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

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders, what I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion. I am not being compensated through sponsorship or gifts, but this post contains an affiliate link: I may get a commission for purchases made through it. Thank you for helping me earn a little something on the side!*

Opening Grill Season With Langalló, the Hungarian Pizza

hungarian langallo flatbread

Grill season is here and I couldn’t be happier! I’ve a smile on my face just thinking of all the F&Bs we’re going to consume this year on the patio. Our back yard is not huge by any measure, but that’s not stopping us from doing cookouts. Let the good times roll!

It’s true the weather can be quite unpredictable in April around here (it’s sunny and then a minute later there’s a shower) so to open garden season, I thought we’d play it safe. In the time Husband mowed the lawn and I tended to my awakening herb garden, a batch of langalló dough has risen nicely.

Langalló (pron. laan-gaallow), also called kenyérlángos (pron. ken-yeer-laan-gosh) is a type of flat bread baked with various toppings. Traditional Hungarian fast-food, or our take on pizza if you please. Let’s start with a brief lesson in history. I promise to keep it short!

hungarian langallo flatbread

Still with me? Great! So according to the Hungarian Baker Association, we eat langalló since the 14th century. Round and somewhat thicker than the Italian cousin, it was the typical meal of bread baking days: prepared from the leftover dough after loaves were shaped, eaten fresh out the furnace.

Today, we don’t have to bake bread to eat langalló, it’s available at bakeries and is a favorite of fairs, markets and festivals. The shape changed to rectangular over time to fit commercial baking trays, but it’s still best eaten fresh and warm.

Baked in a hot oven until golden, langalló smells and tastes like fresh bread. Crust should be crunchy outside and soft inside. Classic toppings include cottage cheese with dill, sour cream with garlic, smoked sausage slices, bacon or pancetta, red onions, grated cheese and – although not as often as I would like – bone marrow or duck cracklings.

A very filling meal high in simple carbs and fats of not exactly the best kind. Precisely what was needed in the times people worked on the fields from dawn till dusk, but not exactly what we call healthy these days.

But it’s OK to indulge sometimes when you’re on an otherwise balanced diet, and making langalló is doing it good while you’re at it. Just wait until you smell the baking bread and roasting garlic!

hungarian langallo flatbread

Sadly, I don’t have a wood-burning furnace and while that would be peak hygge for me, the oven is an acceptable compromise. Surely, smoke adds more flavor to any food but it adds more clothes to the laundry as well, so let’s just count our blessings on this one shall we. 🙂

Back to the dough: it’s not at all complicated, basically just flour, water, salt and yeast. Additionally, almost every recipe calls for boiled potatoes and I use them too to soften the dough (remember reserving the cooking water to add extra starch).

Whichever topping you decide on, be it traditional or something entirely let’s-see-what-we-have-in-the-fridge kind of spontaneous, I’m warning you: beer and wine spritzers go equally well with langalló. Are you drooling yet?

Hungarian Langalló

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

A type of flat bread baked with seriously sinful toppings.

Ingredients

For the dough:

500 g (4 cups) bread flour

1,5 tsp salt

1 medium potato

300 ml (10 fl oz) of the boiling water reserved

3 tbsp vegetable oil

20 g (0.7 oz) fresh yeast

Toppings:

250 ml (1 cup) sour cream

2 garlic cloves

50 g (½ cup) grated cheddar

2 medium red onions

200 g (7 oz) bacon or smoked sausage

Directions

  1. Peel, cube and boil potato. Reserve 300 ml of the cooking water, set aside. Mash potato with a fork and let cool.
  2. Sift flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer attached with the dough hook, add mashed potato, oil and lukewarm boiling water, crumble yeast on top.
  3. Start kneading on low until dough comes together, then increase speed to medium. Knead until dough is shiny and not sticking to the side of the bowl.
  4. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 45 min.
  5. While dough is rising, prepare toppings: season sour cream with salt and pepper to taste, add crushed garlic. Grate cheese, peel and thinly slice red onions, cut bacon or sausages. Set aside.
  6. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper.
  7. Turn dough on a lightly floured surface, roll out and fit into baking tray.
  8. Top dough: cover with sour cream, pile on cheese, onions and bacon or sausage.
  9. Preheat oven to 200°C / 400°F, let dough rise until oven is heating up.
  10. Bake until crust is golden, about 30 min. Serve warm. Enjoy!

What are some of your favorite foods to prepare outdoors during warmer months? By the way, grill or BBQ? Store bought spice mixes (which brand?) or secret family concoctions? I’d love to hear it all!

Love,

Fruzsi

Yeast Dough & The Book That Made Me Do It

yeast dough title image

Earlier this year in the post on baking challah I’ve told you about my weird fear of yeast dough. That was the very first recipe I tried and to my geniune surprise, I was successful right away. Looking back at it now, I just can’t comprehend what I was so anxious about.

If you follow my Facebook page you have seen how since then I started conquering the once-dreaded yeast dough kingdom one pastry at a time, and I’m proud to say not one batch ended up in the bin so far. This makes it even harder for me to understand my former concerns.

Playing my own therapist, I’ve come to the realization that the core problem was both my grandmothers being famously good at baking. Just bear with me, I’ll explain!

I think it’s that they made it look so simple. Effortless. Like adding yeast to flour and a few other simple ingredients to make a living, breathing dough was something so basic no explanation whatsoever is needed.

Also when I was inquiring about a recipe, they usually said there is not really a recipe. My child, this is but the simplest thing. When asked how much of this or that, the answer either was some, you’ll feel it or a few spoonfuls (but with that specific spoon inherited from this great-grandmother or the other).

I don’t remember them measuring ingredients by the gram, and the dough wonderfully came together and has risen perfectly anyway, every single time. Decades of practice and experience was on their side, something I lacked. So I just gave up on yeast. Funny how I made soufflés, crème brûlées or pâte à choux over the years without ever doubting myself, but a dough that needs rising? Not me.

Besides something snapping around Easter, there was also an impulse purchase that gave me a push in the right direction by insisting yeast dough is not rocket science (news flash: it really isn’t), and that was the cookbook Limara Péksége (Limara’s Bakery) by Tóthné Libor Mária.

limara peksege cookbook cover

Public Service Announcement: Although it is not available in English, I believe non-Hungarian readers would also enjoy the review of this book.

Marcsi is a wife and mother of two who „… was an average housewife with an average kitchen” until her mother gave her a bread machine one Christmas. She says she’s obsessed with homemade breads and pastries ever since, and that was when she found her real passion.

Starting her blog in 2008, she simply wanted to create a platform for her recipes and was shocked to see it become so widely popular in such short time. And while Limara Péksége might not be the shiniest blog out there design and visuals-wise, each and every recipe is guaranteed to work.

With her immense knowledge acquired over the years, Limara is creating genuine content for us time after time. She gets loads of feedback in her comments, is invited to every major gastro-themed event in the country, does tons of interviews and workshops and is a judge for numerous baking contests.

The idea of a book was originally suggested by her readers. Her first volume, published in 2014, (2 more came out since) is a collection of her best, foolproof bread and pastry recipes she has perfected over time, a compilation of her favorites.

In the beautifully styled and photographed hardcover (credit to Réka Kövesdi), you’ll learn about ingredients, the 12-steps of bread baking, and get a guide of the essential equipment along the recipes. Marcsi also included her tips, plus detailed photos and graphics to help you with the trickier parts of the process.

limara peksege cookbook quickview

After you’ve learnt the basics, it’s time to start baking. You’ll find Marcsi’s mouthwatering, tried and true recipes for breads, challahs and doughnuts, crescents and buns, sweet and savory fortified doughs, puff pastry with yeast and last but not least, scones and pretzels.

I love how straightforward the book’s style is, encouraging you to forget your reservations and just do it. It’s all about showing you how simple baking really is, without unnecessarily overcomplicating anything. When I make something from Limara’s Bakery, I feel like Marcsi is reassuringly holding my hand along the steps.

You can get a sneak peek of the book on the publisher’s website here.

My copy has become the Nr. 1 on my shelf for home baking and is now full of post-its with my notes. Watching dough come to life is magic in itself, and when the smell from the oven makes the fam gather in the kitchen, well that is true bliss.

Looks like I needed to turn 30 to fall head over heals for yeast dough, but it was well worth the wait. No stopping me now.

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: The aforementioned publication was featured on My Chest Of Wonders with the author’s permission. The review of the book represents my genuine and unbiased opinion, I do not earn a commission after purchases, nor am I being compensated in any other way.*

“Making dessert dough” photo featured in title image © freepik