Monday, July 7, 2014

Time to Relax: Cinnamon Babka Dessert Loaf

The thing about weekends is how we view and experience time. It's different. Very different. I don't know about you, but during the week I run from pillar to post, first to work, then to errands and shopping. For food, or just to restock the fridge with beer (oops, I meant OJ for the hot summer weather). Either way, I am always looking forward to the weekend. To slow down. To shut off computers, and news broadcasts, and to just RELAX. 

On weekends, I can enjoy breakfast, something I can't do during the week, when I am rushing around. And for that I always prepare my sweet yeast dough and add an appropriate filling. Every serious baker should have a sweet yeast dough in his/her repertoire. It is so versatile since it can be used for cinnamon rolls, monkey bread, krantz and even babka. In this version, I fill it with cinnamon and walnuts. If you want, you can make a variation filled with chocolate spread, even good quality strawberry (or other fruit) preserves. Any way you look at it, this breakfast bread, with good strong coffee, and no newspaper, is a great way to spend a weekend morning.

Here's What You'll Need: (for 2 loaves)
1/4 C warm water
4 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
1/2 warm soy milk (or regular milk if you want it to be dairy)
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1/2 C margarine (or butter if you want dairy)/ or 1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 1/2 to 5 C AP flour

For the filling:*
1/2 C margarine (or butter softened)
1 Tbs cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 C coarsely chopped walnuts 

*Mix it all together to form a smooth paste

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. In a small bowl, mix together the warm water and the yeast. Set it aside for a few minutes so the yeast is activated.

2. In another bowl, add the soy milk (or regular), the sugar, oil, salt and the eggs and mix to make a uniform mixture.

3.Melt the margarine (or butter) and mix it in thoroughly.
4. Add in the yeast mixture and mix it in completely.
5. Add about half of the flour, mixing with a spoon, then the other half. By this time you will have to knead the dough with your hands. Keep adding just enough flour to make a soft just slightly sticky dough. Knead this on a surface with only the slightest amount of flour on it to prevent sticking. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is shiny and smooth. When done, place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover and let it rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

6. When completely risen, divide the dough into 2 equal pieces then shape the dough into a rough rectangle. Roll it out using a rolling pin until it is roughly 1/4 in. (2-3 mm) thick.

7. Spread the filling over the surface of the dough using your fingers if need be. 

Then roll it up, starting on the long edge, jellyroll style. Make a long snake of the roll, cut it into two equal 'snakes' then twist them together. 

Place the twisted roll into a prepared loaf pan. (23X10 cm or 9X5 in). Repeat with the second piece of dough.
8. Cover and let this loaf rise for another 30 minutes or so until it just comes to the level of the pan.
9. Bake for about 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 350 F (180 C).
10. Cool on a rack. Remove the loaf from the pan after about 5 minutes after you remove it from the oven so it doesn't get soggy. Enjoy!!