I've always made babka in a fluted tube pan. My latest version is in my new book The Baking Bible. But here is another way to shape a babka giving it a twisted shape that causes the dough and filling to spiral in an appealing way. I discovered the technique in an article by Erika Bruce in Cook's Country, December/Jan 2012.
Makes: One 8-1/2 by 5 by 4-1/4 inch high loaf
Oven Temperature: 350°F/175°C
Baking Time: 45 to 55 minutes
Twisted Babka Loaf
Special Equipment One 9 by 5 inch (7 cup) loaf pan, lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray, lined width-wise with a strip of parchment overhanging the long edges by a few inches, and sprayed again Dough Starter (Sponge)
Make the Dough Starter (Sponge) In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the water, flour, dry milk, and yeast. Whisk by hand for about 2 minutes until very smooth to incorporate air. The dough will be the consistency of a thick batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set the starter aside while you make the flour mixture.
Combine the Flour Mixture In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and yeast. Then whisk in the salt. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the sponge, forming a blanket of flour, and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let it ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature, or 1 hour at room temperature and up to 24 hours refrigerated. During this time, the sponge will bubble through the flour blanket in places.
Mix the Dough Attach the roller if using the Ankarsrum, or the dough hook if using another stand mixer). Add the butter, eggs, water, and vanilla, and beat on low speed for about 1 minute, or until the flour is moistened. Raise the speed to medium and knead for about 7 minutes, or until the dough is shiny and very elastic. It will not clean the sides of the bowl, but it will be very stretchy when pulled with your fingers. The dough will be very sticky.
Let the Dough Rise Using a spatula or dough scraper that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray, scrape the dough into a 2 quart/2 liter dough rising container or bowl that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. (It will increase slightly in weight after rolling and folding it.) It will be very soft and elastic and will stick to your fingers unmercifully. Do not be tempted to add more flour at this point; the dough will firm considerably after rising and chilling. Push down the dough and lightly coat the surface with nonstick cooking spray. (The dough should weigh about 24.2 ounces/687 grams.) Unless putting it in an enclosed area with hot water, cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough should be after rising. Let the dough rise in a warm place (ideally at 75° to 85°F/24° to 29°C) until it reaches the mark, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
Deflate and Chill the Dough Lightly flour the counter and your hands because the dough will be a little sticky. Using a spatula or dough scraper that has been lightly coated with cooking spray, remove the dough to the counter, and deflate it gently with your fingertips. Round the dough by gently stretching it out and folding it in to the center on all four sides. The dough will be very soft. Set the dough back in the container. Lightly coat the surface with nonstick cooking spray, cover, and refrigerate it for a minimum of 1 hour or up to overnight. (If overnight, deflate it gently after the first hour or two. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping.)
Cinnamon Sugar Filling
Make the Sugar Filling Using a medium-mesh strainer, sift the sugars and cinnamon into a medium size bowl and whisk to combine them evenly. Place 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar mixture into a small bowl.
Shape the Dough, Fill, and Let It Rise Turn the dough onto a well-floured counter and press down on it with floured hands to form a rectangle. Roll the dough into a 16 by 14 inch wide rectangle, flouring the counter and the rolling pin if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. It will be about 1/4 inch thick. Brush off any excess flour from the top.
Brush the entire surface of the dough with the beaten egg, using as little as possible to create an even coating. (Too much egg wash will dissolve the sugar, making the dough more difficult to shape.)
Sift the cinnamon mixture onto the dough and use your fingers to smooth the mixture as evenly as possible over the dough.
Starting from the top, use your fingers and a long plastic ruler to roll up the dough and to help support the dough as you roll it. (Slip the edge of the ruler slightly under the dough and use it to lift up and roll the dough.) With each roll, dust any flour from the surface of the dough, and press firmly all along the dough roll, pinching it gently together to keep it from separating. To keep the rolled dough even and prevent it from becoming thicker in the middle, use your hands to ease the dough gently toward the ends. Work carefully without rushing.
When you reach the bottom edge of the dough, pinch it firmly against the outside of the dough to make a tight seam. Set the dough log seam side down. Pinch the ends of the dough firmly together and brush off any excess flour. The dough roll will be about 18 inches long and quite floppy. Brush it with the beaten egg, sprinkle with the reserved filling mixture, and fold it over itself. Gently twist the dough twice and set it into the prepared pan. Press it down firmly into the pan. The highest point will reach to about 1 inch from the top of the pan.
Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap, lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Let the dough rise in a warm place (ideally 75° to 85°F/24° to 29°C) for 45 minutes to 1-1/2 hours, or until the highest point is about 1 inch above the top of the pan.
Preheat the Oven Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and set a cast iron pan, lined with aluminum foil to prevent rusting, or a sheet pan on the floor of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
Bake the Babka Quickly but gently set the pan on the rack and toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan on the oven floor. Immediately shut the door and bake for 25 minutes. For even baking, rotate the pan halfway around. Cover the top loosely with foil if it is already golden brown. Continue baking for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown. (An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 200° to 204°F/93° to 96°C.)
Make the Glaze In a small saucepan over medium heat (or in a 1 cup microwavable measure with a spout), melt the butter. Unmold and Cool the Babka Lay a sheet of parchment on the counter and place a wire rack on top. Remove the babka from the oven and unmold it onto the wire rack. If necessary, use a small metal spatula to dislodge the bread at the short ends of the pan not lined with the parchment. Brush the melted butter onto the crust to soften it. Let the babka cool completely, about 1-1/2 hours. Store Room temperature, 2 days; airtight: frozen, 3 months.
STARTER WITH FLOUR BLANKET
ALL INGREDIENTS READY TO MIX
MIXING THE DOUGH
DOUGH BEFORE FIRST RISE
THE RISEN DOUGH DOUBLED
4 CORNER STRETCH AND FIRST FOLD
4 CORNER STRETCH AND SECOND FOLD
4 CORNER STRETCH AND THIRD FOLD
4 CORNER STRETCH AND FOURTH FOLD
SHAPING THE DOUGH BALL
THE PREPARED PAN
The Ankarsrum Original is available on this link: Ankarsrum Original AKM 6220 Red Stand Mixer