Although what I am about to describe is technically a Couronne, the word babka is much more satisfying to say and so it will be referred to using this factually incorrect term.
Sometimes you can plan weeks in advance for a new baking escapade, other times you can be sat on the sofa watching Bake Off and spontaneously decide to bake a babka the next day. A babka is a traditional Polish sweet dough, traditionally topped with an icing, created for large family events such as Easter and Christmas. My babka, on the other hand, was baked only with the intention of eating it on a quiet Thursday afternoon.
The babka dough is sweet and resembles a brioche dough. Whilst is may appear sticky at the start, after a long two hour prove, the dough comes together making it smooth and elasticy to work with. The most satisfying aspect of the babka creation is plaiting the dough, with the rich chocolate and hazelnut mixture exposed for all to see, the chocolate intertwines with the empty dough creating a plaited pattern that remains intact when baked.
The babka is a thing of beauty and extravagance. The dough is plaited in a neat pattern then wrapped around to create an edible wreath. When baked, the golden crust is cut through, revealing the symmetrical rings of chocolate and hazelnut in each slice.
Whilst it is worth baking a babka for an occasion, it is equally worth baking a beautiful babka for a quiet Thursday evening.
The Recipe (Adapted from Waitrose Kitchen Magazine)
500g strong white bread flour
1 tsp. salt
150g light brown soft sugar
10g dried yeast
150g unsalted butter
Half a jar of Nutella
50g hazelnuts, crushed
– In a bowl or mixer with a dough hook, place the flour, salt and 75g of sugar.
– Make a well in the centre and add the yeast.
– In a pan, warm the milk until just before boiling.
– Pour the milk into the well along with the eggs.
– If using your hands, cut the butter into chunks and knead in the butter. Continue kneading for around 5 mimutes until smooth. If using a mixer, add the chunks of butter and mix with the dough hook for 5 minutes.
– Lightly oil a clean bowl and place the dough in it. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 2 hours until it has doubled in size.
– After 2 hours, knock back the dough. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the dough to a 40x60cm rectangle.
– Cover the dough with the nutella and 40g hazelnuts.
– Starting from one shorter side, roll up the dough into a sausage shape.
– Cut off the two ends and then cut the sausage dough in half lengthways.
– Plait the two pieces together, with the fillings exposed on the outside. Wrap the dough around into a circle.
– Line a baking tray with baking parchment and place the babka on the tray.
– Cover with cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for a further 45 minutes.
– Pre-heat the oven to 180 dgerees celsius.
– Once proved for a second time, remove the cling film and place in the oven for 40-45 minutes. After 30 minutes it can be covered with foil to prevent it browning too much.
– Whilst cooking, make the syrup. Place the remaining sugar and 75ml of water in a pan. Heat until boiling. After a few minutes of boiling, take off the heat.
– Once the babka is out of the oven, cover it with a generous amount of syrup and repeat twice.
– Once cool, dirzzle with a little extra Nutella and the remaining hazelnuts.