Transitioning to Fall With More Baking: Almond Butter Babka

almond butter babka

I am sad that summer is over but at the same time so very excited about fall! Not fully committed to waking up in the dark yet (it’s happening though… downside to being an early bird). Mornings are finally cooler and after the record-braking temps of past months, I actually enjoy putting on sleeves.

I’ve been reluctant to turn on the oven for weeks, but now things are back to normal: bread baking Saturdays are on again, and we started craving other baked goods too.

That’s the short story of my Almond Butter Babka, a really rich and tasty sweet bread we indulge in for breakfast every once in a while. It’s perfect alongside tea or coffee, but it’s by no means limited to morning consumption. Quite difficult to stop at just one slice too (I warned you!).

The history of babka is certainly uncertain, but it’s origins likely lay at distant generations of Eastern European Jews. It’s most consumed and associated with the culture in the Baltics, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus (the initial name was likely baba meaning grandmother in Slavic, later shifting to the diminutive form babka).

The well-known chocolate version seems to be a mid-century American Jewish invention: the dough is spread with cocoa, then rolled up tightly, twisted, folded, and finally baked into the rich loaves we love today.

This time I thought chocolate would be just too decadent though (WTF?), so it got filled with almond butter instead. Beyond being packed with protein, fiber and good fats, almond butter is also loaded with antioxidants, magnesium, iron, and potassium. My sister supplies me with Costco’s store brand Kirkland Signature Creamy Almond Butter which is an all natural, non-GMO, no sugar and no sodium added product. Just roasted almonds, and the price is decent too.

Unfortunately none of this is making your babka any healthier. At all. Plus, I sprinkled it with sugar too. Oh well 🙂 On the plus side, almond butter adds some serious sophistication – a deep, earthy flavor, while the sugar caramelises for a slightly crunchy sensation.

almond butter babka

The dough is the same egg and butter enriched brioche like the one I shared earlier in the post on braided challah, so I won’t repeat myself. At first, making the sliced braid might seem tricky, but it’s actually easier done than said. Practice makes perfect, and oh boy you’ll want to try this again and again!

The steps:

  1. Roll dough into a 1 cm (around 1/3”) thick rectangle.
  2. Spread with almond butter and sprinkle with packed dark brown sugar, leaving about an inch bare around the border.
  3. Starting on the long side, roll up tightly into a log.
  4. With a sharp knife, cut log in half lengthwise. It might get a bit messy, but don’t worry if the filling starts oozing out a bit. Just hold together the best you can, it’s still going to be delicious.
  5. Now you have two strips of filled dough. Pinch two ends together, and twist the logs around each other cut side up 2-3 times. Pinch ends together too.
  6. Place in a loaf pan, let rise, then bake as directed. Enjoy!

almond butter babka

almond butter babka

Love,

Fruzsi

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Bake Challah for Easter

braided challah wreath

Time flies and Easter is already around the corner which, wether you are religious or not, means feasting with a capital F around this part of the globe. With my family being no exception, I wanted to bring you a recipe, something traditional for the holiday that you usually buy instead of making yourself: braided challah!

Since we are among friends here, I will confess that I had an inexplicable fear of everything calling for yeast. Why though? I had no bad experience. Furthermore, growing up I watched both my grandmothers make the most amazing raised doughs turning out perfect every time. Than something snapped, and there’s no stopping me since!

I’ve overcome my reservations and now I urge you to be brave too and try your hands at yeast dough. Made from a few simple ingredients, this challah will be the most delicious, sweet-smelling, flaky-soft and savory beauty on your holiday table and you will think twice getting it from the store again.

Yes, yeast dough is not a 30-minute deal but you can think ahead and prepare your challah in advance, it stays fresh for days. Not that it will stand a chance surviving long enough to dry out (but there’s alway the option for French toast at such an unlikely event). I forgot to measure the loaf when it was ready, but this batch will satisfy your average hungry family at the Easter table for sure. I used this very solid, basic master recipe from Origo Táfelspicc (in Hungarian with detailed photos of each step) and altered it just a bit. Here you go:

Basic Challah

Ingredients

500 g AP flour

½ tsp salt

1 packet active dry yeast

3 tbsp sugar

1 cup (250 ml) warm milk

1 egg + 1 yolk + 1 egg for the eggwash

1 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions

  1. Sift flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer equipped with the dough hook attachment, make a hole in the middle.
  2. Add sugar to warm (never use hot!) milk, stir to dissolve then pour mixture in the hole.
  3. Add egg and yolk, set machine to low. When the ingredients are roughly combined, add butter and continue kneading on medium until a shiny ball of dough is formed, no longer sticking to the bowl (5-10 min).
  4. Place dough in a lightly floured bowl, cover and let  rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 45 min.
  5. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, divide to as many balls of equal volume as the number of braids you want and let rest for 15 min.
  6. Roll balls into strands and braid loosely. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the challah on it.
  7. Wash with the lightly beaten egg, let rise for an additional 30 min. Wash with egg again and bake in a preheated oven at 175 °C for 30-45 min. until dark golden. Enjoy!

Try with butter, jam, honey, fois gras… and you can thank me later. 🙂

Once you feel comfortable with the dough, braiding challah is great fun and your loved ones will be sooo impressed with your new talent! You will find tons of tutorials on the different braiding patterns out there.

Hope you are feeling more confident about working with yeast and will give homemade challah a shot. I’d love to hear how yours turned out, so let me know!

Happy Holiday!

Fruzsi