Repeat after me: “ Its not that hard”
ok, turn to your friend, spouse, cat, pet hamster, and repeat: “ it’s not that hard”
Deep breath, and listen up, I’m only going to say this one more time,
“IT’S REALLY NOT THAT HARD!”
I wouldn’t lie to you. ( I’ve got that song stuck in my head now)
Please hear me out, before you scan past the post and dismiss the recipes simply because they involve working with yeast, there is only one step that you need to pay attention to, repeat, only one. Follow this simple golden rule, and I guarantee you well risen success, everytime.
This is the rule: Warm Water Only. Only Ever Use WARM Water!
So this then leads to the big question, how warm is warm water?
Well thanks for asking, because some recipes will say, luke warm, others use the word tepid.
I’ve even seen a desciption that said blood temperature. Eeeuw.
As I’ve never felt the temperature of blood, and can’t be bothered to pull out a thermometer everytime I bake, so this is what works for me.
I ask myself, could a baby’s hand withstand the water temperature? If the water is too hot ( or too cold) the baby would pull back it’s hand. Another way to test ( because hands can become de-senstised to heat and cold) is to put your elbow in the water . It looks a little funny, by hey, we’re baking with yeast here, a little sacrifice is required.
I have a pretty serious wheat intolerance. One whiff of the white stuff and I’m, sniffing, sneezing and twitching for days. Ingest any and my body objects by turning into a mucus making machine. Suffice to say, I’ll spare you the snotty details, I have gone to get personal expense & risk to my health ( you’re welcome) to bring you this post.
So please, no whinging and whining it’s too hard; put on your big girl panties, roll up your sleeves and get kneading!
Oh and one last thing, all dough and yeast items require time to rise , called proving. The length of time depends on the recipe, but don’t start baking with yeast at 9.00pm on a school night, as my 3 year old would say, ” that’s not a good idea ” 🙂
PS. This is possibly the longest post I have ever written, please don’t let that put you off as I’ve tried to give as much info as possible to make the steps easier to understand.
PLEASE GIVE IT A GO!
Basic Babka Dough
Recipe adapted from SAVOUR (Random House Struik)
I used this recipe to make both the chocolate Babka, the cinnamon and streusel Babka, and the smaller Bulkas (buns/rolls) the full recipe is below, I recommend halving the ingredients, which will make one loaf of either the chocolate or cinnamon Babka
It is the most delicious buttery dough very similar to Brioche. It is easy to work with, and provided you follow the basic rule of yeast (see above) you’ll be knocking out Babka loaves like a Balebuste
I prefer measuring with cups, because I’m usually using the baking time as a way of engaging and entertaining my 3 year old daughter, and its fun for her to help me with this. I’ve listed the gram measurements as well as its more accurate to weigh than measure with cups, as you can so easily ( don’t I know it!) lose track of how many cups you’ve already measured out.
8 cups / 1,415 g cake flour
1 cup/ 232 g light brown sugar
2 teaspoon / 10g salt
1 cup / 250 ml full cream milk
1 cup / 250 ml fresh cream
1 cup / 250 ml lukewarm/ warm water
2 x 10g packets instant yeast
4 ex-large eggs
Sift the flour into the bowl of a mixer, add the yeast, sugar and salt.
Melt the butter with the milk, either in a saucepan or in the microwave, DO NOT LET IT BOIL.
Remove from heat, allow to cool and add the cream and the water.
Do the elbow/ baby hand test on the milk mixture, if using a thermomter the tempterue should be around 40- 43oC
Pour the milk mixture and the yeast into the bowl and mix on low spread for 2-3 minutes, adding the eggs one at a time. The mixture will be very soft but slowly comes together.
Continue mixing for a further 5 minutes on low until the mixture forms a ball of dough around the dogh hook, and comes away cleaning from the sides of the bowl. it will be soft and elestic and when pushed springs back.
Cover the bowl with cling film and a tea towel and allow to stand until doubled in size, this depends on the season and room temperature. I used my warming drawer on my oven and it took about 45-mins to an hour.
(A note in the original recipe says do not let the dough stand too long as it can go sour, although I’m not sure how long that would be, I’m assuming in summer or a very hot kitchen 2 – 3 hours would be considered too long a time )
Knock the dough down, turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead the dough again for a few minutes, I did this by hand for 2 – 3 minutes.
Cover and allow to stand again for 20 – 30 minutes, until risen again.
Turn out onto a floured surface and divide the dough into two pieces, each should weigh about 1,2 kg
Shape and bake.
For the Chocolate Babka
Adapted from A Pinch Of By Caron Melamed
100g butter, at room temperature
1 cup treacle brown sugar
½ cup/ 70 g good quality Dutch cocoa powder
½ cup / 80 g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
In a food processor whizz the first 3 ingredients together to make a paste, transfer to a bowl and add the chopped chocolate
To make the Chocolate Babka
Preheat the oven to 160oC
Grease a Bundt tin ( I used a silicone ring tin)
Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface into a large rectangle, approximately 30 cm x 40 cm, 2cm thick.
Spread with the chocolate paste filling over the dough
Roll up the dough from the longer side into a long log shape
Using a sharp knife or a pair of sharp scissors cut the log through the middle lengthwise to expose the chocolate filling, and has the appearance of long chocolate streaked ropes.
Twist the ends together and carefully transfer the “ropes” to the prepared cake tin ( this can be a little bit messy)
Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to stand for a further 30 – 45 minutes until it has risen slightly.
Bake for 45- 50 minutes until a sharp knife inserted in the dough part comes out clean
Remove and allow to cool completely in the tin before turning out.
Serve on the same day, or can be frozen for up to 2 weeks.
To defrost allow to stand at room temperature.
Cinnamon & Streusel Babka
Streusel topping is simply a dry crumbly mixture of flour, butter and sugar that is baked on top muffins, breads and cakes. You can add nuts and spices according to your preference.
For the Streusel Topping
3 tablespoons / 45 g cake flour
3 tablespoons / 45 g light brown sugar
3 tablespoons / 45 g melted butter
For the cinnamon filling
100g melted butter
100g light brown sugar
5 tablespoons ground cinnamon
To make the Babka
Make the streusel by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl, set aside
Roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 30cm x 40 cm , and 2 cm thick.
Brush the rectangle with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar
Roll up the dough into a long log and follow the instructions about for cutting the dough into ‘ropes” and place in greased tin topped with the streusel topping
Bake as above
To make smaller rolls or Bulkas, cut the rolled log into 4 cm rounds and place in well-greased muffin tins. Sprinkle with streusel topping and bake for approximately 15- 20 minutes until golden.
Pear & Cinnamon Buns with Salted Caramel Sauce
250ml / 1 cup full cream milk
45g / 3 tablespoons butter
578g / 3 ½ cups (or slightly more) stoneground cake flour
130g / ½ cup light brown sugar
1 ex large free range egg
1 x 10g sachet instant yeast
1 teaspoon/ 5 ml fine Himalayan salt
For the filling
3-4 ripe pears, peeled and cubed
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
¼ cup butter, melted
For the salted caramel sauce
1 cup / 200g white sugar
6 tablespoons/ 90g butter, cut into cubes
½ cup / 125 ml fresh cream
1 teaspoon Maldon sea Salt ( or more to taste)
Combine milk and butter in glass measuring jug. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed ( 30 to 45 seconds.) Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment.
Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed for 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonful’s until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.
Lightly oil large bowl with non-stick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coatin the oil, or sprinkle a little flour on top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and a clean dishtowel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in size, about 2 hours. I used the warmer drawer of my oven and it only took 1 hour.
To make the buns roll out the dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle, approximately 30cm x 40 cm, and 2 cm thick. Brush with melted butter and scatter over the pear and cinnamon mixture.
Roll up the dough into a long log and cut into 4 cm rounds – I found using unscented dental floss worked really well for cutting the buns
Place on a greased spring roll tin, the buns should have a little space between them as the will rise slightly. Set aside for 30 minutes to rise until almost double in size.
Pre heating the oven to 180oC.
Bake for 30 minutes, until golden and a skewer inserted in the thickest part of the dough comes out clean.
Remove from oven and pour over the salted caramel syrup
Allow to cool, and serve.
To make the Filling
Peel and dice the pears and toss in lemon juice, add the sugar and cinnamon, set aside
To make the salted caramel sauce
Place the sugar in a thick bottom saucepan over medium heat and melt, watch it carefully that it doesn’t burn, it will be a lovely golden brown colour
Use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, add the cubes of butter and stir vigorously to incorporate, be VERY careful as the mixture will foam up and bubble when the butter is added
Continue stirring until all the butter is added and has melted.
Slowly stir in the cream, once again take care as the mixture will bubble and spit.
Stir until combined, set aside until using.
Sauce can be made a ahead and will keep for 1 month in the fridge, use on ice cream and other desserts.
Make Ahead Pecan Nut & Cinnamon Rolls with Coffee Syrup
2 x 10g packets instant dry yeast
250ml / 1/cup warm milk
135g / 1/2 cup light brown sugar
80g / 1/3 cup butter, melted
5ml/ 1 tsp salt
2 large free range eggs
654g/ 4 cups all purpose flour – sifted
For the filling
1/2 cup / 125g butter, melted
3/4 cup / 165g brown sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
200g chopped pecans, reserve some for the top
In a large bowl combine the flour and the yeast.
In another bowl combine the milk, sugar, melted butter, salt, eggs, and whisk to combine. Pour the milk and egg mixture into the flour, and mix until the dough comes together, if using a stand mixer ( advisable) knead on low spead for approx 5 – 6 minutes, the dough will become elastic and form a ball around the dough hook, it will spring back when pushed. If kneading by hand ( respect!) , place dough on a floured countertop and knead for about 5 – 8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Grease a bowl ( I use cooking spray) Place dough in the bowl, sprinkle with a little flour and cover with plastic wrap, allow to rise ( prove) for approxiamtely 30 – 40 minutes or until doubled in size, the length of time will depend on the season and your kitchen temperature.
When the dough has doubled in size, take the dough out of the bowl place on floured countertop, and roll out into large rectangle approximately 30x 40 cm and 2 cm thick.
Brush melted butter on the entire surface of the dough and sprinkle liberally with the cinnamon and sugar, scatter over the chopped pecans.
Starting at the longest end firmly roll up the dough into a long log.
Cut into 4cm rounds and place in a well greased baking tin, don’t pack the rolls too tightly, leave a little room for expansion.
Allow to stand in the pan for a further 20-30 minutes until slightly risen.Scattr over the remainig pecans.
If making ahead the baking tray can be placed in the fridge overnight, or frozen at this stage.
Remove from fridge and allow to come to room temperature before baking, approximatetly 2-3 hours depending on the season.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180Oc for approximately 30 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and pour over the coffee syrup
serve with extra serviettes.
For the Coffee Syrup
1 cup / 200g white sugar
1 cup/250ml strong coffee
6 tablespoons / 90g butter
1/2 cup/ 125g fresh cream
To make the syrup place all the ingredients, except the cream, in a heavy bottom sauce pan .
Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened and slightly syrupy. Carefully add the cream, and stir in, remove from the heat
Pour over cinnamon buns.
Syrup can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for upto a week.
Thank you Nicole Louw Photography