Search This Blog

Monday, March 31, 2014

[Braided Chocolate Ganache (Nutella) Bread] An Easy-to-make bread with a beautiful star shpe

When somebody showed me a photo of this beautifully twisted bread at work, I already was decided to bake this bread on that night. And, of course, I did. I must have said before that baking is, for me,  not only for eating the end result, but more for enjoying the process of baking. I enjoy piping macarons, shaping bread, and decorating cupcakes. 

Therefore, it was only natural for me to like this star bread recipe, as soon as I set my eyes on it. Believe me, it looks more complicated than it looks. I made two in a row. I had to substitute (?) Nutella with real chocolate ganache, because of Pablo's allergy to all the tree nuts and peanuts. As you might have known, Nutella is a chocolate hazelnut spread. Pablo had a hard time accepting the fact that he couldn't have Nutella. 

Instead, I've been making chocolate ganache which is a pure chocolate spread, as a substitute for Nutella. This time was not an exception. I made chocolate ganache to spread between two discs of bread dough. I am glad I made chocolate spread myself  because Pablo loved the bread a lot. When I made it for the first time, I doubled the ingredients and made two braided chocolate ganache breads with two different star shapes. We ate one at home, and I brought the other one to work where the bread was a big hit. It's surprisingly easy to make, but it sure is a crowd pleaser. If you use Nutella spread instead of making your own, the process of making this bread becomes even easier.

Oh, by the way, I used the "dough" function of my bread machine up to the first rise. You can do it in an analogue way which is totally fine.

This braided bread is very soft, tender, but not so sweet. I would say it's a perfect breakfast bread. :)
Here goes the recipe.
(adapted from Good Home Design)

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour;
1/2 teaspoon of yeast;
1cup of water;
1 teaspoon of salt;
1 tablespoon of sugar;
some Nutella (or chocolate Ganache cream: recipe will follow)
1 egg;


1. I put flour, yeast, water, salt and sugar at once in the bowl of the bread machine.

2. Dissolve yeast with a quarter of a cup filled water, poured into a small bowl. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

3. In another bowl mix in the appropriate amount of flour, salt, and sugar. 

4. Add the yeast and mix at a low speed. Smoothly turn the speed to medium and keep turning for 6-7 minutes.

5. Cover it with a plastic wrap  in a warm place it will double in size.

 6. Roll half of the dough in order to make a circle. 

7. Place it on a parchment-lined or silicon-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the sheet beforehand with cornmeal so that it will not stick to the baking sheet.
Take the Nutella or chocolate gahache cream and pour an even layer on the surface.
half an inch of margin of dough all around, should be left.

Place another roll off dough (Nutella free) on top. 
Afterward, place it on a lined baking sheet.

Use a scissor to cut the dough down the middle, but keeping one end intact. 

Turn the cut side toward the top, then twist the ends of the dough overtop each other. 

Do this for every cut you made. 

Cover it with plastic wrap and let the dough sit in a dry place for 20 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180 °C)

Brush with egg wash. 
Then, bake at this temperature for about 20 minutes.
Raise the oven temperature to 425°F (210 °C) and bake for another 5-7 minutes.

It's a delicious bread everyone likes!

And now here is the recipe for the Chocolate ganache.
(adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

2/3 cup heavy cream
6 ounces semisweet chocolate (or 180 g), finely chopped
1 tablespoon light corn syrup


a. Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan. 

b. Remove from heat, and add chocolate and corn syrup. Let stand for 5 minutes. 

c. Whisk until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and let cool, stirring often. Use immediately

It's not difficult at all, is it?

Enjoy baking and the end-result!

Braided Chocolate Bread

Sunday, March 23, 2014

[Irish Beef Stew] Hearty Irish beef stew enhanced by Guinness

Who said that March 20th was the first day of spring? Well it could be... somewhere else, but not in Ottawa, for sure. Today must be the fifth day of Spring according to the norm, but it's now -11 degrees Celsius, or 12 degrees Fahrenheit in Ottawa. So please don't tell me that spring is right here since I wouldn't have an idea what you are talking about !! :( We had a 4-inch snow just yesterday.) I was wondering until the day before yesterday, whether I should switch from winter tires to the snow tires. And the weather gave me the answer: "not yet!!."  So, until spring comes, I continue making hearty stew to keep myself warm in this never-ending winter. 

I made Irish beef stew which is one of my favourite winter stews. I usually favour the recipes that use wine, spirit or beer since I find these alcohols actually enhance the flavour of the food. And this Irish beef stew is cooked with Guinness, my favourite stout! I love Guinness' rich heaviness and its pleasantly bitter taste. When it's added to the stew, it makes a big difference. I had my first bowl of Irish stew at the Annual Byward Market Stew Cook-off  in 2010. I loved the Irish beef stew presented by an Irish pub. I'm not sure whether the stew was cooked with Irish stout or not, but it was really good. Since any of Irish people could give me a recipe, i found my own, and i am happy with the recipe which I'm going to share with you.

Here goes the recipe for the Irish Beef Stew enhanced with Irish stout
(adapted from Simply Recipes)

1 1/4 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
3 teaspoons of salt
1/4 cup olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, minced
4 cups beef broth
2 cups water
1 cup of Guinness extra stout
1 cup of dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
(reduced from 3 lbs of potatoes used in the original recipe)
1 large onion, chopped 
2 carrots
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


 1.Cut beef into dices.

2.  Heat the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed or cast iron pot over medium-high heat. 

3.Pat dry the beef with paper towels and  season with salt and pepper. Add the beef in batches to the heated pot. Do not crowd the pan to prevent the meat from being steamed and producing water/liquid. Cook, without stirring, until nicely browned on one side, then use tongs to turn the pieces over and brown on another side.

4.  Add garlic to the pot with the beef and sauté until fragrant for 1-2 minutes. 

5. Add the beef  broth water, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves. Stir to mix well. Bring to boil.

Meanwhile, dice potatoes and carrots. 

6. Add the onions and carrots. Alternatively, you can sauté onion and carrots over melted butter as instructed in the original recipe, but usually, I just add vegetables to the pot. Believe me, either method is as good as the other.

7. Bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to the lowest setting, then cover and cook at a bare simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

8. Add black pepper and two teaspoons of salt. Sprinkle parsley. Discard the bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off  excess fat, if there's any. 

9. Transfer stew to serving bowl. 

10. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Like any other stew, it's very easy to make.
It's a great hearty meal to please everybody at the table on a cold winter day.

Irish Beef Stew

Sunday, March 16, 2014

[St. Patrick's Day Cupcake] Perfectly fluffy and soft treats to celebrate St. Paddy's day

As you might have easily guessed, I'm not Irish :). Still I feel like celebrating St. Paddy's day on March 17th. I went to an over-crowded Irish pub on every St. Paddy's day with Irish friends when I didn't have dependents. I gave up the idea of going to an Irish pub on St. Paddy's day since I was pregnant with Remi in 2004. Therefore, it has been already 10 years that I had a can of Guinness at home instead of a draft at an Irish pub. (Wow, how could time pass so fast????) I must say I miss the jovial atmosphere of the pub filled with gleeful crowd holding dark stout. But, I can wait for another 8 years~ :) 

Yeah, we will still have two dependents in 8 years from today, but they will be fine on their own for an evening, or they may be celebrating St. Paddy's way with their friends, I expect? For now, I'm happy with baking a dozen cupcakes to celebrate St. Paddy's day with my three guys. I'll bake some more for my colleagues tonight. 

I've been looking for a soft basic vanilla cupcake recipe. Believe me, I've tried more than a dozen vanilla cake recipes. I liked some of them more than others. Nevertheless, I couldn't fine "the" one recipe to use over and over. But now I think I finally found THE recipe at Cookies and Cups site. 

I've made only one small modification to the original recipe: use of cold butter instead of butter at room temperature. 

And, I was surprised by its ultra fluffiness and softness. I love these simple cupcakes I made! You can finish the cupcakes with any kind of frosting of your choice. I covered my cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with green shamrock sprinkles. 

Here goes the recipe for the super soft cupcake:
(adapted from Cookies and Cups)

(for a dozen cupcakes. halved from the original recipe)
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup cup sugar
1 + 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 350°

2. Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

3. In bowl of food processor or blender, add the first 5 dry ingredients and stir together using paddle attachment for about a minute. Enough to get them nice and combined.

4. With mixer on low, drop in butter, a few cubes at a time continuing until all butter is in and mixer resembles coarse sand.

5. Add eggs one at a time on low speed.

6. With mixer still on low slowly pour in milk and vanilla. Turn mixer to medium and beat for 2 minutes until batter is smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed.

7. Fill liners 2/3 full (about 1/4 cup batter) and bake for 15-20 minutes until centers are set and toothpick comes out clean.

8. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

9. Decorate the cupcakes with prepared frosting and sprinkles (optional).

Cream cheese frosting recipe.
(adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes, p. 303)

180g (6 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and then vanilla, and mix until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

I am very confident that you 'd love this recipe too.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!