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Adventure Begins at Home

There are so many things that I'd love to cook or bake. I always think I'll do them on my day off. I need A LOT of days off to get done what I want to get done. Sometimes I put it off because they are recipes that take a long time or they need specific ingredients. I'll be honest, more often than not it's the first one. If a recipe takes a long time, particularly if it's baking and the recipe calls for a lot of proving or fridge time, it really puts me off. You see, it plays to my lazy side.

But then I buy the same thing that I was planning to bake and it tastes so good and I think "Aaargh I wish I could have been bothered to go through all the proving and weighing and measuring. It's so totally worth it!" You know what, it so is.

I do draw the line at making my own puff pastry. I mean, I will, every once in a while (so far, once in 28 years) make puff pastry for croissants or some such bake because in that case it really is worth it. For a pie, the ready rolled stuff you buy in the supermarket is DELICIOUS.

One thing I've always wanted to make is babka. I see it in bakeries and I see pictures of it online, because of course, and it looks so soft and doughy and delicious. And you can really fill it with whatever you want. It can be sweet or savoury, I personally prefer it sweet. So I had a go. I remember how delicious the chai and white chocolate cinnamon rolls were that I made so I thought I'd put that winning combination into my babka. And it was winning. I'm a little bit obsessed with the combination because it's so good.

The recipe I used for the dough comes from my GBBO recipe book but the filling is my weird but wonderful creation.

Chai and White Chocolate Babka

  • 400g strong white bread flour

  • 70g caster sugar

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 sachet fast action dried yeast

  • 4 eggs, chilled (plus extra for egg wash)

  • 5 tbsp cold milk

  • 240g butter, soft

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 3 tbsp chai spice

  • 150g white chocolate, chopped into small bits or blitzed

  • 2 tbsp soft brown sugar

Add the flour to a mixing bowl and mix the salt and sugar evenly in with it. Sprinkle in the yeast, mix it through then make a well in the centre.

Break the eggs into a measuring jug, beat them gently to combine and add enough cold milk to bring the volume up to 265ml. Pour this mix into the well and start gradually mixing in the flour. If the mixture becomes too dry, add a little milk.

Knead the dough. If you're doing this by hand, empty it on to a floured surface and knead with your hands for 10 minutes, If you're using a mixer, use the dough hook on the lowest setting for 6 minutes. The dough should get firmer and more elastic. Add 150g of the butter a little at a time and work it in until there are no more streaks. Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and leave to rise in the fridge for 2 hours.

Coat your hands in flour then punch down the dough and re-shape it into a ball. Put it back in the fridge, covered, for another hour (I told you this took time).

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and cover it with the upturned bowl. Melt the remaining butter and add the vanilla to it. In a separate bowl, mix together the chai spice, brown sugar and white chocolate.

Roll out the dough so that you have a 30cm x 40cm rectangle and brush two thirds of the butter over the top. Sprinkle the chocolate and chai mixture so that it evenly covers the surface. Press it gently into the dough and sprinkle the rest of the butter over the top.

Roll the short ends tightly into two scroll-like rolls so that they meet in the middle. Cut the dough at the base of the meeting point so that you can seal the seam by pinching it shut. Pinch the two rolls together at one end and then twist them together. Tuck the ends of the rolls underneath and place the loaf into a greased loaf tin. Pour any spilled filling on top. Cover loosely with a plastic bag so that nothing is touching the dough and leave to rise for an hour and a half.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Brush the top of the dough with an egg wash and leave in the oven for 50 minutes, giving the bread plenty of space above to rise. Check after half an hour to make sure it's not burning. If it's starting to look too crispy, loosely cover it with foil, not restricting the rising space. It is done when a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Take it out of the tine to cool completely before you cut it.

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