Saturday, 25 November 2017

overnight cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning





A few years ago I started a new tradition; fresh baked cinnamon scrolls, oven warm, enjoyed in the lull after the presents on Christmas morning. It might seem crazy to add extra baking to an already busy time, but these are made ahead and need only be baked and iced on Christmas morning, the icing not an entirely necessary step, easily replaced with a dusting of sugar.

My search for the perfect scroll recipe has been a bit of an obsession, the family were definitely over them for a while, three batches in as many days possibly pushed them over the edge... These are a light, buttery, brioche style roll with tangy cream cheese icing, and fresh nutmeg festively reminiscent of eggnog. I can't claim they're perfect, but I'll happily bake these on Christmas morning and leave the experimenting for another year. Next on my hit list, those super soft and fluffy "white bread" style scrolls from Bakers Delight, any suggestions?




Overnight Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas Morning

dough 

250g warm milk
6g (2 tsp) instant yeast
500g bread flour
1 tsp sea salt
50g caster sugar
100g butter, at room temperature
2 eggs

filling

240g brown sugar
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
100g butter, at room temperature

cream cheese icing

150g cream cheese, at room temperature
120g icing sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
45ml milk
fresh nutmeg

• gently warm the milk in a small pan, until it feels just warm, approx. 40ºC if you’re measuring, add a tablespoon of the sugar and the dried yeast, whisk to combine, leave to stand for 5 minutes, it should start to bubble and foam
• tip the flour, remaining sugar and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer, use a whisk to combine then add the warm milk/yeast mixture, eggs, and butter; using the dough hook mix on slow for approximately 5-8 minutes, the dough should be smooth and glossy, and have pulled away from the sides of the bowl; transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for around an hour, or until it has doubled in size



• while the dough is proofing prepare the cinnamon filling; in a microwave proof bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, mix in the ground cinnamon, set aside
• line a tin with baking paper, I use either a 38cm x 26cm baking pan or 30cm cast iron low casserole pan, but something with similar dimensions will be fine
• lightly dust the bench with flour, tip the dough out of the bowl, it may need encouragement, and roll to a rectangle 40cm x 60cm, turn the dough a few times as you’re rolling, dusting the bench with more flour if the dough starts to stick
• pop the cinnamon mixture into the microwave on low for 30 seconds, this will soften, but not melt the mixture, making it much easier to spread; check it after 20 seconds as you don’t want it to melt
• spread the mixture evenly over the dough leaving a small a 1cm gap along the top of the long edge



• starting with the long side of the dough, carefully roll into a tight roll; cut the roll into 12 pieces for a rectangle pan, 11 for the round pan, you can eyeball this or use a ruler, I’m absolutely a ruler girl… a serrated knife will work well, but for super neat edges try using dental floss, I've given up trying to write instructions for this, have a look at this clip)
• place the rolls in the pan, cut sides facing up, cover tightly with plastic wrap and put into the fridge overnight
• the next morning take the rolls out of the fridge and let them sit on the bench while the oven heats to 175ºC; once the oven has reached temperature, pop the rolls in and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and the middle rolls are nicely puffed



• while the rolls are baking, make the cream cheese frosting; sieve the icing sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the cream cheese and vanilla, using the paddle attachment beat on high for 1-2 minutes until smooth, drop the speed to low and add the milk a tablespoon at a time until you have a pouring consistency – you may not need all of the milk
• remove the rolls from the oven, stand on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes then drizzle with cream cheese frosting and a grating of fresh nutmeg
• serve immediately, with the excess icing in a bowl for dipping, enjoy!

The rolls are best eaten warm, fresh out of the oven, give any leftover rolls a quick 20 second blast in the microwave to soften










Saturday, 12 August 2017

cherry and pistachio bakewell tart



I had big plans for Christmas in July this year, they didn't happen, but this pistachio and cherry Bakewell tart did. 

When I was as kid in the UK, I loved Mr Kipling's cherry bakewells, with their thick layer of white icing and sticky glacé cherry. I'm hoping this is a slightly more sophisticated take, I've lost the icing and glacé cherry, and swapped a portion of the ground almonds for pistachios. 

Cherries and pistachios just sing Christmas, so I broke my buying out of season rule and spent a small fortune on imported cherries from America. I think it was worth it, that jar of cherry jam might keep me going until summer, when it's Christmas for real and the boxes of local cherries are piled high...

Cherry and Pistachio Bakewell Tart

I'll pretty much always bake from scratch if I have the time, and while the recipes for cherry jam and sweet shortcrust pastry are included below, you can absolutely swap them out for store bought. If you're in Australia try Careme pastry, it's fabulous!

1 quantity sweet shortcrust pastry
125g cherry jam
200g butter
200g caster sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
100g ground almonds
100g pistachios, plus 25g for decoration
30g plain flour
zest 1 lemon
butter for greasing

• lightly grease a 28cm pie tin or flan dish, preheat your oven to 180°C conventional, 160°C fan
• roll pastry to approximately 3mm thick, carefully line your flan dish, gently pressing the pastry into the corners; prick the base with a fork, line with baking paper, then fill completely with baking weights. (I have a canister of rice that I use, I've tried ceramic pastry weights, but find the small grains of rice really get into the corners to give neat edges.) Roughly trim the excess pastry, leaving about 1cm extra above the edge of your dish, this will be trimmed after the tart is baked, giving you a really clean finish
• bake pastry for 15 minutes, remove the baking weights and return to the oven for 5 minutes, or until golden, set aside to cool

filling

• put the pistachios, ground almonds and flour into a food processor, blitz until the pistachios are finely ground
• cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, add the beaten eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition
• fold through the ground nuts, flour and lemon zest
• spread the cherry jam over the tart base, spoon the filling over the jam, spreading carefully to level
• bake for 35-40 minutes until puffed, golden, and just set in the centre
• while the tart is baking, finely chop the extra 25g pistachios, set aside
• leave the tart to cool, then using a sharp serrated knife, trim away the excess pastry
• dust with icing sugar, garnish with a couple of fresh cherries and the chopped pistachios
• serve at room temperature with cold whipped cream (it’s equally delicious slightly reheated and served with ice cream, very convenient really as this is a big tart!)



cherry jam

This recipe makes much more jam than you'll need for the tart, so store it in a sterilised jar and it will keep for months in the pantry, 3 weeks in the fridge once opened. There are many ways to sterilise jam jars, I use this method from taste.com.au.

500g pitted cherries, frozen are fine, if you go with fresh, the cherry pitter is your friend
large strip of lemon zest
juice of 1/2 lemon
500g jam sugar

• roughly chop half to two thirds of the cherries, the more you chop, the finer you jam will be
• put the whole and chopped cherries in a pan with the lemon zest and juice; bring to the boil over a medium heat, stir occasionally until the cherries are juicy and tender, likely around 15 minutes
• pop a couple of saucers into the freezer
• add the sugar to the pan, stir until dissolved, increase the heat to high and boil for 5 minutes
• take the pan off the heat, time for the wrinkle test! 
• take a saucer out of the freezer, spoon a little jam onto the cold saucer then pop it back into the freezer; retrieve your saucer after 30 seconds, gently push the jam with your finger, if it wrinkles it's ready! If not, boil the jam for another 2 minutes, re-test, repeat if necessary
• pour the hot jam into your hot jars, and seal; when cool, store in a cool dark place
• once a jar has been opened, store it in the fridge


sweet shortcrust pastry

250g plain flour, plus a little extra to flour your bench
60g icing sugar
125g cold butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten

• tip the flour and icing sugar into a food processor, pulse to combine, add the cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
• add the egg, pulse until the dough just comes together, lightly dust the bench with flour, turn the pastry out onto the bench and shape into a disc; wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to rest for an hour; take it out of the fridge approximately 10 minutes prior to rolling





Tuesday, 17 January 2017

strawberry and Chambord marshmallows


Summer in Sydney is a study of extremes; it's hot, bright, colourful, and noisy, with spectacular electrical storms, incredible downpours, and impossibly blue skies. It's not my season, maybe it's my english sensibilities, I love the gentle, more moderate autumn and spring, and relish the relative cool of winter. A silver lining though, for me, is definitely summer fruit; fridge cold water melon, stone fruit, cherries, mangos, their pips devoured over the sink, chins dripping, and berries, bring on the berries. 

A couple of weeks ago at the fruit market there was a tray sale, strawberries were $6 a tray, that's 3kg for six bucks, I bought 2 trays.  Six kilos is more strawberries than you might think, certainly more than I imagined, just wiping and hulling took ages! Half went into my jam pot, and just a portion of the rest into these mallows. They're packed with strawberry flavour, delicately spongy with just the right amount bounce. Homemade marshmallows are incredible, nothing like store bought, honestly, give them a go, you'll need a stand mixer and sugar thermometer, but it's plain sailing after that.

Strawberry and Chambord Marshmallows

350g strawberries
60ml Chambord liqueur (I'm new to Chambord, and it's love at first sight sip 💕)
18g powdered geletin
500g caster sugar
250ml water
2 egg whites
pinch of salt
snow sugar* for dusting

• lightly grease an 18cm by 24cm shallow cake pan and dust with snow sugar (an 18cm by 24cm pan is not essential, any pan that will give you a similar volume will be fine)

• put the strawberries in a blender and pulse to form a puree; push the puree through a sieve into a jug. You need 120ml of the sieved puree, but may have slightly more if your berries are perfectly ripe. Combine the strawberry puree with the Chambord, whisk in the gelatin, and set aside

• in a medium sized saucepan combine the caster sugar and water, cook over a gentle heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring as soon as the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the syrup reaches 125ºC on a sugar thermometer, approximately 5-8 minutes, keep a close eye on it, brushing any crystals that form on the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Once the sugar syrup reaches 125ºC, remove from the heat and add the strawberry mixture, stir until combined, take care as the mixture is seriously hot and will bubble alarmingly!

• meanwhile, using a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until frothy; gradually add the strawberry mixture, whisking continuously on medium speed until the mixture has doubled in volume, slowly decrease the speed, mixing until the bowl is just warm to touch

• pour the mixture into the cake pan, spread evenly, then dust the surface with snow sugar. Stand at room temperature for around 3 hours or until firm. Carefully turn the mallow slab onto a snow sugar dusted board, and using a very sharp knife, cut into squares; they can be as large or small as you like, I tend to cut into 36 pieces. I have a thing for super straight edges on my mallows, and have developed an annoyingly time consuming method to achieve them. If you're not that bothered, go with the sharp knife, mallow perfectionists read on... Heat a pallet knife over a flame, and quickly use the hot knife to cut the marshmallow slab in half, repeat the heating/cutting process until you have 6 equally sized strips, washing the knife between cuts. Turn your board through 90º and repeat the cutting process, turning your 6 strips into 36 mallow squares.

• whatever your cutting method, the cut edges will be sticky, so each square will need to be rolled in snow sugar.

• store in an airtight container between sheets of baking paper, keep the container in a cool place out of direct sunlight; the mallows will keep at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

* in Australia snow sugar is available from specialty food stores, including The Essential Ingredient, but can be substituted with a 50/50 combination of icing sugar and corn or potato starch









Tuesday, 27 December 2016

nutella chiffon cake



For you Lily! This nutella chiffon cake was my son's birthday request, it was about a month late, there were oven issues... I'm still working on the cake, it's tricky to achieve a good chocolate flavour and maintain the lightness of the sponge. So really, the cake here is just a vehicle for the frosting and ganache; the nutella buttercream was amazing, the smoothest finish I've had, and so delicious. The cake is a work in progress, please share any suggestions, I'll be back with an update soon...

chocolate chiffon

200g cake flour
30g cocoa powder
10g baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
250g caster sugar
180 ml cooled, weak black coffee
125 ml canola oil
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped or 1 tsp vanilla paste
6 eggs, separated
1 extra egg white
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (not essential, but will stabilise the egg whites)
50g caster sugar

nutella swiss meringue buttercream, recipe below
cooled nutella ganache, recipe below
strawberries and ferrero rocher to decorate

serves 16

 preheat your oven to 170ºC

• combine the cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt, sift into a the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one, and with the paddle attachment mix through the 250g caster sugar 
• make a well in the centre of your flour mixture, add the cooled coffee, egg yolks, oil and vanilla extract, mix until smooth
• in another, really large bowl whisk the 7 egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar then mix until you have soft peaks, gradually add the additional 50g caster sugar, whisking until you have firm peaks and the sugar has dissolved
• fold the egg whites into the batter in three stages
• pour the batter into an ungreased, unlined angel food cake tin and bake for 55-60 minutes; check after 55 minutes, the cake should spring back when gently pressed, if not, put it back in for the extra 5 minutes
• remove the cake from the oven, and immediately invert to cool; if your tin doesn't have "feet" balance the upturned tin over a bottle, guiding the neck of the bottle through the centre tube of your pan
• when completely cool, to release the cake, run a sharp knife around the inside and tube sections of the cake tin, remove the cake leaving it sitting on the centre section of the tin; this next stage is tricky, slide a strong thread, I use dental floss, between the base of the cake and the tin, slide the string all the way around the cake, crossing each end around the tube. Invert the cake onto a turntable if you have one, or your serving plate, and put in the fridge for 15 minutes or so.

• frosting step one is the crumb coat, it uses a super thin coating of frosting to glue any loose crumbs to the cake
• starting from the top and working your way down the sides and into the hole through the centre of your cake, use an offset pallet knife to spread a layer of buttercream over your cake;  using the edge of your pallet knife or a cake scraper, gently scrape back as much of the frosting as you can leaving a super thin crumb filled layer behind
• return the cake to the fridge for at least 15 mins to set the crumb coat
• again with the offset pallet knife, cover your cake with a final thicker layer of frosting and return to the fridge for at least 15 minutes, this will firm up the frosting and help the ganache set 

• carefully pour the ganache over the top of the cake, you may need to encourage it over the sides, allow to drip, return to the fridge to set
• decorate with strawberries, hazelnuts, and chocolates of your choice
• slice giant slabs of cake with a serrated knife and enjoy
• the cake will keep covered in the fridge for 3 days


nutella swiss meringue buttercream

3 large egg whites
180g caster sugar
230g butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature

180g nutella
pinch salt
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean

• combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, place over a pan of simmering water, don't let the pan touch the water; whisk constantly until the temperature reaches 72ºC 

• return the bowl to the stand mixer and whisk on medium high until the mixture cools, has doubled in size and forms stiff peaks
• change to the paddle attachment and add the butter a piece at a time, mix to incorporate each piece before adding the next; the mixture may look alarmingly curdled at times but keep mixing and it will magically come back together
• once all the butter is in, add the salt and vanilla seeds, mixing on slow until combined, finally add the nutella, again mixing slowly to combine

• the frosting should be firm enough to scoop, if it's too soft, put it in the fridge to firm up, checking in 5 minute intervals until it is ready
• buttercream will keep for a week in an air tight container in the fridge, allow to soften at room temperature before use



nutella ganache

100g nutella
60g chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
125ml cream

• finely chop the chocolate, tip into a small heatproof bowl with the nutella
• heat cream in a small pan until barely simmering, simmer for 1 minute then pour over the chocolate and nutella, stir to ensure the chocolate and nutella are covered by the cream, then let stand for 5 minutes
• stir until smooth and glossy, leave to cool







Saturday, 24 December 2016

eggnog bavarois with cinnamon cookies




It's been ages I know, but it's almost Christmas, my favourite time to bake, and this eggnog bavarois would be just right on Christmas Night. It's light and creamy with just the right amount of booze, and an intensely nostalgic hit of freshly grated nutmeg. Served with cinnamon cookies and a cherry compote it screams gently hums Christmas, so here's a sneaky post, just in time for the big day.



Meet Tiny, my gorgeous new Kitchenaid mini, it's only been a week, but I love him already. Kitchenaid Australia sent him over and I put him to work right away testing Christmas recipes. My first kitchenaid was a Christmas gift from my husband 15 years ago, it's still going strong, despite the abuse! The mini is as powerful as the original mixer, but smaller and lighter; it coped brilliantly with the cookie dough, whipping up the bavarois, and the yeasted dough for my chocolate wreath was a breeze. Check that wreath out over on instagram, it's kinda wonky, but really festive and so pretty.

I'm spending Christmas with my family on a balmy beach, we've been away for a week already, and slipped so easily into holiday mode I'm surprised this post made it! Have a wonderful break, wherever you are, stay safe, see you in 2017...

eggnog bavarois

300ml full cream milk
30ml bourbon
30ml rum
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
75g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 sheets gold strength gelatine leaves
300ml thickened cream
fresh nutmeg

• tip the milk, bourbon, rum, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean and seeds into a small pan. Over a low heat, bring the milk mixture to a simmer, take off the heat, set aside to steep for 10 minutes, then strain into a jug. Wash and dry the pan, or just find another :)
• put the gelatine leaves into a bowl of iced water, set aside
• whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until combined, whisk in the warm milk and return to the pan. Stir continuously over a low heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Take off the heat, squeeze the water from the gelatine leaves and add the squishy gelatine to the pan, stirring until they disappear. Strain the custard into a clean bowl, place over a bowl of ice, leave to cool, whisking from time to time (in the fridge will work too, just don't forget about it!)
• while the custard cools, whip the cream to medium peaks
• once the the custard is cold, gently fold through the whipped cream, ladle into serving glasses, and taking special care of your finger tips, grate fresh nutmeg overtop! Cover and return to the fridge to set; 3 hours should do it, overnight is fine
• bring to room temperature to serve, add a biscuit or two, and maybe a generous spoonful of cherry compote, crank up Bing/Frank/Dean on your sound system and sink into a christmas haze 


cinnamon cookies

250g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
115g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 egg, at room temperature
200g granulated sugar

• line 2 baking trays with baking paper, set aside
• sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, set aside
• in the bowl of a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream together the butter and sugar
• in a small bowl or jug, whisk together the egg and vanilla, slowly add to the creamed butter and sugar, mixing until combined
• with the mixer on low, gradually add the flour, mix until combined and your dough comes together. Tip the dough onto your bench, lightly knead until smooth, divide in two, form each half into a disc, wrap in plastic and pop into the fridge for an hour
• take the cookie dough out of the fridge, give if 5 minutes or so to soften slightly
• lighlty dust your bench with flour, roll the cookie dough to 5mm thick, cut out shapes with your favourite festive cookie cutters and carefully place on the baking sheet, spacing the cookies 2cm apart. Put the tray in the fridge for 20 minutes before they bake. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
• bake the cookies for 20 minutes, until they just start to turn golden around the edges, leave on the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool
• store your cookies in an airtight container for up to a week

cherry compote

1.5kg fresh cherries
300g sugar
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise

• combine all ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil, simmer gently for 10 minutes, stir, then continue to simmer for 40-50 minutes until thick and syrupy, stirring regularly. Pour into a sterilised jar, keep in a cool dry place, use within 2 days (you can leave them in the jar, but don't eat the cinnamon stick or star anise!)

recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver







Tuesday, 2 August 2016

best ever chocolate chip cookies






These are hands down the best cookies I have made, ever... If you like your cookies with a crisp edge, chewy centre and packed with chocolate you NEED to make these. Like now, right now. The dough rests in the fridge for at least 24 hours so start now and cookie perfection could be but a day away!


•   c o o k i e   p e r f e c t i o n   •

I spent most of last week in the Southern Highlands, recipe testing, baking and prepping for "Christmas in July" - we snuck in just in time this year, although it wouldn't have been the first time we've celebrated "Christmas in August". These cookies, and maybe the spiced cherry jam, were the best things I made. Adapted slightly from the New York Times recipe that made the rounds of so many blogs a few years ago; the original makes giant 5 1/2 inch cookies, mine a more petite 3 1/2. The rolling and chilling are absolutely worth the effort, the calories too...

best ever chocolate chip cookies

210g cake flour*
210g bread flour*
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp table salt
250g butter, at room temperature
250g light brown sugar
200g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
seeds from 1 vanilla bean, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
500g chocolate, roughly chopped (pieces no larger than 2cm)
sea salt flakes

* I suspect 420g regular plain flour would work just as well, in the interest of science I'll test this theory at the weekend :)

• sift the cake flour, bread flour, bicarb soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl, set aside
• using a stand mixer, if you have one, with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars until very light; you'll need to scrape the sides of the bowl every so often, it will take around 5 minutes, longer if your butter is firm
• with the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined, then mix in the vanilla
• turn your mixer to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, mix until just combined, tip in the chopped chocolate, mix through gently, trying not to break the pieces
• line a baking tray with baking paper
• roll walnut sized balls of dough and place them on the baking tray, (you can really pack them in here as they are going into the fridge to rest) sprinkle with salt flakes, cover with plastic wrap then refrigerate for at least 24 hours, and a maximum of 72. Mine chilled for about 36 and were fabulous!
• when you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 175ºC, cook 6 or 8 cookies at a time for 12-15 minutes, until just golden
• the cookies will be very soft, almost raw looking in the centre, leave them on the tray on a cooling rack for a few minutes to firm up, then transfer them to another rack and leave to cool, maybe sneaking a few while still warm ;)
• store in an airtight container, I'm sure they'd keep for a week, ours lasted 2 days (there were 10 of us, don't judge :) )

makes approximately 36 cookies



Tuesday, 29 March 2016

walnut and cinnamon babka



Babka is definitely one of the next "big things" in baking; a filled, rolled, and twisted loaf, it's been around for decades at least, even featured in Seinfeld. I was slow to catch on, a few years ago my friend Annie raved about a recipe she'd tried, it was easy to make, delicious and looked spectacular. I borrowed the recipe, yep, babka.  Turns out I already had it, in the fabulous Jerusalem by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi, a book I love but had never really considered for dessert; too many cook books and rash judgements. Hanging out on my "to bake" list with semla and kanelbullar, I finally made it in January, enthusiastically embracing 2016 as my year of bread.

i  •  l o v e  •  t h i s  •  r e c i p e

It's a two part process: make the dough, chill overnight; roll, fill, shape, leave to proof, bake, anoint with syrup; eat, go back for a second slice, come up with an excuse to make another. It's strangely comforting.

Tinkering with the recipe just a little, I swapped pecans for pistachios and dried sour cherries intended for an abandoned Christmas something or other.  Worked like a dream. The exterior sticky, chewy, still crisp in places; light and fluffy inside, cut with intensely chocolatey ribbons, the sour chew of cherries and fragrant bite of pistachios a wonderful contrast in texture.



There's something for me though about dough and cinnamon, enter Seinfeld's different "lesser babka" oh I loved the 90's... I used the filling from a cinnamon scroll recipe, a sprinkling of chopped walnuts, and struck babka gold. It's best still warm from the oven, but thick toasted slices slathered with butter are breakfast heaven. Happens to be my birthday today, and hand on my heart, my kids have told me they're giving me Lurpak. Happy days..





babka

you'll need a large loaf tin, mine is 27cm (l) x 12cm (w) x 7cm (d)

355g plain flour
65g caster sugar
6g instant yeast
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean, or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
80 ml water
1/2 tsp fine salt (table salt)
100g butter, divided into 8 pieces, at room temperature
extra butter for greasing

filling

100g walnuts, finely chopped
60g butter
100g brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

• put the flour, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix to combine
• put the vanilla, eggs and water in a jug, whisk lightly then add to flour mixture, mix until the dough comes together
• switch to the dough hook, on low speed add the salt, then butter, a piece at a time
increase the speed to medium, mix for approximately 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, if the dough is very sticky you may need to add a little extra flour
• grease a rectangular dish or container that is at least double the volume of your dough, tip the dough into the container, lightly press the dough to the corners, forming an even layer, cover and pop in the fridge overnight (you can use a bowl for this step, but I find it much easier to roll the dough into a rectangle if it is approximately rectangular when I start)
• to make the filling; cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the cinnamon and beat to combine, set aside
• lightly flour your bench, carefully remove the dough from its container, roll to form a rectangle approximately 30cmm by 40cm
• spread the filling over the dough rectangle, leaving a 1 cm boarder clear at the top of the 30cm edge,
strew with the chopped walnuts, keeping a tablespoon aside
• using a pastry brush, lightly bush the 1cm boarder with water
• starting with the edge closest to you, carefully roll the dough into a log shape, as if you are making a roulade or swiss roll (if this means nothing to you, check out this awesome video from breads bakery in New York for babka rolling and shaping technique)
• gently press along the damp edge to seal, trim the uneven ends, carefully lift onto a baking tray and put into the fridge for approximately 20mins to firm up, this will make it easier to cut and shape
• while your babka is chilling, grease your loaf tin and line with baking paper
• once firm, using a serrated knife, cut the log in half vertically to give you two long strips; turn the strips cut side up, place one over the other to form an X, then make a couple of twists with each end
• lift your babka into the loaf tin, tucking the ends under if you need to, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to proof, you want the babka to almost double in size, mine took around an hour and half today, a lovely sunny autumn day in Sydney
• after about an hour pre-heat your oven to 180ºC, once the babka has almost doubled, sprinkle with the remaining chopped walnuts then bake in the centre of the oven for 45-55 minutes; test with a skewer at 45 minutes, if it comes out clean the babka is ready, if not pop it back in the oven and re- test at approximately 3-5 minute intervals
• remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack

the original recipe soaks the just out of the oven babka loaf with warm sugar syrup, sometimes I do, sometimes not; stickiness on buns, while delicious, bothers me and makes a mess of my toaster! It's fabulous either way, you could replace the syrup with a drizzle of simple icing for a sugar hit with less messy fingers...

syrup

75g sugar
85ml water

• combine the sugar and water in a small pan, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, bring to the boil, remove from heat and cool slightly
• brush your babka with the warm syrup using a pastry brush