Challah Bread, Take II – Baking with Julia Recipe

My first try a few weeks ago was good, but a little too flour-y for my liking. Though Carlo, my mom and my aunt loved it, I wasn’t totally happy. So I wanted to try again, using a different recipe. I searched around until I bought Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking from My Home to Yours. After getting that book, I found out that she had written a Julia Child cookbook called Baking with Julia. I haven’t bought it yet, but I knew it would be good. So Carlo borrowed a copy from work for me to look at. And guess what? There was a challah recipe in there!

The recipe seems a little more involved than the first one I tried. However, there was less flour and it seemed very careful with its steps. It’s one of those things where taking your time is good! And with a total of 3 rises and 3 glazings, the hours it took was well worth it.

TASTE: The Julia Child challah bread was less flour-y (only 6 cups of flour) than the first recipe (8 hours). The breaking up of the cooking time for the glazing also was great. I think the yolk and heavy cream in this recipe really helped to add to the flavor as well as better uniform the sheen it took. This is actually one of the best challah breads I’ve ever had.

Carlo pretty much devoured 1/2 of 1 loaf by himself. We each tried a piece with some Italian Bread Dip from Stew Leonard’s (YUM!) I left some of the same loaf for my mom. Carlo took the entire second loaf to work. Hope they like it.

Recipe from p.93 of Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers by Dorie Greenspan

Cake Batter Ice Cream

Served with rainbow sprinkles and my first attempt at Gooey Chocolate Cakes (YUM!)

One of my favorite ice cream flavors is Cake Batter Ice Cream. After learning about Ben & Jerry’s latest ice cream, Yellow Cake Batter Ice Cream with a Chocolate Frosting Swirl , I was inspired to try to make my own (minus the chocolate frosting).

BTW, I absolutely love having the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen-Aid!

I came across a great recipe from Recipezaar. All of the great reviews were spot on! It was so simple!

The ice cream came out amazing. Carlo and I were actually dipping our fingers into the left over bits in the freezer bowl. It was sooooooo good!

You just have to try it!

– Carmella


  • 1 cup whole milk, well chilled (I actually used fat free milk, since that’s what I had)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used Splenda instead)
  • 2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup cake mix (I used Pillsbury Yellow Cake Mix)


  1. Place freezer bowl of ice cream maker into the freezer. It is better to keep it in there 24/7 that way it is always ready.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the milk and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla to taste.
  4. Stir in cake mix, making sure there are no lumps.
  5. Pour mixture into the freezer bowl and let mix until it has thickened (about 25-30 minutes).
  6. Remove ice cream from freezer bowl and place into a separate container.
  7. Place freezer bowl and the ice cream into the freezer to further harden.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

This past weekend, I was on a cupcake kick! After making the chocolate cupcakes for Carlo’s co-workers, I decided to make some cupcakes for him, made with Splenda. For some reason, I really wanted to make red velvet ones. I remember that one year for my birthday when I was a kid, my mom made me a red velvet cake and she let me decorate it to share with the rest of my family. It was probably the best cake I ever had. I hadn’t had red velvet cake since then until I made these cupcakes.

I realized that granulated Splenda does cause some items to use some of their sweetness, and it can actually dry out batter a bit. However, this cupcake came out very good. I would probably use the Splenda sugar blend next time.

For the frosting, I was going to do a buttercream again, but I was low on whipping cream. I did have a bunch of semi-sweet chocolate chips (Carlo can have those) and found a very simple recipe for chocolate ganache. It was so good! I saved some to dip with cookies and fruit. It was very addictive.

The frosting and cupcake worked well together. However, I think the buttercream would have been a better match.



  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar I used granulated Splenda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder I used unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces water
  • 2 ounces red food coloring I used 1tsp of red food coloring gel diluted in 6tbsp of water
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 cupcake cups or line with paper liners.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs and blend well.
  4. Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring and add to the butter mixture.
  5. Sift flour and salt togethr into this mixture.
  6. One at a time, add the following ingredients: buttermilk, vanilla, and water.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and the baking soda. Fold it into the cake batter. Make sure it’s incorporated, but don’t beat it.
  8. Pour the batter into the cupcake cups. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out of pan and onto a rack to finish cooling completely.



  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum (optional) I actually used vanilla extract


  1. Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot. When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the rum if desired.
  2. Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over a cake. Start at the center of the cake and work outward. For a fluffy frosting or chocolate filling, allow it to cool until thick, then whip with a whisk until light and fluffy.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Please excuse my novice cake decorating skills!


After making the Jelly Beans Nests for my niece and my little cousins, I was in the mood to bake. So I decided to bake cupcakes for Carlo’s co-workers. I like baking chocolate-y things, and these cupcakes, thanks to a recipe at, were PERFECT for testing! The Easy Vanilla Buttercream frosting recipe I found on the blog The Way the Cookie Crumbles. The cupcakes and the frosting were an amazing combination (yeah I snuck 1 or 2 for myself)!



  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk; beat well. Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full.
  3. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Frost with your favorite frosting when cool.

EASY VANILLA BUTTERCREAM (from Cooks Illustrated April 2007)


  • 20 tablespoons (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2½ cups Confectioners’ sugar (10 ounces)
  • 1/8 tablespoons table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream


In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.


– Carmella

Pizza with Pizazz

Pizza making is a trade that has been in my family for generations. My grandfather, Carlo Giardina, immigrated from Ragusa, Sicily in the 1930s, and was one of the first people to open a pizzeria in New York City called LaBella’s. My parents took up trade in the 1980s with a very successful pizzeria/restaurant in Wayne, NJ called Bachagaloop’s. Although I have no desire to start up my own pizza joint, I felt it was only natural for me to try to make a homemade pizza for Carmella and me. Although we LOVE toppings, I figured they should be avoided when making pizza for the first time. As it turns out the pizza was pretty easy to make, and tasted damned good. Carmella gave me one suggestion that I agree with; the dough needed a little more salt.

Below is a link for the dough recipe. I’ve also typed out the sauce recipe that my father concocted. Enjoy and tell us how yours comes out.

– Carlo


  • Homemade pizza dough (see link below)
  • Fresh pizza sauce (see sauce recipe below)
  • Sliced whole milk or buffalo milk (bufala) mozarella cheese
  • Chopped fresh basil



  • 1 can (28 oz) of imported crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 3-4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • tbsp of oregano
  • 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp of chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tbsp of organic sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of freshly ground pepper


Combine all ingredients listed above and chill for 30 minutes.


  1. Preheat the oven to 450F.
  2. With a small ladle spread the sauce evenly around the dough leaving about 1/2 an inch along the edge for a crust.
  3. Bake the pizza for about 12-14 minutes before adding fresh mozzarella.
  4. Place pizza back in the oven and cook until mozzarella is melted and the crust crispy and golden brown.
  5. Upon removing the pie sprinkle a generous amount of freshly chopped basil.