HANUKKAH INSPIRED BABKA
makes two loaves, 9" X 5"
For the fruit filling-
½ cup fresh orange juice
1½ cups dried apricots, coarsely chopped
3 oz. dried cranberries
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup dried pitted prunes, coarsely chopped
In a medium bowl, combine the orange juice with the dried fruits. Set aside.
For the chocolate filling-
⅔ cup coarsely ground walnuts
⅔ cup butter (can substitute non-dairy shortening)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ cup brown sugar
4 oz. dark chocolate (70%), cut into small chunks
⅜ cup cocoa powder
Place the ground walnuts in a small bowl. In a saucepan over low heat, whisk together the butter, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar, dark chocolate chunks and cocoa powder until melted and smooth. Set the fillings aside while you prepare the dough.
For the dough-
1½ cups warm water
4½ teaspoons instant dry yeast
¼ cup plus a pinch of brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (can substitute non-dairy shortening if planning a kosher meal)
5 oz. sweet potato puree from 1 medium sweet potato
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon orange zest
4¼ cups all-purpose flour plus additional as needed
egg wash made from one egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
For the sugar syrup-
⅔ cup sugar
⅔ cup water
3 tablespoons orange liqueur (I used Cointreau)
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan; place over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in the liqueur.
In a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, combine warm water, yeast, and a pinch of sugar. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, allowing the yeast to proof. In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, butter, sweet potato, egg, salt, cayenne, cardamom, and zest. Transfer the proofed yeast mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with either the paddle or the dough hook attachment. Add the brown sugar/butter/sweet potato/egg/spice/zest mixture to the yeast, mixing on low, scraping down the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Next add the flour gradually, mixing on low, about 8 minutes, until well blended. The dough should feel smooth and elastic; if it feels sticky, add an additional 2 or 3 tablespoons of flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large, well greased mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place, letting the dough rise until doubled in size, about 90 minutes. Gently deflate the dough, divide it in half and return one half to the refrigerator, covered in plastic.
Roll out one half of the dough on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle 10” wide x 12” long x ½” thick. Leaving a 1” border, spread half of the chocolate filling over the dough. Sprinkle with half of the ground walnuts then sprinkle half of the fruit mixture over the walnuts. Carefully roll up the dough, starting with the long side, creating a jellyroll; pinch the long edges to seal and transfer the filled dough to a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate. Repeat with the second half of dough, rolling it into a rectangle, spreading it with the remaining half of chocolate, fruit and walnuts, and rolling it to create a jellyroll. Transfer the second filled dough to the parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate.
Use butter or non-dairy shortening to grease two 9” glass loaf pans. Line with parchment paper, creating an overhang both lengthwise and widthwise, which will help you lift the baked loaves from the pans. Retrieve the jellyrolls from the fridge. Use a sharp knife to slice each jellyroll in half lengthwise, creating two long pieces of dough per each roll. Working with one roll at a time, carefully twist the two halves around each other in a rope-like fashion, then gently fold it in half so it measures about 9” (the length of the loaf pan.) Repeat with the second jellyroll. Some of the filling may escape; not to worry. Carefully gather the Babkas, placing one in each loaf pan. Cover each loaf with a clean kitchen towel and let them rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1½ hours.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Remove the kitchen towels from the loaf pans. Brush each loaf with egg wash and place on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, until the Babkas are golden and test clean with a knife. You may have a bit of chocolate on the knife; that’s okay. Set the loaves on a cooling rack. Use a small paring knife or a skewer to poke small holes in the loaves, then gently brush the loaves with the sugar syrup. Cool before gently lifting from the loaf pans. The extra loaf can be well wrapped and frozen.
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