Every year I put pretty high expectations on myself for Christmas morning. There is something hilarious about that because the thing I want most is for everyone to feel relaxed, happy, and full of good food. None of those things should be that difficult to accomplish, right? I think it all starts to go wrong when I think I can do all-the-things AND relax along with everyone else. Let me tell you something about that: it isn't possible. So last year, I made this beautiful Christmas Bread Star with raspberry jam. It seemed like a terrible idea. How could I make something that lovely without totally wearing myself out in the process? I was so happy to find that I could make it a couple weeks before Christmas, stick it in the freezer, then take it out to rise the night before we wanted to eat it. It worked like a dream.
I'm going to attempt the same thing this year, but with this raspberry babka. It is basically the same as the bread star, but a little less work to assemble. There is some wait time involved, so be sure to account for that if you decide to give this a go! I hope you try it. You won't be disappointed. In fact, you'll probably get a serious jolt of baking confidence when all is said and done!
Important note: sliced, toasted, and slathered with butter is the best way to eat it.
recipe adapted from Food & Wine's January 2016 issue
total time: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus overnight resting
makes 2 babkas
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 cup whole milk, warm
- 2 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
- 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
- 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp, cut into tablespoons
- 2/3 cup raspberry preserves (I used Bonne Maman)
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Whisk the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk and let stand for 5 minutes until foamy. Add the egg and egg yolk to the milk, then sprinkle in the dry ingredients. Mix with the dough hook for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth. Add the butter and mix again, at low speed this time, until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 hour.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment and coat with a thin layer of butter or nonstick baking spray. Scrape the dough onto the parchment and cut the dough in half. Press each piece of dough into a square. Cover again with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Coat two 9 inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray or butter. Line with parchment paper, making sure to leave an overhang of about 2 inches to help with lifting the bread out after baking.
- Roll each square of dough into a 16 inch square. Evenly spread 1/3 cup of the preserved on each piece of dough (so you should have 1/3 cup leftover...don't use it all for this step!) leaving 1/2 inch boarder around the edges. Roll the dough by starting at the long edge closest to you. Rightly roll each square into a tight log, pressing the edge to seal.
- Cut each log in half crosswise and, using an offset spatula, spread half of the remaining preserves on the outside of two of the halves. (At this point, you should have 4 logs. 2 of them should be coated in preserves and the other two should be bare.)
- Set one bare log on top of a preserve coated log to form a cross. Twist the logs together to form spirals, then carefully transfer to a prepared loaf pan. Repeat with the final two logs. Cover the loaves with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the loaves on the center rack for 45 minutes or until puffy and browned. Let the loaves cool for 5 minutes in the pans, then, using the parchment paper to life the loaves out of the pans, transfer to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet. When the loaves are cool, dust them with powdered sugar.