Babka

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    One

    9 by 4 inch high Bundt loaf

Appears in

The Baking Bible

By Rose Levy Beranbaum

Published 2014

  • About
Oven Temperature 350°F/175°C

When I was growing up in New York City, we lived twenty-two blocks from Lichtman’s Bakery, which was famous for its babka. Many a Sunday my dad would drive over to pick one up for breakfast. I’ve tried for years to produce the babka of my memory and finally discovered that the secrets to achieving a beautiful spiral of filling that does not burst through the top or separate into wide gaps inside are to make a very sticky dough and to add egg white to the filling, which expands along with the dough during baking. The dough is softer and less rich than brioche because it has about half the butter, one-third the egg, and double the water.

Ingredients

Dough Starter

Sponge

VOLUME WEIGHT
water, at room temperature (70° to 80°F/21° to 27°C) ½ cup (118 ml) 4.2 ounces 118 grams
Gold Medal bread flour (or half other brand bread flour, half unbleached all-purpose flour), see Note ½ cup (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) 2.3 ounces 65 grams
nonfat dry milk, preferably King Arthur’s Baker’s Special (see Note) 2 tablespoons . 23 grams
instant yeast ½ tablespoon . 4.8 grams

Dough

VOLUME WEIGHT
Gold Medal bread flour (or half other brand bread flour, half unbleached all-purpose flour), see Note cups (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) 12.6 ounces 356 grams
sugar ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons 2.6 ounces 75 grams
instant yeast ½ tablespoon . 4.8 grams
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon . 6 grams
unsalted butter, must be very soft (75° to 90°F/23° to 32°C) 8 tablespoons (1 stick) 4 ounces 113 grams
2 large eggs, cold cup plus 1 tablespoon (94 ml) 3.5 ounces 100 grams
water, at room temperature (70° to 80°F/21° to 27°C) ¼ cup (59 ml) 2.1 ounces 59 grams
pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon (5 ml) . .

Almond Filling

VOLUME WEIGHT
blanched sliced almonds ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons 1.3 ounces 37 grams
light brown Muscovado sugar, or dark brown sugar ½ cup, firmly packed 3.8 ounces 108 grams
unsalted butter (65° to 75°F/19° to 23°C) 2 tablespoons 1 ounce 28 grams
golden syrup or corn syrup 1 tablespoon (15 ml) 0.7 ounce 21 grams
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon . 2.2 grams
almond paste ¼ cup 2.5 ounces 70 grams
1 large egg white, at room temperature 2 tablespoons (30 ml) 1 ounce 30 grams

Butter Glaze

VOLUME WEIGHT
unsalted butter 3 tablespoons 1.5 ounces 42 grams

Special Equipment

One 12 to 15 cup Nordic Ware Classic Anniversary Bundt Pan or a one-piece metal fluted tube pan, lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray

Method

Make the Dough Starter

Sponge

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, place the water, flour, dry milk, and yeast. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes until very smooth to incorporate air. The dough starter will be the consistency of a thick batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, remove the beater, and set aside the dough starter, covered with plastic wrap.

Combine the Flour Mixture

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and yeast. Then whisk in the salt. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the dough starter, forming a blanket of flour, and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let it ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature, or 1 hour at room temperature and up to 24 hours refrigerated. During this time, the dough starter will bubble through the flour blanket in places.

Mix the Dough

Attach the dough hook. Add the butter, eggs, water, and vanilla, and beat on low speed for about 1 minute, or until the flour is moistened. Raise the speed to medium and knead for about 7 minutes, or until the dough is shiny and very elastic. It will not clean the sides of the bowl, but it will start forming long strands around the dough hook. The dough will be very sticky.

Let the Dough Rise

Using a spatula or dough scraper that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray, scrape the dough into a 2 quart/2 liter dough rising container or bowl that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. It will be very soft and elastic and will stick to your fingers unmercifully. Do not be tempted to add more flour at this point; the dough will firm considerably after rising and chilling. Push down the dough and lightly coat the surface with nonstick cooking spray. (The dough should weigh about 2 pounds/910 grams; it will increase slightly in weight after rolling and folding it.) Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough should be after rising. Let the dough rise in a warm place (ideally at 75° to 85°F/24° to 29°C) until it reaches the mark, about 1 to 1½ hours. (See recommended rising environments.)

Deflate and Chill the Dough

Flour the counter and your hands because the dough will still be very sticky. Using a spatula or dough scraper that has been lightly coated with cooking spray, remove the dough to the counter, and deflate it gently with your fingertips. Round the dough by gently stretching it out in a few places and folding it in to the center. The dough will be very soft.

Set the dough back in the container. Lightly coat the surface with nonstick cooking spray, cover, and refrigerate it for a minimum of 1 hour or up to overnight. (If overnight, deflate it gently after the first hour or two. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping.)

Make the Filling

In a small food processor, process the almonds until fine. Add the brown sugar, butter, golden syrup, and cinnamon. Pinch off pieces of the almond paste and place them on top. Process until uniformly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the egg white and pulse until combined.

Shape the Dough, Fill, and Let It Rise

Turn the dough onto a well-floured counter and press down on it with floured hands to form a rectangle. Roll the dough into a 16 by 14 inch wide rectangle, flouring the counter and the rolling pin if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. It will be about ¼ inch thick. Brush off any excess flour from the top.

Using an offset spatula, gently spread the almond filling on the dough, leaving a ½ inch margin at the top and a 1 inch margin at the bottom. Spread the filling slightly thicker for the middle third of the dough because some of the filling will move toward the bottom while rolling.

Starting from the top, use your fingers and a long plastic ruler to roll up the dough and to help support the dough as you roll it. (Slip the edge of the ruler slightly under the dough and use it to lift up and roll the dough.) With each roll, dust any flour from the surface of the dough, and press firmly all along the dough roll to keep it from separating. To keep the rolled dough even and prevent it from becoming thicker in the middle, use your hands to ease the dough gently toward the ends. Work carefully without rushing. When you reach the bottom edge of the dough, pinch it firmly against the outside of the dough to make a tight seam. Pinch the ends of the dough firmly together and brush off any excess flour. The dough roll will be between 18 and 20 inches long and quite floppy.

Carefully lift the dough, supporting it as well as possible, and coil it into the prepared pan, overlapping it by about 2 inches. Place it with the seam side up because this will become the bottom of the babka when unmolded. Press it down firmly into the pan. It will come up to inches from the top of a 15 cup pan (2 inches in a 12 cup pan).

Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap, lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Let the dough rise in a warm place (ideally 75° to 85°F/24° to 29°C) for 45 minutes to 1½ hours, or until the highest point is ½ inch from the top of the pan (level with the top in a 12 cup pan).

Preheat the Oven

Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and set a cast iron pan, lined with aluminum foil to prevent rusting, or a sheet pan on the floor of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Bake the Babka

Quickly but gently set the pan on the rack and toss a handful (about ½ cup) of ice cubes into the pan on the oven floor. Immediately shut the door and bake for 30 minutes. For even baking, rotate the pan halfway around. Cover the top loosely with foil if it is already golden brown.

Continue baking for 15 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. (An instant-read thermometer inserted between the tube and the sides should read 200° to 212°F/93° to 100°C.)

Make the Glaze

In a small saucepan over medium heat (or in a 1 cup microwavable measure with a spout), melt the butter.

Unmold and Cool the Babka

Lay a sheet of parchment on the counter and place a wire rack on top. Remove the babka from the oven and unmold it onto the wire rack. If necessary, use a wooden skewer to dislodge the bread. Brush the melted butter onto the crust to soften it. Let the babka cool until warm, about 2½ hours. The top crust may have a dark line where the two ends of the dough overlapped in the pan.

Store

Room temperature, 2 days; frozen, 3 months.

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