A mom's journal of the sweet things in her life...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Candy Cane Sugar Cookies

I took a bit of a break from the world of blogging. I was feeling a bit lazy, to be honest, and uninspired. But there's nothing like putting up your Christmas tree and decorating your house to get you in the mood for baking. I saw these cookies over at Lauren's Latest and knew that I had to try them. In her version, the dough is rolled in icing sugar before baking, but I omitted that step. I figured with my addition of a white chocolate glaze and a sprinkling of candy canes after baking, they wouldn't miss the extra sweetness. These cookies taste just like a sugar cookie, the centers are nice and chewy - and the candy cane adds a hint of mint - nothing overwhelming. Festive, pretty and delicious -enough said.
Recipe for Candy Cane Sugar Cookies
Source: adapted from: Lauren's Latest
4 regular sized candy canes, crushed with rolling pin, divided
½ cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoons baking soda
1-½ cup all-purpose flour
2 ounces white chocolate, chopped (for drizzling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside. Place unwrapped candy canes in a small zip loc bag and crush with a rolling pine. Set aside. In bowl of stand mixer, using paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, scraping sides bowl as needed. With mixer on lowest setting, add your dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add about three-quarters of the crushed candy canes and gently combine. Roll the dough into balls using a scant table-spoon for each and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until edges just begin to turn a light golden brown. Allow to cool for a couple minutes before moving onto wire rack to cool completely. Melt the white chocolate in your microwave at 50% power, watching closely. I always do 1 minute - then stir until completely smooth. Drizzle white chocolate over cooled cookies and sprinkle remaining crushed candy canes over the chocolate before it sets. Allow to set for about 30 minutes.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Milk Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Pretzel Crust

It's been a very long time since I last posted. I've been a very lazy girl in the blogging department, which is not to say that I've been lazy in the kitchen. I've made some great stuff over the past few months, I just haven't really felt like blogging about it. But I couldn't let this little gem fall between the cracks, because this dessert was one of my favorites. 
This was inspired by a dessert that was served at Earl's for a short time. It was a milk chocolate pudding topped with a peanut butter mousse and then sprinkled with a home made sponge toffee. It was heaven. Instead of pudding, I opted for a milk chocolate cheesecake for my base. I made a thin peanut butter layer for the top. The crust is crushed pretzels instead of graham wafers, and then I melted peanut butter and poured it on the crust to help it to bind and also give the cake that extra hit of peanut butter. 
And, yes, I did make a homemade sponge toffee to sprinkle on top which was great for texture, but I completely forgot to use it when I photographed the dessert. You'll just have to take my word for it.
I'm not going to lie. This cake is a lot of work. There's a lot of different layers of flavors going on here but it really comes together and is a show stopper. Make this for someone you love. Or when you just really need the peanut butter chocolate combo but want a refined version of Reese's peanut butter cups. 
For the Crust:
1 cup of crushed pretzels (you want fine crumbs here but not dust)
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
Combine crushed pretzels, sugar and melted butter. Press into the base of a greased 9" spring-form pan. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly golden.
Microwave peanut butter until pourable consistency, and pour over the baked crust.  *Now that your crust is ready, wrap the outside of the pan with foil if you plan to bake your cheesecake in a water bath (optional). 
For the Cheesecake
(adapted from Fine Cooking)
8 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped
3 x 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar 
3 large eggs, room temperature
Melt the milk chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave at 50% power for 90 seconds. Stir. Continue to microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring in between each, until chocolate is smooth. Set aside.
Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the eggs, and process until smooth. Add the eggs and pulse a few times only until incorporated. Do not over mix or the cake will expand too much when baked. Scrape the melted chocolate into the mix and pulse until just incorporated. Pour over crust.
Bake at 300 degrees F. for 50 to 60 minutes until the centre barely jiggles when you tap the pan. Remove from oven, allow to come to room temperature on a cooling rack before refrigerating over night.
*I always bake my cheesecakes in a hot water bath - and I did with this one as well, but it's not necessary. If you choose to do the same, place your cheesecake in a large roasting pan before baking, and pour enough boiling water in the roasting pan to come half-way up the cheesecake. 
For the Peanut Butter Layer
(adapted from Willow Bird Baking)
1/2 tsp. powdered gelatin
2 Tbsp. cold water
1 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp. sugar
4 Tbsp. smooth peanut butter
1/8 tsp. salt
In a small bowl, mix the gelatin and the water in a small bowl. Let dissolve for 5 minutes. Heat the cream over low heat in a small sauce pan until it bubbles form around the edges. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar. While whisking vigorously, add 1/2 of the hot cream into the egg yolks and sugar. Then slowly pour the egg mixture into the saucepan of cream, whisking constantly. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the peanut butter and the gelatin. Chill until it's cooled and thickened slightly, but not set. Pour mixture over top of the chilling cheesecake (still in its spring form pan) and refrigerate for several hours, preferably over night. When completely chilled, remove cake from spring-form pan and serve.

*Like I said, I forgot to photograph the honeycomb, but it was a great addition to this dessert. I used this recipe from Bon Appetit. One could always buy honeycomb instead of making it, it would definitely save you a lot of time. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sprinkle Sugar Cookies

I asked my 4 year old son what we should bring to his sister's school dance and he said, without hesitation, "those cookies with the two kinds of icing...one is white and one is dark brown...", to which I quickly responded, "No!" He was referring to Black and White cookies, which I never blogged about and really should have cause my kids haven't stopped asking for them since I made them. But for this occasion, I needed something simple and quick to bake for a large crowd of kids. His second suggestion was, "Sprinkle  Cookies".  Hmmmm...didn't I just pin something like that the other day? I told him he was a genius. Him: "What's a genious?" Me: "Never mind."
These cookies are serious kid pleasers. Just look at them! Full of sprinkles, exploding with colors and sugar. I actually didn't mind them either, truth be told. They taste just like sugar cookies should, the addition of sprinkles didn't make them any sweeter than a regular sugar cookie, just prettier. And if baked for the right amount of time, they have the perfect amount of 'chew'. 
Recipe for Sprinkle Sugar Cookies
(adapted from Tasty Kitchen)
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup rainbow jimmie sprinkles
extra Nonpareil sprinkles, on a small plate, for rolling the dough

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer for about 2 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg and beat until well combined. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until fully incorporated. Mix in the 1/4 cup of jimmie sprinkles, being careful not to over-mix or the sprinkles will bleed and discolor the cookie dough.

Scoop the cookie dough with an ice cream scooper onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Place the dough ball onto the small plate with extra sprinkles and press lightly so the tops of the cookies have sprinkles on them. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies, or until the edges just begin to turn a light golden color. (Do not over bake, or the cookies will not be chewy.) Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cake Batter Baked Donuts

It seems like baked goods with cake batter is the latest craze out there these days. Not a lot of it appeals to me...cake batter ice cream?!...I dunno. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't be opposed to tasting it but I'm just not sure I want to invest my time in making it. But cake batter doughnuts? That are baked? Well, that's easy to get behind. I knew that my kids would love them. These are not 'that much' worse than a typical muffin. Except for the cake mix. And the glaze. And sprinkles. Okay, let's focus on the fact that they're baked and not fried. That's something.
My only beef with these is that they have a very short shelf life. I made them in the morning, and by early evening they looked wilted and unappealing. Perhaps they should be refrigerated? I'm not sure - but if you make them for a crowd or a play date - I'm pretty sure leftovers will not be a problem.
Recipe for Cake Batter Doughnuts
(Source: RecipeBoy)
Yield: 12 regular sized doughnuts or 24 to 36 mini doughnuts
1 cup flour
2/3 cup Rainbow Bit cake mix (or Funfetti)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs, beaten
 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 Tbsp. sprinkles
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly spray a doughnut pan with nonstick spry. In large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Stir in milk, eggs, vanilla and melted butter, stirring until incorporated. Stir in sprinkles. Fill large ziploc bag (or a pastry/icing bag) with the batter, snip the corner and fill the doughnut cavities until just over 1/2 full. Do not over fill.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until doughnuts spring back when touched. Cool before glazing.
*For minis - I used my 'mini donut maker' (which works similar to a waffle maker) and bakes them in about 2 minutes. 
Vanilla Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 to 2 Tbsp. milk
extra sprinkles for decorating, if desired
Whisk the sugar, vanilla and 1 Tbsp. of the milk in a medium sized bowl. Add the remaining Tbsp. of milk 1 tsp. at a time, if necessary, to achieve a consistency that is good for dipping.  Dip the doughnuts into the glaze and then place them on a wire rack to set. Finish with additional sprinkles if desired.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Because it was Wednesday, because we had aging bananas sitting on my counter yet again, because you can only make banana bread so many times before you grow sick of it...I decided it was time to start looking for new ways to use up overripe bananas. I know, muffins aren't much of a stretch, but I had to start somewhere. I found a recipe on Allrecipes but ended up changing it beyond recognition. The kids loved them...even my daughter who is my toughest critic ate 4 of them in one sitting. Don't be shy with the chocolate chips. I like to sprinkle the tops with extra chips before baking so that they're even more enticing for the kids. Works every time. 
Recipe for Mini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
(Adapted from Allrecipes)
Yields: 36 mini muffins
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups of mashed bananas (about 4 large)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line mini muffin tins with paper liners (36 in total). In medium bowl, whisk the flour baking soda, powder and salt. Set aside. In large bowl, combine the mashed bananas, brown sugar, egg, vanilla and melted butter. Stir until well combined. Fold in the dry ingredients, taking care to mix only until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spoon batter into the muffin tins. Sprinkle with additional mini chocolate chips, if desired.
Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. (I baked mine for 16 minutes total). Allow to cool on wire rack.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chewy Brownies

I saw this recipe for brownies by Cook's Illustrated, which promises a homemade version of the chewy brownie that comes from the boxed mix. This is one of those rare instances where a close approximation to the box mix is a good thing. I altered the recipe slightly by omitting the 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chunks that were to be added to the batter before baking. I prefer not having the texture of the chocolate chunks interfering with the chewiness of the brownies. Also, I don't like my brownies too chocolate-y, as strange as that sounds. There really is such a thing as 'too much of a good thing'. These brownies were a definite hit - with kids and adults alike. Definitely worth a try - they'll wind up in the favorites rotation for sure. 
Recipe for Chewy Brownies
(Source: adapted from Spring Entertaining | Cook's Illustrated | 2012)
1/3 cup dutch processed cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. instant coffee
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups (17.5 ounces) sugar
1 3/4 cups (8.75 ounces) all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 13x9 inch baking dish with foil, leaving a 2 inch overhang. Spray with non-stick vegetable spray.
Whisk cocoa powder, instant coffee and boiling water together in a large bowl until smooth. Add the semisweet chocolate and whisk until completely melted. Whisk in the oil and then the melted butter. Add eggs, egg yolks and vanilla, whisking until smooth. Add the sugar and whisk until incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour and salt and mix until just combined.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted halfway between the edge and the center have a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 to 35 minutes. (I baked mine for 30 minutes.) Allow to cool in pan for 90 minutes.
Using the foil overhang, remove the brownies from the pan and allow to cool completely. Cut and serve. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Caramel Popcorn

When I was tidying my spice cabinet, I came across 3 Mars Bar chocolate bars. Apparently I had done an excellent job hiding them from myself. Many chocolate cravings have been had since those bars were stashed back there, had I remembered them, this chocolate caramel popcorn would have never been born.
I'm not sure what inspired this creation, or why it even occurred to me to melt the chocolate bars and pour them over popcorn. I've made Mars Bar Squares several times in the past, but not once had I thought to replace the rice krispies with popcorn. My bad.
I basically followed the recipe for the Mars Bar Squares, but since I only had three, (the recipe calls for four) I cut the butter back by 2 Tablespoons and held back some of the microwave popcorn. I think four would be perfect to use an entire bag of popcorn and so I've written the recipe accordingly.
For some reason, I decided to bake the popcorn after coating it with the chocolate, even though I really liked the chewiness of the unbaked popcorn. So you can go either way... if you like your caramel corn chewy, skip the baking step. However, if you prefer a little bit of crispiness along with the chew, then proceed to bake it for NO MORE than 5 minutes. The unbaked version is the perfect consistency for forming popcorn balls - should you be so inclined. 
Needless to say, this was deliciously decadent. Sweet, with a hint of salt from the the popcorn. Between me and my kids, it didn't stand a chance.
Chewy Chocolate Caramel Popcorn
(tease-spoonofsugar original)
4 Mars bars (regular sized), chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 bag of microwave popcorn (I used light)
Pop one bag of microwave pop corn and pour into a large mixing bowl. Make sure to remove any unpopped kernels. Melt the butter with the Mars bars over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes together. (It will appear to separate at one point, keep stirring). Pour over the popcorn and mix until thoroughly coated. At this point, you can eat it, if you like your popcorn chewy. If you want it partly crispy, spread over a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F. for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool, break into pieces and enjoy.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Baked's Sweet and Salty Cake

Baked's famous Sweet and Salty Cake has been on my baking 'to do' list for over a year. Being a lover of salted caramel is what drew me in, but the fact that the icing/filling for the cake contains a pound of chocolate, a pound of butter as well as caramel is something that both enticed me and scared me at the same time. And that's just one component - there's still salted caramel that is used to soak the cake layers, never mind the cake itself. Even I struggled with the calories and I never say no to dessert.
So, when my sister's 40th birthday rolled around, I knew I couldn't ask for a better excuse to try this recipe out. If turning 40 isn't a good enough reason to abandon reason and good judgment and dive head first into vat of calories and fat grams, well...when?  And, yes, I realize it wasn't 'my' birthday and so the justification didn't apply to me directly, but I figured I could take one for the team.
I googled the recipe to see how other bloggers fared with this cake and the results did nothing but make the task seem all the more daunting. It seems that more people struggled with the assembly of the cake than not, but everyone said it was delicious, despite its less-than perfect appearance. Complaints of the layers slipping and sliding were the most common, and once I made the filling/icing, it was easy to see how this could be a problem. The filling starts by making caramel, pouring the hot caramel over a pound of chocolate, letting that cool, then adding a pound of butter. The end result is the most silky, decadent filling, but it's slick and far from sturdy, the perfect substance to make your cake layers slide. As my mix master was beating this filling, and I was diligently adding the butter, it started to sound like the filling had turned to soup. I became alarmed - and actually held back the remaining butter (about 4 tablespoons). It was already delicious - I didn't think we'd miss the remaining butter.
Also, having gleaned tips from several blogs that tackled this cake, I decided to put the cake in the freezer after icing each layer, to allow the filling to set up a bit before adding the next layer. This made the assembly easier, albeit more time-consuming, but I'm happy to report that I did not experience the same struggle of slipping layers.
I also held back on some of the fleur de sel that was sprinkled between each layer. The recipe calls for a whole teaspoon between each layer, which seemed a bit excessive to me when I measured out a teaspoon.
Instead, I eyeballed it, sprinkling it on until it seemed like enough, which amounted to roughly half a teaspoon. The cake had the perfect balance of rich filling, sweet chocolate and salt.
I can't stress enough how important it is to give the cake a 10 minute rest in the freezer before adding the next layer. 
The end result was worth the time and effort. But let's be clear, this is definitely a special occasion cake.
When making the cake layers, I decided to forego the recipe used in the Baked book. I've already found my fool-proof chocolate cake and saw no need to risk trying a new recipe when there were already so many other components to tackle. So, if you're going to attempt this cake, and I strongly recommend that you find an occasion to justify it, use a chocolate cake recipe that you already love. If you don't have one, use mine. The rest of the recipe is as follows.
(adapted from Baked - New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)
Bake your favorite chocolate cake and use 3 x 8 inch circle pans. My favorite chocolate cake recipe can be found here.
For the Salted Caramel (used between the cake layers):
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. Fleur de Sel
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1/4 cup sour cream
For the  Whipped Caramel Ganache Frosting:
1 pound good quality chocolate (the recipe calls for dark, I used half dark, half milk chocolate)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
To assemble the cake:
1 to 2 tsp. fleur de sel (or to taste)
Directions for the Salted Caramel:
In a small saucepan, combine the cream and fleur de sel. Bring to simmer over very low heat until the salt is dissolved. Keep warm. Meanwhile in a medium saucepan, combine water, sugar and corn syrup. Stir gently so as not to splash the mixture onto the sides of the pan. (Keep a wet pasty brush on hand to brush the sides of the pan should any of the mixture splash up, to keep from burning.) Cook until mixture reaches 350 degrees F. or until mixture is dark amber in color. Remove from heat and let cool for 1 minute. Add cream and mix until incorporated, taking care because the mixture will bubble up when the cream is added. Whisk in sour cream. Allow to come to room temperature, then place in fridge until you are ready to assemble the cake.
Directions for the Whipped Caramel Ganache Frosting:
Chop the chocolate and put into the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside. In small saucepan, bring cream to simmer over low heat. Keep warm. In a medium saucepan combine water, sugar and corn syrup. Stir gently so as not to splash the mixture onto the sides of the pan. (Keep a wet pasty brush on hand to brush the sides of the pan should any of the mixture splash up, to keep from burning.) Cook until mixture reaches 350 degrees F. or until mixture is dark amber in color. Remove from heat and let cool for 1 minute. Add cream and stir slowly for 2 minutes, taking care because the mixture will bubble up when the cream is added. Pour the hot caramel over the chocolate, allow to sit for about 1 minute and then stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Allow to cool (for about 20 minutes or more) then transfer the bowl to the mixer and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Increase the speed to medium high and gradually add the butter, beating until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and beat on high until the mixture is fluffy. (If you find the mixture is too loose, place in the fridge for a few minutes and then beat again, which is what I did.)
Directions for Assembly:
Place one cake layer on serving platter. Spread about 1/4 cup of the salted caramel over the top. If you've refrigerated it, allow to come back to room temperature, or heat it slightly in the microwave until it's easily spreadable. Then spread about 3/4 cup of the ganache frosting over the caramel. Sprinkle 1 tsp. of fleur de sel over the frosting (I only used 1/2 tsp.). Place into the freezer for 10 minutes to set before proceeding. Once the filling has set, place second cake layer on top and spread with 1/4 cup of salted caramel. Add another 3/4 cup of frosting and sprinkle with salt. Place in freezer again until set. Add third layer, spread with caramel. Crumb coat entire cake with the frosting (a thin layer of frosting). Allow to set in the freezer. Frost the entire cake again with the frosting and garnish with a sprinkle of fleur de sel. Refrigerate the cake  until set but allow to sit at room temperature at least 2 hours before serving.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I've definitely been getting a bit braver when it comes to baking with yeast. My failures still outnumber my successes, none of which I've bothered to blog about. I'm not too proud to admit my failures but I don't see the point in recanting them here, when this where I look to reproduce my favorite recipes. But this recipe, was definitely a success. The recipe came from Cook's Illustrated, and I baked this bread on day two of the flu/cold virus that had claimed both my children and kept them at home from school. Which, surprisingly, freed up my time, as they were basically zombies on the couch and I didn't have to leave the house to pick them up from school and cart them off to their usual activities. Had that not been the case, I definitely couldn't have tackled this recipe on a weekday. It was definitely time-consuming in the way of 'waiting'. Plus said virus hadn't yet claimed me as another victim - at least not at the time that I baked this bread, but it did shortly thereafter.
This recipe is perfect for a Sunday project, or on another day when you know you'll be home. Don't be intimidated by the long instructions. I promise, it's easier than it looks and it's so worth the time. I've even provided step-by-step pictures in case you're like me and take great comfort in seeing what it's supposed to look like. I modified the recipe by omitting the raisins, but have provided the recipe as written in case you're a freak and actually like raisins in your bread. ; )
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
(Source: Cook's Illustrated | April 2012)
For the Dough:
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 1/4 cups (20.5 ounces) bread flour, plus extra
3/4 cup (2.25 ounces) nonfat dry milk powder
1/3 cup (2.33 ounces) granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) warm water (110 degrees)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. salt 
1 1/2 cup (7.5 ounces) golden raisins *optional (I omitted)
For the Filling:
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioner's sugar
3 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
For the Egg Wash:
1 egg, lightly beaten
pinch of salt
For the dough: Cut butter into 32 pieces and toss with 1 Tbsp. of the flour. Set aside to soften while mixing dough. Whisk remaining flour, milk powder,sugar and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add water and egg using the dough hook on medium low speed until a cohesive mass forms (about 2 minutes), scraping bowl as necessary. Cover with plastic and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and place loaf or cake pan on bottom of oven. Remove plastic from mixer bowl, add salt and mix on medium low speed until dough is smooth and elastic and clears the sides of the bowl (7 to 15 minutes). With mixer still running, add butter a few pieces at a time and continue to mix until butter is fully incorporated and dough is smooth and elastic, 3 to 5 minutes longer. (If you're adding raisins do so now, mixing until incorporated about 30 to 60 seconds). Transfer dough to large greased bowl and fold dough over itself by gently lifting the edge of the dough and folding towards the middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees, fold again and continue turning and folding until you have folded 8 times total. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to middle rack of oven. Pour 3 cups of boiling water into the loaf pan in the bottom of the oven, close oven door and allow to rise for 45 minutes.
Remove bowl from oven and gently press down on dough to deflate. Repeat folding step (another 8 times), re-cover, and return to oven until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
For the filling: Whisk filling ingredients together until well-combined; set aside.
Grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and divide into 2 pieces. (If you have a scale - it's best to use to ensure even loaves). Working with one piece of dough, pat into a rough 6 x 11 inch rectangle.
With the short side facing you, fold sides in like a business letter to form a 3 x 11 inch rectangle.
Roll dough away from you into a ball. Dust with flour, flatten with rolling pin into a 7 x 18 inch rectangle (with even 1/4 inch thickness).
Using spray bottle, spray dough lightly with water. Sprinkle with half of the filling mixture evenly over the dough, leaving 1/4 inch border on sides and 3/4 inch border on top and bottom. Spray filling lightly with water until speckled with water over entire surface.
With short side facing you, roll the dough away from you to form a cylinder, 
Then, turn loaf  seam side up and pinch closed. Pinch the ends closed too.
Dust the loaf lightly with flour on all sides and let rest for 10 minutes while you repeat these steps with the second half of the dough. Use a bench scraper to cut the loaf in half length-wise, turn halves so that the cut sides are facing upwards.
Gently stretch each half into 14 inch length.
Line up the two halves and pinch two ends together. Take piece on left and lay over the piece on the right.
Repeat, keeping cut side up, until the pieces of dough are tightly twisted. Pinch bottom ends together.
Transfer loaf, cut side up, to prepared loaf pan. (Press any exposed raisins, if using, into the seams of the braid.) Repeat with second loaf.
Cover loaves loosely with plastic, return to oven, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Remove loaves and water pan from oven; heat oven to 350 degrees F. Allow loaves to rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes longer. Top of loaves should rise about 1 inch over the lip of pan.
Brush with egg mixture.
Bake until loaf is well-browned, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, tent loaves with foil, and continue to bake until internal temperature registers 200 degrees, about 15 to 25 minutes longer.  Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pan, return to rack,  and cool to room temperature before slicing.
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