Way more photos than usual in this entry, but (a) this was a pretty involved thing, (b) I'm inordinately proud of my Christmas babka achievement, and (c) I was joined by a very special sous chef for this Hawaiian holiday cooking adventure, my niece Bella, who is 5 and a half.
Let's rewind. When I first saw Ottolenghi's Krantz cake recipe in Jerusalem, it was the kind of recipe where my immediate reaction was "no way will I ever cook that." Partly that's because I don't have a stand mixer, but partly it just looked hard. And for all that I'm an ambitious and sometimes even daring cook, I'm also fundamentally a pretty lazy one. Hence no-knead bread.
But I'd had it in mind, and when I was thinking about what I might want to try out on my family over the holidays, and my mom said we were volunteering to bring dessert for Christmas dinner, it seemed an opportune moment to attempt the Ottolenghi babka.
I don't know why I do these things, it's the height of arrogance or dumbness to try something, especially something complicated, for the first time for other people. But, I was on the hook, so away we went.
'Twas the night before Christmas, and dough needed making.
Were it not for the Kitchenaid, much time 'twould be taking.
Here it is freshly mixed, and again after resting
With much sugar and flour and some lemon from zesting.
We'd be making two babkas, not three and not one,
The first filled with chocolate, the other, cinnamon.
It was Xmas day and the babka dough rolled
When into the kitchen my little niece strolled.
She surveyed the scene and my own furrowed brow,
And she said "Uncle Joe, can I help you somehow?"
So together we decorated the freshly flat dough
With nuts and the toppings strewn to and fro.
And carefully I rolled a tight babka cigar,
And a split and a twist and voila there we are.
Into pans for a rest and a rise then the fire
All the work and attention had caused us to tire.
It was messy but easy, well, less hard than I thought,
And in the end vastly better than had we store bought.
And this my dear readers, is how a babka is made.
Humble apologies to Clement Clark Moore and Dr. Seuss both. I didn't really think I was going to end up in verse the whole way through. And thank you to my sister Joelle, who documented the event. And to Bella, for being a great assistant. Merry Babka!