Chocolate Tahini Challah Buns (from Smitten Kitchen)

The other weekend on a whim, I decided to tackle a baking project that had been on my list for a while: these chocolate tahini challah rolls by Smitten Kitchen.  I have been gravitating more towards tahini in desserts so these caught my eye.  Last year I made these tahini molten cakes for dessert after a Middle Eastern themed dinner and they were delicious.  For those unfamiliar with tahini, it is a sesame paste that is akin to a natural peanut butter but with a nuttier taste to it.  It is often used in Middle Eastern cooking (aka hummus) but has been trending in a lot of desserts lately (see the My Name is Yeh blog).

I figured anything with chocolate, tahini and challah couldn’t go wrong!  This recipe was pretty simple but does require some advanced planning and time (mostly inactive time waiting for the dough to rise).  They are best served warm, in my opinion.  Enjoy!

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Chocolate Tahini Challah Buns

DOUGH
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 large egg yolk
    • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable or another neutral oil, or melted butter
    • 2/3 cup (150 ml) milk or water, plus an additional tablespoon if needed
    • 3 3/4 (490 grams) cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the counter
    • 1 packet (7 grams or 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
    • Butter or nonstick spray for baking pan
FILLING AND ASSEMBLY
    • 4 ounces (115 grams) dark (semi- or bittersweet) chocolate (or approximately 3/4 cup chocolate chips)
    • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
    • Scant 1/2 cup (25 grams) powdered sugar
    • 1/4 cup (20 grams) cocoa powder
    • 1/4 cup tahini (30 grams), well-stirred
    • 1 large egg, beaten
    • Sesame seeds
GLAZE (OPTIONAL)
  • 2 cups (240 grams) powdered sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon or orange juice
Make dough: Whisk eggs, yolk, sugar, oil and milk or water in the bottom of a stand mixer bowl. Add flour, yeast and salt and combine with dough hook until it comes together, then let machine knead it for 5 to 7 minutes. Oil a large bowl and let dough rise in it at room temperature for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until slightly shy of doubled.You may need 30 to 45 minutes longer if your ingredients were cold. You can speed this process along by turning your oven on to 150 degrees F and turning it off and then placing bowl the dough inside. Keep an eye on it because it will rise more quickly.

Butter a 9×13-inch or equivalent size baking dish, or coat it with nonstick spray.

Make filling: Melt butter and chocolate together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar, cocoa and tahini; mixture should be a spreadable consistency.

Assemble buns: On a very well-floured counter, roll out dough into a rectangle about 18 inches wide (side facing you) and as far away from you (i.e. length) as it comfortably goes, usually 12 to 15 inches. Dollop chocolate mixture over and spread it smooth. Roll dough in a tight spiral.

Cut log very gently — it’s going to be a soft mess, use a sharp serrated knife, sewing thread works well here too — into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch segments. Arrange cut side up in prepared pan. Beat egg in small bowl. Brush tops of buns and tops of sides with egg and cover with plastic wrap. You can either fefrigerate overnight, along with leftover egg wash or leave it at room temperature to proof for another 60 to 90 minutes, until puffed a bit.

Bake buns: If in fridge, remove buns from fridge and let warm up for 30 minutes before baking. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush tops tops of sides with egg with egg wash again (I forgot and skipped the sides, which is why they are pale in the photos) and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 minutes, until bronzed all over and buns have an internal temperature of 190 degrees F. Let cool slightly before serving.

To glaze (optional): If using glaze, whisk ingredients until smooth. You can drizzle this over the buns or serve it alongside with a spoon. If drizzling over, it’s best to let the buns almost fully cool before putting it on or it may melt off.

 

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

What do you get when you combine Flour bakery and the Barefoot Contessa? Chocolate and peanut butter? Sinfully delicious chocolate peanut butter cupcakes!

I originally found a recipe for chocolate peanut butter cupcakes on another food blog which used Ina Garten’s peanut butter frosting recipe. I loved the frosting but was not a fan of the cupcake which was too dense and dry (the actual chocolate cupcake recipe was not Ina Garten’s). So for take #2 of these cupcakes I decided to rely on my old favorite chocolate cupcake recipe (also featured in my St. Patty’s Day cupcakes): Joanne Chang’s chocolate cupcake from the Flour bakery cookbook.

The new combination was a success resulting in a softer/moist (sorry for people who hate that word) cupcake that was a much better complement to the fluffy peanut butter frosting. These have probably become one of my most requested cupcakes!

Recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes (From Joanne Chang’s Flour bakery cookbook)
Yield: 12 standard size cupcakes

2 oz (56 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (30 gram) Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (one stick/114 grams) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (80 gram) water
1/2 cup (120 gram) milk
1 egg
1 yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (140 grams) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Line your muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.

In a large heatproof bowl, combine chocolate and cocoa powder. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the sugar, butter, and water, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves (3 to 4 minutes). Pour the butter mixture over the chocolate and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Let cool slightly and whisk the milk, egg, extra yolk, and vanilla into the chocolate mixture until combined.

In a bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until blended. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Let the batter sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour to thicken. Or, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling until at least 3/4 full. Bake for 30 minutes or until the tops spring back when pressed lightly with a fingertip and they pass a toothpick check. I usually start checking after 20-25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Cupcakes can also be made in “mini” form. Makes 36 mini cupcakes. Fill mini cupcake tin with about 1 Tbs batter per cupcake. Bake for 13-15 minutes.

Peanut Butter Frosting (from Barefoot Contessa)

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
7.5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Assembly

Spread or pipe peanut butter frosting onto cooled cupcakes. Enjoy!

“I got to thinking about relationships and partipbcupal lobotomies. Two seemingly different ideas that might just be perfect together- like chocolate and peanut butter.”

~Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

A spoonful (or a cup) of Nutella: Chocolate Cake with Nutella Chocolate Ganache and Nutella Buttercream

Chocolate and peanut butter, peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and fluff…classic, time tested flavor combinations that will never fall out of favor. However, none of these come close to the creamy chocolate-hazelnut combination of Nutella. This genius (in my opinion) concoction was invented in the 1940s by Pietro Ferrero in Italy when he was forced to stretch the rationed supply of chocolate with chopped hazelnuts. (This is reminiscent of how red velvet cake came to be- bakers would add beet juice to cake to give it a darker color when chocolate supplies were scarce.) It was initially called “Pasta Gianduja” and then renamed “Nutella” in 1964. Since then, it has gained mass popularity in the US and around the world. There is even a “National Nutella Day” on February 5th! And Nutella was recently in the news when thieves in Germany stole 5 tons of it earlier this month.

My introduction to Nutella was in the form of crepes, filled with nutella and bananas or strawberries. However, in the past several years I have experimented with Nutella ice cream, Nutella quesadillas (2 flour tortillas with nutella and marshmallows in between, heated in a skillet until tortillas are lightly browned on both sides and marshmallows are melted), and more recently Nutella cupcakes (pictured below, recipe at www.baked-in.com).

My mom recently got me over 3 pounds of Nutella (not quite 5 tons but still a large amount) at Costco, so I needed a recipe to use it up (to deter me from just eating it by the spoonful from the jar). I’ve made a lot of cupcakes recently so I decided, instead, to make a cake. This is a chocolate cake flavored with hazelnut liquor, filled with a Nutella chocolate ganache, and covered in a Nutella swiss meringue buttercream (from the Nutella cupcakes pictured above). Before I continue on with the recipe, let me leave you with two disclaimers:

Disclaimer #1: This frosting recipe makes more than what is needed for the cake and I cannot be responsible for what is done with the leftovers (there might be a Nutella frosting food coma involved)!

Disclaimer #2: Despite some recent commercials touting Nutella as the key to a nutritious and healthy breakfast, Nutella unfortunately, is not a healthy chocolate spread. Apparently there’s actually a lawsuit surrounding this issue…but seriously, chocolate, hazelnut, palm oil- did someone really think this could be good for you?

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Easter Sunday

Just like a good little Jewish girl, I was really excited for Easter (did I mention that Easter this year fell during Passover?). I think the last time I had been this excited for Easter was when my Catholic ex-bf from college staged a real Easter egg hunt for me- my very first ever. This year, my enthusiasm was because I had come up with a brilliant idea for a cupcake (and who can pass up an opportunity to drink at 1PM at Easter brunch?). My vision was this: A yellow cupcake with a mini Cadbury cream egg hidden inside (that’s the Easter egg hunt part- get it?), topped with a “nest” of chocolate ganache frosting and filled with pastel colored chocolate eggs. Overall, it was a pretty good cupcake but I’m still searching for the perfect yellow cupcake recipe. Most I have tried are too dry and I’d hate to resort to a boxed yellow cake mix (although I do admit they can be pretty tasty)…any suggestions?

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