Notes: We were introduced to Ottolenghi by a friend who had a copy of his Plenty. Since then, we've made many delicious things like the Ultimate Winter Couscous, Caramelised Garlic Tart and Green Gazpacho. Anyway, when flipping through Jerusalem in Florida over the holidays, I spotted several sweet items (Ottolenghi was a pastry chef at one point) and knew I had to try the babka. Just look at this photo illustration!
First, I needed to get equipment and ingredients that weren't in the kitchen we were cooking in. A trip to Super Target yielded us Hershey's cocoa powder and small 8"×4" disposable loaf pans. One thing I thought I didn't need was icing sugar: I figured I could reduce or substitute granulated sugar. More on this later.
As the enriched dough was kneading, it produced a wonderful lemony aroma. The first rise was leisurely and the dough didn't puff that much. To fit the smaller pans, I rolled out three rectangles. The filling wasn't very paste-like but rather runny: a combination of hot, melted chocolate and a substitution for the icing sugar were the culprits, I think. As I rolled the log up, the chocolate oozed out everywhere. This eventually resulted in less definition between the bread layers and the filling, but the taste wasn't affected.
The final decision to make was whether to use all of the syrup called for. They emphasize using all of it, but I felt that would make the babkas excessively sweet. I decided to make a half batch, and only brush it on two of the three loaves. The syrup does add moisture and glazes the surface attractively, but the unsoaked loaf was delicious on its own too, if a bit dryer.
In the end, I got a thumbs up from everyone who tried it. I wouldn't make such small loaves in the future, as I felt it wasn't the right size to be able to display the beautiful layers you see in the book. I would use half the syrup again, and although it adds sweetness, I like the clear glazed look too. I had a thought of using a syrup made from dried apricots, or an apricot glaze. Looking forward to the next time I make this!