Sunday, March 20, 2016
Katya says this is not real babka. I can't really express an opinion on that (and how I hate not being able to express an opinion!), but I've heard many times--many, many times from transplanted New Yorkers--that you can't get a decent bagel in Minnesota. I've tasted babka only one other place--a bakery in Edina, MN. Edina is known as one of the most homogeneous suburbs in Minneapolis (not to mention a frequent answer in crossword puzzles), and I'd be the first to admit that their babka, while quite good, might not be the same kind of babka you'd pick up in a New York deli. My point, though, is that while this might not be the babka of your childhood, it's awfully good. And maybe your childhood babka wasn't as good as you remember it being. My own childhood favorite was a Velveeta sandwich on soft white bread slathered with Miracle Whip and made healthy with a big, crisp piece of Iceberg lettuce.
I'll confess that when I first took a look at the recipe, I groaned as I was turning all those pages. Then I realized it was a pretty simple, if sticky, dough, and that most of the pages were giving directions for variations on the sweet almond filling. I decided to do the almond filling, although I felt a strong pull toward the chocolate schmear. (And by the way, maybe someone from New York can tell me why it's an almond filling, but a a chocolate schmear). What turns a filling into a schmear?
Back to the subject at hand. The dough is easier and not as sticky as brioche, and you can choose to make it with minimal time in the refrigerator or you can overnight it. I was able to make mine in one day.
I found the dough to be sticky, but not "unmercifully" so. Again, easier to work with than brioche.
Folding the corners of the dough toward the center to make a circle (or a square). This is one of the times you can opt for a short or a long rise. It was getting late, but I didn't want to fool around with this before breakfast. I wanted to be able to slice an already baked and cooled babka for said breakfast.
Bread dough is one of my favorite things to work with, but it's always white, beige, or brown. And always being pushed down. Not like the sweet gloriousness of butter, sugar, and golden syrup. But if man (and woman) can't live on bread alone, they for sure can't live on almond filling alone. It would soon seem cloyingly sweet. But a little is a very good thing.
The almond filling in a bowl and the almond filling being spread on the dough.
If schmear just means smear, which I think is pretty accurate, this almond spread would seem to be a schmear. Maybe there's more to it than that. Or maybe I'm just overthinking it. To make up for not having an opinion on whether this is a true babka.
Well, enough of that. This pan is one that Woody brought me at some point when he was cleaning out his kitchen. It has "1000" written on it in indelible pen. I have no idea what that means. Capacity? Woody's sorting system? The pan is awfully big. The directions say there should be about two inches between the top of the dough and the top of the pan. That's way more than two inches. But the dough feels right, so I'm not worried.
And it came out of the oven high and handsome. The extravagant amount of butter brushed on the outside of the bread lends its flavor to the bread, softens it, and makes it glisten. A butter trifecta!
I had one piece for breakfast, along with yogurt and berries. The yogurt and berries were the healthy part. That would have been perfect, but I decided I wanted a second piece of babka. That was a mistake. I could no longer fool myself that I was eating moderately. Also what tasted just right in one piece became way too sweet in two pieces.
JJ came over in the afternoon. I put some slices out on a plate and put them on the coffee table. He asked me what that "brown stuff" was. I told him it was bread that tasted sweet. He heard "bread" and "sweet," and scarfed down a piece, rubbed his belly, and said, "yum." I guess he thinks it's authentic babka.