fitzrovia babka

I've been dying to transform Honey and Co's sour cherry and pistachio studded Fitzrovia buns into a babka so with some time on my hands one weekend, that's exactly what I did. I decided to Tangzhong the recipe first and the resulting dough was lovely and soft and very easy to work with.

Once rolled out, I refrigerated the dough for about 30 minutes before cutting and twisting it ready for proving.

If you want any instructions on how to prepare the bun dough, Honey and Co have made a videoThe babka takes a little longer to bake than the buns and once the babka is cooked, it's doused in a sugar syrup. The hardest thing to do is to wait a little for the babka to cool before slicing it.

Here's the recipe for the Tangzhong Fitzrovia Babka which makes one large babka. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and 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.
Tangzhong Fitzrovia Babka
Yeast Mixture 
1½ tsp dried yeast
1 tsp flour
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tbl water

1/2 cup (113g) whole milk
25g plain flour

70 g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
30 g caster sugar
300 g bread flour
A pinch of table salt
1 egg
1-2 tbs milk

100 g light brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Seeds from ½ vanilla pod or 3 tsp vanilla sugar
50 g very soft unsalted butter
1 tbs almond meal
80 g dried sour cherries
60 g chopped pistachios, plus 1 tbsp for decoration
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with a pinch of table salt)
1 batch base sugar syrup (recipe follows)

Base sugar syrup
100 mls water
100 g caster sugar
3 tsp light corn syrup or honey

Yeast Mixture
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.

Combine both the ingredients in a small saucepan, and whisk until no lumps remain. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook the mixture, stirring regularly, until thickened, paste-like, and the spoon or spatula leaves lines on the bottom of the pan. This should take 1 to 3 minutes.

Remove the tangzhong from the heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and allow to cool a little. Place the butter, yeast mixture, egg and sugar in the bowl and then top with the flour and salt.

Use the dough attachment on your mixer or your hands to bring it all together to a smooth, shiny dough, adding the milk if it looks dry. Don’t worry too much if you still have some whole flecks of butter running through the dough; they will make your final bun super-light.

Once the dough has a nice texture to it (after about 2–3 minutes with an electric mixer or 5–6 minutes working by hand), wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours. You can leave it there for up to 12 hours, but not much longer or it will start to double in size.

The following day, bring the dough to room temperature. Grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper, allowing some overhang. Mix the sugar with the cinnamon, vanilla, butter and almond meal so it is well combined.

Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a very lightly floured workbench to a rectangle about 15 inches x 11 inches. You may need to flip the dough over once or twice to get an even, smooth sheet, but try to work with as little flour as you can so as not to dry the dough out.

Lay the rectangle lengthways in front of you and spread the butter mixture in a thin layer to about 2 cm from the edge, then sprinkle the cherries and pistachios at regular intervals on top, so that each bite will contain a bit of everything. Brush the edges of the dough with some water.

Lift the long edge of the dough closest to you and start rolling it up away from you, keeping it nice and tight without stretching the dough, until you end up with a sausage about 15 inches long. If it comes out a little longer, push it in from both ends to condense it a little; if it comes out shorter, then use your hands to roll it out a little until it reaches 15 inches. Press to seal the dampened end onto 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. At this stage you can chill the dough for ½ hour to firm the filling. Now use the knife to gently cut the roll into half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam. You are essentially dividing the log into two long even halves, with the layers of dough and filling visible along the length of both halves. With the cut sides facing up, gently press together one end of each half, and then lift the right half over the left half. Repeat this process, but this time lift the left half over the right, to create a simple, two-pronged plait. Gently squeeze together the other ends so that you are left with the two halves, intertwined, showing the filling on top. Carefully lift the cake into the loaf pan. Cover the pan with a wet tea towel 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 it to heat fully before the cakes have finished rising. Remove the tea towel then brush the babka with the egg wash and sprinkle the remaining pistachios over the top. Place the cake on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for about 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If not ready, return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. My babka took 45 minutes to cook.
Remove the babka from the oven and pour over the sugar syrup. Allow to cool slightly before devouring.

Sugar syrup
Place all the ingredients in a small pan and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil, skim off any foam that comes to the top and remove from the heat. If you are making a larger quantity (a litre or more), bring to the boil, skim and cook for 3–4 minutes, then allow to cool. You can make this syrup in advance — just keep it in a jar or bottle in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
I have a few slices of the babka tucked away in the freezer. The babka is absolutely delicious still warm from the oven but in the end I think I prefer the look of the buns.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



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