Bored in quarantine.
I love bread. I love yeast. I love the smell of fermenting dough as it rises. I’m also lazy, so I generally do not get along with breads that require an overnight rise. The only exception has been challah for family holidays, when I have some pressure on me to try a longer, slower rising enriched dough. However, with this quarantine, I’ve got nothing BUT time.
There are so many babka recipes out there, but after reading a few, I came back to my standby blog, Smitten Kitchen. Deb’s recipes are well-researched and rarely lead me astray. I have such faith in Deb, that even though I keep an insane amount of active dry yeast in the freezer, I trusted her advice that instant yeast worked better. I went to three different grocery stores on the Upper West Side in search of instant yeast, but in this time of quarantine and panic shopping, there was none to be had! Oh well – active dry it is. Just substitute at a ratio of 1.25 active dry to 1 instant. There was no flour on the shelves in my area, either. I’m lucky I keep about 30 lbs of flour in my cupboards, or I would have really been in trouble! Apparently, everyone is taking up bread baking?
The only other change I made to this recipe was to include the zest of an entire navel orange in the dough. I think the original Ottolenghi recipe and Deb’s version both include that hint of citrus, but I love the combination of orange and chocolate so much, that I wanted to be smacked in the face with the flavor.
The best part of the babka-making experience was the FaceTime with my niece while rolling out the dough and painting it with the chocolate filling. This amazing girl loves cooking and baking and at 4.5 years old, is already watching Julia Child videos. With the help of her mom, she recently made chocolate cake! I know it’s hard for all the little ones right now – they don’t understand why everything has changed, why they can’t go outside, why they can’t see their friends. It seems any FaceTime I can offer my nieces is a welcome distraction for them, and opens a window of 15-30 minutes where their parents just might be able to get some work done. This time, I propped the phone up against my trusty Kitchen Aid stand mixer and chatted with her as I rolled the dough out into a rectangle, painted it with chocolate, and repeated with the other half of the dough. I just hope it was as much fun for her as it was for me!
With very little adaptation from Smitten Kitchen and Ottolenghi, here it is: