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Babka

Babka was born out of the Eastern European Jewish communities in the early 19th century and was a way of using up leftover challah dough. The more traditional versions use oil instead of butter since kosher bakeries keep their pastries dairy-free and the sweet fillings were typically honey, sugar and jams, whereas the addition of chocolate is seen as a newer American-Jewish invention. Babka has gained new attention from chefs who have introduced butter for a richer dough and experimented with a variety of fillings inspired by the flavours of the Jewish diaspora.

Time: 20 mins (prep) + 2hr (proof), 35 mins (cook)

Equipment: 1x large mixing bowl, 1x measuring jug, 1x rolling pin, 1x pallet knife, 1x dull knife, 1x loaf tin, 1x parchment paper, 1x sauce pan

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 500g plain or strong white flour
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg for the eggwash
  • 80ml vegetable oil
  • 180ml lukewarm water
  • 10g dry yeast
  • 75g brown demerara sugar (+ extra for sprinkling)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Halva Babka:

  • tahini
  • brown sugar
  • pistachio

Chocolate Babka:

  • nutella
  • chocolate spread

Syrup:

  • 100g sugar
  • 100ml water
    (cook on medium heat for 8 mins until sugar dissolves)

Method

Step 1

Into a large mixing bowl add the dry ingredients. Using one of your hands begin to mix these dry ingredients together.

Step 2

Add in your vanilla extract and whole eggs, and then next go in with the water and the oil (which I have mixed together). Bring everything together so everything is well mixed and when everything is combined let's turn it out onto our work surface.

Step 3

Work everything into a dough - begin to knead together, working the gluten strands and developing your dough.

Step 4

Now proof your dough in a clean bowl with a touch of olive oil. Leave for 1 hour before the next step.

Step 5

Now our dough has doubled in size, pull it out of your bowl and then cut into two (if making two different types). Leave one to one side and cover.

Pre heat your oven to 180°C/356°F

Step 6

Now flour your surface generously and roll your dough into a rectangle. Lather on the chocolate spreads, spreading it over evenly - leaving an inch at the sides.

Step 7

Now with a dull knife or butter knife - begin to tease the dough away from the surface and then roll into a long cylindrical shape.

Step 8

From this point, clean your surface quickly and then lightly flour a dull knife, and slice the ends off the dough. Cut in half and then split each half lengthways down the middle.

Step 9

Now plait the two pieces of dough together and place it into a lined loaf tin. Proof for 1 more hour.

Clean the surface.

Step 10

Now let’s repeat steps 6 and 7 for the other portion of the dough which we'll use to make our halva version but instead of using the chocolate filling, we'll spread on the tahini with a sprinkle of pistachios and brown sugar.

Once the halva is wrapped into a cylinder cut down into pieces/chunks.

Step 11

Add the chunks into a lined tray (I moved them into a small omelet pan). Leave to proof for an hour.

Step 12

Now we can see our babkas have risen, brush them with a simple egg wash. Next add some brown sugar over the top and place into a hot oven for 35 minutes.

Step 13

Make a simple syrup by bringing together sugar and water.

Step 14

Once the babkas come out of the oven, add the hot syrup over the top and leave to serve for 15 minutes.

Step 15

Serve and Enjoy!

Eyal's Notes

Step 1

Babka is a Russian recipe brought to Israel by Jewish Russian immigrants.

A low fuss tip: keep one hand clean when making your dough.

Step 2

At this stage all we are looking to do is bring the dough together.

Step 3

Work the dough for 10 minutes until the dough is warm, elastic and smooth. Take out the days frustration on your babka dough - push and pull it around.

At this stage you should start to smell the dough.

Step 4

Leave the dough in a warm place to proof. I leave mine:

  • In a warming oven at 30°C/86°F
  • In the airing cupboard
  • Near a radiator
  • On top of the oven

Step 5

Keep your dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.

Step 6

This dough is very sticky and we don’t want it to tear so keep the surface you're working on well floured.

Pull your dough into a rough rectangle before rolling it out.

You need to use a mixture of Nutella and normal chocolate paste. If you use completely Nutella you’ll find it will begin to split and become grainy.

I warmed the spreads up before pouring them so they smear easier.

Step 7

I love to add a pinch of sea salt from a height to the chocolate babka to balance out the sweetness.

Take your time when rolling the dough - we don’t want it to split.

Step 8

How to shape the classic babka:

  • Trim the ends of the roll of dough.
  • Cut the dough in half leaving two pieces.
  • Split the two pieces down the middle.
  • Pull the pieces apart and then tie together in a braid (one strand over the top of the other)

Step 9

Add the plaited babka into a lined loaf tin and leave to proof in a hot place for 1 hour.

Step 10

With the halva babka we want to repeat the exact same process as with our chocolate one. The only difference will be the way we shape and present the sweet tahini treat.

Step 11

I've been shaping my halva like this recently. Once you're more confident with making it you can start to be more creative with your fillings.

Step 12

Add some brown sugar to the top of the babkas, this will add a crunchy texture to the top of the dish.

Step 13

The syrup adds more sweetness and moisture to our breads.

Step 14

We want to leave the babka to sit for 15 minutes before serving and enjoying.

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Eyal Jagermann
I think food is at its best when it’s fresh, simple...unpretentious. The most important thing? Ingredients - I am obsessed with quality.