Friday, December 18, 2009


This is one of the most delicious Babka recipes I've tried, from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. Although the almond paste in the filling makes this recipe very moist, be warned that there is a strong almond flavor as well, which is different from most Babka recipes. With a few small revisions, here it is:

[two loaves: 2 8" cake pans, 2 medium loaf pans, or 1 baking sheet- all greased]

2 C unbleached white flour
2 packages of dry yeast, or 4 1/2 t yeast
1/2 C nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 C very warm water

Stir all ingredients together with a wooden spoon or in a mixer with a flat beater. It will be a heavy and wet dough. Cover tightly with a plastic bag and leave at room temperature to allow the sponge to form and ferment and double in bulk, about 2 hours.

1/2 C sugar
1 t salt
1/2 t ground cardamom
1/2 t vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 C unbleached white flour, approximately
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened

1 1/2 C almond paste
2 C chocolate chips or grated chocolate
ground cinnamon to taste

Mixing dough: remove plastic from the sponge, stir down, and measure in the sugar, salt, cardamom, and vanilla. Stir well to blend. Add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating each into the batter. Add 1 1/2 C flour and beat with a wooden spoon or flat beater until it has been absorbed into the batter-like dough. Drop in the butter, a small amount at a time, beating until it is mixed into the dough. Add flour, 1/4 C at a time, to form a dough that is quite soft, yet elastic. It will have enough flour when it can be turned from the bowl and be worked without it sticking to your hands or the table.

Kneading: Sprinkle the table lightly with flour, if necessary. Knead the dough only until it is smooth, about 5 minutes. (If using a mixer, use a dough hook.) Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover tightly again, and put aside to double in bulk, about 1.5 hours.

Shaping: Punch down and turn out on the floured table and divide into 2 pieces. Roll each to form a thin piece about 1/4" thick. Combine all the ingredients of the filling in a food processor is you have one- adjust to your liking, adding more chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, etc. Spread each rectangle with half the filling. Roll up the dough longwise, like for a jellyroll, and pinch the seas tightly to secure. Try to roll each snake a little bit longer.

For the cake pans, simply lay the twists loosely in the pan in a spiral form beginning in the center and working to the sides. For the loaf pans, fold the snakes at their halfway mark and twist them on themselves, kind of making a figure-eight formation, and lay in loaf pans or the baking sheet. Cover the loaves loosely and let rise not quite to double in bulk, about 1 hour.

Baking: 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350. Brush the tops with melted butter or the leftover egg whites. Bake until each twist is deep brown, about 45 minutes. If the crusts seem to be browning too quickly, cover with foil. Remove loaves from pans and cool before cutting.

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