I imagine that you have had moments in your life where you vividly remember eating something utterly delicious- and that memory stays with you. Well, for me, one of these moments was when I went to New York with my family at 12 years old and first ate pecan pie. What a heavenly invention pecan pie is. About 10 years ago I had another of these moments, when I ate chocolate babka for the first time- moist, chewy, tender and chocolatey- a cross between a bun, bread, cake and heaven. I had never tasted anything quite so wonderful. Our friend’s friend called Evan had brought over the babka with him from America and I was lucky enough to be around to try it. We were just talking about Evan last week and I became obsessed with finding the perfect chocolate babka recipe and dear reader I think I found it.
I started by looking in my very extensive collection of cookery books. My New York Times Jewish cookbook had a recipe which involved using 16 eggs yolks- what were they thinking! Peter Rheinhart had a recipe but it looked a little dry. Then I came across a post called ‘Better Babka’ on Smitten Kitchen http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2014/10/better-chocolate-babka/. That’s more like it- sticky, rich, delicious. The original source for this recipe was Jerusalem by Ottolenghi http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/jerusalem-shop. I tried this recipe and was duly impressed. The reason why it’s not dry (a sin where babka is concerned) is that it has large amounts of sugar syrup poured all over it the moment it comes out of the oven.
Now I like chocolate- any friend of mine will testify to this- however, even for me the chocolate flavour was incredibly strong- infact too much and that’s saying something. I thought that the ‘better chocolate babka’ would indeed be better if it became cinnamon babka. So here’s my adaptation of the recipe with a buttery cinnamon sugar running through out.
4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
150 g butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup water
6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
1. Make the dough
Combine the flour, sugar and yeast in the bottom of a food mixer. Add eggs and 1/2 cup water, mixing with the dough hook until it comes together; if it doesn’t come together at all, add extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a mass. With the mixer on low, add the salt, then the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough. Then, mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until the dough is completely smooth; you’ll need to scrape the bowl down a few times.
Coat a large bowl with oil and place the dough inside, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight. Alternatively you can let it rise at room temperature for 2 hours and then put it in the fridge for another hour.
2. Make the filling
Cream together the butter with the sugar and cinnamon
3. Assemble the loaves
Butter two 9-by-4-inch loaf pans , and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of baking parchment. Take half of dough from fridge (leave the other half chilled). Roll out on a well-floured counter to about a 10-inch width (the side closest to you) and as long in length (away from you) as you can when rolling it thin, (10 to 12 inches)
Spread half of the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Brush the end farthest away from you with water. Roll the dough up with the filling into a long, tight cigar. Seal the dampened end onto the log. If you put the log onto a lightly floured baking tray in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes it will make it easier to cut- but you can skip this if you want
Gently cut the log in half lenghtwise and lay each piece next to each other, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together. Lift one side over the next, forming a twist and trying to keep the cut sides facing out. Transfer the twist as best as you can into the prepared loaf pan.
Cover with cling film and leave to rise another 1 1/2 hours at room temperature. Repeat process with second loaf.
4. Bake your babka
Pre-heat oven to 375°F (190°C). Place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 25 minutes and check if its done using a skewer. If its not quite done you’ll feel a little resistance or see some dough on the skewer. It may need another 5 min and if its looking a little dark., turn the heat down to 170.
While babkas are baking, make the syrup. Bring sugar and water to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. As soon as the babkas leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each. This will take a little time to do- there’s quite a lot of syrup- but you wouldn’t want it to be dry would you!
There is no reason not to start eating it straight away when its still warm- but it’s also great for breakfast lightly toasted.
this has been posted on http://www.wildyeastblog.com/yeastspotting/