hot cross babka

I just love hot cross buns and every year I either try out a new recipe or a new iteration. Today I'm taking a break from Passover Week to share with you my newest take on the classic hot cross bun. 

This year as I'm still enamoured with all things 'babka', I decided to make a hot cross babka, albeit without the cross.

I used my regular babka dough but reduced the sugar as I knew I'd be adding a load of dried fruit to the mix. 

I decided to forgo the complicate divide and twist and went for a simple twist instead. As the babka dough is so full of fruit I knew the cinnamon filling would be barely visible once baked.

For the past few years I've plumped the dried fruit in Earl Grey tea but instead of dousing ;the babka with a sugar syrup once it came out of the oven, I decided to use the leftover liquid from the soaking process which tasted of orange rind and apricot. The whole babka thing is a labour of love. I soaked the fruit on Friday night; made the dough on Saturday then shaped, baked and ate the babka on Sunday. I had my slice still warm from the oven topped with a knob of butter. The verdict - absolutely delicious!

Here's the recipe for you, which makes one loaf. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C. 

Hot Cross Babka - makes one loaf

Dried Fruit Soak
75g each sultanas and currants
50g dried apricots, chopped
1 cup hot Earl Grey tea
2 tsp finely grated orange rind

Yeast Mixture
2 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp flour
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tbl water

75 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
40g caster sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 to 2 tbl milk or water, if required

80 g soft unsalted butter
100 g brown sugar
1 tsp golden or maple syrup
4 tsp ground cinnamon
50 g almond meal

⅓ cup of the fruit soak liquid
2 tbs caster sugar

A few hours before making the dough, prepare the fruit soak. In a small bowl place the dried fruit, then pour over the hot tea. Let soak for one to 2 hours or until the fruit is plump and juicy. Drain the fruit, reserving the liquid, then add the grated orange rind to the fruit and set to one side.

In a small bowl, combine the yeast with 1 tsp flour and 1 tsp sugar and sufficient water to make a paste. Cover and set to one side for about 10 minutes until the mixture froths up, then continue on with the rest of the recipe.

In a small bowl, combine the cooled melted butter and vanilla. Add the egg and mix until well combined. Sift the flour, spices and salt together into the bowl of a stand mixer then stir in the sugar. With the dough hook attached, add the yeast mixture, the well-drained fruit and sufficient liquid to make soft dough. If the mixture is looking a bit dry, add another tablespoon or so of milk or water. Mix the dough for about 10 minutes before removing the soft dough and placing into a greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave in a warm place for about an hour before placing the dough in the fridge to rest overnight. 

Bring the dough back to room temperature while you prepare the filling. In a small bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, the syrup and the ground cinnamon. Mix in the almond meal to form a paste, ensuring there are no lumps in the mixture.

Grease and line the base and sides of a loaf tin with baking paper. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring 15 by 11 inches (38 by 28 cm). Trim the sides to make them even, then position the dough so that a long side is closest to you. Use an offset spatula to spread the filling over the rectangle, leaving a ¾ in/2 cm border all around. Brush a little bit of water along the long end farthest away from you. Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side that is closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end of the roulade and then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam.

Trim about ¾ in/2 cm off both ends of the roulade with a serrated knife then gently press the 2 ends together to form a loop then twist each end of the loop in the opposite direction (like wringing out a towel) to create a simple twist. Gently lift the babka into the loaf pan then cover the pan with a large plastic bag, knotted loosely and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours. The cake will rise by 10 to 20 percent.

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C, making sure you allow plenty of time for the oven to heat fully. Remove the babka from the plastic bag and place the babka on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for about 45 minutes, until dark brown and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If not ready, return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

While the cake is in the oven, make the syrup. Combine the fruit soak and sugar in a saucepan; place over medium heat and bring to the boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, reduce the heat and simmer the syrup for a few minutes until slightly thickened. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, brush the syrup over. It is important to use up all the syrup. Leave the cake until it is just warm, then remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing the babka and serving it with a dab of butter.

I'll be taking a break from posting tomorrow and will be back on Monday with the last of my Passover bakes.

Wishing every-one a peaceful Easter.

Bye for now,



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