Submitted by Rachel Packer
I was a deer in the headlights twelve years ago when my then three- year-old son, Ari, was diagnosed with severe egg, tree and peanut allergies. Twelve years ago, we didn’t have Ebooks, nor was there the social media explosion we have today and the kind of informational exchange we have come to rely on so heavily. I didn’t even know how to bake-and especially without eggs and with no allergy free cookbooks to guide me. After Ari’s diagnosis, I was too petrified to bake or even buy anything because of the fear of sending him to the hospital. I spent hours in specialty stores, researching information, each website more terrifying than the next, and cried on the floor of my closet more than once as I tried to navigate food allergies with limited knowledge and even less baking prowess. Holidays became a new source of anxiety-all the joy leeched out of them because I didn’t know how to make the signature items that we came to rely on from bakeries previously. Nevertheless, when faced with adversity, we look deep within and realize we all possess a dormant strength that when called into action, we have two choices. We can remain fearfully frozen, or, we can heed the call that directs us to tap into that wellspring of strength and make wonderful things happen. This Babka is my rally cry. Every time I make it, I am reminded of my inner strength and the love I have for my family. It is a Rosh Hashanah/Sukkot/Thanksgiving favorite and has even been used in lieu of a birthday cake on special request. Hey, birthday Babka is okay with me. I never use a mixer with this recipe and it a super easy dough that can be made by a beginner and comes together rather quickly by hand.
This Babka requires no rise time (which is why it’s a cheater’s Babka) and it doesn’t have the dairy or egg that is typically standard in Babka. Enjoy!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare two 8×4 loaf pans.
Put yeast and 1 tsp. of sugar in a large bowl.
Heat in microwave 1 cup plant milk between 100-110 degrees.
Dissolve yeast by pouring warm milk or water over yeast and sugar and mix with a whisk to combine. Allow yeast to proof – it should start to look creamy and a bit bubbly (takes 1-2 minutes) – if it doesn’t it may be expired or perhaps the milk/water was too hot and likely killed the yeast. Try again with a new packet.
Add the sugar, melted Earth Balance and salt. Whisk to combine.
Add the flour, one cup at a time and mix with a spoon. As the dough becomes stiffer, you can start using your hands to combine all the ingredients together.
Knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic. Don’t over knead. The whole kneading process takes about 2 minutes. If it’s too sticky, then simply add more flour 1 TBSP. at a time. It should be easy to roll into a dome-like ball.
Roll out the ball of dough on a lightly floured surface (I line the counter with aluminum foil which I keep dusted with flour) into a large rectangle approximately 12×18 inches.
Spread the filling (see directions below) evenly over the dough leaving a 1-inch border around the edge.
From the long side, begin to roll the dough into a tight log. You can use the aluminum foil to help lift and guide the dough into a tight roll. Every time you roll the log, pull it back a little bit to keep it tucked. Make sure the dough isn’t too sticky.
Cut the log in two halves.
With each half, cut the dough down the long side revealing the filling inside – leave about an inch at the top so it makes twisting easier.
Twist the dough all the way down. This will get messy, and you will get chocolate on yourself, but the end result is so worth it. Pinch the ends at the bottom together.
Place each Babka into an 8×4 loaf pan (I use disposable aluminum pans).
Brush with “Egg” Wash and sprinkle cinnamon sugar or optional topping. (See directions below.)
Bake for 30 minutes. Test to see if done. Toothpick should come out clean- (well, it may have some chocolate on it) with no sticky dough. If you like your babka on the darker side, place back into the oven. Lower to 350F and bake for another 10 minutes.
Babka should sound hollow when you tap it. Cool completely.
In a pinch, one can use frosting, chocolate spread or Nutella (if you’re not allergic to nuts) but I guarantee the chocolate filling is a cinch to make and while many chocolate fillings contain margarine and confectioner’s sugar, I felt that adding so much more sugar and fat was truly unnecessary.
Melt chocolate chips in a microwave bowl in 30-second increments until melted and smooth. (This incremental process is very important, otherwise the chocolate will seize and become clumpy).
Stir in 1-2 teaspoons of oil (you can use canola or vegetable) if chocolate is a little stiff and mix until chocolate is smooth and shiny.
Let it cool before spreading on dough. Start with half the chocolate and spread it on dough. Fill in the spaces that are missing with the remaining chocolate.
A Babka is typically brushed with an egg wash to give it shine and color and also to provide a sticky surface to sprinkle cinnamon sugar onto.
Stir maple syrup and plant milk together and brush onto the top of Babka. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or use the optional topping (it’s really good)!
Mix the Earth Balance, sugar and cinnamon together and spread it all over the Babka. It will give it a lovely crunchy lacquer.