An alternative filling of almond cream and dried cranberries, not exposing the insides by slicing the logs and simply plaited and sprinkled with flaked almonds
As per the recipe except for the free form as opposed to the suggested tin, have fun with your Babka!
FOR THE DELIGHTFUL DOUGH
½cup/118 milliliters whole milk
1package (7 grams) active dry yeast
⅓cup/67 grams granulated sugar, plus a pinch
4 ¼cups/531 grams all-purpose flour, more as needed
1 ½teaspoons fine sea salt
1teaspoon vanilla extract
1teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
½teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
10tablespoons/140 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing bowls and pans
FOR THE FUDGE FILLING
½cup/100 grams granulated sugar
¾cup/177 milliliters heavy cream or half-and-half
170 grams extra bittersweet chocolate, chopped if it’s a bar, drops if it’s drops
112 grams butter diced, at room temperature
2teaspoons vanilla extract
FOR THE CHOCOLATE STREUSEL
½cup/60 grams all-purpose flour
3tablespoons/45 grams granulated sugar
1 ½tablespoons/11 grams cocoa powder
4 ½tablespoons/64 grams unsalted butter, melted
⅓cup/60 grams mini semisweet chocolate chips
FOR THE SYRUP
⅔cup/135 grams granulated sugar
Prepare the dough: In a small saucepan or a bowl in the microwave, warm the milk until it’s lukewarm but not hot (about 110 degrees).
Add yeast and a pinch of sugar and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until slightly foamy.
In an electric mixer fitted with dough hook add all the dough ingredients together and beat on medium speed until the dough comes together into an elastic ball.
This should take 8-10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
Try not to add any more flour, this is what could affect the final crumb of your babka, a lovely soft dough is what you’re looking for and this is something you usually only get with enough kneading/mixing – persevere, especially if you’re doing it by hand!
Butter a clean bowl, form the dough into a ball and roll it around in the bowl so all sides are buttered. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place (inside of a turned-off oven with the oven light on is good) until it puffs and rises, about 1 to 2 hours. It may not double in bulk but it should rise.
Press the dough down with your hands, re-cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight (or, in a pinch, for at least 4 hours, but the flavor won’t be as developed).
Prepare the filling: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, cream and salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar completely dissolves, about 5 minutes. Scrape mixture into a bowl. Stir in chocolate, butter and vanilla until smooth. Let cool to room temperature. Filling can be made up to a week ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before using.
Prepare the streusel: In a bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Stir in melted butter until it is evenly distributed and forms large, moist crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips. Streusel can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge.
Prepare the syrup: In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 2/3 cup/158 milliliters water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
Butter two 9-inch loaf pans – or a piece of greaseproof on a baking tray if you’re keen to give ‘free form’ a go – then line with parchment paper, leaving 2 inches of paper hanging over on the sides to use as handles later.
Remove dough from refrigerator and divide in half. On a very lightly floured surface, roll one piece into a 9-by-17-inch rectangle. Spread with half the filling (there’s no need to leave a border). Starting with a long side, roll into a tight coil. Transfer the coil onto a dish towel or piece of plastic wrap and stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Repeat with the other piece of dough.
Slice one of the dough coils in half lengthwise to expose the filling. Twist the halves together as if you were braiding them, then fold the braid in half so it’s about 9 inches / 23 cm long. Place into a prepared pan, letting it curl around itself if it’s a little too long for the pan. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until puffy (it won’t quite double). Alternatively, you can cover the pans with plastic wrap and let them rise in the refrigerator overnight; bring them back to room temperature for an hour before baking.
When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 165’C. Use your fingers to clump streusel together and scatter all over the tops of the cakes. Transfer to oven and bake until a tester goes into the cakes without any rubbery resistance and comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. The cakes will also sound hollow if you unmold them and tap on the bottom. An instant-read thermometer will read between 90 and 105 ‘C.
As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, use a skewer or paring knife to pierce them all over going all the way to the bottom of the cakes, and then pour the syrup on top of the cakes, making sure to use half the syrup for each cake.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving – or don’t and prepare to consume a little bite of heaven!