Saturday, June 12, 2010

Babka and Croup

It's a pun. I swear. It sounds just like brie en croute or fish en croute. However, being a mom, my days have involved much more 'croup' this week than 'croute.' Embrace your food geekdom and let the collective groan now ensue.

It's wild how comforting making a complicated recipe can be in the midst of two sick little ones. I know that sounds strange, and I'm not sure how it got that way for me, but it's an honest fact. Seeing a recipe like babka, with it's chilling of dough, rolling out of dough, making of filling, assembly, rising and baking restrictions, and knowing it will be conquered gives a slight sense of control in the midst of the croup. Either that, or its Zen meditation at its finest.

Babka is flaky, moist deliciousness. I admit I haven't tasted this particular batch yet. I will need to report back once the loaves have been distributed to their soon to be owners. Is it fair to hand your sister-in-law a birthday present, and then say, "Here, I made this for you. Is it alright if we cut it up and sample it?" Most likely not, but it might be worth a shot for the sake of this babka. If it tastes good, which I hope it will, it will be due to several factors, the first of which is: 

Three sticks of butter.

I am not joking. There are two sticks added tablespoon by tablespoon into the batter, along with sour cream, and one stick in the filling. Truly, is there any better substance on the planet? I will become like Julia Child and wax nostalgic while I write odes to butter. I may use shortening one of these days, but not yet. Oh my, the butter. Which brings us to:

The Filling.

I added cocoa powder to the original filling, consisting of 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 1 cup chopped walnuts and, yes, 1 glorious stick of butter. As the babka baked, the filling melted into a chocolate caramel that leaked out the sides. Dave had done the final steps of the baking while I was at services/working last night, and had set the loaves to cool on paper towels. When we went to wrap them up for the evening, they were thoroughly stuck. Ce la vie - we'll get a little extra fiber with our babka.

The babka will be good, and, if not, I'll try it again. I shall conquer this ridiculous recipe. 

The Summit.

From America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Cookbook, plus Chocolate

1 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
1/4 cup cold water
4 tsp vanilla extract
5-5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
1 tsp salt
16 T unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and softened

1 1/2 cups packed light or dark brown sugar
8 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup chopped walnuts
4 T cocoa powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch of salt

1 T granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg
2 T water

1. Dough: Whisk the sour cream, eggs, water and vanilla together in a large liquid measuring cup. Combine 5 cups of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the sour cream mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.

2. Increase the mixer speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. (The dough will be quite sticky.)

3. With the mixer on medium low, slowly add the butter, 1 piece at a time, waiting 15 seconds between additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to knead the dough on medium low speed until it forms a very soft ball, about 15 minutes longer. If after 6 minutes more flour is needed, add the remaining 1/2 cup flour, 2 tablespoons at time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom. (We needed an additional 2 T, but that was all.)

4. Scape the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with greased plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 10 hrs or up to 24 hrs. (Because of high butter content, dough will rise only slightly.)

5: Filling: Mix all of the ingredients together; set aside. Grease two 9 by 5 inch loaf pans, then line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment. (I forgot to grease my parchment. It worked out fine.)

6. Turn the cold dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Roll the dough into a 24 by 18 inch rectangle, about 1/18 of an inch thick, with the long side facing you. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border at the far edge.

7. Loosen the dough from the board, then roll the dough into a tight cylinder, brush the border with water, and punch the seam closed. Lightly dust the roll with flour and gently stretch the long until 24 inches in length with an even diameter; pat the ends to even them. Using a serrated knife, slice the roll into 3/4 inch slices. (You should have about 32 slices; don't worry about more or less.)

8. Arrange the slice in 2 long rows in each of the prepared loaf pans. Mist the loaves with vegetable oil spray and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 2 to 2 3/4 hours.

9. Glaze and Baking: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the egg wash over the loaves, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Place in oven and turn down the temperature to 350 immediately. Bake until the tops are brown, about 50 to 60 minutes. (If the tops of the loaves look like they are getting too dark, tent them loosely with foil.)

10. Cool the breads in loaf pans for 15 minutes, then remove from the pans. Let cool to room temperature, about 2 hrs, prior to serving.

Naomi and Dina will be well, will breathe easy soon, and sleep through the night someday again. I'm feeding Nomi the feel better foods of apple juice, graham crackers, chicken soup and pizza. Any other recommendations?

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