One of my goal this year was to learn how to make bread. Last week, I finally got to work on my first bread experiment: a Mozzarella Pesto Babka Bread.
If you have never heard of "Babka", it is a Eastern European twisted yeast dough filled with sweet or savory ingredients and baked in a Loaf Pan.
It is a bread or cake that you would traditionally find in Polish or Jewish bakeries, but that is making a real come-back lately. If you are reading cooking magazines or blogs, you would have seen it everywhere! It is funny to think that something so traditional would all the sudden become so trendy. And I had to follow the trend...
Even though we had never called it a "babka", my Mum has been making a very similar version of it for as long as I can remember. She fills it with Chocolate and serves it as a dessert and not as a bread. It is one of my favourite cake that my Mum makes, so this recipe it hit right home!
Savory Babka Bread
I was originally planning on making a sweet version with chocolate like my mums, but I had leftover Basil Pesto from my Cherry Tomato and Pesto Mini Galette Recipe. And with some Fresh Mozzarella waiting for me in the fridge, I thought it would be a great combination for a Savoury Babka Bread Filling!
You can make your own Basil Pesto like me (recipe here) or simply get some from the supermarket. I prefer to make my own because I usually find the supermarket one too salty. And because I love to use the Fresh Basil I grow on my window seal!
How to make Babka
To make the Twisted Bread, you will need to follow a few steps that I have detailed in the recipe below. It may look complex but once you understand the different steps, it is actually very easy!
This recipe is a great base for any type of Babka you will want to make. All you need is to pick and choose your preferred filling and try it out! I will definitely be making a Sweet version really soon because I love how soft and light the Babka Bread turned out.
The great thing about this recipe is that you do not need a bread maker or a kneading machine. As long as you don't mind sweating a bit, you can really just use your hands to knead the dough.
What you will need though is a Loaf Pan to bake the Babka. Using the right Loaf Pan will help it keep its shape and rise well both when you are letting it rest and while you bake it.
If you have kneaded it well and followed the instruction on how to use the yeast, the Babka should really rise well in the oven. So make sure that you are using a high loaf pan!
Another really important element of the recipe is the Yeast. We always keep some in the freezer - yes, it freezes really well! - and use it whenever we need it. Just be careful with temperatures; the yeast will develop better in a warmer environment.
If you are using some that has been kept in the fridge or freezer, make sure you use a warm liquid with it.You should also easily find Instant Dry Yeast Packets that you can just keep in your pantry.
In many way, the Babka's texture reminded me of a Brioche Bread; very light, moist and soft. It is great to eat just plain, with a little bit of butter and salt or if you wanna go crazy, make garlic bread with it!
We did, and it was amazing! Simply slice it, had some garlic powder or minced garlic, olive oil and cover it with shredded cheese. Pass it under the grill for a few minutes, and you have got an amazing cheesy, crunchy garlic and pesto bread!
Pesto and Mozzarella Babka Bread
- 260 gr (2 cups) Plain Flour
- 160 ml ( 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) Full Fat Milk (or water)
- 1 teasp. Dry Yeast
- 1 tbsp. Granulated Sugar - I used Brown Sugar
- 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Egg
- 1 tbsp. Salt
- 5 tbsp. Basil Pesto
- 1/2 Fresh Mozzarella Ball
I highly recommend using the measurements in grams & ml (instead of cups & spoons) for more accuracy and better results.
- Pour the Milk into a heat-proof bowl and slightly heat it in the microwave to a lukewarm temperature. Add the Granulated Sugar and mix until dissolved. Add the Dry Yeast to the Milk, give a quite stir then let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes until you can see some bubbles / foam. If not bubbles or foam appear, heat it up in the microwave for a few seconds. It is imperative to activate the yeast if you want the bread to rise. If you do not see bubbles or foam, it means that the yeast has not been activated.
- In a separate Large Bowl, put the Flour and Salt.Beat the Egg and Olive Oil, then pour it in a well at the centre of the Flour. Add the Yeast and Milk and start kneading the dough.
- Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes until a smooth, non sticky ball form. Place the dough in a bowl, cover it with a wet towel and let it rest for at least an hour.
- When the dough has doubled in size, punch it with your hand once to remove all the extra air (that's the fun part!), then quickly re-knead it for a couple of minutes.Sprinkle some flour on a large chopping board and roll the dough to form a long rectangle. I found it easier to prepare the babka on a chopping board or tray rather than directly on the kitchen bench, but it is up to you!
- Brush the Basil Pesto all over the spread dough and add the hand-torn Mozzarella on top of it. - Roll the dough on its largest side to create a long tube.- With a knife, split the tube in half on its length to get 2 parts. Pinch the ends of both parts to seal them- Twist the two tubes around each other.- Place the twisted babka in a Loaf Pan lined with baking paper, then let it rest for another 30 minutes to 1 hour to rise again.
- Preheat your oven on 190'C.When the Babka Bread has risen again, bake it for 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on your oven, it could take more or less time so check on it regularly to make sure it doesn't burn.Remove it from the oven and let it cool down before eating.