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Babka is a delicious bundt-shaped, yeast-risen coffee cake from Eastern Europe. Pronounced "bahb-ka", the word means "grandmother" in Polish, which is perfectly fitting for this plump and comforting sweet bread. Babka is typically filled with swirls of either cinnamon, nuts, or chocolate (my favorite of course). It's enriched with butter and eggs, giving it a texture similar to a brioche.
As with most recipes for bread, babka dough needs to be kneaded so that it will develop the gluten necessary for the dough to rise to a light and airy height. But kneading is a major pain in the butt if either you don't own a stand mixer, or, like me, you keep it stored in a cabinet in the counter underneath all your other pans and gadgets. I took one look inside that cabinet this week, had a vision of an avalanche, and then shut the door. I had a plan.
This babka was going to be my no-knead babka. I developed this recipe while working on no-knead breads for my book, The Complete Idiots Guide to Easy Artisan Bread. No-knead breads follow simple principles: use more liquid than usual, and give the dough a good, long rest. When these conditions are met, the proteins in the flour are able to connect into stretchy gluten strands on their own, without having to go through any physical manipulation. This takes the process of kneading out of the picture. An extra bonus to letting the dough rest longer is that the yeast in the dough has more time to develop flavor. No mixer and better flavor? Just stir the ingredients together and let it rest? Yup. This is definitely a win-win situation.
While most people may associate no-knead bread with lean, French boule type breads, this method can also be applied to richer breads like babka. Because the addition of ingredients such as sugar, eggs, and butter can have a tenderizing effect on the dough, I make sure to use bread flour. I've found that the high protein in bread flour boosts the gluten power in an enriched dough, ensuring a nice light loaf. For the filling, a mixture of chocolate, cocoa, and cinnamon is rolled into the rested dough before baking. This is as fuss-free a babka as you can get. And as the aroma of cardamom, yeast, chocolate, and cinnamon fill the kitchen as the babka bakes, it'll feel just like a nice warm hug from grandma herself.
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About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore and is currently at work constructing her new blog, http://shophousecook.com/ .
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