I have been all about apples and pumpkins lately and I almost forgot pears, until I accidentally bumped into a stall at the farmers market, flooded with multi-colored pears.
I have been eating them from the start of the season, but didn’t think of baking with them. So I thought, this is a good chance for that. I have been baking more bread than cakes lately as my household solely depend on my bread. Plus we are controlling our sugar intake. It’s not like we are on a strict diet or anything, just that we try to balance what we put in our bodies. So something along bread line seemed more appropriate than an indulgent cake.
The thing is I don’t bake for the sake of IG or my blog. Everything I bake gets eaten to the last crumb, in other words, I can only bake what we could consume.
So back to the babka. For this one, I’m using a sweet starter with less hydration. This allows you to control moisture later. The starter can be made ahead (6 or more hours prior to making the dough). Use 50% – 75% hydration. It is important to use fed, ripe starter to make this to get the maximum volume.
The pear jam could be made ahead too. The jam need to be cold when spreading over the dough. And it wouldn’t hurt to toast the walnuts before hand too.
I will mention the step by step method below.
Mix the dough according to instruction on the recipe. Place the dough in a lightly greased plastic bowl and cover. Let it double in volume. In a warm, draft free place, this could take up to 5-6 hours. The starter strength is a factor here too.
This is how the dough looks like, when it is doubled it’s size. It’s grown sideways and upwards too. (the picture doesn’t show the upwards rise) But roughly twice the size is good enough. At this stage, lightly punch the dough and re-shape in to a ball (it will shrink to a smaller dough ball) and place back in the same container. Close the lid tightly and place in the fridge for 10-12 hours or overnight. This can be longer, even up to 24 hours.
How the dough looks like right out of the refrigerator. It will be firm to the touch. Let this thaw for a bout 5- 10 minutes, but not longer. We just need it to be workable but not too warm. It is easier to roll-out and cut a firmer dough.
Lightly dust the bench and the dough with flour. Start to roll the dough to a rectangle. If dough starts to shrink back, let it rest for 5 minutes. If your kitchen is warm, cover refrigerate the dough for 5-10 minutes to let it relax.
once rolled out, it should be about 1/2 cm in thickness. Do not roll out too thin, the dough might tear when you spread filling. Too thick and you won’t get may swirls.
There’s no specific recipe for this. Peel and core two pears, cut into cubes. Add to a saucepan with 2 tbsp dark brown sugar, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer. Smash the pears once soften. I left few chunks. Simmer for about 30 minutes or so until reduced and thickens to a jammy consistency. Let this cool.
Toast walnuts until golden. then chop the roughly. Set aside.
Spread the pear jam evenly, and sprinkle with walnuts. Scatter some dark brown sugar if you like.
Start rolling the dough. This could be along the length or width. If you like more swirls, roll it along the width wise. I’m doing length-wise here. I like medium swirls as it is easier to handle when twisting.
cut the dough in half along the length. And slowly turn the cut sides up, without losing the filling.
Pinch one end together and start inter-twining. Twist the two strands all the way down, keeping the cut(open) side up, all the while. Pinch the end bits too. If the dough is too long for the tin, using both hands, lightly squash the dough from the two ends until it becomes a bit shorter, so it fits the loaf tin.
Lift the dough and place carefully in the greased tin. Adjust to fill the tin evenly. Do not disturb the layers. Now cover this with a plastic, with ample room to grow. The top shouldn’t be touching the cover. let this prove in a warm place. This might take up several hours. (4-6 hours) Warmer the room temperature, the quicker the rise
This is how the proofed loaf will look like. It is slightly jiggly, softer to the tough and considerably grown to fit the tin. the dough will spring back when poked. Pre-heat the oven to 360 F and place the rack in the bottom 2/3 of the oven. This will stop from top catching too much. Ans back for 40 – 50 minutes. Turn the loaf around after the first 20 minutes, so that both sides will be baked evenly.
Once the loaf is baked (golden brown and sound hollow when tapped) take it out of the oven. Brush with a light sugar syrup. This is optional, but will help keep the loaf moist for longer, and add a shine to the top too. (Sugar syrup is 1:1 water and sugar, boiled for few minutes until slightly thick)
Once baked, this need some time to cool down. Do not cut it while warm, the filling need to settle and the crumb will be too wet and the layers will fall apart.
I loved the flavor so much. The pear jam is sweet and tart at the same time. Goes well with the mildly sweet brioche like bread and the nuts add a crunch, which is perfect!! The most delicious bit for me is the gooey top. It’s crispy, sweet, and crunchy with nuts and sugar crystals. Oh it’s pure heaven on a plate.
Let me know, if you try this out. And as always shoot any comment or question below or on IG.
- 120 g fed active sweet starter
- 300 g flour
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- 50 g butter (soft, cubed)
- 100 ml milk (+/-)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- about a 3/4 cups of Pear jam (made from 2 pears)
- 1/2 cup of toasted chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cups dark brown sugar (optional)
- 1 egg to egg wash
- Make the starter ahead. ( mix roughly 75 g flour, 35 g water, 10 g culture)
- Make the Pear jam and ready the nuts ( you can do this while the dough ferments)
- To make the dough, mix everything except milk in a bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a hook attachment.
- Start mixing on low and slowly add milk, to bring the dough together
- If necessary add extra milk or a little water (tablespoon at a time). The dough should be soft
- Once the dough start to form, increase the speed to medium and mix for about 5 to 8 minutes, until dough becomes smooth or do this by hand.
- Take the dough off on to a floured surface, and knead by hand to form a ball
- Place in a covered bowl and leave in a warm place for about 5 hours
- The dough will be risen considerably (almost double) if not leave for another hour or two
- Then pat down the dough and form in to a ball again, place in the same container and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. (I left it overnight and a whole day and it still turned out good)
- When you are ready to make the babka, take the dough out and let it soften (not too much, its easier to handle when cold)
- Prepare a loaf tin lined with a parchment paper or grease it with spray
- Take the dough on to a floured surface and roll out to a rectangle
- About 45 cm by 35 cm( the dough thickness should be no more than 1/2 cm)
- Once done, spread the pear jam, sprinkle nuts and brown sugar evenly
- Starting from one end roll the dough tightly length-wise ( or width-wise if you prefer)
- Using a sharp knife cut the rolled cylinder in half along the length ( see picture)
- Now twist the two strands (look at the photos in the post)
- Twisting will make it shorter and would fit in the loaf tin
- Make sure to have cut sides exposed.
- Once twisted, pack the dough in the loaf tin
- Tuck the end bits underneath
- Make sure the dough is spread as evenly as possible across the tin
- Leave covered in a warm place for about two – three hours (or more depending on the temp.) for the final rise
- The loaf will expand and fill the tin and will look fuller and softer
- Preheat the oven to 360 F ( 180 C)
- Brush the top with egg wash and bake for 40-50 minutes, turning the pan half-way through to the bake
- In the meantime make the sugar syrup
- Once done remove the loaf from the oven
- Top should be golden brown and should sound hollow when tapped
- Lightly brush with a sugar syrup if you like
- Once done let this cool completely before cutting in as the filling need setting
- Slice with a serrated knife