Sometimes the indulgence is not so much in the eating, but rather in the act itself. To take time and just stop. To not rush or do ten things at once, but just sit and watch the steam as it swirls gracefully up from your coffee cup. The rare treat of an undisturbed moment, made all the better from the slice of warm, buttery babka that accompanies it.
This particular variation shines by not being over the top. The golden, rich tones of browned butter add both warmth and depth, while the hazelnut and coffee not only compliment each other, but supply a pleasant bitterness that helps keep any overt sweetness in check. A rich and sugary treat to be sure, but one that is not overly so. And when it's still warm and fresh from the oven, well, how could you possibly say no to that?
BROWNED BUTTER & HAZELNUT BABKA (Adapted from Baked: The Blog)
For the dough:
- 80 ml milk, warmed
- 7 g active dry yeast
- 50 g caster sugar
- 280 g plain flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 85 g butter, browned & softened*
- ½ vanilla bean
- 1 egg
For the filling:
- 115 g butter, browned & softened*
- 100 g caster sugar
- 60 g hazelnuts, roasted & finely chopped, plus extra for finishing (optional)
- ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- 1-2 tsp freshly ground coffee, to taste
First brown 250 g butter (this will be enough for both the filling and the dough) by placing it in a pan over medium heat, together with half a vanilla bean, and bringing it to a boil. Continue to simmer until the foam begins to subside, the milk solids have turned a deep, golden brown and the butter smells sweet and nutty. Pour into a bowl and leave until it is solid but soft.
To make the dough, whisk together the milk, yeast and 1 tsp sugar and leave for 10 minutes, until the mixture appears frothy. Combine the flour, remaining sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast mixture and stir to form a craggy dough. Add the egg and stir until fully incorporated. Add the butter, a little at a time, and then knead for 8-10 minutes, until it forms a smooth, elastic dough. Place in an oiled bowl, cover, and leave in a warm place 1-2 hours until doubled by half again.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling by mixing together the browned butter, sugar, vanilla seeds, hazelnuts and coffee, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180℃ and grease and line a loaf tin with baking parchment. Once risen, turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and roll into a rectangle 3-mm-thick. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 2-cm border around the edge. Working from a long edge, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping it as tight as possible. Pinch the ends to seal. Bend the length of dough in half and then twist it around itself twice to create a double figure eight. Press the two loose ends together and tuck under the end of the loaf. Place the dough into the prepared tin, cover, and leave to rest in a warm place 30-60 minutes, until doubled by half again. Brush with egg wash and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and, if desired, immediately brush with any left over browned butter and sprinkle with finely chopped hazelnuts. Remove from tin and leave to cool before serving.
** For ease, brown all of the butter at once and then divide it between the dough and the filling. This can be done in advance, just soften again before using.