If you're looking for a gorgeous, soft occasion bread with aromatic Christmas flavours then this gingerbread babka may just be the answer. A babka is a soft, buttery eggy bread with plenty of layered goodness to it. This one has a white chocolate and gingerbread spice filling that you may just find hard to resist!
There's a reason why Seinfeld devoted an entire episode to the babka. It is utterly delicious when freshly baked or served warm. And in that episode it was decided that the cinnamon babka was a lesser babka than the chocolate babka. But let me just argue that this is actually a bit of both of those babkas in one with the combination of white chocolate and spices.
And Dear Reader, please don't only reserve this for Christmas time because of the spices. It is good any time of the year. I understand that Christmas time may not be the most relaxing time in which you may want to bake bread and that you may have a lot on your agenda. But promise me you'll file this away to make sometime it's THAT good.
I served this gingerbread babka up at the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre for lunch last Friday. This month we had the most challenging group ever. Usually people are really respectful but this crowd were not as well behaved and there were triple the size. I don't want to romanticise ASRC lunches, while there are lovely people, it's like any other mix of society and there are people who aren't as nice, or ones that try and get away with things.
One woman stole the fruit out of Kate's bag and refused to give it back while one man fingered the babka and then when we tried to cut him a piece he said no and grabbed a piece of fruit, smirked and sauntered off. Another man arrived quite late and then gave us the dirties because all the meat was gone. And while they usually queue in an orderly way which helps us enormously as we can portion everyone's food out so that everyone gets some, this time we were swarmed from all directions. And many left us with all their dishes to do (their only task is to scrape their plates and put them in the dishwasher after they eat). Just to be clear, we don't do it for the thanks but it's nice when they're friendly.
But there were the lovely people like the woman that sews on the sewing machine and always tells me "xiexie" or thank you in Mandarin. And there was the father who came up to all of us and told us that the food was delicious. And then there are the nice people that just smile or say thanks. Babka for you!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you remember that episode of Seinfeld? And to you which is the better babka-chocolate or cinnamon?
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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 45 minutes plus 1 hour rising time
Cooking time: 50 minutes
- 630g/22.3oz. bread flour
- 100g/3.5oz. caster or superfine sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
- 2 teaspoons gingerbread spice plus 1 teaspoon ground ginger extra
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 120ml/4floz. water
- 150g/5oz. butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 120g/4ozs white chocolate, melted
- 120g/4ozs butter, softened
- 50g/1.7ozs. icing sugar
- 3 teaspoons gingerbread spice plus 1 teaspoon ground ginger extra
- 1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
- 1/2 cup pearl sugar plus 1 tablespoon to sprinkle
- 1 egg to brush over
The spiced dough bulk proofing
Step 1 - First make the dough. Mix the flour with the sugar, spices, yeast, eggs and water and then stir in the butter. Knead with a dough hook until smooth and elastic. Place in a large bowl and cover and place in a warm location and allow to double in size. Punch down and knead in salt.
Step 2 - Place the chocolate, butter, icing sugar and gingerbread spice in a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside (refrigerate if too liquid to allow it to firm up).
Step 3 - Roll out into a very large 45x60cm (18x24inch) rectangle on a well floured surface (the dough is quite sticky so make sure to flour the surface and the rolling pin well). Spread the chocolate spread all over the rectangle leaving a 1 inch border. Sprinkle the pistachios and 1/2 cup of the pearl sugar on top and then roll up lengthways. Place on a baking tray and refrigerate until firm. Cut off the ends.
Step 4 - Preheat oven to 190C/384F and spray a 22cm/9inch chiffon/angel food tin well on the base and sides. Take the firm bread out of the fridge and cut in half lengthways exposing the layers. Twist these around each other like a loose plait and place in the prepared tin moving it around so that the layers face upwards. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle a few more pieces of pearl sugar and allow to rise for 20 minutes.
Step 5 - Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Then remove foil and bake for 10 minutes until golden.