Sunday, May 27, 2012

Overnight Babka Rolls

Babka is a traditional, Jewish sweet bread, made with a rich, egg dough and chocolate-cinnamon filling. It is awesome, but it takes for-freaking-ever to make. Once I woke up at 4AM to roll it out, so we could have it hot for breakfast. But only once. These rolls are a decent substitute, and you can do all the prep work the night before. You just have to get your mind around the yeast.

I get that yeast is a little freaky. You may remember it like those Sea Monkies from the 80s - little packets of powder that bloomed when you added water. You'd stand over the foamy bowl, wondering if they were still alive. All distant memories, because it's 2012, no one has Sea Monkies any more, and we all use instant yeast now. You don't have to proof the stuff in warm water to check if it's still alive - just add it in like any other ingredient. Not freaky, not complicated, and no longer expensive, since they sell it at the wholesale clubs for like $4.50 a pound.
I promise, these rolls are way easier than Sea Monkies.
(The plural of Monkey is . . .?)
Put a medium sized saucepan on the burner and melt together 5 T butter, 1 1/4 C milk, 3/4 t kosher salt, and 1/2 C sugar. When you start to see bubbles around the edge of the pan, remove from the heat and stir it up to make sure the sugar is incorporated. I find it easiest to pour everything back into the measuring cup, just to give it a chance to cool. Also, I've slopped a lot of milk down the side of the mixing bowl trying to transfer directly from the pot. Either way, put the saucepan in the sink with some water after pouring out the milk, since the milk protein gets gluey if you let it dry on there.
While you are waiting for the milk mixture to cool off a bit, put 3 C white flour and 1 T instant yeast in the bowl of your mixer. It's probably best to start the machine with the flat beater and use the dough hook later, but if you can't face washing both, just throw the dough hook in there and turn it on. After a few seconds, pour the milk mixture in slowly. As the dough is starting to come together, add 1 egg and beat for another minute before starting to add flour, 1/4 cup at a time.
Pretty much the only thing you can do wrong with this recipe is to add too much flour and end up with rolls that are a little harder than you might like. BFD, right? You're aiming to take the dough out of the mixer when it's still sticking to the sides, then knead in just a few more tablespoons to make the outside dry enough that it holds together in a ball. This took me about 4 1/2 C total flour. And then I added some more, which is why my dough is standing at attention. We still ate it all, don't worry.
Let your dough rest on the counter for 20 minutes. I just cover mine with the inverted mixing bowl, to keep it from drying out. This rest gives the flour time to absorb moisture, allowing you to roll it out without gluing it to the counter.
While you are waiting, melt 4 T butter in a microwaveable bowl and then stir in 2 1/2 T cocoa powder, 3/4 C sugar, and 1 t cinnamon. This is also a good time to get your 9x13" pan greased and ready to go.
Sprinkle a little flour on the counter and your rolling pin, then roll your dough out in a rectangle about 17x11". Spread the chocolate mixture evenly over it with a spatula.
 Starting with the long end, roll the whole thing up into a log. If it feels a little loose, use your fingertips to tuck the front end under as you roll.
 Using a serrated (bread) knife if you can, slice the roll in quarters.

Then divide each quarter in thirds.
Place three rows of four rolls in your greased 9x13" pan, cover with plastic wrap and put it all in the fridge. Now go put your feet up and watch American Idol. Haha, just kidding! Go finish the dishes, move the laundry along, and pack all the lunches for tomorrow.
Does everyone in your house get up at the same time? The first person up has to remember to take these rolls out and put them on the counter to warm up a little. If he forgets, no biggie. About 35 minutes before you want to eat (to the extent that anyone really wants to eat at 7:15AM on a Tuesday), put the rolls in a cold oven and turn it on to 350 (convection 325). In about 25 minutes, they should be brown and puffy.
 Cool in pan 5 minutes before serving.
Try to excercise restraint when your children ask you for toaster waffles instead. More for you.

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