I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Babka That Went Bad-ka

Babka is one of my favourite things to eat - it's a Eastern European bread-like cake which is often sold in Jewish bakeries. The Jewish version is usually chocolate, in a kugelhoph shape, with a crumble topping. What makes them so amazing is that they are a yeast-risen dough, and they are rolled, so when you cut or break off a piece it's a pully, stretchy, chocolatey amazingness. So last Thursday when I was so sick I thought death was coming a' knockin', I was watching Great Food Live, a somewhat annoying but occasionally entertaining cooking show from the UKTV Food channel. The snippet I saw involved a chocolate-cherry babka with a crumble topping, which the chef (Silvana Rowe) seemed to make in ten seconds flat. I had to make that babka. More importantly, I HAD to eat that babka. It was calling my name. It seemed too good to be true...and it was.

So yesterday was a bit of a do-nothing day (other than clean the house, teach Concrete Head (DS) how to ride a bike, and other sundry overcast Sunday activities.) A perfect babka-making day, and a perfect start to my recipe photo blogging. I eagerly had the recipe, the requisite couveture (Wiki: Couverture is a term used for chocolates rich in cocoa butter. Popular brands of couverture used by professional pastry chefs and often sold in gourmet and specialty food stores include: Valrhona, Felchlin, Lindt & Spr√ľngli, Scharffen Berger, Cacao Barry, Callebaut, and Guittard. These chocolates contain a high percentage of cocoa (sometimes 70% or more) and have a total fat content of 30-40%.) More importantly, I radiated good intention.

I was ready.

I'm not reprinting the recipe, as it is easily found here. Suffice it to say, I think the recipe needs some tweaking (more flour!) and it didn't take 10 seconds. I was lacking the "here's one I made earlier" TV magic, obviously.

Step One, almond topping (simple crumble, no biggie):


Step Two, make the dough...:








(and then wait for hours and hours)
Step Three: Stretch the dough out, chuck a whole lotta chocolate on top, do some fancy secret-pastry business twirling, throw more chocolate and crumble mix on top:






...and then wait another hour....then throw it in the oven...and wait some more. At this point I suggest you throw a massive tantrum at your family and start screaming and demanding that they clean up their (constant) messes. All the while the whole house is smelling so good, you are trying to keep yourself from melting onto the floor in a warm chocolate induced stupor. Eventually the damn thing comes out of the oven, you let it cool only minimally, and you start to cut out giant pieces of babka for everyone to enjoy (a reward for their cleaning up the freakin' mess):


End result: Looks like a babka, smells like a babka, tastes like crap and is burned on the bottom. I'm not entirely sure where this recipe went wrong - although I can make an educated guess. It needed more flour than originally called for, I should have crumbled the chocolate a lot finer, the cooking time needed to be drastically reduced, and the rising time should have been increased as it was not nearly as tall as it should have been. It was completely lacking in the gorgeous doughy texture and light 'layers' of chocolate and dough. I know it was kneaded enough, and I followed the measurements...so either this recipe sucks or my baking skills took a holiday. Either way it took 0.674 seconds for the entire thing to be eaten (and 6+ hours to make) by DH and the kidlets. So while my damn fine pastry chef self is disappointed, it's nice to know the outcome was still positive.

Methinks this is a recipe to try again when I have another do-nothing Sunday on my hands.

(For those with eagle eyes, no, there are no cherries. Out of season here in Melbourne.) (For those with eagle eyes for more detail, DS still can't ride a two-wheeler, but he's trying.)

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