If you've never heard of Babka, don't worry, I hadn't either. Well, that was before the notorious Seinfeld episode where he and Elaine are in a bakery trying to buy a dessert to take to a dinner party:
Traditionally Babka originated in Poland and was typically made for Easter Sunday (I'm a few weeks late I guess...) however in the US it's typical to find chocolate and cinnamon versions of Babka in Jewish bakeries.
The most common characteristic of Babka is in the way in which you handle the dough. It's doubled and twisted, then left to finish proofing in the pan, allowing the twists to plump nicely taking the shape of the pan. Traditional Jewish Babka is also covered with a streusel topping before going into the oven, giving it a lovely crunch once baked.
I figured if Jerry & Elain were in such a tizz over this Babka, I should attempt one myself. Plus being 4 months pregnant I have an extreme aversion to anything carb-ie...I was getting ready for an exercise class the other day and all the sudden I thought to myself, oh I really need some sweet and sour sauce. You never know what cravings are going to pop up in your carb-crazy conscious. This week for me, it was Babka.
As I mentioned, typical Babka is usually either chocolate or cinnamon, but I had a jar of Nutella in the pantry that was just screaming to be used. Otherwise I would have ended up devouring it one night watching endless re-runs of Storage Wars.
Lastly, I was pleasantly surprised to realize how easy Babka is to prepare, however it's somewhat time consuming (needs about 3 1/2 hours proofing time, but well worth it). Because it puffs up so much in the pan you don't have to worry about your twists being too perfect, really the yeast fills in the gaps for you. You can compare the texture and taste to a cinnamon roll (well a hazelnut version in this case) with layers that effortlessly pull apart, yet the Babka is still slice-able (new word!)
Nutella & Hazelnut Babka
makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf
For the Babka:
2 tablespoons instant yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
6 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
3 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Filling:
one 13-ounce jar Nutella
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts (with skins removed), coarsely chopped
For the Streusel:
1/4 cup cold salted butter, cubed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk in a small bowl. Stir and set aside for about 5 minutes or until the yeast is starting to foam and get a bit bubbly.
Meanwhile, in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the sugar and continue beating on medium speed until again, light and fluffy.
Beat in the vanilla and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Remove paddle attachment and replace with the dough hook. Add the salt and flour.
Mix to combine and then add the milk and yeast mixture.
Bring the dough together on the lowest speed, then allow it to knead on speed 2 for about 4 minutes. You should have a soft and golden coloured dough.
Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in a warm place until almost doubled, about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the temperature of your kitchen and the quality of the yeast. Mine took about an hour, but Dubai is a pretty warm, humid place even in the dead of winter...so your location will play a role also.
Once the dough has risen, roll out into a 15" circle/square on a lightly floured surface. OR as close as you can get to either. Mine was a bit of a morph between the two. Just get it big and flat and around 15" wide.
Spread the entire jar of Nutella onto the top of the dough, leaving 1/4" boarder. I used an offset spatula to make this step easier. Then sprinkle with the toasted hazelnuts.
Using a sharp, long knife, slice the roll lengthwise into two sections:
Twist the two sections together (I pinched the ends to keep the twist in place as it will try to unravel itself).
Then roll the twist into a tight spiral:
Turn the spiral onto its side and place upright into a greased pan lined with parchment paper. Press down lightly to help take the shape of the pan. Cover with a lightly greased piece of plastic wrap and allow to rise again until the dough takes the shape of the pan, about 1 hour. *Put in a warm, dark place such as the oven or microwave if you live in a dry climate.
Once the dough has risen again, prepare the struseul topping. Place the butter, flour, and brown sugar inside a food processor *I used my mini-chop since it's not a large amount, besides pulling the food processor out of the cabinet means having to move 50 other things in it's way...no thank you!
Pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse sand. Poke Babka a few times with a toothpick and use a pastry brush to cover the top with the lightly beaten egg/water mixture:
Cover with the struseul topping, pressing down lightly to help stick.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 50 minutes. Once you are able to handle the Babka, remove from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack.
Ohhhh this one is dandy! And wasn't that easy? I think you could probably fill with just about anything and it would be amazing.
Babka recipe adapted from Mmm...is for Mommy
technique from Simplesmente Delicia