Oh my! I've made some big promises in the past, but never this. Yesterday was a busy day. I prepared dinner for my neighbors and friends for a private event in my home. And I wanted it to be extra special so trying to deliver on the promise to do something extra special and delicious, I decided to make babka--inspired by my travels in Israel.
Babka, also spelled babbka and known as krantz cake in Israel, is a delicious yeasted-cake dough with layers of buttery enriched fillings. I made it for the first time yesterday using the krantz cake recipe found on page 284 in Yotam Ottolengi’s cookbook Jerusalem. (Seriously, you need this cookbook. It was the IACP cookbook of the year in 2013 and won the James Beard Award for Best International Cookbook in 2013. It's really good, easy to follow and the recipes are delicious if you love Middle Eastern cuisine. I love it!)
I never follow a recipe exactly as it is written (and haven't regretted that decision yet). I make it my own by altering it just slightly as I did with the fillable spread and ended up with a chocolate-hazelnut loaf (a nod to Oregon and its bounty of hazelnuts) and cinnamon babka.
The process wasn’t as challenging as it was enjoyable. Rolling the dough, spreading the filling, rolling it again to form a roulade, and then dividing it to braid was quite therapeutic. I absolutely love the feeling of dough rolling and exuding through my fingers, and this dough was no exception. It was smooth, beautiful and smelled heavenly with a hint of lemon.
The result: two beautiful loaves of bread that my friend considered “far better than that we had IN Israel.” And a neighbor who received dinner out of my home commented, “In addition to cooking well, Nickie is a great baker!” (Not sure if I deserve the credit I’ll take it! Trust me, they don’t all turn out quite so well the first time.)
I think it is safe to say that if you ever have a meal in my home, you will eat some of this. It’s something I intend to repeat. And now, enjoy the pretty pictures.