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BEAUTY AND THE YEAST
SWEET BREADS MAKE AN ATTRACTIVE TREAT FOR GUESTS AND HOSTS

Next time you're welcoming new neighbors or visiting old friends, sweeten your greeting with a gift of something you baked yourself, such as one of the sweet yeasted breads below.

Made from simple baking staples and other basic ingredients you probably already have in the pantry and refrigerator, they come together easily and quickly. The streamlined preparation for the orange bread makes it particularly speedy; the raised batter doesn't require kneading or shaping and is simply spooned into the pan for baking.

When a baking recipe calls for powdered cocoa, use Dutch-process cocoa; instant cocoa mix is not an acceptable substitute.

This streusel-topped loaf of Polish origin is a favorite at many bakeries. Adding flavor and visual drama is the swirl of cocoa filling in each slice.

Chocolate Swirled Babka

2 packages active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)

1/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)

1/2 teaspoon each: salt and vanilla extract

3 tablespoons butter, softened

4 1/2 to 5 cups unbleached flour

3 eggs

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Cocoa Filling (recipe below)

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Streusel Topping (recipe below)
Sprinkle yeast over warm water in large bowl of electric mixer. Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Let stand until yeast is soft (about 5 minutes).

Add remaining sugar, milk, salt, vanilla and the softened butter.

Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour. Mix to blend, then beat at medium speed in electric mixer until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Separate one of the eggs; reserve egg white for glaze. Beat in egg yolk and whole eggs, one at a time. Stir in about 1 1/2 cups more flour to make a soft dough.

To knead dough by hand, turn out onto board or pastry cloth dusted with some of the remaining flour. Knead until dough is smooth and satiny, and small bubbles form just under surface (10 to 12 minutes), adding just enough flour to prevent sticking. Alternatively, knead in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Turn dough in greased bowl. Cover with plastic film and a towel; let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk (45 minutes to 1 hour).

Punch down. Cover with inverted bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Roll out each half into a 10-by- 20-inch rectangle. Brush half of the melted butter over each rectangle, leaving 1/2 -inch margin on all edges. Sprinkle half of the Cocoa Filling evenly over buttered surface of each rectangle, then sprinkle with nuts.

Starting with one of the long sides, roll each rectangle tightly, jelly-roll fashion. Pinch edge to seal.

Fit each roll, pressing and bending it zigzag fashion, into a well-greased 4 1/2 -by-8 1/2 -inch loaf pan.

Let rise until almost doubled in bulk (35 to 45 minutes). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat reserved egg white with 1 teaspoon water; brush egg white mixture over loaves. Sprinkle each loaf with half of the Streusel Topping.

Bake until coffee cakes are well-browned (30 to 35 minutes). Carefully remove loaves from pans and let cool on wire racks. Makes 2 coffee cakes.

Cocoa Filling

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch process

2/3 cup sugar
In small bowl, mix cocoa and sugar until well-combined and no lumps remain.

Streusel Topping

2tablespoons butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

1/4 cup flour
In a medium bowl, beat butter with cinnamon until fluffy; gradually beat in sugar, then mix in flour until crumbly and uniformly combined.

Easily prepared in a regular electric mixer, the batter for this fragrant coffee cake should be beaten until it pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Orange Batter Coffee Cake

2 packages active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)

1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

4 cups unbleached flour

Orange Glaze (recipe below)

Chopped toasted almonds, for garnish (optional)
Sprinkle yeast over water in large bowl of electric mixer; let stand until soft (about 5 minutes). Add milk, sugar, salt and butter; stir until butter is fully incorporated. Mix in vanilla, eggs and orange zest, beating until well-combined.

Add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When all the flour has been added, beat at medium speed until batter becomes elastic and pulls away from sides of bowl (3 to 5 minutes).

Transfer batter to a greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until bubbly (about 1 hour). Stir down; spread batter in a well-greased 10-inch tube or bundt pan. Let rise until doubled (about 45 minutes).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake until well-browned (30 to 35 minutes). Turn out coffee cake onto wire rack to cool. While still warm, drizzle with Orange Glaze and decorate with almonds. Makes 1 large coffee cake.

Orange Glaze

1 cup confectioners' sugar

2 teaspoons butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

2 tablespoons orange juice
In small bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix until smooth.