A Post-Rosh Hashana Shana Tova

>> Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I had hoped to get in a shana tova blog entry before Rosh Hashanah started Monday night, but a long drive, baking, and a Monday afternoon presentation conspired against that. But it's still "the holiday season," as they say at, um, other times of the year, so Shana Tova (a good year)!

Since Rosh Hashanah is all about sweetness (apples & honey and all that), my contribution to the first night's awesome dinner with Mark and Marissa was chocolate babka (essentially, a jellyroll of buttery bread and chocolate). I know Mark well enough to know that anything chocolate will be very much appreciated, but Marissa informed me that I hit upon his favorite dessert, so I was extra pleased with myself.

Babka is not a dessert that one should try to make when pressed for time, and yet for some reason I plunged ahead. Last year, when I made my first foray into babka-making, I tried this New York Times recipe, the same one that inspired the plunge in the first place. The New York Times Babka is good, but I found the dough a little dry. This time I surfed the web for another option and hit upon this one from smitten kitchen. Yum. Check out smitten kitchen's pictures, they're amazing. I can offer this photo to tantalize you in the meantime:

I made the delicious loaves seen above with a few modifications to smitten kitchen's recipe:

First, at about 11 pm Sunday night I discovered that I only had 3 eggs so the 5-egg version wouldn't really work. I therefore cut the recipe by 2/3. This demands a little arithmetic, and the math gets harder with eggs. But I cracked two of them, beat them well, and used 2/3 of that mixture plus 1 yolk. I'm not sure that the culinary experts would approve of this sloppy adjustment, but it worked.

Second, I don't own a KitchenAid or any other type of standing mixer (if you would like to purchase one for me, I will happily send you my address). This means that dough hooks and paddle attachments are out, and my hands are in. I started the dough mixture with a whisk, then used my hand-held mixer until it exhausted its capacities, and then employed my very own hands. They work. They integrated the butter into the dough quite well. Then they were very greasy, but that's ok because I have a sink and soap and dish towels that eliminate greasy hands.

Third, I lessened the butter. I used one stick of butter in the dough (rather than the 1.66666 sticks that 2/3 of the recipe would demand). I used 3/4 of a stick in the chocolate mixture rather than a full stick. And it was good.

Fourth, I'm a chocolate purist. Hence, when I made the NYT version, no apricot nonsense was allowed to dilute the chocolatey goodness and, in this version, cinnamon was nowhere to be found (maybe I ran out of cinnamon? hmmm). Also (and this is where the real, card-carrying chocolate purists may kill me), I like milk chocolate, so I used some in the mix and did not add any additional sugar, as milk chocolate is already sweet.

Fifth, I don't think the streusel topping is necessary (and maybe I was running out of time), so I eliminated it. As you can see in the picture, I used some of the chocolate mix on top and that worked out quite well.

Finally, I started the dough Sunday night and let it rise overnight in the fridge before rolling it out to make the actual babka. This too was fine. I say this just as a reminder that one need not complete the recipe in one day. Starting it in the evening and finishing it in the morning works quite well. The only challenge with this method is smelling the amazing babka-baking smell in the middle of the day and being good enough not to dive right it.


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