We’re hanging for spring break this week, doing the stay-cation thing and entertaining ourselves with bike rides, bug hunts in the yard, visits to friends and little mini adventures close to home. Yesterday we had the chance to slip in a quick culinary trip to to central Germany to try our hands at making a West Phalian Easter-time treat called struwen, a barely sweet, yeasted pancake with raisins. I would describe struwen as somewhere between a pancake, biscuit and a churro …. can you ever really ever go wrong with fried bread?
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From what I can tell, Jewish delicatessens are the new “fancy ice cream”. Hipsters may not be throwing out their olive oil and sea salt sundaes just yet, but they are making room for pastrami, smoked trout and bialys. Simran and I have tried to eat at SF hot spot Wise Sons Delicatessen, on a couple of occasions only to have been foiled at every turn. Hipsters be damned!
Naturally as my mouth was watering and my mind was contemplating Wise Son’s house-cured pastrami on double baked rye bread it also meandered over to chocolate babka. Decadent, chocolatey, cinnamony babka…. And somehow it was easier to imagine baking up a loaf of that sweet, swirly bread than curing our own pastrami, so before your know it we had a dozen babka recipes tagged, and my favorite 4 year old chocoholic urging me on from the sidelines.
It was tough to chose among the contenders, but ultimately we settled in with this Peter Reinhart recipe via the Purple Foodie website. (I just could not bring myself dive with in the 3.5 sticks of butter called for in Martha Stewart’s version. OK it does make 3 loaves, but still….). The Reinhart recipe seems a little complicated at first with its 2 rises, but after making it, I assure you that none of it is hard to do and nearly all of it is suitable for little helpers. Dough projects might be messy, but they are fabulous tactile fun for youngsters and working with yeast offers a chance to do a little kitchen science. I wouldn’t be able to stop Luca from getting into the act even if I wanted to — you’ll find him pulling up a chair next to the counter anytime he sees me getting out tubs of flour or pulling out the stand mixer. Gooey gobs of chocolate don’t hurt either.
Sometimes you wonder if your final product will look as good as the beautifully styled, professional-looking photo that inspired it. This babka was one of the most impressive looking things to come out of our oven in quite sometime. And luckily for us it tasted as good as it looked.
I’ll let the Purple Foodie give you the full details on Peter Reinhart’s recipe and instead I’ll share this little pictorial to give you a sense of how this recipe comes together. I’ll also mention that we liked slightly more chocolate filling than called for in the recipe. We also painted the babka with a little egg wash and sprinkled it with cinnamon sugar before baking. The full recipe makes two large loaves and as much as we love Babka, it’s pretty decadent so I think a half recipe (1 loaf) is sufficient to satisfy the craving. If you’re feeling nice you may consider making the full recipe and sharing a loaf with a friend, or you could portion your dough and make mini babkas to share with lots of friends if you’re feeling really, really nice.