Use this sweet, yeasted dough to make a batch of apricot walnut babka for now, and a batch of sticky buns that can be par-baked and popped into the freezer for another day. It’s perfect do-ahead baking for the upcoming holiday.
Back in November, I got an email from OXO looking for bloggers to participate in a campaign designed to feature their sturdy glass bakeware. The idea was to create something that could be made ahead, frozen, and then either baked off or reheated later. Their glassware is particularly good for these fridge or freezer to oven situations, because it’s made from sturdy resistant borosilicate glass.
They sent out a Glass 9″ Pie Plate, a Glass 1.6 Qt Loaf Baking Dish, one SteeL Pie Server, a nifty Double Pastry Wheel, and 1″ Pastry Brush. I spent a little time pondering what I might make that would fit the assignment, make good use of these tools, and would also allow for a liberal application of jam.
What I came up with was a single dough that allowed me to both have a relatively immediate treat, as well as one to freeze and finish baking on another day. I’m calling this concept babka for now, sticky buns for later. Because who wouldn’t want that?
I started by searching out recipes for a sweet, yeast-risen dough. After a bit of internet searching and book scanning, I found what I was looking for in Tammy Donroe Inman’s fabulous book Wintersweet (it’s a favorite of mine for holiday baking).
I made Tammy’s dough the day before I wanted to bake. After its first rise, I punched it down, tucked it into a glass storage container, and popped it into the fridge (a handy trick any time you need to make yeasted doughs work for your schedule). The next day, I divided it up into two balls and began to turn one into babka. I opted for a filling of apricot jam and toasted walnuts.
Once the dough was rolled out into a large rectangle (about 18 x 12 inches), I brushed it with melted butter, spread out a half pint of apricot jam, and sprinkled the whole things with those toasted and chopped walnuts.
As far as I can tell, the thing that makes a babka a babka is that it’s a slightly sweet, buttery, yeasted dought that’s filled, rolled, sliced and twisted. And so that’s what I did. Starting with the short side, I carefully rolled until I had a fat tube of filled dough. Then, taking a sharp knife, I cut the roll down the middle, taking care to leave the top inch (or so) intact.
After slicing the dough, I took a deep, steadying breath, firmly grasped the two ends and twisted them outward in opposite directions. There was some filling loss, but not enough to be particularly worrisome.
Once sliced and twisted, it was simply a matter of nestling the dough in the loaf pan and letting it rise in a warm place before baking.
While the babka took its time rising, I turned my attention to that second ball of dough. Much like the babka, it needed to be rolled out into a generous rectangle. I brushed the dough with melted butter. However, instead of applying jam, I dusted the dough with cinnamon and sugar (using OXO’s tea ball to ensure even distribution) and used the rest of the walnuts.
I rolled up the dough (starting with the long side, rather than the short one) and sliced it into rounds. I set them into the pie plate and let them rise (at this point, the babka was ready for the oven, since I actually ate dinner in between working with the two sets of dough).
When the babka was done (it should be around 200 degrees F inside when finished. If the exposed jam seems to be getting too done, perch a sheet of foil on top of the pan) and the sticky buns had risen, I popped that pan into the oven. However, instead of cooking them to completion like the babka, I only baked them for 12 minutes. This is just long enough to get a little color and set their shape. Once they are cool, pop the pan into a big ziptop bag and nestle it into the freezer.
The night before you want to eat your sticky buns (perhaps when the babka is all gone?), pull the pan out of the freezer and make room for it in the fridge so that they can defrost slowly. The next morning, heat the oven to 350 degrees and slide in your pan of sticky buns. They’ll only need a quick 15 minutes in the oven and they’ll be ready to eat.
Brush the finished sticky buns with a little melted butter to help them stay soft, and then drizzle them with a little glaze made from powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and a dusting of cinnamon.
As we head into the frenzy of this week, wouldn’t it be nice to have a loaf of babka on the counter and a pan of sticky buns ready to go in the freezer?
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature (plus a bit more for greasing the bowl)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1 cup apricot jam
- 1 egg, beaten with a little water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Measure out the milk and heat until lukewarm (I like to do this in a glass measuring cup in the microwave). Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm milk and let it sit for five minutes, until it is foamy.
- Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and maple syrup and mix until well-integrated.
- Measure out the flour and whisk in the salt.
- With the mixer running on low, alternate between adding the flour and the milk, until both are incorporated.
- Stop the mixer and switch to the dough hook. Knead for 4 to 6 minutes on low, until the dough comes together and forms a soft, smooth ball.
- Butter a large bowl and set the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and set the bowl in a warm spot to rise for about two hours, or until the dough has doubled (remember that if your ingredients were quite chilly, the rising time might be even longer).
- Once the dough has doubled, gently deflate it. At this point, you can either refrigerate your dough and pick up the following day, or you can proceed.
- Divide the dough into two equal sized portions.
- To make the babka, roll out the dough into a 18 x 12 inch rectangle. Brush with melted butter, apply a thin layer of apricot jam, and evenly scatter half the walnuts (trying to leave about an inch margin on one short edge).
- Starting with the other short edge, carefully roll the dough into a tight log, working towards the bare margin.
- Once the dough is rolled, slice it in half down the middle, leaving top inch of the roll uncut and still attached.
- To twist the babka into its traditional shape, grab the ends and twist them opposite one another towards the outsides of the loaf.
- Nestle the twisted loaf into a loaf pan, cover it with plastic and let it rise. While it rises, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the babka with the egg wash and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until an instant read thermometer says that the loaf is approximately 200 degrees F inside.
- To make the sticky buns, roll out the dough into a 12 x 10 rectangle. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle evenly with the sugar and cinnamon, and then spread out the remaining walnuts.
- Starting with the long side, roll the dough. Cut it into buns about 1 1/2 inches thick and arrange them in a pie plate.
- Let the buns rise and then par-bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven and let cool. Tuck it into a large ziptop bag and freeze.
- The night before you want to eat the sticky buns, move the pan from the freezer to the fridge to defrost.
- In the morning, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the buns for 15 or so minutes, until they're quite golden. While they bake, melt the butter and combine the powdered sugar, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla.
- Brush with melted butter while the buns are still hot. Once they've cooled just a bit, drizzle on the glaze.
- Serve warm or room temperature.
The yeast dough in this recipe is very lightly adapted from Tammy Donroe Inman's book Wintersweet.