The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cranberry Orange Walnut Sourdough Babka

Benito's picture
Benito

Cranberry Orange Walnut Sourdough Babka

I’ve always loved the idea of babkas when I first saw them on the internet.  They look so shiny and sticky and yummy.  Now that I have sent John Dough to rehab and have him on an all rye diet I thought I would test him out and build a white levain to raise this my first babka.  My old starter could never raise a good white starter, I’d always have to add some whole grain of some sort to it for it to have an adequate rise.  So you can imagine my surprise when I made this levain 1:4:4 fermented at 78ºF overnight and after six hours (I had some insomnia that night) and I could see that it had risen 3x volume and was already falling!  Anyhow, onto the babka.  What follows is Maurizio’s sourdough babka recipe from theperfectloaf.com however, I made my own filling for it instead of the chocolate or cinnamon that he has on his website.

Total Formula

Weight

Ingredient

Baker’s Percentage

357g

All-purpose flour (11-12% protein; King Arthur All-Purpose Flour)

100.00%

107g

Whole milk (cold from the fridge)

30.00%

107g

Large eggs (about 2, cold from the fridge, plus one more egg in reserve for the egg wash)

30.00%

100g

Unsalted butter (Kerrygold; room temperature)

28.00%

46g

Water

13.00%

29g

Caster sugar (superfine white sugar)

8.00%

8g

Salt

2.30%

46g

Sourdough starter (100% hydration)

13.00

 

Dough Mix

My final dough temperature for this dough was 76°F (24°C). See my post on the importance of dough temperature for more information.

Weight

Ingredient

310g

All-purpose flour (11-12% protein; King Arthur All-Purpose Flour)

107g

Whole milk (cold from the fridge)

107g

Large eggs (about 2; cold from the fridge)

100g

Unsalted butter (Kerrygold; room temperature)

29g

Caster sugar (superfine white sugar)

8g

Salt

138g

Mature, but mild, levain

Method

 

1. Build Levain – 10:00 a.m. (or when your starter is mature)

In the morning, mix together the following in a small jar:

All-purpose flour

46g

Water (warm)

46g

Mature sourdough starter

46g

Loosely cover the jar; it should be ready after about 3 hours at a warm temperature, 78-80°F (26-27°C). If it’s cold in your kitchen, warm the mixing water for this levain to get close to 80°F (27°C).

 

2. Mix – 1:00 p.m.

Before mixing, take out the butter called for in the recipe and cut it into 1/2″ pats. Let it sit at room temperature until called for.

I used my KitchenAid stand mixer to mix this dough. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the mature levain, flour, whole milk, large eggs, salt, and half of the sugar. Set the mixer to low and mix until everything is incorporated. Let the dough rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minute rest, turn the mixer up to medium and mix for 5 minutes until the dough starts to pull from the sides of the mixing bowl. At this point, slowly stream in the remaining sugar while the mixer is running. Mix for another 1-2 minutes until the dough comes back together.

With the mixer still set to medium, add the room temperature butter, one pat at a time, waiting to add the next until the previous is absorbed into the dough. It might take around 5 minutes to mix all the butter into the dough. After all of the butter is added, continue mixing for another few minutes until the dough smooths out and once again begins to cling to the dough hook. The dough should be almost fully developed at this point (it won’t completely pass the windowpane test, but almost).

Transfer the dough to a container for bulk fermentation, cover, and keep somewhere warm—78-80°F (26-27°C)—in your kitchen for bulk fermentation.

3. Warm Bulk Fermentation – 1:25 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. (or longer, as needed)

During this time, give the dough 2 sets of stretch and folds where the first set is 30 minutes after the beginning of bulk fermentation and the second set is 30 minutes after the first. After the second set, let the dough rest, covered, until the next step.

4. Cold Bulk Fermentation – 3:30 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. (next day)

Assess the dough: has it risen a little in the bowl during the warm bulk fermentation? It should be a little puffy and smoothed out. If it looks like there’s no activity at all, give the dough another 30 minutes to 1 hour and check again.

Once you see some rise in the dough, place the covered bulk fermentation bowl into the refrigerator overnight.

Same day option: I much prefer making this over the course of two days, but you could make this all in one day: let the dough finish bulk fermentation for 2-3 hours on the counter. When the dough has risen around 50% and feels puffy, proceed with the rest of the steps below. However, I do recommend placing the dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour after this warm bulk fermentation to chill before rolling out!

5. Roll, freeze, cut, and shape – 8:00 a.m.

Before taking the dough out of the refrigerator, make one of the fillings below (keep the filling covered until ready to use):

 

 

For the Cranberry Orange Filling:

-1 bag frozen cranberries 

- ¾ cup light brown sugar 

- juice of ½ orange 

- zest of one orange

- toasted walnuts chopped ½ cup

Cook down first 4 ingredient in a small pot until thickened adjust sweetness.  Allow to cool before using.

In the morning, take the dough out of the refrigerator and scrape the dough out to a floured work surface. Flour the top of the dough and using a rolling pin (or dowel), roll the dough out to a rectangle approximately 10″ x 12″ in size with a short edge closest to your body. I think that it needs to be rolled out more than 12” in length in order to get more layers in each roll and a better ratio of filling to bread.

If you want a less-sweet, less-sticky babka, spread less filling over the rolled out dough.

Using your hand or an offset spatula, spread the filling over the dough leaving about 1″ clean on the short side farthest from you. Starting at the side closest to you, roll up the dough into a tight cylinder. It’s important for the dough to be rolled up rather tight, so pull the dough at each revolution of the cylinder.

Important: Place the rolled-up log on a baking sheet and place it into the freezer for 15 minutes (this makes it much easier to cut and braid).

 

Prepare your baking pan by inserting a piece of parchment so two “handles” stick up at the long sides of the pan (see photo above). The parchment will drape down one long side, over the bottom, and up the other side. Once it fits, take it out and place it on the counter next to your pan.

After the 15-minute freezer rest, take the baking sheet out of the freezer and return the dough log to the counter. Using a sharp knife, cut the log to split open the log from one side to the other. Pinch the two top halves together and braid the dough one strand over the other. At the bottom, pinch the two halves together again. Don’t worry if filling spills out or things get messy — it’s all good.

After the dough is braided, pick up the braid and place it on the parchment right in the middle, then pick up the sides of the parchment and lift the dough up and drop it into the pan.

Cover the pan and place it somewhere warm, ideally, 78-80°F (26-27°C), to proof.

6. Proof – 8:30 a.m. 12:00 p.m. (or until ready)

 

This dough can be slow to rise at this point. Give it the time it needs to rise up to about 1/2″ below the rim of the Pullman pan. For me, at 78°F (26°C), it took about 3.5 hours. See the image below for how high my dough filled my pan.

7. Bake – 12:00 p.m.

 

Preheat your oven with the rack in the middle to 350°F (176°C) — no fan assist (no convection).

When the oven is preheated and the babka dough is fully proofed, place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (to catch any sugar spilling over). In a small bowl, whisk together one whole egg and 1 Tbsp water and brush a thin layer of the egg wash on the top of the dough. Then, slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until the center of the babka reaches 200°F (93°C). Keep an eye on the babka in the last 10 minutes of the bake, if it’s coloring too quickly drop the temperature to compensate.

 

While the babka is baking, make the simple syrup. In a small saucepan heat over low 52g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar with 59g (1/4 cup) water. Heat until the mixture bubbles a bit and stir occasionally until the sugar fully dissolves in the water. Transfer this simple syrup to a container to cool. If covered, it will keep indefinitely in the fridge (I reuse over and over for babka, other baked goods, or even cocktails).

When the babka is fully baked, remove the pan to a cooling rack. Using a plastic spatula, free the short sides of the babka (the sides without parchment) from the sides and bottom of the pan by pressing the spatula down from top to bottom.

Using a pastry brush, brush on a thin layer of the simple syrup. The amount you put on is up to you: the more you add the sweeter the crust will become. Let the babka rest for 10 minutes in the pan. Do not let the babka rest for longer than 10 minutes or it’ll be hard to remove from the pan.

 

After the rest, lift the babka out of the pan using the parchment paper sticking up as a set of handles. You might have to use a spatula and pry it out a bit, but be gentle. Remove from the parchment paper and let it rest on a wire rack until cool to the touch. It’s even better if it sits for an hour or so to let the crust fully harden.

 

I actually don’t have a Pullman pan and instead have a shallower loaf pan. I allowed the dough to final proof to about 1 cm above the rim of the pan before baking.  I am going to order a Pullman because I don’t like the look of the muffin top my shallow loaf pan causes this to have.

Comments

Benito's picture
Benito
alfanso's picture
alfanso

These photos look great.  When the twisted dough comes through the top of the loaf pan, emerging from the top as the bake proceeds, it is a marvelous thing.  Looking forward to the cross section view of the crumb, where all of the magic is on full display.  

Benito's picture
Benito

I'm looking forward even more to slicing and eating this now Alan that you've shared your secret that this is a life altering food.  Why did I wait so long to make one?

I'll post at dinnertime when we slice this to have for dessert.  If this turns out well more of these in variations may be presents to people this Christmas. 

alfanso's picture
alfanso

and I know that you are not! ;-) , it is also a waistline altering food.  Growing up in NYC, they were/are pretty ubiquitous, although as a youth my mind was more set on brownies, chocolate bells and the like while not yet having developed more sophisticated adult tastes.  Only in adulthood (still working on the emotional part of that equation) had I come to realize the greatness of this delight.  Commercially sold versions from large producers that push them out, rather than from independent bakeries, are generally disappointing - unless one does not yet know better.  

Poor us that we have to suffer the slings and arrows of making a superior version in our very own ovens!

If your baking experiences, re: other things to bake, is like mine, you will continue to lament about why you waited so long for x, y, or z.

When/if you get bored baking babka, you might be interested in giving the incomparable txfarmer's laminated sandwich loaf a try. http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/26357/laminated-sandwich-loaf-best-both-worlds .  Word of caution - just about no one can duplicate her efforts.

Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

A joy to behold; it must be very satisfying to have made this!

And how do I get on your gift list? ;-)

Benito's picture
Benito

Aw that’s sweet of you AG.  If you lived nearby I’d make one for you.  😉

texasbakerdad's picture
texasbakerdad

Wow! I want to bake that. Stunning!

texasbakerdad's picture
texasbakerdad

Benny, do you think the caster flour is a hard requirement? Or, will table sugar work? I don't have any caster flour and I am not excited about making it in the blender... flour dust floating through the kitchen sounds messy.

Benito's picture
Benito

I didn't use the powdered sugar, I just subbed regular sugar for it.  If it turns out to be a problem I'll post here about that, but I doubt it is a problem.  Funny that I didn't even notice that in the recipe, I read it as sugar and didn't think twice about it and I do have powdered/icing sugar in the house.

Benny

texasbakerdad's picture
texasbakerdad

Thanks for the quick response. I have printed and am looking over your's and Maurizio's recipe while I type. Not having to make caster sugar will be nice :-)

I had to look it up when I first saw "caster sugar". But, caster is not the same as powdered. Caster has a fineness between table sugar and powdered and caster doesn't contain an anti-caking agent like powdered.

Benito's picture
Benito

Well then you've taught me something I wasn't aware of.  I am going to go under the assumption that subbing regular sugar will suffice.

pmccool's picture
pmccool

And with cranberries and orange in the mix, the flavor has to be fabulous, as well.  Great bake, Benny!

Paul

Benito's picture
Benito

Thanks kindly Paul, I’m hoping it will taste as good as I think it will.

Benny

texasbakerdad's picture
texasbakerdad

Benny, when you wrote "1 bag of frozen cranberries". How big was that bag?

texasbakerdad's picture
texasbakerdad

Andddd... were they whole cranberries or chopped? I am thinking they must be chopped, whole probably wouldn't work out too well.

EDIT: Looking at your beautiful photos, those look to be whole cranberries and they look delicious. Now I am on the fence regarding whether or not to use whole or chopped.

Benito's picture
Benito

They were whole cranberries, of course they will burst as you cook them but some won’t completely cook down which is good.  I have leftover cranberry orange “jam” now so I started with around 500 gm so if you even had 350 or 400 gm I’d bet you’d have enough.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Wow Benny, looking mighty fine! Looking forward to a crumb/cross-section shot.

Benito's picture
Benito

Ilya I’m looking forward to the crumb/cross sectioned loaf as well.  I hope it turns out as well as I hoped it will.  We will slice some for dessert tonight, I haven’t had dessert in many weeks so I’m looking forward to it.

Benny

Benito's picture
Benito

Ok not too shabby for a first go. I think I need to use a bit less filling, roll and braid a bit tighter. I cut back on the sugar as I always do but would probably go full sugar as I wrote above. Overall this is a good tasting dessert bread that’ll make a nice breakfast tomorrow morning. 

alfanso's picture
alfanso

too much filling.  I don't think so.  What I think, based on the cross-section, is that your braids of dough are too thick.  If you do a search on babka images, you will see that there is generally much more of an even "weave" between the cake and the filling portions displayed in the cross-sections of the slices.

Benito's picture
Benito

Interesting, I followed Maurizio’s formula and instructions.  Now looking at his slices and mine they are very similar.  If one follows his instructions to roll out the dough to 10”x12” then the dough is still quite thick.  Based on what you’re describing and what I now see from google images, I would roll out much much longer to get a thinner dough and then get more even ratio of filling and dough layers and many more layers.

I should have researched more prior to making this, you’re right Alan, not surprisingly as usual.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

I thought that the braid was too fat.  This is my take on the Melissa Clark version.  And I think that this is much more typical.

Benito's picture
Benito

As I said I really should have researched more first.  Oh it was a good learning experience.  I will have another go at this on the weekend after trying a rye bread for the first time.  I will aim to roll this out much more and then have more layers in the roll and a better ratio of fruit to bread in the final loaf.

Your babka looks much better, thanks again for your advice Alan.

Benny

peacecow's picture
peacecow

Looks delicious! Babka has been on my to bake list for some time. After I get my holiday bakes out of the way, I'm definitely going to try.

Benito's picture
Benito

I’m looking forward to your babka, just roll it out more than I did so you’ll get more layers and a better distribution of fruit/chocolate to crumb.

texasbakerdad's picture
texasbakerdad

My babka is finished...
http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/66575/if-benny-jumps-cliff-i-jump-too-cranberry-babka

Looking back over your photos, you got a huge oven bloom. Mine didn't. I'm jealous.

Benito's picture
Benito

I have the dough in bulk now and remade the filling.  I think the first filling didn’t have enough sugar and needed some spices to enhance the holiday flavours.  So this time I used more sugar to taste and added a combination of cinnamon, allspice and cloves.  I think the flavour will be better on this next babka.

Benito's picture
Benito

Well this one is minus the toasted walnuts I took the time to toast and then forgot to add.  I like the flavour of toasted nuts and also like the contrast of the soft bread with the crunch of the nuts, oh well, so like me to forgot something like this.  Not as critical as forgetting the salt or sugar though.

I rolled this out further hoping that I would have more layers and believe I have done so, not dramatically longer but hopefully enough to create more layers.  I rolled applying more tension to the dough to get a tighter roll and then braided tighter and more times.  This won’t be quite like some of the babkas with a zillion layers but should be hopefully better than my first.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

I think I see a "critical" step missing from your process.  As you write: "After the dough is braided, pick up the braid and place it on the parchment right in the middle, then pick up the sides of the parchment and lift the dough up and drop it into the pan."

Look at these two pictures from my babka, and notice the missing step in your process:

  

This is what goes into the loaf pan.  Doubling the braid over and then braiding it onto itself is what will add the twisted and robust layers.

Benito's picture
Benito

Interesting Alan, I haven’t seen any videos where the bakers did that extra rolling over, this of course includes Maurizio.  Had I read this I would certainly have done another end over end fold and repeated twist.  Given this extra procedure, I could also roll this out wider and longer in order to do a double twist.  Oh well too late for this one, but it should be more layered.

I’m not done making babkas for the holiday gifts so there are other opportunities yet to come.

Benito's picture
Benito

First time using the Pullman loaf tin and I ended up overproofing this second loaf, darn.  I was looking amazing out of the oven, great rise good colour and I believe this time much better layers.  Then after 10 mins the middle section collapsed.

Based on Maurizio’s instructions, I left it to final proof until it had risen to about ½ “ below the rim.  However, for this bake that was too much, at least that I what I believe led to this collapse.  It took an additional hour of proving time to reach ½” below the rim compared to my first attempt’s final proof.

I should have taken a photo of how it looked for comparison before the collapse.

Benito's picture
Benito

Too ugly to gift and thank goodness I did not gift this one.  I thought perhaps collapsed due to overproofing, that may still be a contributing factor but underbaking is the major one.  The central area that collapsed had some under baked doughy areas.  My error was dropping the temperature when the colour was looking nice and mahogany from 350 to 300ºF after about 40 mins of baking.  Then I guess I didn’t get an accurate internal temperature.  Anyhow no photos of the crumb were taken.

Benito's picture
Benito

OK so this bake is done in 1 day with the overnight levain started last night.  There is no cold proof except to chill the dough prior to rolling it out.  This time I rolled it further in both directions that way I could do the braiding and then wrap the braided dough around itself before loading it into the pullman pan.  I didn’t forget the walnuts this time and other than a bit of filling lost to the countertop, all went well.  I’m going to try to avoid over proofing it this time.  Now with the walnuts and the extra braid, this is already close to the rim.

Benito's picture
Benito

Number 3 had so much promise, more braiding as per Alan, great oven spring.  I made absolutely sure to bake it fully so that it was definitely > 200ºF in the center.  However, it too is suffering from some collapse.  I am now thinking that I am using too much filling and that the filling is too heavy and wet.  Other than that, I do not understand the issue that these babkas are having.  Funny that my first bake of this was the best.  Oh well, back to square one with holiday baking, no further ahead.  No one will be getting babkas from me this Christmas.  

alfanso's picture
alfanso

The taste may well be extraordinary which may assuage your disappointment, at least while eating it.  Slices may look way more presentable than the whole.

Looking at the Melissa Clark formula, which may not count for much vis a vis Maurizio's creation, this is what she says about baking the babka: 

Heat oven to 350dF. Use your fingers to clump streusel together and scatter all over the tops of the cakes. Transfer to oven and bake until a tester goes into the cakes without any rubbery resistance and comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. The cakes will also sound hollow if you unmold them and tap on the bottom. Between 185 and 210 degrees.

Benito's picture
Benito

My first clue as to why it collapsed should have been that it was taking significantly longer to bake that the original recipe.  That should have told me that there was too much liquid in this, ie the filling is too wet.  I think the babka fillings are usually drier if I’m not mistaken. Although I had made the filling quite thick and not runny at all, I guess by rolling the dough out further and thinner and then applying the filling to the dough, the ratio of filling to dough was too high and too heavy for the dough to support, thus the collapse.  Maurizio’s recipe also called for a baking temperature of 350ºF and a baking time of 40 mins.  My babka took 70-75 mins to reach an internal temperature of 200ºF.

Should I try this again, it will be with more traditional fillings like chocolate.

semolina_man's picture
semolina_man

Looks great but try less dough.

You are making a cranberry marmalade, wetter than the standard cinnamon and chocolate babka fillings.  

Suggestions: 

- Less dough weight in the pan, it means the loaf will be more fully supported during baking.  alfonso's Melissa Clark photo shows a smaller dough weight to pan volume ratio.

- Slightly lower temperature and slightly longer baking time (seems burned on top)

- Drier filling, which could mean less orange juice, or use dried cranberries.  Watch the total sugar if you use dried cranberries and they have added sugar.  An option is to use dried cranberries, soaked (marinated) in the orange juice, to reconstitute them.   Again, moisture may be part of the problem so you need to watch carefully. 

 

The photo of the "good" cranberry babka shows a bread crumb from bottom of pan to top of loaf, uninterrupted by filling, creating a robust structure.  I think your filling is the problem, if you are experiencing collapse.  The crumb is not set, because it is not cooked, because there is too much dough in the pan and too much moisture in the entire mass.

Benito's picture
Benito

Thanks for your help and suggestions Semolina-man.  I do believe that this is an issue of too much liquid in the filling and too much filling to dough. I’ll include this photo of the collapsed area showing the very wet stodgy crumb next to the filling.  This is despite the fact that I really cooked down the filling to a jam consistency.  I supposed when it cooks it liquifies a bit.

Anyhow, future babkas will be chocolate since they certainly aren’t wet.

ifs201's picture
ifs201

I'll just add that I find getting the baking time right on babkas to be the hardest part even when using a drier filling. With the filling and all the twists I've had so many with a bit of a raw section in the middle and then inevitably I'm so worried about under baking that the next go round I dry it out!! 

Benito's picture
Benito

Ilene that is good to know that I’m not the only one who has experienced this.  Is there a better way to know when the babka has fully baked without over baking?  Would it be appropriate to take an internal temperature and if so what would that target temperature be?

ifs201's picture
ifs201

Hi Benny,

 

I think it's supposed to be around 190F, but I still find with all the coils it's easy to have a raw spot. I wish I had a better recommendation for knowing if the babka is fully baked, but unfortunately I don't. I try to inspect the top of the loaf thoroughly to see if any of the dough looks under baked and I usually end up erring on the side of baking a tad too long these days. I've also found I need to bake for longer than many recipes suggest. I think I used to use the Smitten Kitchen recipe and maybe it suggested 45 min, but I think I had to bake for at least an hour. I hope someone else on here has some suggestions for us!