spiced pumpkin pecan babka
It's always pumpkin season in Australia and when I visited my parents in Brisbane I asked Dad if I could use a bit of the pumpkin he had in the fridge. I wasn't sure what I was going to make but I roasted the pumpkin anyway and put my thinking cap on.
I trawled the internet looking for inspiration and decided to make a spiced pumpkin and pecan babka.
I combined 3 recipes, made the dough, assembled the babka and when I took the finished babka out of the oven I could barely wait until it was cool enough to taste. I thought back to the chocolate krantz cake I made last year where I was transported to babka heaven.
Well when I tasted my slice of this babka, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. There was nothing particularly wrong with the babka but it just wasn't 'enough' - not enough pumpkin/not enough spice/not enough syrup and not enough sugar.
I went back to the drawing board and decided to rectify all the wrongs. I upped everything just a little and added some crumbled spekulatius (speculaas) cookies to the filling, as I'd just bought a huge bag at the store. I figured the crumbs would help firm the pumpkin filling a little as it cooked.
I pulled the second babka from the oven and it smelled delicious. I doused it with the cinnamon spiked sugar syrup and waited an hour until it was firm enough to slice. Now this babka was everything it's predecessor wasn't - moist, spicy, pumpkiny with just the right amount of sweetness.
This is a recipe you can't throw together. I made the dough the night before and even then by the time you fill, prove, bake the babka and allow it to cool, the babka wasn't ready until mid afternoon.
Here's the recipe for you. As always I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.
Spiced Pumpkin and Pecan Babka - Recipe for the babka dough is slightly adapted from Honey & Co’s recipe.
125 ml milk
80g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp dried yeast
2 cups plain flour
50g caster sugar
Pinch of sea salt
The pumpkin filling
¾ cup pumpkin puree, unsweetened
½ cup brown sugar
¾ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp each ground ginger and nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
65g toasted pecans coarsely chopped
½ cup (65g) crumbled spekulatius/speculaas or ginger cookies
1 tbs sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup water
1 cinnamon stick
In a small saucepan or in the microwave, warm the milk and butter until the butter just melts. Place to one side to cool a little before stirring in the vanilla extract. Place the yeast, the flour, sugar and salt in a mixer bowl with a hook attachment and mix together. (I like to activate my yeast first in some warm water just to make sure it’s alive) Add the egg, then gradually add enough of the milk and butter mixture to form a soft dough that comes together in a ball. You can then use the dough hook to work the dough for 5-6 minutes on medium speed or knead by hand. Remove the dough from the bowl, lightly grease the bowl before returning the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight.
I use Dan Lepard’s no knead technique if you want to try it. It uses more liquid than the regular method and you'll probably need use all the milk and butter mixture. You mix all the ingredients to make a soft dough. If the mix looks a little dry then add an additional tablespoon or so more milk. Let the dough rest covered in the bowl for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid.
Lightly oil a 30 cm/12 in area of the work surface and your hands. Ease the dough out onto the oiled surface without too much pulling and teasing (a scraper may help). Lightly oil the inside of the bowl as well, to prevent any sticking later. Take the edge of the dough furthest from you in one hand and with minimal pulling, simply fold it over, to meet the edge nearest to you. Press the heel of your other hand down onto and into the dough, stretching it away from you by 5-10 cm/2-4 in.
Give the dough a clockwise quarter-turn and repeat the "fold towards you, then push and gently stretch away from you" action. You don't want to handle the dough roughly: the whole action should be quite gentle and measured. Do this turning, folding and pushing action, no more than 8-10 times, then cover the dough with the upturned bowl. Don't be tempted to add more flour, even if the dough seems wet; that's exactly as it should be. Repeat this light kneading twice at 10-minute intervals, re-oiling your hands and the work surface each time and by that stage you should have a lovely soft dough. Place the dough back into the lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl and chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight.
In a small bowl combine the well drained pumpkin puree with the brown sugar and spices. Stir until well combined, test for sweetness and adjust if needed then store the puree in the fridge until needed. In another small bowl mix the toasted pecans with cookie crumbs, the sugar and cinnamon.
To assemble the babka
Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle of about 50 cm x 30 cm (20 x 12 in). Spread the pumpkin filling over the dough, reaching right to the corners, then sprinkle with the pecan mixture. Roll up tightly from one of the longer sides, so that you end up with a 50 cm (20 in)-long log. If the dough has softened too much for you to handle it, place on a tray and chill in the fridge or freezer for 15 minutes to firm up. While you are waiting, butter the loaf tin and line the base and long sides with baking paper, making sure that there is an overhang so you'll be able to lift the baked loaf out easily.
Use a serrated knife to cut the log in half along its length to expose the layers. Place the halves with the cut sides facing upwards. Lift one halved log over the other so that they form a cross at their midpoints, with the filling layers still pointing upwards. Continue to twist the strands over each other until the dough looks like a lovely twisted plait.
Place in the lined baking tin and leave to prove in a warm place until the dough is fluffy, soft and doubled in size. This will take about 1½-2 hours. Preheat the oven to 220°C, then reduce the heat to 190°C once you place the babka in the oven. Bake for 30- 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when tested.
While the babka is baking, prepare the syrup. Combine the water, sugar and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Wait for the sugar to be dissolved completely and then continue boiling until the syrup just starts to thicken slightly ~ 4 minutes. Set to one side leaving the cinnamon to infuse until you're ready to use the syrup. Remove the babka from the oven and immediately pour the sugar syrup all over the hot cake. You must let the babka cool completely in the tin or it will fall apart. When cool, slice and enjoy!
The babka should keep 3-4 days at room temperature if well wrapped. It also freezes well. I think it's best served warm so I often toast it the second day.
See you all again next week,
Bye for now,