Babka - Star Braid
In a previous post, 2 Babka bakes were documented. Having never seen, tasted, or baked Baka I decided to give this sweet bread a try. These types of breads are way out of my wheel house. The third bake turned out so well, it seemed a dedicated post was in order in case others want to jump on the Babka train :-)
Bake #2 (and a followup post) was baked free form and looked excellent. The last thing to be tweaked was the flavor. I am calorie conscious, but quickly learned when it comes to Babka, without decadence Babka isn’t Babka. Nutella needed to be spread thick enough for the flavor to stand out boldly. Then, there’s the chopped dark chocolate. IMO, it should never be omitted. It provides a signature flavor that would be missed if left out. The following images are large and many. Hopefully the visual details will be beneficial.
A note about the image below. Compare the image at the very top of the post with the one below. Notice how the interior star is not as nice as the star in the top image. The reason being, the dough in the bottom image was cold from refrigeration. The dough layers in the top image were room temp when twisted. The cold dough does not twist as well. Next time the dough circles will be refrigerated to facilitate ease of handling, but once the bread is assembled with Nutella and chopped chocolate, it will be allowed to warm some before the twist shaping. Viewing this YouTube video will be helpful to learning the shaping procedure. Note - I didn't use the formula in the linked YouTube video. It is not as difficult as it looks.
Many bakers, including myself, have had problems with wet dough near the bottom of the bread. This mostly occurs when baking in a pan. Free form baking eliminates this issue. There is no need to over bake the free form breads, which can dry the crumb. I had good success with 15 min @ 350F and 35 min @ 300F convection. Keep in mind though, ovens bake very differently.
For those that are slim, or young, more filling might be better.
For those that are interested HERE is Jemma's video. It is her formula that I settled on, but elected to make a Star Braid shape.
Needless to say, the neighbors love me :-)
Lessons Learned & Comments that may be helpful -
- For those that may not be aware. It is important to develop the dough before adding fats. The addition of fats cause a loss of friction and makes the dough slippery. This makes gluten development more challenging.
- If you happen to have Osmotolerant Yeast on hand, use it. If not Instant Yeast is fine.
- Thorough mixing and kneading seems best. The dough is taken straight from kneading and placed in the fridge. There is no recommended bulk ferment at room temperature.
- When choosing the Star Braid dough handling becomes more important. The shaping is made much easier with the following:
1- After the dough is finished kneading, divide it into 4 equal weight pieces. Then wrap individually with oil sprayed plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
2- After removing from the fridge, roll out each piece of dough to a circle that is larger than a dinner plate. Place back in fridge to keep cool.
3- Remove 1 piece at a time, and re-roll lightly (dough tends to shrink). Place the first disk on a sheet of parchment and dress with filling(s). Continue until all 4 circular pieces of dough are placed one on top the other.
4- Place a dinner place on top of the dough and cut around the perimeter to make a nice pie looking dough.
5- As mentioned above, the dough is easier to twist if it is allowed to warm up a bit. If it is too cold it will be stiff and slightly resist twisting.
6- The remaining steps are laid out in the video.
- Since the Star Braid is not baked in a pan, the raw dough problem is unlikely. There is no need to over-bake, since it may dry out the crumb.
- Great News! This bread freezes exceptionally well. Those that are calorie conscious can sneak a small piece out daily and enjoy for many days to come.
Should you decide to bake Babka, I wish you great success!