Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sourdough Surprises #10 - Sourdough Babka

Oh my gosh, I didn't even realize until I sat down to write this post that this is the TENTH Sourdough Surprises post - TEN months of sourdough challenges! I can't believe we're almost to a year! Maybe it's just me, but I think that's exciting!

I have really enjoyed all of the challenges so far, and have loved seeing all of the super delicious things that you can make incorporating sourdough, but this month's challenge might just be my favorite so far.

This month we wanted to make babka.  And it was an extra challenge because we could not find an actual sourdough babka recipe to reference or use as inspiration! So we studied babka recipes and realized that they tend to be enriched doughs, very much like brioche dough, that are filled and rolled into swirly delicious loaves.  So we decided that we'd work off of sourdough brioche recipes (I chose this one), then use "regular" babka recipes to inspire our fillings and rolling techniques (I chose this one, as my sister has made that babka with tremendous success several times).

The dough came together extremely easily. Basically, you measure out all of the ingredients, with the exception of the butter, right into the bowl of your mixer.

Then mix to incorporate, let the mixture rest, continue mixing, incorporate the (copious amounts of...) butter, and you're done.

Well, not done done. Then you let the dough rest. For fifteen hours. Planning ahead is key for this one. I made my dough in the afternoon one day so that I'd have the whole next day for turning it into my babka.

The next morning, the first thing that I did was prepare my filling. I doubled the filling recipe, looked like it made enough to make two loaves. It was as simple as combining sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and a touch of salt.

And then it is time to roll. Literally.  The dough was very wet and sticky, so I needed to keep flouring my surface, but the it handled beautifully, and was soon very large and very thin. I sprinkled half of the filling over each rolled piece, and then sprinkled mini chocolate chips on top for good measure.

Then each piece was carefully rolled and twisted and set into a greased loaf pan to rest once more.

I wasn't sure quite how long to let it rise this second time... the different babka recipes I'd looked at, not to mention sourdough brioche doughs, each had different guidelines, so I decided I'd just play it by ear... or... sight... and see if and how much the loaves grew during this second rest.

Much to my delight, the loaves really did rise, and within a couple of hours, filled out the pan very nicely.

But before putting the babkas in the oven, there was one more component left to add - the delicious streussel topping. Now, not all babkas include this, but it wouldn't feel like a true babka without it.  So I combined powdered sugar, flour and butter to create coarse crumbs...

...which were then liberally sprinkled on top of each loaf.

And then they baked. Now, I had no idea how long I would need to bake these. The brioche dough recipe that I followed indicated that the brioche loaves made with this dough would need 20 minutes at 400 degrees to bake. The babka recipe that I was following indicated that a babka would need 55 minutes at 375. I had no idea what to do.

So I decided to preheat the oven to 400, then lower it to 375 as soon as the loaves went in.  And then I started checking it at 20 minutes, judging my crust and color.  All told, 49 minutes after going in, the house smelled amazing, and out came these.

I didn't want the bottoms to become soggy, so after a few minutes cooling in the pans, I turned them out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Then came the hardest part. The waiting. Until breakfast the next morning.

But a few quick cuts told me that the waiting was way worth it.

This very well might be my favorite sourdough creation yet. The bread had a slightly crisp crust and a beautifully soft and airy crumb. And the delicious chocolaty, cinnamony swirls were a a delicious pairing with the slight sourdough tang in the dough.  So. Delicious.

I think I ate half of that first loaf all by myself.  This is dangerously delicious, and I can't wait to make it again.

Now go and check out all of the other beautiful and delicious babkas that were baked this month!

One last note - I know that this recipe looks long and a little bit daunting. Don't let that scare you - it is not difficult, if you break it into its components, and it is well worth the time and effort.

I have submitted this bread to YeastSpotting, a weekly roundup of all kinds of yeasted deliciousness!

Sourdough Babka
(based on Double Helpings and Cooking Light)

makes two loaves

For the dough:
500g Flour
250g Sourdough Starter
30g Sugar
10g Salt
3 Eggs
200g Milk
300g Butter

Cut the butter into 1cm cubes and allow to soften at room temperature.
Combine to all ingredients except for the butter in the bowl of your stand mixer, then mix on low speed to form a stiff batter (adjust milk quantity if required).
Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes, then continuing to mix (on low speed) for 10-15 minutes. The batter should start to resemble a soft dough, but will not have the quite same degree of elasticity.
Slowly add the cubes of softened butter as the mixer continues on low speed, and mix just until no lumps remain.
Place your dough into a covered container (or simply cover the bowl of the stand mixer that you've just used to make the dough) and leave to rise in a cool place for about 15 hours.

For the filling:
(these measurements, other than the chips, are doubled from the source recipe)
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional, more or less as desired)

To prepare filling, combine cup granulated sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

To prepare the loaves:
Place half of the dough on a generously floured surface; roll dough out into a large, thin rectangle. Sprinkle half of filling over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Roll up dough tightly, jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam and ends to seal. Holding dough by ends, twist dough 4 times as if wringing out a towel. Fit dough into a greased loaf pan. Repeat with second half of the dough and filling.
Cover loaves and let rise 2-3 hours.

For the streusel topping:
(these measurements are quadrupled from the source recipe - doubled for two loaves, then doubled again so that there would be plenty of toping for each loaf)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoon butter, softened

To prepare streusel, combine powdered sugar, tablespoon all-purpose flour, and softened butter, stirring with a fork until mixture is crumbly; sprinkle streusel evenly over prepared and rested loaves.
Cover loaves again and rest for another 20-30 minutes.

Baking and finishing:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Once the oven is preheated, place loaves into the oven, close the oven door and then lower the temperature to 375.
Bake at for 49 minutes (approximately... start checking at about 45 minutes) or until loaf is browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool bread completely on wire rack before slicing.



  1. When I got down to the two pictures at the end of your post, I just smiled. The inside of the babka is so lovely! Darn it, I know I should have put streusel on mine too. Love this challenge, Shelley :-)

  2. Double chocolate...can't beat it! Nice job!

  3. Dangerously delicious is how I described mine to a friend too! It was hard to stop after the first slice. I also played it by ear with the rise time and wasn't pleasantly surprised. Loved this challenge!

  4. Amazing and beautiful job! Your swirls are sooo fantastic, and the streusel topping looks awesome, too! It was soo hard to wait to cut it! You did a good job - I waited 45 minutes. LOL.

  5. WOW, Shelley, that is GORGEOUS!! And I agree, veeeeeeery dangerous... I gave a bunch away because otherwise I would have eaten an entire loaf myself. Yikes.

  6. Oh my, that looks lovely! All that chocolate with a touch of cinnamon. Yum!

  7. I really enjoyed this challenge, so I'm glad you picked it. I think I shaped mine a lot like yours, but yours sure turned out nicer. Mine is a little like Quasimodo.

  8. I'm kind of regretting not going with the streusel topping. I thought it would "guild the lily", but now I'm not so sure! Looks really lovely!


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