With all of this new joy, I am tempted to question it and to feel undeserving of the circumstance. Sadly, distrust is my natural instinct. But dark thoughts can no longer be indulged because even if tragedy is in the cards, there is certainly no reason to wait in anticipation for it's coming. In fact, troubles deserve no mind at all. Where there is love and earnestness, worry and hardship can be overcome.
For the first time, I can see my life unfolding. I see the union of families and the creation of a new one, the adoption of new ways of earning and a return to the old ways of living. I see the fulfillment of hope and the grace of time, the waxing and waning of our connections and the ever growing capacity of our hearts. I see the harvest of what is to come, and it is so very full.
Cinnamon Raisin Babka
Makes 2 - 9 x 4" cakes
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tami
For the dough
530 g all purpose or pastry flour
100 g superfine sugar
6 g active dry yeast
150 g eggs (about 3 large)
1/2 c / 120 ml warm water
2 g salt
150 g unsalted butter, cubed (room temperature)
For the filling
176 g brown sugar
81 g butter (room temperature)
41 g corn syrup, golden syrup or honey
4 g baking soda
41 g water
100 g raisins
(Ratio: 1/4 c sugar + 1 tbsp cinnamon)
For the syrup
2/3 cup / 160 ml water
260 g superfine sugar
For the dough
Combine the flour, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Begin mixing on low speed to evenly distribute the dry ingredients. Meanwhile beat the eggs and mix them with the water. As the mixer is running, slowly add the egg/water mixture in a steady stream. The dough will begin to come together.
If the dough climbs the hook too much, stop and scrape it back down in to the bowl and incorporate any dry mix on the very bottom at didn't make it in. Continue mixing the dough on a low speed for 2-3 minutes.
Add the salt, increase the speed a bit and begin adding the butter a couple of cubes at a time, letting them incorporate into the dough. Don't rush this step. When all of the butter is in, let the dough mix for a couple of minutes more to fully incorporate everything.
Turn off the mixer, scrape the dough out of the bowl and into a clean, oiled bowl or oiled tray. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest in the fridge overnight.
For the filling
In a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the corn syrup and baking soda and beat to combine, scraping the sides if necessary. As the mixer is running, add the water in a slow stream.
Assembly and baking
Preheat a conventional oven to 375 F. Cut parchment paper large enough to fit in the bottom of the pans and come up the sides enough so you can easily remove the cakes. Lightly butter or spray the paper and the two 9 x 4" loaf pans.
To make the cakes, remove the dough from the fridge. Lightly flour your work station. Roll out the dough to a rectangle that is about 20" x 10". Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving about a 1" border all around. Distribute the raisins evenly over the filling and then the cinnamon sugar. I tend to go heavy on the cinnamon sugar :)
To begin, start in the upper left hand corner and begin rolling the dough working lengthwise across. Make sure it is somewhat tight and tuck as you roll. When you reach the bottom edge, be sure to crimp it closed, sealing everything in. Trim the ends of the roll and then cut the log in half.
Working with one loaf first, turn it vertical and press it slightly to flatten it so you can divide it easier. Cut it directly down the center, creating two long strips. Pinch and twist the ends of the logs together and tuck it underneath. Once you have them anchored together, you can braid them. Now you see all the beautiful cuts and the filling peaking out. Pinch, twist and tuck the bottom end and place the cake in one of the oiled pans. Repeat the process with the other cake.
Cover the cakes with a clean towel and let them rise in a warm place for about 2 hours. They won't gain much noticeable height, but they will once they start baking. Situate the cakes on a rack with a lined sheet tray underneath. The filling tends to bubble over with gooey goodness so you want to be prepared. Place the cakes in the center of the oven and bake for about 40-50 minutes. It is tricky to do the knife test with this cake because of the filling. Make sure there is no raw dough on the knife. If there is only cinnamon smear and no dough, the cakes are done.
While the cakes are baking, combine the sugar and water over a low flame on the stove until the sugar dissolves. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush them generously with the syrup. They will be beautiful and shiny.
Let them mostly cool in the pans and then turn out. Let them cool completely if you can.