Babkallah! A babka-challah hybrid, stealing the best characteristics of both to create a beautiful chocolate-swirled braided loaf. Pumpkin puree added to the dough gives it a bright orange hue, a sweet earthy flavour and extra pillowy-ness. Studded with pecans and cinnamon sugar and topped with a flurry of flaky sea salt, this bread is the best of both babka-challah worlds! It's what cosy Autumn dreams are made of.
So I'm pretty sure I just riffed on both the Hannah Montana and the Lizzie McGuire movie theme songs in the above description without intentionally doing so… I could change it. But I won't. I now have Hilary Duff's 'this is what dreams are made of' song playing on repeat in my head and I won't deny others that joy. If you hate the catchy perkiness of the tune and now I've firmly implanted it in your brain for a day or two – please accept my apology.
I must have 90's / 000's Disney shows in my head?! I probably always have those shows swirling around up there, they took up a large chunk of my early – late childhood and teenagerdom. Though I have been thinking of my past self almost obsessively in the last few weeks which is probably where this is stemming from. Or maybe it's just from one of those 90's childhood buzzfeed posts that I can't help but click on EVERY TIME. Who knows.
Either way, I have been in a very nostalgic place recently. I've been too think-y. Too stuck in the past. Thinking of all the dreams I had. The excitement for life, the joy, the fears, the hurt, the wins and fails, and the hope of it all. All of it tied up with the profound belief I had that I would be something someday. Something, somebody of importance. Somebody who mattered. I suppose every kid, everywhere has this idea. This idea of greatness.
We're told we can be anything, do anything, and we believe it. We believe it and we drink it in with all of our beautiful childish hope and wonder. And although this is true in a sense, we're rarely prepared for how to deal with the banal realities of life. For having things be out of our control and having to deal with the unplanned. For the surprises and accidents, the twists and turns, the missteps and the unknown variables. Who can prepare someone for that really?
When I was a kid, a teenager, a uni student, I never even considered the fact that life may not turn out the way I dreamed. The way I planned. All the books and movies and people around me told me it would all work out just as I hoped. So I never gave it a second thought. I only wondered when it would all work out. When, not if. Now as I'm approaching my 25th birthday, that consideration is finally creeping in. And I'm terrified to be honest.
I suppose I've just been tearing myself apart, dwelling on the past, because I'm not where I thought I would be. Not in the slightest. Sure I went to uni, got a degree (though that degree hasn't brought me a great deal except a big old student loan looming in the distance), but other than that, I haven't accomplished much. Or at least I feel I haven't accomplished much. I feel like I'm lagging behind, running out of breath, unable to keep up with the pack. Whilst in the past I always believed I would be ahead of the pack.
I'm trying to let go. Of the idea of a pack to even fall behind. Of the competitive mindset behind that thought. Of the constant comparison. Trying to work through all of those expectations and just deal with reality. With what I have and want and hope for now. What I can realistically achieve and what I actually want to achieve now that I'm this fully grown, whole person. A person who finally understands her own likes, dislikes, needs and wants, untangled from the web of other people's expectations, society's expectations.
I'm thinking of the past, but I'm moving forward. Because obviously anything we do have or achieve in the present is much more valuable than any hope, dream or fantasy of previous versions of ourselves. I'm trying to remind myself of that every day. Lets hope it sticks.
“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.” ― J.M. Barrie
Not that any of this is particularly relevant to the recipe I'm sharing with you today… I was trying to think of how I could tie this in with my big deep(ish) ramble. But I can't. It's not happening. There's just no tie between that and pumpkin bread. There just isn't. Though maybe something along the lines of the changing of the season? Autumn? Things (plans, dreams, leaves) dying to eventually make way for new life and growth? That's it. There's the segue. But that's too eloquent for me right now, so this right here is my official segue into BABKALLAH!
Though I've already talked way too much today. So I'll keep this short. This babkallah – babka, challah hybrid glorious thing is next level. It's a little life changing. That's probably a bit dramatic, but it really is an amazing thing to bake up one slow Autumnal weekend. It's a bit of a project, but with a wonderful soft, fluffy, tender, pillowy, earthy, sweet, chocolate-y, salty, cinnamon-y (think all the good synonyms) reward at the end.
I was inspired by this babkallah recipe over at Bon Appétit and vowed to make my own. I took the chocolate filling from Ottolenghi's chocolate krantz cakes in his Jerusalem cookbook and adapted that a little to suit my tastes. I've made the krantz cakes before and they are brilliant, though the filling is the main winner of that recipe. So I took it and swirled it through babka-challah, pumpkin dough. What on earth could ever go wrong with that knock out combo?! Seriously. Especially with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt on top. Dreamy.
You want to make this. You need this in your life. And since I can't bring it to all of you to prove that, you'll just have to trust me, dive in the deep end and try it out! The braiding looks hard, but it really isn't too bad if you follow the tutorial I've linked in the recipe. Though I kind of messed up the last step and didn't tuck it all in to create a nice tall, round loaf. It still tastes and looks beautiful though, so really if you mess the braiding up it's not the end of the world. Everyone will still be impressed.
If you make this pretty babkallah tag me @theflouredkitchen #theflouredkitchen on instagram so I can see! And / or leave me a comment! Hope you all had a lovely long weekend with family and enjoyed the chocolate overload that inevitably accompanies Easter. And I hope there were many many hot cross buns! Happy babkallah-ing.
Salted Chocolate Pecan + Pumpkin Babkallah
Yield 1 25 cm / 10 inch babkallah bread
vegan, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free option, nut-free option
Babkallah! A babka-challah hybrid, stealing the best characteristics of both to create a beautiful chocolate-swirled braided loaf. Pumpkin puree added to the dough gives it a bright orange hue, a sweet earthy flavour and extra pillowy-ness. Studded with pecans and cinnamon sugar and topped with a flurry of flaky sea salt, this bread is the best of both babka-challah worlds!
Dough adapted (liberally) from the Food with Friends cookbook by Leela Cyd, recipe on Apt 2b Baking Co. Filling adapted from the Jerusalem cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi. Inspired by Bon Appétit's Chocolate-Cinnamon Babkallah
for the dough
- 120 ml / 1/2 cup almond milk, lukewarm (use soy milk or coconut milk – from a carton not a can – if nut-free)
- 7g / 2 1/4 tsp. / 1 sachet instant yeast
- 180ml / 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, room temp (from about 1/2 medium roasted pumpkin – any sweet tasting pumpkin will do)
- 25g / 1/4 cup chickpea flour mixed with 60ml / 1/4 cup almond milk or water
- 75g / 1/3 cup olive oil
- 55g / 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
- 100g / 1/2 cup maple sugar or raw granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt
- finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 565 – 625g / 4 1/2 – 5 cups plain, all-purpose or bread flour
- 150g / 1 1/4 cups roughly chopped good quality dark vegan chocolate 60–70% cacao
- 120g / 1/2 cup vegan butter or coconut oil*
- 50g / 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp icing sugar
- 30g / 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 25g / 2 tbsp maple sugar or raw granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch fine sea salt
- 120g / 1 cup lightly toasted roughly chopped pecans (omit if nut-free)
- 60ml / 1/4 cup water
- 50g / 1/4 cup maple sugar or raw granulated sugar
- almond milk to brush the loaf (soy or coconut milk if nut free)
- flaky sea salt
for the dough
- Whisk the lukewarm milk and the yeast together in a small bowl. Set aside to 'bloom' for about 10 minutes, until the mix is frothy and bubbly.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast mixture, pumpkin puree, chickpea flour mix, olive oil, coconut oil, sugar, sea salt and orange zest.
- Begin adding 1 cup of flour to the wet mixture at a time, mixing with a fork until a shaggy dough has started to form. Fit the bowl into the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, and begin kneading the dough on low speed. Now add 1/2 cup of flour at a time to the mix until you've used up 4 1/2 cups.
- Continue to knead the dough on low speed for 5 to 7 minutes (or if kneading by hand, about 10 minutes). If the mix still looks very wet and sticky, add another 1/4 – 1/2 cup of flour to the dough whilst kneading. The dough should be smooth, soft and lightly sticky when you finish kneading and should spring back slowly when you press a floured finger onto it.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
for the filling
- While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. In a small saucepan over a low heat, melt the chocolate and vegan butter or coconut oil together, stirring often. Once melted, remove from the heat and sieve the cocoa powder and icing sugar over the mixture, whisk to combine. Pour into a bowl, cover and place in the fridge to cool and thicken. Remove from the fridge 10 – 15 minutes before spreading onto the dough, to allow it to soften.
- Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and pinch of salt in a little bowl until combined. Set aside.
for the glaze
- Place the water and sugar in small saucepan and whisk to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer over a low-medium heat and allow to cook for about 2–3 minutes, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved and the mix has thickened slightly. Set aside to cool.
shape and rest the dough
- Punch the dough down and divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 30 cm / 12-inch long rectangle, about 2 1/2 cm / 1 inch thick. Gently spread 1/4 of the chocolate paste onto each rectangle, leaving a 2 1/2 cm / 1 inch border. Scatter 1/4 of the cinnamon sugar over each rectangle and 1/4 of the chopped pecans. Roll each rectangle up from the long edge to form a log. Pinch the seam closed tightly and do the same with the ends of the logs. Try to do this as quickly as you can so that the chocolate paste doesn't melt out.
- Shape the challah following this tutorial. My challah braiding is by no means perfect yet, but this tutorial has helped me immensely – make sure you tuck all those edges in and under at the end as it instructs, or you will have a slightly flat challah like mine, rather than a nice rounded loaf!
- Set the shaped dough onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper (or you can lightly oil a large, round enamel baking dish – I used my round shallow le creuset). Cover it lightly with a tea towel and allow it to rise for 1 hour, until puffy and risen by another 1/2.
bake the babkallah
- While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 180 celsius / 350 fahrenheit.
- Brush the loaf with a little almond milk, then bake for 45 – 55 minutes, until golden brown, the babkallah sounds hollow when tapped and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with no dough attached. If the babkallah is browning too quickly, turn it down and bake at 160 celsius / 320 fahrenheit until cooked. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack and brush the babkallah all over with the glaze. Sprinkle with a little flaky sea salt, then let cool completely before slicing and serving (this is important! don't slice until it's cool or you'll have dry/doughy bits).
* The chocolate filling is easier to work with if you use vegan butter as opposed to the coconut oil – it doesn't melt quite as easily and can hold it's own when you're filling and shaping the logs. I used coconut oil multiple times and it's absolutely fine to use, it's just a little melty and trickier to work with. Work quickly, leave a good border on your dough when filling it and seal everything up well and you will be a-okay.
Courses Brunch, Afternoon Tea