Over the last few years, the demand, popularity and all around fascination with babka has established the yeasted, sweet cake as one of the trendiest baked goods in the United States. Babka is made with a few simple, inexpensive ingredients which come together to create a rich, flaky and often gooey cake which is perfect to enjoy for breakfast, dessert or anytime in between.
Of course there is gluten-free babka and vegan babka. Now, I present my latest creation, an equally delicious babka made with white spelt flour. Soft and airy, spelt is a whole grain flour that is rich in vitamins and minerals, high in protein and lower in calories than wheat. Often mistaken as “gluten free,” spelt does contain gluten, but has become a good alternative to people who have a hard time digesting wheat based products.
Just like there are a variety of wheat flours, the same goes with spelt. Whole spelt, much like whole wheat flour, yields a more dense product, while white spelt flour is lighter. Much like whole wheat flour, spelt flour absorbs water at a different rate then its cousin, wheat (you can adjust your recipes to use spelt often by reducing the liquid content by 25%). When it comes to rise time, spelt does not benefit from “doubling in size.” Spelt contains gliadin, a protein which is present in all gluten-based flours which gives dough the ability to be pliable and stretch. Spelt contains slightly more gliadin than other flours, which is why it tends to spread more, especially if left to rise a long period of time.
That’s also why this recipe is ideally baked in a loaf pan. The key to a great spelt dough is patience when kneading. Spelt absorbs water slightly slower than an all purpose wheat flour. Another tip for working with spelt is to wear gloves since the natural heat of our hands can cause the dough to feel sticky and unmanageable.
For the dough:
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 envelope or 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar or granulated white sugar
- 3/4 cup room temperature unsweetened vanilla rice or almond milk
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 egg + 1 yolk
- 2 Tbsp margarine, butter or vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt (I like to use fine Pink Himalayan sea salt which is full of minerals. These feed the yeast and help give the dough a higher rise)
- 3- 31/2 cups white spelt flour
For the chocolate filling:
- 1 cup melted margarine or butter
- 1 box instant chocolate pudding (I have also used the Godiva caramel chocolate pudding mix or chocolate peppermint flavor pudding)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup cocoa
For the cinnamon filling:
- 1/4 cup ground cinnamon
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar or plain granulated sugar
For the crumb topping:
- 1/2 cup spelt flour
- 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar (regular sugar is fine too)
- 3 Tbsp oil or 4 Tbsp cold cubed butter or margarine
- Mix yeast with water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and allow to sit until yeast begins to bubble.
- Add the milk, sugar, egg, egg yolk, margarine (or butter or oil) and mix well. With stand mixer on low speed add spelt flour one cup at a time, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides and ensure the flour around the sides gets combined with the liquid. Once you have added 3 cups of spelt flour, turn your mixer up to medium/high speed. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a smooth dough around the dough hook.
- If the dough seems too stick, add additional 2 Tbsp flour up to 1/2 cup.
- Run your mixer for 6-8 minutes stopping at 3 minutes and allowing your dough to rest for 2 minutes. This allows the gluten in the flour to relax and will result in a fabulous, flawless, smooth and workable dough. Once the mixing is complete if your dough feels slightly sticky you can add a dusting of additional flour.
- Fold the dough over into itself and form into a ball and place seam side down in a lightly greased bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise approximately. 30 minutes.
- Punch the dough down and divide into two even pieces.
- Roll each piece of dough into a long thin rectangle.
- To add the cinnamon sugar filling: divide filling ingredients in half. Spread 1/2 melted margarine or oil on top of each piece of dough. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mix on top and press lightly into dough using a rolling pin. This ensures a nice tight roll and keeps the filling in.
- To add the chocolate filling: mix filling well and then spread evenly on each piece of dough.
- Roll up the dough length-wise, keeping the roll as tight as possible for the maximum number of layers.
- Once rolled up, cut down the middle and twist one half around the other.
- Place each babka in a greased loaf pan and allow to rest while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- To make the crumbs: mix crumb ingredients until pea-sized crumbs form.
- Brush babka with 1 beaten egg. Sprinkle crumbs on top if using. To avoid spilling, place your loaf pan on a baking sheet while baking.
- Bake 25-30 mins until risen, golden and firm.