Nothing beats the ultimate breakfast style Babka filled with fresh blueberries and tangy Lemon icing on top! This bread roll has the softest crumb as well!
Babka is a traditional Jewish decent bread roll that are commonly made filled with chocolate and cinnamon and baked in loaf tins. The base of the bread that is used for Babka is an enriched dough that is richer in butter, sugar and eggs compared to normal bread.
Fat and Gluten
Because enriched dough contain a high amount of fat (butter) and liquid (water/milk) in its make up, it is crucial to understand what their function actually is to the bread dough.
If you are not familiar with bread making, there is one thing you will probably want to be familiar with, which is "gluten". Gluten is a protein found in most wheat flour that is essential in helping bread rise and structure so that it does not collapse during baking. In order for gluten to form, the two gluten forming protein in the flour, glutenin and gliadin, needs to be in the presence of liquid. When mixed in with the liquid, these proteins will activate and start to realign themselves and form into gluten.
Gluten is often found in the endosperm part of the wheat flour which function as a structure builder in bread making. It is also what gives bread dough the ability to be stretched and extended, and also creates chewiness to baked bread.
Butter should always be the first preference of fat used in enriched dough because of the flavour that it can give. Not only does butter enhances flavour, it also adds moisture to the loaf, making it more tender compared to normal bread. Although Fat has its many benefits, it also hinders the development of gluten as it coats around each particle of the wheat flour if mixed together, making it hard for the two gluten forming proteins to come together and align when water are added.
Therefore, it is crucial that fat are only added after an initial stage of gluten development has been performed, which is to mix the rest of the ingredients with the flour without the fat to allow the protein to have the chance to align first.
In comparison to other enriched dough that contain only a small amount of butter/fat such as Challah, the fat can and are usually mixed together with the rest of the ingredients in the beginning, as the small amount of fat in comparison to the flour in the recipe is not enough to hinder gluten development.
You can still mix in the higher fat ratios as an All-in Method ( where you dump everything into a mixer bowl and mixed them together all at once), and you will still be able to make a loaf of enriched bread, but the dough may not rise as well and can be slightly short and dense.
Mixing Enriched dough
When making enriched dough, all the ingredients except the butter are usually added first and mixed to allow the gluten strand to have the ability to align and form before the room temperature and softened butter are added.
Some enriched dough tends to absorb fat much quicker after gluten development and some takes slightly longer. For example, when you add the room temperature butter, the butter will have no problem blending into the dough before you can add the next addition. Whereas, other enriched dough recipe will see that the dough starts to split initially when butter are added and after several minutes of mixing, they will start to come together again. The reason to this in my experience has always something to do with the type of flour or flour blend that I use. In this case, I am using a Bread/ Baker's flour with 13% protein with a combination of plain flour with 8% protein content and the initial stage will see that the dough not wanting to absorb the butter but as you keep mixing, it will start to come together into a smooth dough again. Whereas, in the recipe for my Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Babka, I am using a lower protein Bakers flour that has 12% of protein, the Matcha dough seems to absorb much quicker. This could also be due to the higher liquid ratios in my Matcha Dough as well.
If you do find it particularly hard for the softened butter to combine into the dough, what you can also do is to cover the dough at room temperature in a cool place and leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes. This resting process allows for the gluten to relax a little before you try to mix it again to incorporate the butter.
If you are unable to find a high gluten bakers flour like the one I am using, you can simply use any baker's flour with a lower protein content and your dough will probably absorb the fat faster and better. In this recipe, I was just being a curious bee in testing out different flour in the market. In this recipe I am using the Japanese Showa Bread Flour that has 14% protein Content.
When is the best time to incorporate the butter?
Note that when you are developing gluten first before adding in the fat, ensure that you do not overdevelop the dough too much. I usually mix all the ingredients (except the fat) together for 3 minutes on low speed to bring them together and mix for another 3 to 5 minutes at medium speed before adding in the butter. The dough should still be slightly rough but is stretchy and do not break easily when you try to tear them. I only check for window test after the butters are added and mixed further in the process. If you over developed your dough too much initially, it will be almost impossible to add in the butter later. One of the remedy would be to place your dough into the fridge to relax overnight, then bring it back out to room temperature before adding in the softened butter.
How long does it take to mix the butter into the dough
Mixing time for enriched dough like the below recipe takes a much longer time compared to other plain breads. The whole mixing process took me approximately 20 - 25 minutes until the gluten have fully developed.
Maintaining dough temperature
Because of the longer mixing time for this dough, I keep the dough mixing on medium speed once all the ingredients have come together to a dough and the butter has been added. Keep in check with the temperature with the help of a thermometer probe and maintain the dough below 27°C.
Letting the dough mixed above 27°C will cause the dough to ferment prematurely and too quickly which can compromise the flavour. The trick is to use cold liquid in the recipe. The butter needs to be at room temperature for better incorporation but not warm.
If however, the dough starts to get too warm simply stop mixing and place them into the fridge to cool down before removing them and continue to mix again.
If you use cold milk in the recipe and do not mix over high speed, you shouldn't need to cool the dough during mixing. If you are making this bread on a warmer day, place the flour into the fridge overnight.
Using different type of flour
When making enriched dough, it is recommended to use flours that have enough gluten forming properties. Since enriched dough are much denser and heavier than normal bread, it does require certain strength that gluten can provide for a good and sturdy rise during fermentation and baking. Therefore, in a lot of recipes, All purpose or Bakers flour are usually called for when making enriched dough for Babkas. All Purpose flour is actually a blend of Soft and Hard Wheat flour with gluten forming protein ranging between 9.5%- 11.5%, whereas baker's flour usually has a higher gluten forming protein content which sits around 11.5% - 13.5%.
I always like to experiment with using different blend of flours and liquid content in my enriched dough and I am still learning. Because I hardly ever have any all purpose flour in my pantry, when making enriched dough, I like to use a mixture of bakers and plain flour, which I believe is what makes an All Purpose Flour anyway. (Plain flour usually contain protein that sits between 7-9.5%). The outcome with the blend of flours always comes out softer compared to the ones that only uses Bakers flour.
Because of the percentage of fat and liquid involved in enriched dough, using flour that is high in protein is essential for it to absorb the liquid as well as build the relevant structure to hold on to the loaf during baking to prevent it from collapsing. However, having too much gluten tend to make the dough too chewy for my liking for an enriched dough.
I have use only Baker's flour for enriched dough like Babka and Challah bread. The rise of the dough always comes out spot on. However, the crumb of the dough often comes out chewier compared to the ones that are blended with lower protein flour.
The conclusion here is, I believe that all purpose flour are more suited for this type of bread if you want a softer crumb texture in your loaf.
Final Proofing & Retarding
There are two things you can do after you have made the dough. You can either leave the dough at room temperature for it to bulk proof (where it increase to twice its volume), knocked it back slightly (pressing the dough down gently to release any additionally air), then place in the fridge covered for several hours to firm up slightly for easy handling, then proceed to rolling it out and filling it. Leave the shaped loaf at room temperature for its final rise (usually increase 50% of its original volume) and bake it on the same day.
Alternatively, you can leave the dough without going through the bulk proofing process straight in the fridge covered overnight and proceed to shaping, final proofing and baking it the next day.
In here, I have only rested the dough in the fridge covered for 2 hours which makes it firm enough to roll and leave covered at room temperature to final proof for 45 minutes or until it rises to at least 50% of its original volume, then baked and glazed.
When you place the dough in the fridge overnight, this is call "retarding" the dough. the dough can be retarded in the fridge for up to 24 hours. If you are retarding your dough, you do not need to bulk proof the dough at room temperature and it can go straight into the fridge. Leaving the dough in the fridge overnight at a cool temperature allow the dough to go through a slow fermentation and the dough may not look like it is growing much, but there is activity going on in there. This method actually gives the dough more flavour as well.
If you are short of time, this loaf can be baked the same day and it will still taste delicious.
Equipment: 170mm length x 90mm width x 88mm depth Loaf Tin
Yield: 1 Loaf
120 g Fresh Blueberries
60 g Blackberries
60 g Caster Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
20 g Juice of a lemon (approx. 1/2 Lemon)
220 g 64% Baker's Flour (I use Japanese Showa Bread flour with 14% protein)
80 g 36% Plain Flour
50g 16% Granulated sugar/ Caster Sugar
7 g 2.3% Active dry yeast
1 - Zest of Lemon
100 g 33% Large eggs, room temp
70 ml 23% Full Cream Milk
2 g 0.6% Fine salt
75 g 25% Unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
30 g Boiling Water
45 g Caster Sugar/granulated Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
40-50 g Icing Sugar (sifted)
10 g Lemon Juice
For the Brioche Dough
1. Place 5 g of the sugar into the milk and warm it to approximately 27°C. Add in the instant yeast and stir until fully combine. Leave at room temperature until it starts to foam. This process takes approximately 15 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the flour, the rest of the sugar, salt and cold eggs into a stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add in the yeast/milk mixture then mix over low speed for 3 minutes until all the ingredients are combined. At this point, the dough will be quite rough.
2. Increase the speed to medium and continue to mix for another 3 minutes until the dough is smooth.
Gradually add in the room temperature butter a little at a time. The dough will start to break apart and look like it is not absorbing the butter, continue to mix and scraping down the mixer bowl frequently. Do not add in the butter all at once or too quickly as this can make it hard for the dough to come together again. This process can take up from 5 to 10 minutes. So be very patient!
The dough at the end will start to absorb the butter and form in to a smooth dough again and starts to pull away from the side of the bowl. At this point, you should have a smooth and pliable dough. Check the dough occasionally when it starts to absorb the butter by doing a window test. If you are able to stretch a small piece of the dough thin enough to see through, you have developed enough gluten. If the dough breaks apart the moment you stretch it, you will need to keep mixing over medium speed. Check every two minutes until you pass the "window test".
Once all the butter have been added, the mixing process will keep going for a further 10 to 12 minutes.
Note: During the mixing process, do not allow the dough to rise above 27°C. Place a probe into the dough occasional to monitor. If the dough starts to warm up too much, place the dough into the fridge to cool then back to mixing. If you are using cold milk, you shouldn't have to do this process.
3. Transfer the dough into a lightly greased bowl large enough for the dough to double in size. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave at room temperature to bulk ferment.
This process takes approximately 1 to 2 hours depending on the ambient of your kitchen.
4. When the dough have doubled in size, knock down the excess air in the dough, roll it in to a loose ball, cover and place in the fridge for 2 hours to firm up slightly for easy handling.
This is the best time to be preparing the berries compote.
For the Berries compote
Place all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it starts boil, continue to boil while stirring for 5 minutes to reduce the compote. Transfer the compote into a flat tray and place a cling film touching the surface and leave in the fridge to cully cool while the brioche dough is resting in the fridge. The compote will set further as it starts to cool.
Note: If the compote is overcooked and becomes too thick to spread during assembly, simply add in a teaspoon of lemon juice at a time and stir to combine until it comes to a desired spreadable consistency. If your compote is too loose and runny, simply place the compote back over the stove and cook it out a little more. If your dough is already ready and your compote needs to be cooked out more. Place the dough back into the fridge covered. Make sure that the compote is completely cooled before spreading it over the dough.
For the Lemon Icing
Heat the Lemon Juice in the microwave bowl then whisk in the sifted icing sugar until it is thick enough to drizzle. Only prepare this element when you are ready to use. Unused lemon icing will set hard. If this happens, simply place it into the microwave and heat to a liquid consistency again.
Pre heat the oven to 180°C.
When the dough have rested in the fridge and the compote is cool. Remove the dough onto a work bench without any dusting of flour. Roll the dough into a 250mm x 300 mm rectangle. Spread the berries compote on top then roll the dough in to a long log from the shorter ends. Turn the log around then slit the centre lengthwise in to two separate halves. Intertwine the two halves with the cut sides facing outwards then pinch both ends tightly to adhere. readjust the babka to the size of the loaf tin then place it to fit into the baking tin. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to final proof for approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours at room temperature or until it increases at least 50% of its original size.
Place the loaf tin into the pre heated oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes or when probed with a thermometer it is above 85°C.
Note: If the babka becomes too dark half way through baking, place an aluminium foil on top and return to baking.
Once the babka is baked, remove the tin from the oven and generously brush the hot sugar syrup on top using as much of the syrup as possible. Gently remove the from the baking tin as well as the parchment paper underneath and leave to fully cool on top of a wire rack.
Prepare the lemon icing by heating up the lemon juice and whisking in the sifted icing sugar then drizzle a generous amount on top.