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Why would this babka be dry?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Not long ago I baked my first babka. I used the following recipe from Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking. I followed the directions as printed, although I shaped the babkas differently from the description given. However, the results weren't stellar. They were a bit dry and "breadier" than I had expected. I had hoped for more filling and thinner dough. It was very thin and tender when I rolled it out. Photos are below.

 

I'd appreciate any observations and suggestions!

Thanks in advance,

Mezzaluna

 

Here's the recipe:

 

Makes 2 loaves

Dough

3 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

A generous 3/4 cup sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces

1/2 cup whole milk

1 package (about 2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast

  Note: I used quick-rising yeast

3 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling (optional)

 

Filling

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup walnuts (optional)

 

To make the dough, in the bowl of food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the flour, salt, and 3 heaping tablespoons of the sugar. Pulse to blend. Add the pieces of butter to the flour mixture and pulse until crumbly.

 

In a small saucepan, heat the milk over low heat until warm, not hot, to the touch (no more than 110F). Stir in 1 level tablespoon of the sugar and the yeast. Allow to stand for 7 minutes, until bubbly and risen.

 

Add the egg yolks and yeast mixture to the flour mixture. Pulse several times, scraping down the bowl once or twice, until a ball is formed. Remove the dough and place it in a large bowl. Cover with a clean towel and refrigerate overnight.

 

Grease two 8-1/2 by 4-1/2 inch loaf pans. Flour a work surface and a rolling pin.

 

To assemble the babkas, in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. One tablespoon at a time, add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, then the 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Beat until the whites form firm peaks. 

 

Divide the dough in half. Keep one half refrigerated while working with the other. For each half, knead the dough a few dimes. Roll out on a floured surface to an approximately 22- by 18-inch rectangle. It will be thin.

 

Spread the rectangle of dough with half of the beaten egg whites to within 1 inch of the edges. Sprinkle evenly with half the chocolate, half the walnuts, and lightly with more cinnamon.

 

Turn in about 1 inch of the short edges of the dough rectangle, then carefully roll up jelly-roll style. If the dough is sticking slightly, use a bench scraper (pastry scraper) to ease it off the work surface.

Cut each roll into 8 sections. For each babka, place 8 cut sections in 1 loaf pan, cut sides up and down, packing them so the uncut sides touch.

 

Cover each pan with a clean towel and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours. The dough should come up higher than the sides of the pans. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F.

 

Bake the loaves for 35-40 minutes, until light brown. Cool the babkas in the pans for about 5 minutes, then invert them onto serving plates. Serve top side up or bottom side up, whichever looks better to you. Slice with a serrated blade, or break apart into natural segments.

 

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post #2 of 7

It's hard to say why this should be dry but my recipe has entirely different proportions.  While I like my recipe:), I'm thinking that Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe might be even better.  It's very similar to mine, but it uses a mild starter, and the assembling instructions look more like the Babka I  see in my mind's eye, than my own!  At least, I am going to try it at my earliest convenience!  I would give you the recipe, but it is so long, that it's better if you just go to the web page: http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2015/01/twisted_babka_loaf.html#.VK8GBUuCixo

Just a brief note about the differences: firstly Rose uses powdered milk, and I use evaporated milk because using whole milk can hinder yeast activity.  I use about 2/3 cup water in mine, plus 2 whole eggs, so that also adds more liquid to the recipe than the one you use (for the same 3 cups flour).  Both Rose and I use much less butter (and it's soft) than the recipe you use.  Softened butter might incorporate into the dough better, and that might also help to moisten the dough.   I use a different filling than both the recipe you are using and Rose.  I've tried both, and prefer mine.  Here is the recipe I use for filling: 1/2 cup pecan pieces, 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped or chips, 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 large egg whites, 2 tablespoons corn syrup (nowadays, I would probably make some thickened simple syrup rather than use corn syrup, but that is for another day). To make, process the nuts until finely chopped. Set aside.  Process the chocolate, cocoa and sugar until the chocolate is finely ground, about 10-second pulses.  Add the egg whites and the corn syrup.  Process for a few seconds to blend.  Spread the dough with the chocolate filling and then sprinkle with the nuts.  My recipe calls for streusel on top, and I think that sometimes I also sprinkle some of the streusel into the filling, but I haven't made it for so long, I don't remember.  Will have to report back after I try Rose's recipe.  

 

Hope this will help you make the perfect Babka.  

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thank you peisenberg for the insights. I wondered if more sugar in the dough would help, but just adding more liquid seems most logical of all. I don't have enough information to know about how whole milk vs. powdered milk might affect the dough, although I saw that in several other recipes. 

 

Thank you for the link to RLB's recipe. I have her Rose's Heavenly Cakes, but no other of her books. Interesting she calls for Gold Medal flour. That's exactly the brand I use, completely out of nostalgia; it's what my grandmother used. I even have a small advertising booklet of hers from the '20s, I think, that's in English and Yiddish. I feel especially close to her when I bake. 

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post #4 of 7

Adding more sugar could certainly make something more moist, but in both my recipe and Rose Levy Berenbaum's there is actually less sugar, so I don't think that is the culprit.

post #5 of 7
Reciept that are written in volume measurements can not be good and they never work. You probably using to much flour. I never buy books or use any reciept that are in volume measurements. Get a $20 scale and a professional pastry and baking book.
post #6 of 7

It could certainly be that you are using too much flour and a scale is a great idea!  But I wouldn't throw out all your recipes just because it's measured in cups - you just have to figure out what the chef had in mind.  I usually use 130 grams as my standard cup, but other chefs use a different weight for theirs.  Since so many American cooks don't have scales, what I say is to fluff, scoop and level, which usually results in a cup weighing about 130 grams and give more consistent results than just scooping out the flour from the bag.  If you've been just sticking the cup down into a bag of flour you might be getting 140 or 145 grams per cup.  If you get a scale and want to convert your recipes, you have to figure out approximately how much flour is the right amount for that recipe.  So 130 grams might be a good place to start.  If the result is too dense, then you might want to go down to 125 or 120 grams or if too light, you could then go up to 135 or 140 grams per cup.  For sifted cake flour, I usually use 100 grams for that.  If you want consistent results, weighing is the way to go, for sure. 

 

Another thing is the size of the eggs.  Organic eggs are often much smaller than regular eggs.  I discovered this while I was trying to make Lemon Curd, which is entirely dependent on the volume of eggs to make the curd thicken.  I noticed that they were much smaller, and when the curd didn't form, I realized that I should be weighing the eggs instead of just using "large" as a standard.  I've seen variations from 46 grams per egg (out of shell) up to 57 grams.  When you have a recipe calling for 6 eggs, that's quite a big difference.  

 

Another issue is how long the babka cooked.  There's a wide range for "light brown".  I like to stick an instant-read thermometer into the babka and go for 190-200 degrees and no more. That will ensure that it isn't overcooked.  

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Very good points all. I would add that the color and material of the pans matters, too. I used rather heavy weight metal pans, but they are somewhat dark in color. As you can see from looking at the photos, I did line them with parchment paper, but I suspect the color may still matter. I have some glass pans; how might that affect the outcome? My grandmother baked bread in glass pans when she made white loaves (not challah).

 

I know I used extra large eggs (not organic ones) in this recipe because that's what I had on hand. I do stir the flour in the canister before I scoop it with the measuring cup, then level it off. I do not tap the cup against the counter, etc. before leveling with a knife.

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