Thursday, October 30, 2008
Sweet Walnut Babka
Yet more sweet yeast baking from my Carole Walter Coffee Cake book. I have had the chocolate babka recipe from Smitten Kitchen on my to-bake list for well over a year but when it came time to pick a recipe for babka I didn't feel like going upstairs and printing the recipe, so instead I chose a recipe that didn't involve all that "effort". Yup, sometimes my laziness surprises even me. :)
Of course, the other part of that decision is that I knew the Carole Walter's book had babka recipes and I happen to trust her recipes for sweet yeast baking. Well, except for the baking time that is, because I always end up with overdone pastries unless I knock at least 5 minutes off the baking time.
There are probably some sort of historical differences between the babka dough and the other sweet yeast doughs that I used for the apricot strip and the maple crumb buns, but I have no idea what they are or why they matter. As far as I can tell the flavor between the three versions of the base dough just isn't that different. Sure, the rich pastry dough is a little more flavorful, but unless you tasted them side by side I'm not sure you could tell any difference between them, and even if you did taste them side by side, I don't think the differences would be significant. Now a brioche dough... that has some significant flavor all on its own.
This babka recipe is quite good. I considered the chocolate version and the apricot/raisin version in the book, but I opted for the sweet walnut version because it looked fantastic and I was right. A nice combination of soft, sweet yeasty bread and sweet, crunchy filling. It's the perfect sort of breakfast pastry because it's not too sweet and the bread flavor comes through enough to make you feel a touch less guilty about having a slice for breakfast.
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 tsps)
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly firm
3/4 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Rinse a small bowl in hot water to warm it. Add 1 tsp sugar and the warm water to the bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Do not stir. Cover with a saucer and let stand for 5 minutes, swirling the bowl every so often. Stir with a small whisk or fork and cover again for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the yest is bubbly and dissolved.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix on low speed the flour, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the salt. Add the butter and continue to mix until meal-size crumbs form, 3 to 4 minutes. Stop the mixer.
In a separate bowl, using a small whisk or fork, mix the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Stir in the dissolved yeast. Pour the liquids into the crumb mixture and combine on low speed until a rough dough is formed. Scrape down the side of the bowl and continue to mix for 3 to 4 minutes until smooth.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough a few times to cover it with a thin coating of flour, just until it is no longer sticky. Using a dough scraper or large sharp knife, divide the dough into three equal pieces. Knead each piece of dough two or three times to seal the cut sides of the dough with a light dusting of flour.
Place each piece of dough in a medium plastic bag, leaving enough space for the dough to expand slightly. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.
For the filling:
1 cup walnuts
1/4 cups sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp unsalted butter
6 tbsps milk
1/2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsps very soft unsalted butter
1 cup broken walnuts
1 large egg lightly beaten with 2 tsps water for egg wash
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsps melted unsalted butter
1-2 tsps milk
To make the filling:
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, finely chop the walnuts with the sugar and cinnamon.
Melt the 1 tbsps butter in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the milk and nut mixture and cook over low heat until it is thick as oatmeal, 8 to 15 minutes. Take it off the heat and add the orange zest and vanilla. Cool thoroughly. Can be made one week ahead and refrigerated.
Shape the Dough:
Butter three 8x4 inch loaf pans. Line each with a 15 x 3 strip of parchment paper to form a cradle. Place the pans on rimmed cookie sheets.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, place it on a lightly floured work surface and knead three or four times, working in 1/3 cup of the broken walnuts as you knead.
Roll the dough into a rectangle measuring 9x12 and lightly brush with some of the soft butter. Spread 1/3 of the walnut filling mixture on top of the dough, leaving a 1 inch border around the edges. Brush the edges with the egg wash and tightly roll into a 12 inch long log. Gently roll the seam back and forth a few times to seal it. Cut the long into 8 equal pieces and place the pieces cut side down two across and four down in one of the 8x4 loaf pans, brushing the edges with more egg wash as you go along. Gently press the pieces in the bowl together to get them to stick. Cover the bowl with a tea towel in a warm, dry place. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
Let the dough rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until it is puffy and almost doubled in size, being careful not to jostle the pans or the dough could fall.
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly brush the tops of the cakes with more egg wash and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the babkas are golden brown on top. If the tops are browning too quickly while baking, place a piece of foil over the top of the pan.
When they come out of the oven, mix the powdered sugar glaze ingredients and drizzle over all three loaves.