Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

I’m so thankful that tomorrow is the last day of this year.

That’s not to say this year wasn’t filled with good things. In fact, many great things happened this year. I feel abundantly blessed. Yet, I feel this overwhelming desire for more. More growth, more prosperity, a closer relationship with God. I feel a craving for it like I have never before.

More recently, I’ve gotten so caught up with work (wake, work, sleep, wake, work, sleep) and I realize I haven’t had my priorities straight. I know I need to make a change. At every year’s end, I try to list the things I want to improve upon in the new year. I feel so eager to start anew, to begin afresh, this year in particular. There’s nothing cliche about it. Like a wise person once said, (paraphrase): insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

If you want to see change, make a real effort. Do something differently. Stop daydreaming and start doing. Take a leap of faith even when you can’t see the ground beneath you.

I’m going to talk to you like you’re my personal journal. Here are some of my aspirations for 2017:

  • Don’t get out of bed without a morning prayer
  • Pray for my husband daily
  • Continually learn and grow to become a better wife
  • Often visit my grandparents
  • Consistently observe the Sabbath day of rest
  • Better manage my time, prioritize the important things
  • Slow down
  • Be quick to listen and slow to speak
  • Take care of my body, inside and out
  • Read before bed
  • Do more of the things that bring joy into my life. Remove the things that don’t

We’re homebodies by nature, but my husband and I are spending our first New Year’s Eve alone at home. Just the two of us. Instead of making a huge deal out of it, I feel so at ease just letting it happen. Without all the noise and without the hoopla. Contrary to popular belief, not everything needs to be snapped and shared. Such a significant moment as 12:00am on January 1st aught to be as personal as personal gets. You & God. Your dreams, God’s plan. All hope and no fear. A little prayer said for the beginning of a new year.

In honor of the occasion, I tried my hand at this chocolate babka. I was given an abundance of Ferrero Rochers for Christmas (60 to be exact) and I decided to do something about it. Stuffed inside these flaky layers are the crushed classic hazelnut Italian chocolates, decadent and unapologetic.

 I wish you the happiest new beginning. Cheers to 2017!

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Yield: 2 9-inch babkas, Active Time: 1 hr 15 min, Total Time: 6 hrs (prepare the dough the night before to allow for overnight chilling!)

Dough:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur Flour)
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed
  • 1 packet dry active yeast (I use 2-1/4 tsp SAF Red Instant Yeast)
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature

Filling:

  • 4 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)
  • 12 Ferrero Rocher balls, finely crushed and center hazelnuts removed
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed

Glaze:

  • 16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  1. To make the dough: in a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the sugar and salt. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the milk with the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk and sprinkle the dry ingredients on top. Mix at low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the side of the bowl and mix at medium speed until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated and the dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. Add all of the butter at once and mix at low speed until it is fully incorporated and a tacky dough forms, about 3 minutes; scrape down the side of the bowl as needed during mixing. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and coat the paper generously with nonstick baking spray. Scrape the dough out onto the parchment paper and cut the dough in half. Pat each piece into a neat square. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  3. To make the filling: In a medium saucepan, melt both chocolates with the butter, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, then stir in the crushed Ferrero Rochers.
  4. Coat two 9-by-4-inch loaf pans with nonstick baking spray and line with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches of overhang on each of the long sides. Roll out each square of dough to a 16-inch square. Using an offset spatula, spread all but 1/2 cup of the filling in an even layer over the dough squares to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Starting at the long edge nearest you, tightly roll up each dough square jelly roll–style into a tight log.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut the logs in half crosswise. Using an offset spatula, spread 1/4 cup of the reserved filling on the top and sides of 2 of the halves. Set the other halves on top in the opposite direction to form a cross. Twist to form spirals and transfer to the prepared pans. Cover the loaves with a towel and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake the loaves in the center of the oven for about 45 minutes, until puffed and well browned. Let cool slightly, then use the parchment paper to lift the babkas out of the pans and onto a rack set over a baking sheet. Discard the paper.
  7. To make the glaze: melt the chocolate with the butter over low heat; stir until smooth. Stir in the corn syrup. Spread the glaze on top of the warm babkas and let stand until set, about 30 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine.

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