the bay, sunbathed in the hot hot weather (aka jumping in and out of the water to cool down), ate my favorite maryland cookies, and most importantly, picked crab!!

picking crab is one of my family’s favorite summer activities at the bay. anyone who has come to visit our house knows that we love crab feasts and if you join our table, you’re going to learn how to eat crab. so come and watch my table side tutorial and learn how to pick maryland blue crab. you’ll be ready for the bay in no time! 


and in other, non-crabby news:

i met molly yeh in paris!! what a wonderful day we had. i’d actually met molly before at the food52 hq but it was so fun to bop around paris with her. read what she had to say about her paris trip and the awesome ice cream we ate!! 

i moved to a new apartment in paris. full debrief on my new neighborhood, pigalle, to come as it’s filled with so much great food. definitely put the Rue de Martyrs on your list for places to visit when you’re in paris!

#spagoals

i haven’t seen this movie in a while and i think it’s about time for a re-watch😂


photography and videography by catherine o’donnell/foodstuffs.blog with the fourth photo in the video by sean matheson/sonofmath.com

post66 // foodstuffs turns 1!

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hi guys and gals! today i’m celebrating something a lil’ special: foodstuffs’ first birthday! it was one year ago today that i launched this blog and i’m feeling quite nostalgic for all the fun i’ve had with it in the past year.

from launch day where i announced my big move to paris (and made some julia child croissants) to explaining french wine and all my incredible travels around europe this year (paris! london! amsterdam! normandy! lille!), this blog has been an incredible platform for me to share, cook, bake, and learn.

to celebrate what a year it’s been, i rounded up my reader’s top ten favorite foodstuffs recipes! and fittingly, the number one spot was narrowly clinched by a great recipe for celebrating, birthday sprinkle cake!


foodstuffs top 10 recipes of all time

  1. birthday sprinkle cake

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what’s more fun than making a cake and tossing sprinkles on it to celebrate? absolutely nothing (especially on your own birthday). inspired by christina tosi of milk bar and molly yeh of funfetti cake-dom, this cake is now a birthday staple in my kitchen. snag the recipe here!

2. dark chocolate chip cookiesIMG_1761

warm chocolate chip cookies are one of life’s best pleasures. amp up your standard recipe with dark chocolate chips and dark brown sugar like i do here for a richer, even tastier cookie. after posting this recipe, i received a lot of texts declaring just how good this recipe truly is. (*heart melts*) snag the recipe here!

3. avocado shrimp rollsfullsizeoutput_cc6

if one recipe could speak summer, this is it. after a big family party with leftover shrimp cocktail, i put the little shrimpies to use as the center of this roll. with easy-to-buy ingredients such as avocado, herbs, and mayo (don’t forget the potato chips!), this recipe is a simple lunch or dinner on a hot summer day. snag the recipe here!

4. homemade bagelsfullsizeoutput_b0c

want a fresh bagel in the morning? do you live in new york city? if you answered yes first and no second, this how-to is for you. and don’t be intimidated! this recipe is fool-proof. snag the recipe here!

5. fairground peanutsVersion 2

candied nuts are one of the best food gifts out there. you’ll see them more in the colder months but don’t underestimate their addictingly crunchy texture that’s perfect for your next dinner party’s aperitif hour. snag the recipe here!

6. saturday pancakes

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a go-to pancake recipe for weekend mornings is pretty necessary in my book. enter my easy pancakes, adapted from a classic martha stewart recipe. you’re ready for the weekend! snag the recipe here!

7. ricotta and tomato tartfullsizeoutput_fb0

tomato season is *almost* upon us so it’s time to get familiar with this recipe and add it to your repertoire. fresh ingredients are key to this dish so make sure you choose wisely at the farmers market or grocery store. snag the recipe here!

8. french crêpesfullsizeoutput_b2c

my crêpe-making skills have come a long way since this first post. maybe it’s time for a reboot? in the meantime, this recipe is a great place to start. and know that you can find the best crêpes in paris at breizh café and the best in france in the brittany region! snag the recipe here!

9. salted butterscotch apple pieIMG_1615

i made my own butterscotch! coupled with an all-butter pie crust and apple fruit compote, you’ve got pie perfection. this recipe also has a latticing how-to for pie decorating so it’s truly worth the read! snag the recipe here!

10. homemade french friesfullsizeoutput_c0d

humans and canines were big fans of this recipe. it’s always refreshing to learn what goes into something you eat at restaurants all the time. and for what it’s worth, french fries are very good in france as well! snag the recipe here!


so what’s next for foodstuffs??

i’m looking forward to more recipe creation in the year to come, much of which will be inspired by all the technical recipes and skills i learned while studying at cordon bleu.

and the kicker is that i’ll be working out of paris! i’ve just accepted a pastry externship at the ritz paris. “thrilled” is an understatement of my feelings right now. much like culinary school, i’ll be blogging about my experience over the next 6 months there. so stay tuned!


and last but not least, in this week’s other stuff:

the absolute cutest pajamas i’ve ever seen

just purchased a couple backdrops from these guys. looking forward to putting them to use!

this just got me. happy belated father’s day💛

oh and i have a new instagram handle! make sure you’re following @catherinekatemargaret

post65 // strawberry tart

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it’s officially strawberry season !!! well maybe not “officially,” but the strawberries are out and about here in paris and i’ve received news that they are springing up stateside as well.

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the dutiful strawberry happens to be one of my favorite fruits to use in desserts. watch out if you’re baking with me in the summertime, i sneak them into everything! (example a and example b.) last week, i decided to use them in a cake i baked for one of my first “clients” — yes, i got paid! i made a fraisier, a french cake with strawberry layers on the outside, genoise sponge cake as the base and pastry cream and more strawberries filling the middle. it’s called a fraisier because “fraise” means strawberry in french. the fraisier is usually topped with a thick layer of marzipan (almond paste) on top but i decided to forego this in order to let the strawberries truly shine.

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in this week’s recipe, i adapted the fraisier to a tart base and added in a thick layer of strawberry jam to the bottom of the tart. one thing i’ve learned in pastry school is that a surprise layer inside a cake or tart is a really fun way to jazz up a dessert. also when someone cuts into the dessert, they’ll see these different layers and colors, which can be super appealing to a customer.

if you’re like me and keep leftover pie crust in the freezer, go ahead and defrost it straight away! if not, i’ve listed my classic pie crust in the bottom for you to start on. it’s easy peasy!

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the actual assembly of this tart was super fun and i bounced around a lot of ideas for layering the strawberries before i landed on this one. it’s simple and makes a statement — that’s a twofer i’m always a fan of.

i opted for a “rustic” pie crust but if you’d like to shape or microplane your crust to make it perfect, go for it! i just liked the look of something not too fussy.

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and in this week’s other stuff! 


strawberry tart

fixings

pie crust (for a 9-inch tart ring, you will have leftover):

2½ cups ap (all-purpose) flour // 320 grams

1 teaspoon salt // 6 grams

1 tablespoon sugar // 12 grams

1 cup (2 sticks) well-chilled unsalted butter // 225 grams

extra butter or oil to prep pan

pastry cream

1½ cups milk // 360 grams

4 medium-sized or 3 large-sized egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar // 120 grams

2 tablespoons cornstarch // 24 grams

2 tablespoons flour // 24 grams

1/3 cup butter // 80 grams

1 cup beans for blind bake

assembly

1/4 cup good-quality strawberry jam // 80 grams

basket of strawberries (at least 20 small to medium-sized)

directions

crust (adapted from Kate Lebo’s, Pie School):

  1. preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. fill a spouted liquid measuring cup with about 3/4 cups of water, plop in some ice cubes, and place it in the freezer while you prep the following steps.
  3. in a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt. drop 1-tablespoon pieces of butter into the flour and toss the fat with the flour to evenly distribute it.
  4. place your palms up and curl your fingers back to scoop up the flour and fat. rub, rub, rub it between your thumb and fingers, letting it fall back into the bowl after rubbing. make sure you reach into the bottom and around the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the flour into the fat, until the mixture is slightly yellow, slightly damp. it should be chunky—mostly cherry-size pieces, the smaller bits resembling coarse cornmeal.
  5. take the water out of the freezer. pour it (slowly!) in a steady thin stream around the bowl for about 5 seconds. toss to distribute the moisture. as you add a bit more water and toss, the dough will become a bit shaggy and slightly tacky to the touch. press a small bit of the mixture together and toss it gently in the air. if it breaks apart when you catch it, add more water, toss to distribute the moisture, and test again. if the dough ball keeps its shape, it’s done.
  6. split the dough into 2 and form each ball into a thick disk using your palms and thumbs. wrap both disks in plastic wrap. refrigerate for 30 minutes to 3 days before rolling.
  7. butter or oil the tart pan. once rested, take the crust out of the fridge and roll to fit your tart or pie pan. use the rolling pin to run along the top of the tart pan in order to remove excess dough from the sides.
  8. layer a sheet of tin foil on the crust. pour the beans or rice onto the tin foil to prep the crust for par-baking.
  9. bake the crust for 5 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes. warning: these cooking times may vary from oven to oven so just keep watch on your tart!

pastry cream (while your crust is baking!):

  1. whisk together egg yolks and sugar while putting milk onto boil. combine egg yolks with dry components: cornstarch, flour, sugar.
  2. once milk reaches a boil, pour gently over the other ingredients while whisking. transfer all ingredients back to pot and heat together until thickened and bloopy. take off heat and add the butter. mix well and transfer to the fridge to cool down. (this can be done up to 3 days ahead of time.)

assembly:

  1. while tart is cooling (in fridge, freezer, or just at room-temp), hull strawberries and cut to ~1/2cm thick slices. for reference, i got about 4 slices out of each medium-sized strawberry.
  2. once tart is cool, fill bottom with a thin layer of strawberry jam. follow with a thick layer of pastry cream, spiraling from the inside out. make sure to fill any gaps with extra pastry cream.
  3. layering the strawbs: organize your strawberries from large to small before putting them on the tart. start by placing strawberries along edge of the tart. once the first row is complete around the tart, add a second layer that staggers the first. repeat until you fill the entire tart, leaving just a small hole in the middle to plop three strawberries in for garnish. voilà!
  4. store tart in a sealed container in fridge. it should keep for up to 3 days depending on when you made your pastry cream.

post64 // paris getaways

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lille, france

it’s been a little while since my last post and only one thing can explain that: travel! i’ve been taking advantage of europe’s stellar train system and exploring different parts of france and its neighbors. today, i’m clueing you in on the beautiful (and nearby!) places i’ve been visiting over the past couple of weeks. this was my first visit to each location so you’re getting a true first look. let’s go!


amsterdam 3hr15m by train

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meringues at STACH food

amsterdam is just as idyllic as people make it out to be. i was surprised by how quaint the city was, being quite small and filled with gift shops selling the signature blue-stained pottery, delftware.

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delftware from a shop on prinsengracht street

with just one full day in amsterdam, my friends and i opted for a paddling boat tour of the city. and lucky me, i didn’t have to paddle! (thanks sam and greta.) instead, i photographed and boy did we come across some beautiful architecture. the canals and renaissance architecture make for quite a view, even on a gloomy day!

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fellow boater whose boat is called c’est la vie!

some recommendations:

  • pancakes, the pancake bakery, prinsengracht 191
  • small gifts, spiegel amsterdam, nieuwe spiegelstraat 2a hs
  • afternoon snack, STACH food, nieuwe spiegelstraat 52
  • dinner, breda, singel 210
  • after-dinner drinks, dutch style, de twee zwaantjes, prinsengracht 141

lille 1hr by train

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the reflection at la piscine museum

when first looking for a day-trip from paris, the image above drew me right in. just outside the city of lille is an art museum that’s housed in art-deco swimming pool from the 1930s. cool right?? it was my first stop on my visit to lille, the fifth largest city in france.

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mille feuille at meert

surrounding the swimming pool are sculptures, ceramics, fabrics and artwork. beyond the art, what used to be the pool’s refreshment area is now home to an offshoot of lille’s most famous patisserie, meert. art deco + pastries = i’m there! above you can see meert’s mille feuille, also known as a napoleon, which i ate completely by myself for lunch that day. who said sugar can’t be a good lunch substitute?

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lille’s chamber of commerce

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place charles de gaulle

after lunch and my museum visit, i headed into the town center of lille. lille sits just below the border of belgium and you can tell by their architecture and the friendliness of the people there. similar to amsterdam, lille has many 2-3 story row-houses in colorful paints and darling square windows to boot.

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the bar at estaminet au vieux de la vieille

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a very cool vintage accordion at estaminet au vieux de la vieille

after doing some research, i found many sources recommending the same restaurant and bar: estaminet au vieux de la vieille. it’s located in le vieux lille, a particularly hip part of town. i headed there for just an afternoon pint and bite of cheese but soon i was making a reservation for their dinner. this restaurant truly makes you feel at home, a great pick for any solo traveler!

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the marvelous cheeses at fromagerie philippe olivier

and i even found a church named after me in lille! i was getting more comfortable in lille with each step i took.

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some recommendations:

  • dinner and drinks, estaminet au vieux de la vieille, 2-4 rue des vieux murs
  • cheese shop, fromagerie philippe olivier, 3 rue du cure saint-etienne
  • pastries, meert, 27 rue esquermoise (in-town or at the museum)
  • the funkiest quilt shop i’ve ever seen, la drougerie, 50 rue basse
  • museum, la piscine – musée d’art et d’industrie andré diligent, 23 rue de l’espérance, roubaix

normandy 2hr30m by train

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going to normandy is a trip i recommend for every american. it is a very special feeling being in a foreign country and going somewhere where you see your flag standing so high. after 7 months here in france, it was really moving to see just how america is recognized in normandy.

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coast off pointe du hoc, imagine climbing up this cliff

the coast is magnificent and a little known fact is that normandy is actually a popular vacation spot for many parisians and northern french families in the summertime. much like maine, the water keeps cool!

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outside bayeux’s main cathedral

here’s me playing tourist outside bayeaux’s cathedral in a photo my dad took. i visited normandy with my parents and it was quite a treat for them as they traveled to normandy together 35 years ago! talk about a throwback. we even stayed at the same hotel, hôtel le lion d’or bayeux!

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normandy american cementary

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memorials in the sand at omaha beach

some recommendations:

  • hotel and dinner, hôtel le lion d’or bayeux, 71 rue saint-jean, 14400 bayeux
  • sights,
    • normandy american cementary, 14710, Colleville-sur-Mer
    • pointe du hoc (cliffs overlooking normandy, critical point in ww2)
    • bayeux tapestry museum, 13bis rue de nesmond
    • bayeux cathedral, rue du bienvenu

and in this week’s other stuff, how about some paris food recommendations!

  • must try duck confit here
  • must try chocolate here
  • must try frozen margaritas here

 

all photography by catherine o’donnell/foodstuffs.

post63 // where to eat croissants in paris (+video!!)

you’ve asked and i’ve answered! after my last episode of foodstuffs presents here in paris, i asked viewers what they’d like to see more of. requests for croissants came knocking on my inbox, one after another. so here we are! i took the subway on over to east paris — home to the very trendy and bustling “le marais” and bastille neighborhoods — to check out two of the most well-known bakeries in paris.

ride along with me to see which croissant wins out and what bakery you should bookmark for your next trip to paris.


  1. blé sucré (11th arr, bastille) 7 Rue Antoine Vollon, 75012 Paris, open 7am-730pm tuesday-sunday
  2. du pain et des idées (in between 10th and 3rd arr, république) 34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, open 645am-8pm weekdays only
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blé sucré’s croissant (left), du pain et des idées (right)

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blé sucré’s croissant, exterior

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blé sucré’s croissant, interior

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du pain et des idées’ croissant, exterior

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du pain et des idées’ croissant, interior

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blé sucré’s croissant (top), du pain et des idées (bottom)


and in this week’s non-croissant related stuff!

current inspo: this hedgehog

my host family showed me the intro to a classic french film with uncanny resemblance to la la land. what do you think?

a great read on new york city restauranteurs


photography and videography by catherine o’donnell/foodstuffs

post62 // a chocolatey babka to bake this weekend

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ready, set, dough!

this recipe is one that i am very excited to share as it’s a great introduction to working with yeasted products. if you’re someone who homemade bread and doughs have intimidated, you’re not alone.

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working with yeasted products is pretty adventurous for the average person’s sense of baking. instead, brownies, box cakes, and cookies are what we’re taught to start with. well today, that changes! i’m here to show you that dough can be easy too.

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i first became (very!) interested in doughs when i set out to discover a special recipe: kindred’s milk bread. after recipe testing, testing, and testing again, i quickly grew acquainted with my instant packets of yeast. fast forward two years and i’ve had four months of working in an award-winning bread bakery and six months of pastry school under my belt. i am still by no means an expert but dough making is now my very favorite of kitchen activities.

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a couple tricks of the trade to get comfortable:

  • try working the dough without a mixer. while most dough recipes for home cooks call for a kitchenaid with a dough hook, almost all of these final doughs can be achieved without a mixer. mixing by hand also helps you get familiar with the texture, elasticity, and form the dough should take.
  • work on a cold surface. marble or butcher block is preferable and make sure your ac is cranking!
  • salt and yeast aren’t friends. salt slows down fermentation (a.k.a. what the yeast is doing!) so don’t combine them at the onset of your recipe making. instead, dissolve the yeast in a bit of water and stagger adding it with the salt.

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now that you’re a bit more comfortable with the basics, let’s dig into this babka recipe! it’s truly foolproof and the filling options are endless. pictured here is my dough, filled with dark chocolate, banana, olive oil, and sea salt.

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next comes the braiding. youtube is a god send for these kind of video tutorials and much like pie crust braiding and cake decorating, videos for babka braiding are a great way to get familiar. i found this one super helpful when i braided my first babka. while i added some twists to my dough, you get the basic gist!

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while on the babka subject, i wanted to share two of my favorite loaves:

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so get going and make your own! you can find the recipe below as usual and always know that my inbox and instagram are awaiting all your questions!

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and to add a bit more to your daytime scrolling, here’s this week’s other stuff. enjoy!

major mid century vibes in urban outfitter’s latest collection

the best congratulations card that ever did exist #corgis

i’m heading to normandy in a couple of weeks, any recos??


chocolate and olive oil babka

serves 6-8

fixings

dough

3.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1 packet active dry yeast

3 eggs

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup warm milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (a quality brand)

filling and assembly

1 bar dark chocolate (100g)

1 banana, mushed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finish

sea salt flakes to finish

the lowdown 

dough

  1. heat milk to just warm and add yeast. while yeast is dissolving, combine the butter and sugar. in a separate bowl, whisk eggs and olive oil to combine. gradually, add egg mix into sugar and butter and mix until well combined.
  2. add flour and salt into wet ingredients, bit by bit. the dough at this point should be shaggy and does not need to be well combined. add yeast and milk to mixture and begin to knead the dough.
  3. knead dough until smooth, about 10 minutes. dust work surface with flour as necessary throughout kneading. once dough is regular and well-combined, transfer to a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic. let dough rise 1 hour in a warm room, 2 hours in a cooler room, or overnight in the fridge.

filling and assembly

  1. grease loaf pan. break chocolate bar into small portions and melt in a microwave or saucepan. mush banana and combine with chocolate, and olive oil.
  2. roll dough out to the size of a baking sheet. the dough will retract a bit while shaping so make sure it truly is as large as a baking sheet. brush dough with filling mixture and use a spoon or offset spatula to smooth out evenly. do not brush filling on outer edges of dough for a clean finish. sprinkle salt flakes on to finish.
  3. time to roll! turn dough so that the longest edge is facing you, crosswise. tightly roll up babka dough. once rolled, use a serrated knife or bench scraper, to cut dough down middle. criss-cross dough ends down entire strand. tuck ends underneath dough to finish. transfer braided dough to loaf pan and let rest, uncovered for the same resting times as before, 1 hour in a warm room, 2 hours in a cooler room, or overnight in the fridge.
  4. preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. bake babka for 35-45 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean and dough has browned on top. check on dough halfway through cooking and cover with aluminum foil if already well-browned. (this will vary oven by oven.)
  5. once out of oven, brush another layer of olive oil on top for added shine.