It was bound to happen. My blog is two years old today, and I have no idea what to write. Not for lack of feelings - I'm feeling all kinds of proud and happy and grateful -, but simply because my mind is all over the place. It's in our old house, wondering how on earth we're gonna pack up all that stuff. It's in our new house, thinking about which paint colors to choose, how to organize the kitchen and where to hang my favorite art work. And it's in the States, booking airbnb's and mapping out next week's road trip. It's everywhere.
So I'll just say this.
Thank you for reading, tasting, commenting and writing emails when you've tried a recipe. Thank you for helping me grow, for making me be, and want to be, a better baker, writer, photographer, friend and human being. Thank you for listening to my rambles and thank you for all of your kind support. Whether we've known each other forever (hi mom!), or you're a first time visitor, it means the world to me. Most of all, thank you for confirming my beliefs that food is a massively powerful thing that binds us in ways we can't always grasp, and that gathering around the table - be it virtual or real - with honesty and vulnerability can bring forth so much good and strength.
This place is not just a project anymore. It's become a haven. And that's because of you.
• A word about yeast. Yes, again. I know I've talked about this before, (and before), but that's because the world of commercially available yeast can be confusing and complex. I used instant yeast, which has to be mixed in with the dry rather than the wet ingredients (!), but have also provided measurements for active dry yeast, which should be mixed in with the lukewarm milk and left to activate for a couple of minutes. Check the manufacturer's instructions if you're unsure about what you're dealing with.
• To shape the babka, I prefer to start from the short rather than the long edge. It's a little bit easier to handle and results in a thicker, more layered babka. Take a look at this super helpful gif by Betty Liu to make sense of the shaping process!
chocolate pecan babka
adapted from Now, Forager
makes two 13 x 24 cm loaves
for the babka dough
596 g all-purpose flour
2 scant tsp (7 g) instant yeast (or 2 tsp active dry yeast (see notes))
114 ml whole milk
114 ml water
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
114 g granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
114 g unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
for the chocolate pecan filling
120 g unsalted butter, very soft
75 g dark brown sugar
120 g dark chocolate (at least 70%), finely chopped
100 g pecans, chopped
coarse sea salt or fleur de sel
egg wash, to finish
for the babka dough
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixed fitted with the dough hook, combine flour and instant yeast. (If using active dry yeast, follow manufacturer's descriptions to mix with warm milk and water.) In a small saucepan, combine milk and water and gently heat until just slightly warm. Set aside while you whisk together eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla extract.
2. Start the stand mixer on low and gently pour tepid milk mixture onto the flour. Add egg mixture and continue mixing on low until the dough forms. Turn speed on medium and mix for another 5 minutes until the dough is completely smooth.
3. With the mixer running on the lowest speed, add the butter, one cube at a time, only adding the next when the former is completely incorporated. (This process can take up to 10 minutes.) Once all the butter is incorporated, put the mixer back on medium speed and continue mixing for another 5 minutes until smooth and shiny. The dough will not pull away from the sides or form into a ball, though. That's okay.
4. Use a spatula or bench scraper to transfer the dough to a large, clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 1 to 1,5 hours, until doubled in size. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and allow to rest overnight.
for the chocolate pecan filling
1. When ready to make the babka, stir together softened butter and brown sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. In another bowl, combine finely chopped chocolate and chopped pecans. Set aside.
to make and shape the babka
1. Butter two loaf pans and line with parchment paper.
2. Remove dough from the refrigerator and divide into two equal parts. Return one half to the refrigerator and loosely shape the other into a rectangle. Generously flour your work surface and roll dough into a 26 x 30 cm rectangle. Lift and turn the dough between rolls so as to prevent sticking, and use extra flour as needed. Place the dough with the short edge facing towards you and use the heel of your hand to flatten the opposite edge, pressing down and pushing away from you at the same time. You want the far end to stick to the counter - this will help seal the log later on.
3. Using an offset spatula, spread about half of the butter mixture onto the dough. Leave a 2 cm border at the flattened top edge of the dough, but go all the way to the sides everywhere else. Evenly divide half of the chocolate pecan mixture on top, then sprinkle with a little bit of coarse sea salt.
4. Starting from the short edge closest to you, start rolling the dough into a tight log. Lightly pull back the dough after each roll to tighten, then again when completely rolled. Using a large, lightly oiled knife, cut the log in half lengthwise. (Leave about 1 cm attached at the top for easy braiding.) Turn each half so that the filling is facing upward, then lift one side over the other, continuing down until the dough is twisted into a tight spiral. Seal the bottom and tuck the ends under, then carefully lift the babka into the prepared loaf pan. Repeat the process with the second half of dough.
5. Cover the loaf tins with plastic wrap or a clean towel and leave to rise at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, until babka is puffed. About 30 minutes before the babka has finished rising, preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and place a rack in the center.
6. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash, then place both pans onto a baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until deeply golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Should the edges start to look too dark before the baking time is up, cover the pans with aluminum foil to prevent further browning.
7. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before unmolding. Allow the babka to cool to room temperature before cutting into it.