I’m the type of person who keeps lists. To-do lists, grocery lists, goal lists, and yes even a “foods to make” list. Whenever I see something I want to recreate or think of a dish I want to make, I add it to the list. One item that has been sitting on that list for some time is babka. Ever since I saw the beautiful chocolate swirls in the enriched bread, I wanted to try making it. And so, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I finally decided to make the bread. No there’s no chocolate in this babka but trust me, the pistachios, hazelnuts, orange zest, and rosewater certainly make up for it!
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
What is babka? As Paul Hollywood described it, it’s a bread made with enriched dough that’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It has swirls of chocolate and nuts that run through the bread making it utterly delicious. Although in this case, we’re taking out the chocolate and adding baklava ingredients. It’s still utterly delicious, I promise you.
To make the baklava babka, you first have to make the dough. If you ever made brioche, this is the same method. Heat some milk and add the yeast and sugar to activate the yeast. Combine the yeast mixture with the flour, eggs, egg yolks, salt, sugar, and vanilla. Once the dough starts to come together and firms up, add the butter a couple of pieces at a time. You don’t want to add all of the butter at the same time or the dough will be one greasy mess.
Let the dough proof for one hour in a warm spot. It may not double in size but that’s okay because it will have a chance to proof again later.
While the dough is rising, make the filling. Baklava is made with a variety of nuts but I chose pistachios and hazelnuts for this bread because, well, they’re my favorite. Choose what you like, adding an equal amount of each into the filling. Pulse the ingredients together until the nuts are coarsely chopped. You can also chop the nuts by hand and combine it with the remaining ingredients. Mix the sugar with the spices and set it aside.
Now it’s time to assemble the babka. Roll out the dough fairly thin into a 12×24 inch rectangle. Brush on the butter, sprinkle on the sugar, and top with the nuts. Roll up the dough into a 24-inch log; don’t worry if the nuts fall out. We’re going to save them and top the bread later on.
Cut the log in half so that it’s two 24 inch long logs. Flip the cut sides so that they’re facing up and twist the two logs together by flipping one side over the other.
Now comes the tricky part. Transfer the twisted log into your greased pan to form a circle. I didn’t have a tube pan so I used a cheesecake pan and put an oven-safe ramekin in the center. Pinch the ends together to enclose the circle and sprinkle the top with the nuts that fell out. Cover the pan and let the babka rise for 45 minutes.
While the babka is proofing again, make the honey syrup. Simply simmer together equal parts honey and water until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Let it cool completely.
Alas, it’s finally time to bake the bread! Pop the babka in the oven and bake until browned and the internal temperature is 180 degrees F, about 30-40 minutes.
Now get that honey syrup and pour it all over the bread. It seems like a lot of syrup but we’re making baklava babka so it’s totally appropriate. If you want it less sweet, just pour less syrup and serve the extra on the side. Now comes the hard part, waiting for the bread to cool.
I literally was standing around waiting for this baklava babka to cool so that I could have a taste. One look into the inside and I was in love. But then I took a bite of the bread and I fell head over heels. This babka was incredible, filled to the brim with pistachios and hazelnuts with the perfect hint of orange and a subtle taste of rosewater. It was everything I wanted and more.
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