69. Ukrainian Sweet Chestnut Babka

Sweet Chestnut Babka recipe

Sweet Chestnut Babka

Seinfeld introduced the idea of the Babka to me. It’s an enriched sweet dough usually flavoured with chocolate popular in Eastern Europe. The episode focuses on Jerry and Elaine’s desperation to get their hands on the last Babka in the bakery. I’ve wanted to find out what all the fuss was about for ages. It was definitely worth the wait.

Sweet Chestnut Babka recipe

Sweet Chestnut Babka

I love how beautiful the Babka looks in all it’s braided glory. Dark brown sweet chestnut stripes peeking through the sweet dough, glistening in their honey glaze. I also love how complicated and impressive it looks too! I’ve plaited bread before, before but this was my first attempt at a braid and it’s not as difficult as you’d think.

Traditionally Babka, which means Grandmother in Polish, is a comforting bread flavoured with chocolate and baked at Easter time. As I like to do things differently (and I had ran out of chocolate) I found a tin of chestnut paste in the cupboard and thought I would put it to good use.

Babka swirls

Babka swirls

It’s absolutely delicious with it’s soft light texture and not too sweet, although you can add more sugar if you wish. I added cocoa powder to my chestnut paste along with poppy seeds to give a nod to the traditional chocolate and nut versions. The cocoa added depth to the chesnut paste and poppy seeds feature heavily in many European bakes and give a lovely crunch.

Having never baked with chestnut before, I was so happy with the result. I bought the tin on an impulse and it’s lay at the back of the cupboard forgotten until now. It’s an unusal flavour, rich nutty and rather savoury. Do check your can to see if it’s sweetened or natural. If unsweetened you’ll need to add sugar to you get your preferred level of sweetness. You could add chocolate chips, or use chocolate spread or nutella (or anything you fancy!) if you prefer.

How I made my Sweet Chestnut Babka

  1. Mix ingredients together til fully incorporated
  2. Knead for 10 mins until the dough is smooth and springs back when pinched
  3. Place in bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove for 1-2 hours till doubled in size.
  4. Knock back the dough.
  5. Knead lightly on oiled work surface and roll out to a rectangle approx 5mm thick.  30 cm by 20cm.
  6. Spread even layer of chestnut paste over the dough and sprinkle lightly with Poppy seeds and light brown sugar.
  7. Roll dough up from long edge to long edge to form a sausage of dough with a spiral of chestnut running through the centre
  8. Cut the dough sausage with a sharp lightly oiled knife lengthways all the way along the sausage. Cut all the way through the dough to spilt it down the middle and expose the filling.
  9. Seal the strips together at one end
  10. Twist the two halves together,  folding one half of the dough over the other keeping the stripes of filling in the outside
  11. Seal the other two ends together to form a braided ring. You can trim the ends of the Babka with sharp knife to seal the twists together before joining the ends to form a ring
  12. Lift carefully onto a greased and lined baking sheet.
  13. Cover with greased cling film and prove for 1-2 hours till doubled in size
  14. Bake for 25 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.
  15. Brush all over with honey syrup whilst still hot
  16. Cool and eat!

Things I used to make my Sweet Chestnut Babka

Dough

  • 350g strong white flour (you could use all white strong flour if your prefer)
  • 115g strong wholemeal flour
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 300ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • splash of water and vegetable oil if needed to bring the dough together into smooth ball

Sweet Chestnut Paste

  • 300g chestnut puree (unsweetened)
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 50 g light brown sugar
  • splash of milk to mix the paste together until smooth and spreadable (not too runny or thick)
  • *1 tbs sugar to sprinkle over paste
  • * 2 tsp Poppy seeds to sprinkle over paste

Honey Syrup

  • 2 tbs runny honey
  • 30ml water
    boil gently for 1- 2 minute to thicken syrup
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66. Finnish Apricot Cardamom and Pistachio Pulla

Braided Pulla infused with cardamom, orange, apricot and pistachio

Braided Pulla infused with cardamom, orange, apricot and pistachio

I realise that I’ve slowed down on the old blogging front in recent months sorry! Partly due to it being Summer and not feeling the need to have an extra cake layer to keep me warm and also due to breaking my phone (and camera) which meant I’ve lost quite a bit of data and worked my way through 5 faulty handsets in 2 months… Anyways I’ve salvaged enough to bring you my braided Pulla.

Apricot Cardamom  and Almond Pulla  recipe

Apricot Cardamom and Almond Pulla

I felt the urge to bake something delicious and not too sweet. This cardamom infused apricot and almond pulla braid is just what the phone doctor ordered.

Fluffy, fragrant, light and slightly sweet Pulla is an enriched dough that compliments a good strong coffee perfectly. Gently scented with cardamom and studded with dried apricots for extra pops of flavour. If you were in need of additional luxuriousness ribbons of water icing would transform this into an excellent iced bun too.

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Traditionally Pulla is served with coffee in thin slices or as individual buns. Leftover Pulla (if you ever get that far!) can be twice baked to create a crisp biscotti type biscuit to dunk in your coffee.

Prove the dough until doubled in size

Prove the dough until doubled in size

As with all other yeasted doughs bring the ingredients together and knead for 10 minutes to allow the gluten to develop. Once the dough is shiny, stretchy and springs back when pressed it’s ready to place in a greased bowl, cover with greased cling film and prove.

pulla recipe

Proven pulla dough awaiting it’s cardamom and orange zest

Enriched Dough proves best in the fridge overnight, allowing the freshly kneaded supple dough, permeated with butter, sugar and an egg to slowly rise and firm up. Making it much easier to shape the following day. But if you’re in a rush to get it in your face feel free to prove at room temperature for an hour then shape and prove it again.

pulla recipe Now to knead in the pistachios and dried apricots

Now to knead in the pistachios and dried apricots

Once you’ve kneaded in the finely chopped nuts, and apricots along with the grated orange zest and ground cardamom into the dough so the flavours are fully incorporated, split the dough into 3 equally sized pieces.

3 little dough balls pulla plaiting bread dough

3 little dough balls

Roll the 3 pieces into long thin sausages (making sure you pop any little air bubbles that sneak there way in) and gather the strands together at one end.

The beginning of a plait

The beginning of a plait

Push the strands together so that they stick to each other and plait them together to form a braid. Once you reach the end, carefully join the two ends of the plait together to form a braided ring. Squish the ends together to form a join and tuck any loose bits underneath (no one will ever know after it rises.)

Plaiting the pulla

Plaiting the pulla

Place your braided Pulla crown into a semolina sprinkled baking sheet or dish. Cover with greased cling film and leave to prove a room temperature for an hour or two until doubled in size.

Ready to prove it's worth

Ready to prove it’s worth

Bake it at 190 degrees c for 30 minutes until it’s golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Whilst still warm glaze your Pulla generously with runny honey. Whilst the honey is sticky sprinkle with flaked almonds to decorate. Or if you’re feeling extra indulgent feel free to use water/glace icing to make an extra rich white icing that would look oh so pretty against the plait.

The final baked Pulla braided Crown

The final baked Pulla braided Crown

This is such a gorgeous sweet treat. It’s fluffy and tender with an wonderful spicy warmth from the cardamom. Balanced against a chewy nugget of apricot and a crisp morsel of pistachio. I love this bake and enjoyed it au natural with coffee to bring out the exotic notes and subtle sweetness. Delicious! And perfect for a special breakfast.


Things I used to make my Apricot and Cardamom Pulla

Enriched dough

  • 350g strong white flour
  • 5g salt
  • 40g sugar
  • 7g yeast
  • 45g margarine/butter
  • 175ml milk

Flavours to infuse the dough with after the first prove

  • 31 cardamom pods (seeds taken out and ground to fine powder)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 8 chopped dried apricots chopped into small chunks
  • 20g pistachios chopped roughly

Topping/decoration

  • A handful of flaked almonds for sprinkling on top
  • Honey to glaze the top whilst still warm
  • You could also whip up a thick sticky water icing with the juice of the orange and icing sugar to pipe on top of the pulla if you would prefer a sticky bun effect.

Method

  1. Knead the flour, yeast, salt, butter, sugar and milk together for 10 minutes to create a sticky dough
  2. Leave to prove overnight in the fridge (or until double din size at room temp)
  3. Knead in the flavours; ground cardamom, orange zest, chopped apricots and pistachios
  4. Split the dough into 3 equal pieces and roll out to long strands
  5. Join one end of the 3 strands together and plait it into a braid
  6. Join the two ends of the braid together to form a circle
  7. Cover with greased cling film and prove on a semolina lined baking tray/dish until doubled in size
  8. Bake at 190 degrees c for 30 minutes until it’s golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath
  9. Whilst still warm glaze with runny honey and sprinkle with flaked almonds

56. Lost in Translation – Latvian Golden Coffee Cake – Kliņģeris

A slightly dishevelled Latvian Golden Coffee Cake

My slightly dishevelled Latvian Golden Coffee Cake

You can be excused for assuming this cake contains coffee. That’s the first of many surprises that this rather unusual cake bestows. It contains NO coffee but incorporates saffron, cake and a yeasted dough. It’s part cake part bread and mainly liquid!? Golden Coffee cake has intrigued me for months, with it’s promise of a saffron scented pretzel shaped traditional Latvian birthday cake. (I do love a good pretzel) I have been saving this recipe for a special occasion and didn’t realise until I began, just how unusual and complicated it really is.

Golden slices

Golden slices

Not many recipes measure flour in litres or require you to combine an enriched dough with creamed butter and sugar. It was a test of my baking skill and intuition as every part of my brain questioned each step of the recipe. I fear I made a right mess of the recipe and something definitely got lost in the translation. Nevertheless I carried on regardless and produced one very interesting cake…

Is this how it's supposed to look?

Is this how it’s supposed to look?

The Latvian Golden Coffee Cake begins life as more of a bread dough than a cake. Kneading together flour, yeast and milk together to create a supple and springy dough.

A supple dough

A supple dough

Whilst your busy kneading the dough together steep the saffron threads in a little boiling water to infuse the liquid with the lovely golden hue and save it to one side for later on.

Steeping saffron strands

Steeping saffron strands

Then to cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, whilst the dough rests and proves. Once the butter and sugar are fluffy you then beat the egg yolks in gradually one at a time. I did wonder if I had misread the recipe here as a whole block of butter seems like rather a lot to try to fit into one bread/cake…

Creamed butter and sugar

Creamed butter and sugar

This is where I think it all started to fall apart. In an attempt to save on washing up and effort I used my Kitchenaid to knead the dough and creamed butter together. I also forgot to buy cream so substituted it for milk, which is far more liquid than cream. I adjusted the recipe slightly hoping to compensate for this substitution, but I’m not convinced I did! It took a long time to knead the butter into the dough. They just didn’t want to combine! After a good 10 minutes of kneading the gloopy mess smoothed out into a very fluid (!) and smooth bread/cake dough.

Gloopy mess of dough and butter

Gloopy mess of dough and butter

It took a good 10 minutes of mixing to get the dough to smooth out and look more appealing. And just when it was all going so well the recipe called for the the juice of 1 lemon and (I guessed as it wasn’t mentioned) the saffron and infused water. All this liquid along with the ground cardamom and zests of 1 orange and 1 lemon made for an even wetter dough…

The proven dough

The proven dough

Leaving the liquid dough to prove in the bowl for a couple of hours, it quickly increased in size and almost overflowed the bowl! The yeast was definitely working. The next tricky stage was to attempt to knead the chopped golden cherries (I didn’t have golden raisins but had randomly picked up some golden cherries on a whim, which were a good alternative) and apricots (the only other golden-ish dried fruit that I had in my cupboard).

Chopped dried golden fruits

Chopped dried golden fruits

I could clearly see that this dough was destined to never blossom into a beautiful pretzel shape despite the instruction to knead it on a floured board. There was not enough flour in my house to get this into a malleable dough state. Yet I found myself pouring it onto my worksurface and racing to catch it before it ran onto the floor. It was more like kneading treacle than bread dough. I resorted to stirring the chopped fruit in on the worksurface and scooping the mixture into a well greased bundt tin instead.

What do I do with this?

What do I do with this?

Covering the budnt tin with greased cling film I left the dough to prove for a full hour to allow the yeast to do it’s magic. Then into the oven for a good bake 35-45 minutes at 180 degrees c.

resorting to a budnt tin to encase the Latvian Golden Coffee Cake instead...

resorting to a budnt tin to encase the Latvian Golden Coffee Cake instead…

The bundt tin worked surprisingly well to bake the Golden Coffee Cake in. I think having the hole in the middle helps to ensure a cake is cooked all the way through. It expanded so much during baking, you could hardly see the hole in the middle any more! It sure is a yeasty cake.

The ever expanding Golden Coffee Cake

The ever expanding Golden Coffee Cake

I still managed to make a hash of it however, tipping the cake out too soon, whilst it was still hot. I panicked as it sank further into the tin as it cooled. In my haste to turn it out the cake collapsed even further and bits broke off… I did check that the cake was cooked thoroughly by using a cocktail stick. The dough seemed to be evenly baked as the skewer came out clean, but I felt the cake was still a little too moist to hold it’s own weight. Perhaps 5 more minutes in the oven and 10 more minutes cooling in the tin afterwards would have given it the extra strength to hold it’s own shape a little better.

Tipped out too soon...

Tipped out too soon…

My Golden Coffee Cake has a slightly rugged edge to it which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As the cake had expanded enormously there were bits of overhang, that had to break off to get it out of the tin. This means that you get to sample the cake before everyone else! Super Hans and I shared the scraps. He thoroughly enjoyed it which is always a good sign,

The opened cake

The opened cake

I was a bit nervous about presenting this cake to my friends at the Clandestine Cake Club. It really hadn’t gone to plan, despite the many hours of planning and preparation that had gone into this cake. Saffron tends to also be an acquired taste especially when combined with the strong yeast, it’s quite the unusual flavour combination.

The beautiful collection of cakes at The Clandestine Cake Club

The beautiful collection of cakes at The Clandestine Cake Club – my emergency blackberry heart is on the right

The original recipe called for icing too, which frankly I couldn’t be bothered to make as I decided to bake an emergency alternative blackberry and almond cake to take to cake club instead. I didn’t want to waste my Golden Coffee Cake, I still took it along repeatedly apologising for it’s dishevelled appearance.

The Golden Coffee Cake

The Golden Coffee Cake

The verdict? Golden Coffee Cake reminds me of a stronger flavoured Hot Cross Bun. A spicy and fruity bread rather than a traditional sponge cake. It’s similar to an Italian Panetonne, so would be a lovely Christmas bake. The taste definitely improves with age so it’s best baked in advance to allow the flavours to develop and mellow. On the third day, it tasted pretty good! The wet enriched yeast dough gave the cake the moisture it required to create a light aerated texture, with an even crumb I’m sure Paul Hollywood would be proud of.

Golden and fruit filled

Golden and fruit filled

It was a rather moist cake, so a slightly longer baking time wouldn’t do it any harm. It may have been even better if I had got round to icing the cake too! The feedback from my cake club friends was very positive too. Perhaps I had been too hasty in my judgement of this cake, dismissing it as a failure.

Golden Coffee Cake

Golden Coffee Cake

The Latvian Golden Coffee Cake is an exotic cake that I’m very pleased I got to experiment with. I love the defined bundt shape of this bake. The dough really holds the grooves of the bundt well and once you slice into the cake it’s beautiful golden saffron interior is revealed. You get a lovely waft of cardamom from the cake too with every slice, bringing it’s own festive cheer to the table.  The sharpness of the citrus fruits cuts through the yeast and spice and gives the cake a light tang. This cake isn’t a cheap to make, once you’ve purchased your precious saffron, cardamom, butter and eggs so I can see why the Latvians save it for special occasions. I fear I may never learn my lesson and continue to substitute ingredients on a whim, so I take the blame for my own additions to this recipe! Don’t add too much liquid if you do try this at home and you may actually get to shape it into a pretzel!

Things that I used to make my Latvian Golden Coffee Cake

  • 1/2 tsp Spanish saffron – steeped in
  • 1/4 cup boiling water

Knead together

  • 570g strong white flour
  • 20g instant dried yeast
  • 400ml warm milk ( I would use much less! maybe 300ml if using milk or 400ml of double cream)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • The water infused with saffron and the strands

Cream together in a separate bowl

  • 250g butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Then beat in

  • 3 egg yolks
  • zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2  tsp ground cardamom

Knead the butter mixture together and dough

Prove dough for 1 hour

Knead in

  • 300g of dried chopped fruit (golden cherries/raisins/apricots)

(Shape like a pretzel if you can! and bake on a greased sheet.)

Pour into a greased bundt cover and prove for 1 hour

Bake for 35-45 minutes at 180 degrees C

Allow to cool in the tin for around 30 minutes

Ice with a sugar glaze if you like! (Mix icing sugar and water together until gloopy and pour over your cake) or leave plain if you prefer.

Golden slices

Golden slices

Enjoy a slice with a nice strong coffee, hence the name Golden Coffee Cake!

This recipe was adapted from the www.latvianstuff.com/Kringel.html. Thank you for the inspiration and my apologies if I’ve ruined your recipe! Any tips on how to improve my technique would be very welcome.