Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Cardamom babka

This is a variation on Tessa Kiros's recipe for 'Bobba's babka' from her book Falling Cloudberries. Kiros is one of my favourite favourites. She has a mixed heritage, has lived in various parts of the world, and loves preparing food for people. What a brilliant combination!

Her beautifully presented books are what inspired me to attach a little back story to each of my recipes on this blog. You can curl up and read them even if you're not in the mood for cooking that day... mind you, chances are that you soon will be.

This recipe is quite time consuming, but there are long periods when you can get on with other things while it looks after itself in a warm place.

I made this on Saturday to take to church on Sunday, but it didn't quite work out as planned, due to a rookie mistake on my part. Does it serve to encourage you to learn that I also make rookie mistakes, or does it cause you to lose confidence in my recipes? I'm going to take a chance. I shall reveal the rookie mistake at the appropriate moment.

I used a bread maker to mix up the dough, because yeast is my nemesis. Before I got my bread maker, I never produced a successful yeast-including product. Since I got my bread maker, I have never failed to produce a successful yeast-including product. Simple as.

I am going to share the recipe as per the original (non-bread maker) instructions, and then explain what I did differently.

Oven temperature
180C (adjust for fan assisted ovens)

625g plain (cake) flour
5ml salt
80ml caster sugar
15g dried yeast
250ml tepid milk
60ml vegetable oil (plus a little extra for brushing)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

15ml ground cardamom (Kiros calls for cinnamon)
100g dark brown sugar
60g butter, softened

1 egg yolk
10ml milk
30g soft brown sugar

  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt.
  • In a smaller bowl, mix together the yeast, milk and oil and leave for 10 minutes to let the yeast  start to do it's thang.
  • Scrape out the yeast mixture into the larger bowl (make sure you get it all - it tends to be reluctant) and mix well.
  • Add the eggs and mix some more.
  • Tip it out onto a floured surface and knead it well for about ten minutes.
OR... bung all the above ingredients into a bread maker and set it to 'dough' then proceed as below.
  • Brush the top with oil and pop it oily side down into a large, clean bowl. Brush the surface that is now on top with oil, too.
  • Cover with cling film (Saran wrap) and leave in a warm place for about an hour and a half to rise... and it will rise. It should now be about twice the size it was.
  • Split the dough in half and roll out one half on a floured surface. You need to get it about .5cm thick. It should preferably be a roughly rectangular shape of about 25x45cm, but don't panic if the shape isn't perfect.
  • Mix the cardamom with the butter and brown sugar and spread half of this over the rolled dough. Spread it well and evenly.
  • Roll the dough into a sausage along its longest edge and set aside, while you repeat this process with the rest of the dough.
  • Now lay the two sausages side by side and sort of twist/braid them together. Pinch the ends together well. When you've entwined them, give them a few extra twists, to tighten up the loaf.
  • Pop them into a greased 30cm loaf tin (and this is where my rookie mistake came in. I forgot to grease the loaf tin. I mean... really???) and leave in a warm place for another hour or so, to rise some more.
  • Mix together the egg yolk and milk and brush the top of the loaf. Sprinkle with brown sugar.
  • Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when you poke it right in the middle.
  • If the ends are cooking too quickly, and the middle too slowly, Kiros recommends you cover the ends of the loaf with foil.
  • Cool for a few minutes in the tin before turning out onto a cooling rack. For those of us who have made rookie mistakes, this is the moment when half the loaf empties out and the other half stays behind in the tin. It tastes, just as good, mind... it just doesn't look good enough to serve to guests.
  • Serve slightly warm or totally cooled (if it lasts that long) with or without butter.

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