Ever so often the food blogging world gets swept away by a certain trend or dish and everywhere you look, be it blog or on social media, you will find the aforementioned dish. When I first started blogging it was all about cupcakes and macarons. And over the years, everything from avacado on toast to smoothie bowls to I have lost count of all that has trended on the food blogging scene. And this is in addition to the annual calendar that is almost set in stone. January for clean eating and March for chocolate in time for Easter. Then there's berries for Summer and stone fruit for later and who can forget Pumpkin for October. And before you know it, it's pies for Thanksgiving and then all that Christmas baking in December before it starts all over again.
Now, if you know anything about this blog, despite my best attempts I have rarely been able to climb along with any trend. If you must know, the first year I put up my Christmas post in January. Little wonder then that my mother is the only dedicated reader of this blog. I'd like to proclaim that I'm above trends but the truth is somewhere between I don't have the requisite skills or I've just been lazy.
Anyhow, the point I'm leading to is that last year or was it the year before that, around this time of the year, babkas were all the rage. Everywhere I looked on blogs and social media, there would be a pic of this loaf of bread with a golden crust and all these chocolate swirls running through the loaf. I'm sure there are other babkas but all I saw were the chocolate ones.
So, I read up on them and it was everything I liked. An egg and milk sweetened yeast dough that is then filled with a chocolate and nut filling and then rolled and twisted and baked to perfection. How could I not want to bake it. So, I chose the easiest recipe I could find and just about a year on, I finally mustered up the courage and baked one this weekend.
And it was everything it promised despite all my slip ups. I baked it in a tin smaller than the one specified so the top poofed up quite a bit during proving and something about the way I spread the filling, one half of the loaf had more filling than the other half. Ah well! And it took a whole day to prep and bake and I don't have a stand mixer so had to do most of the kneading by hand and let's not forget all those calories in every bite. But, notwithstanding all my dodgy photographs, it was all worth it.
The bread was soft and flavourful and that filling of chocolate and almond was equal proportion of texture and sin. Like I said this bread is not for the calorie conscious but live a little and bake this bread. You will not regret it. The recipe is Yossy Arefi's on Food52 and simple one to follow. I have given a recipe link below which comes with pictures to make life even simpler.
Well, we had it for breakfast and we had it for tea and then, we realised we were still left with half a loaf and Navratri was fast approaching. For the nine days of Navratri, we are vegetarian at home. So, prodded on by the weather, we used the remaining half for a bread pudding.
And as the skies rumbled and the rain lashed outside, we stayed indoors with a warm, comforting bowl of babka pudding. It is like any other bread pudding with a crisp top and all warm and soft underneath but that chocolate and almond filling of the babka running through the pudding just takes it to another soul comforting level. Again, not for the calorie conscious. But, oh do live a little!
Makes one loaf. Recipe, minimally adadpted: Yossy Arefi for Food 52.
For the Dough
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (or 1 packet) active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup luke warm milk
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Zest of 1 orange
- 2 eggs
- 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Stir the yeast into the milk to dissolve. Let it sit until it's foamy.
- While the yeast proofs, cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the oil and zest, and mix well to combine. Then add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each egg is incorporated before adding the next. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat the mixture for about 2 minutes.
- Turn the mixer to low and add the flour and salt, followed by the milk and yeast mixture. Switch to the dough hook attachment and mix the dough until a soft, tacky dough forms. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead by hand for two more minutes. The dough should feel soft, supple, and smooth.
- Move the dough to a clean, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at a moderate room temperature for about 2 hours, or until it has almost doubled in size. You can also let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator, then shape it the next day.
- 1 cup finely chopped dark chocolate
- 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- Prepare the filling while the dough is rising. Use a pastry blender or sharp knife to cut the ingredients together into a streusel-like crumble.
- To shape the bread: Roll the risen dough on a lightly floured surface into a roughly 15x18-inch rectangle. Gently lift the dough to make sure that it will easily release from the work surface. Sprinkle the filling mixture evenly over the top of the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edges, then roll the dough from the long end into a tight log about 20 inches long.
- Gently bend the dough into a "U" shape and twist the arms of the dough two or three times around each other to form the loaf, then pinch the seams together. Place the dough into a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until the babka fills the pan, 1 to 2 hours.
- When the loaf has risen completely, brush with an egg wash made from one egg and one tablespoon of water. Use a toothpick to poke a few holes in the top of the loaf -- this will release any air pockets trapped between the folds of the dough and filling.
- Put the loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for 20 to 30 minutes more. When it's finished, the loaf will be a deep golden brown on top and sound hollow when the bottom is tapped.
- Let the babka cool to room temperature before slicing.
Orange And Chocolate Bread Pudding
- 5-6 thick slices of babka, cut into 3 cms cubes
- Juice of 1 orange
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 250 mls milk
- 2 tablespoons double cream
- 2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- butter, for greasing
- Preheat the oven to 170 deg C. Grease an ovenproof dish lightly with butter.
- Tip in the babka cubes. Pour the orange juice all over the bread cubes and let it soak in.
- Whisk together the eggs, light brown sugar, rum, double cream and milk. Pour this mixture over the bread and press the cubes down to coat them in the liquid. Put on a kettle of water to boil.
- Leave all this to soak for 20 minutes, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of demerara sugar. Place the dish in the roasting tin in the oven. Carefully pour boiling water into the roasting tin to come halfway up the sides of the dish, taking care not to allow any of the water to go into the pudding. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until nearly set through.
- Remove from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes before serving. You may serve it warm just as it is or with vanilla ice-cream or creme fraiche.