As we begin to wake up to brisk mornings where even the sun isn’t up quite yet, and our morning cups of coffee have become warming and soothing, instead of just a caffeine boost, the desire to feel the warmth of the oven and the scent of spices in the air, burns bright.
A switch is flipped when the cool mornings set in and the chilly nights fall upon us. All of a sudden, the bananas ripening on the counter become crumbly muffins or a rich cake in your eyes, the peaches are bubbly cobblers dripping with melted ice cream and the apples turn to a buttery and flaky pie. All of a sudden, no fruit or vegetable is spared, all can be baked into a seasonal treat.
We don’t stop at fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry inspire pies, slow roasts and braises. The aroma of a piece of slow roasting meat with fragrant spices is just as enticing as the smell of cinnamon rolls baking for a weekend treat.
Lately, I’ve been inspired to go back in the kitchen and bake things. I mentioned a few posts back that I am reluctant to bake regularly because no-one at home eats it. I try to watch my gluten intake and my husband’s weight. But I love baking.
My nephew’s visit a couple of week’s ago gave me the excuse to bake fearlessly. He loves baked goods, I love to bake, it was a win-win situation. I don’t really eat too much of what I bake, it’s the actual creating that satisfies me; the whole idea of coming up with a recipe, adapting, measuring, baking and finally, the end result. They don’t always work out but even the disasters are learning lessons.
I haven’t baked since he left, I really haven’t done much. My RA has been aggressive and I am exhausted. It’s frustrating when you have a mind full of ideas but your body doesn’t cooperate. Taking random naps throughout the day doesn’t do much for productivity. I can’t seem to shake the tiredness. I did go to my rheumatologist and complained like I always do. And she did what she does best, listened to me. I’m sure it’s frustrating for her too to be unable to completely help her patients. She diagnosed me with another ailment, wrote me a prescription and sent me on my way.
The new medication makes my tiredness worse.
On top of that, I have nausea and insomnia. I’m taking even more naps now during the day because I can’t sleep during the night.
I always used to see recipes for babka and they always looked something fun to try. The most common recipes are the chocolate babka or the cinnamon. As I mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of chocolate baked goods. Give me a candy bar straight up, no problem. I’ll usually pass on the chocolate cake or brownies. The chocolate babka didn’t appeal to me so I never attempted it.
Remember a few posts back when I mentioned I came across a baking magazine that had a cake that inspired me? This was it. There was a babka on the cover photo and it wasn’t a chocolate one. Well, that opened up a world of possibilities! My mind went crazy thinking about all the possible combinations!
Using the main recipe in the magazine, I came up with this White Chocolate and Pistachio one. It has a hint of cardamom and it’s delicious. I also happened to have some leftover orange blossom sugar syrup so I used that to pour over the warm babka and along with the orange zest that’s already in the bread, the babka is fragrant, sweet and slightly exotic.
It is great toasted or at room temperature. The white chocolate is sweet and creamy inside and the pistachios add nuttiness and creaminess also. The cardamom is the mystery ingredient; slightly grassy, heady and aromatic.
Serves: 2 loaves
- 6 ⅓ cups/885g all purpose/plain flour
- ¾ cup/160g sugar
- 1 tablespoon/14g active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup/175ml whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 16 tablespoons/240g unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon/18g salt
- White chocolate-pistachio filling
- Simple Syrup
- WHITE CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO FILLING
- 1 cup/175g white chocolate chips
- 12 tablespoons/175g butter
- 1 cup/110g confectioner's/icing sugar
- ½ cup/60g pistachios, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- SIMPLE SYRUP:
- ½ cup/105g sugar
- ½ cup/120ml water
- Spray 2 (8x4 inch) loaf pans with cooking spray, and line with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and zest.
- Starting on low speed, add the eggs, milk and vanilla.
- Beat until the mixture comes together, 2-3 minutes.
- If the mixture remains dry and crumbly, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- With mixer on low speed, add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Add the salt, beating just until combined, about 3 minutes.
- Increase the speed to medium, and beat until a smooth and elastic dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- If the dough is too sticky, and doesn't need pull away from the sides, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until a smooth dough forms.
- Put the dough in a greased bowl, coating the dough with the grease.
- Cover and place in a warm area to rise until doubled in size.
- This may take about 1½ -2 hours.
- After the dough has risen, place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- The dough can be made one day ahead and the entire rise can take place in the fridge.
- WHITE CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO FILLING:
- While the Baka dough is rising make the filling.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter over medium heat.
- Stir frequently to prevent scorching.
- When the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar, pistachios, cardamom and salt.
- Let cool to room temperature before using.
- SIMPLE SYRUP:
- While the Babkas are baking, make the Simple Syrup.
- In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.
- Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
- ASSEMBLE THE LOAVES:
- Divide the dough in half.
- On a well floured surface, roll half of the dough into a 12 inch rectangle.
- Brush edges with the egg wash.
- Spread the filling leaving a 1 inch border on the long sides of the dough.
- Starting at one long side, roll up the dough jelly roll style and press edge to seal.
- With a sharp knife, cut the roll in half lengthwise.
- Carefully, twist the dough pieces around each other and place in the prepared pan, cut sides up.
- Repeat with the other half of the dough.
- Cover and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, 1-1½ hours.
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
- Bake the loaves for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, cover the loaves with foil and bake until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Another 30-40 minutes.
- Pour the Simple Syrup over the warm loaves while still in the pans.
- Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes and then move to a rack to cool all the way.
The recipe looks intimidating but if you’re used to baking, this is easy. I wouldn’t take it on as a first project but it’s not difficult even if you did. If you have a weekend and want to do a bit of baking, try this. I think you’ll like it.
I guess I’ll go and take a nap now, it’s the only thing I seem to be able to do lately.