To paraphrase the words of the immortal Sheldon Lee Cooper … “Bread bakers be crazy!”
I joined a sourdough baking group on FB … cause I’m a glutton for punishment and not wasting enough time on FB already. As a result I developed a case of baker’s envy and revived my sourdough starter. And, not only did I revive the last of a sample from the freezer, but some of the dried starter from the pantry as well. Which meant I was feeding TWO jars.
Because I had started with a very young starter when I stored it away, it took longer to re-establish than I though it would. As a result, my first bake (a 1-2-3 formula using some ground bulgur flour for texture in place of the spelt, along with all purpose, and found on friend’s blog) was a miserable failure. And I had such high hopes for it too. I ended up tossing the loaf in the garbage in disgust. I weep for that lovely blue cheese and pecans.
Luckily, I had suspected things were NOT going well so I made a batch of hybrid dough (sourdough starter and dry yeast), enriched it with eggs, butter and milk and shaped it into 2 babkas, which I filled with chocolate chips, Nutella (yes, I finally bought a jar) and chopped pecans. I tried two different shaping methods, one of which didn’t turn out as nicely as I had hoped. It was supposed to be a crumb topping but, between using powdered sugar and the warmth of the kitchen, which effectively ended up making a paste of the flour, sugar and butter, the top wasn’t very pretty. So the ugly duckling second method, ended up being the beautiful swan.
Next time, if there IS a next time, I make a babka, I’ll try basting the finished loaf with a honey/sugar syrup as some recipes show. I’ve included a recipe for the syrup in the babka recipe below. I baked my babkas in a large roasting pan which had been buttered generously and separated into two ‘pans’ with a dam of aluminum foil, folded several times for rigidity and buttered.
Hybrid Chocolate, Nutella and Pecan Babka – 2 1/2 lbs dough, makes 2 loaves
Based on a sourdough cinnamon roll recipe I’ve used before but I increased the eggs in this enriched version to two.
1 cup active starter or discard
1 1/4 tsp dry yeast (1 tsp instant yeast)
3/4 cup warm milk
1/3 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 – 3 3/4 cup AP flour, divided
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
Filling – for each babka
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips **
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/2 cup (125m) water
1 tbsp honey
Egg wash – 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp cold water
** Use chopped chocolate next time as it melts better.
In a small bowl, activate the yeast by dissolving 1 tsp of the sugar in the warm milk, sprinkling in the yeast and waiting for about 5-10 min until the yeast gets foamy.
In a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups of flour, salt, rest of the sugar and mix well.
Make a well in the center, add the yeast mixture, eggs, starter and butter and with a wooden spoon beat together until you get a smooth batter. Gradually stir in about a cup of the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until you get a shaggy dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured working surface and knead, using only as much flour as needed to get a soft but not sticky dough, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball and cover with your mixing bowl. Let rest covered for 5 minutes. Knead for another 5 minutes, using as little flour as possible.
Sprinkle some flour in a clean area, place the ball of dough on the flour, cover with the mixing bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.
Roll out, fill and shape.
Let rest in two 9″ x 5″ greased loaf pans, in a warm place, for about 45 min to an hour, until doubled. Brush on egg wash.
Shaping version 1
Shaping version 2
While the dough is rising, make the syrup (if using) by bringing the water, sugar, and honey to a boil in a small saucepan. Let boil for 4 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface with a spoon. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.
After the dough was allowed to rise, the egg wash was brushed on and the crumb topping was applied. The baked result is seen below.
Bake for 55 minutes. After 25 minutes you might want to cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil as the tops will get very dark.
Let cool in loaf pans for about 5-10 minutes then remove from pans and let cool thoroughly on rack. The syrup, if used, may be brushed on after a few minutes of cooling.
Savoury Italian Boule
A couple of days later, I made a hybrid savoury bread based on the babka recipe I used above but with an Italian theme – a mixture of Italian herbs (~1 tsp) , garlic powder (1/2 tsp), and sun dried tomatoes (1-2 tbsp).
Pictorial Boule Recipe
Boule proofed with the seam side up for 1-2 hrs until doubled then flipped over, with the aid of a baking pan, onto a parchment paper sling for scoring and transfer into the hot dutch oven.
Other changes: Substitute water for the milk used above and 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in place of the butter. No eggs were used in this recipe. I also reduced the amount of sugar to 1 1/2 tsp, just enough to activate/proof the dry yeast. After proofing, the boule was baked in a dutch oven which had been preheated to 450 deg F, 35 minutes with the lid on and 10 minutes with the lid off. I covered the dutch oven lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil because I had concerns about it possibly burning.
It turned out beautifully as well especially the crumb.
PS: I have now tossed the dry sourdough starter cause, really, who kneads the added temptation? (Freudian slip? You judge.) I’ll continue with the current single jar of starter and refrigerate it once it’s well established.