Bubka Bliss

I first met fellow author and baking sister Marcy Goldman in Montreal during the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) annual conference. She had invited me out to her home for a visit along with two other bakers and it was an enchanting experience to be in her kitchen tasting the cakes she made for us as we all talked baking. She also presented me with a beautiful rolling pin of her design which I used yesterday to roll out the bubka from her new book A Passion for Baking. I am sitting here (having already eaten a piece for breakfast and I don't usually eat breakfast, trying to fight off the impulse to defrost a slice I stashed in the freezer to make just such a temptation less convenient. One of our fellow bloggers asked me what I thought of Marcy's bubka compared to the babka I had described in a previous posting. So of course I had to find out first hand even though I knew it was going to be wonderful--all the more so!

First let me explain the name bubka. In both Polish and Yiddish, babka is a diminutive of baba or babcha, meaning old woman or grandmother. When I was growing up, my grandmother described an old woman as an "alta bubba." No doubt Marcy's ancestors come from the same location in Russia near the Polish border (Minsk) as bubka seems to come from bubba. Come to think of it, maybe it was a distant village as my grandmother used the word bubka to describe little hard things that are undesirable as in "it's not worth bubkas"! But a bubka or babka by any other name will taste as sweet and this is a cake/bread that deserves all the attention and enthusiasm it gets.

According to the New York Times, my dear friend Arthur Schwartz, whose book Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking is due to be published in April, writes that: ''Babka, in its original form, was stout and round, just like grandmothers used to be before they went to aerobics classes and practiced yoga.'' Now to Marcy's bubka itself. Compared to Anne Amernick's (to which I referred in the prior posting) it is less cakey and more bready, i.e. less tender and more chewy which I personally find more satisfying. This texture is mostly because it employs a combination of bread flour and unbleached all-purpose (I used Harvest King flour which is about the same protein percentage).

Marcy describes the recipe as "...it strikes the right notes of sweet and bready," and for me this resulted in the perfect balance between bread and cake. The dough is so lively it virtually bursts from the pan on baking. In fact, I would use a larger bread pan than the 9 x 5 recommended to keep it from spreading sideways as much. (My 9 x 5 pan is 7 cups but my All Clad 10 x 5 is 8 cups and I think that would be just perfect.) For those of you who weigh, I used 412 grams/almost 15 ounces of flour for half the dough.

To continue with the comparison, Marcy's bubka has less egg and butter but more water which makes it lighter and moister. In fact, it is quite similar to my kugelhopf but moister which I prefer! I also adore the brown sugar/almond paste in the filling. Some oozed out to form crunchy edges on the crust--confession--I who write in no uncertain terms to let the bread cool completely before cutting kept attacking this bubka to eat those crunchy edges until finally I could stand it no longer and cut a whole still hot slice and consumed it all!

In the process of making this bubka I have quite fallen in love with Marcy's new book A Passion for Baking along with Marcy herself! That is because she provides a real and personal presence in this book. Starting with the cover which shows her hand (and what is more eloquent or definitive of a baker than her hand) drawing a heart in the flour on the counter, you see the love she has for her craft. Right beneath it are the words: "Bake to celebrate . Bake to nourish . Bake for fun." Does this not say it all?! It reminded me of the visit to her home when she shared that before cleaning up her work counter she always drew a heart in the flour that remained on the surface. In fact, her son when he was only 12 took the photo that inspired this cover. It is the hand of a ballerina baker! Marcy dedicates this book to her sons: "...I love you more than words can say and far more than infinite fields of golden wheat. You are the gold of my heart." But anyone who opens this book will feel her love and generosity pouring out to all her fellow bakers as well, and in full measure. Note: Marcy generously is offering this recipe below. Do check out her site: www.betterbaking.com

Baker's Bubka With Crumb Topping

Bubka is pure heaven to me - because it strikes the right note of sweet and bready. It is also relatively easy to make - not as complicated as true Danish with its rolled in blocks of butter but certainly richer and moister than a sweet dough. I often use a bread machine to make the dough - although I have to give the mixing a hand at first by using a rubber spatula, just to get the rich dough properly going.

Dough 1 1/2 cups warm water (100˚ to 110˚ F) 2 tablespoons rapid-rise yeast 3 large eggs 2 yolks 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon pure almond extract 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 3/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup milk powder 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened 3 cups all-purpose flour 3 cups bread flour

Filling 1/4 cup unsalted butter 1 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup chopped almond paste 2 tablespoons corn syrup 2 teaspoons cinnamon 3/4 cup chopped almonds, optional

Egg Wash 1 egg, pinch sugar

Crumb Topping 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 cup scant confectioner's sugar 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Generously spray two 9 by 5 inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line a double-up baking sheet with parchment paper. For an extra large bubka, use a 10-inch angel food cake pan, also sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Place the pans on the baking sheet.

In a mixer bowl, hand whisk the water and yeast together and let stand 2-3 minutes to dissolve the yeast. Briskly whisk in the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, almond extract, lemon juice, sugar, salt, milk powder and all-purpose flour. Then stir in the butter and most of the bread flour.

Mix dough, then knead as it becomes a mass, with a dough hook or by hand for about eight to ten minutes, until smooth and elastic, adding in more bread flour as required. Remove dough hook and cover entire mixer and bowl with a large, clear plastic bag. Allow to rise, about 45-90 minutes until puffy or almost doubled in size. This is also an ideal dough to refrigerate overnight and resume next day, allowing dough to warm up a bit before proceeding. Whisk an egg in a small bowl for the egg wash.

For the Filling, in a food processor, process the butter, sugar, almond paste, corn syrup, cinnamon, and almonds to make a soft paste or filling.

For the Crumb Topping, in a small bowl, cut the butter, confectioner's sugar and flour together to make a crumbly topping. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate the dough.

Divide dough in two portions. On a well-floured work surface, roll dough into a 16 inch square. Spread on the filling over dough surface. Roll up dough into a large jellyroll. Cut in half. Place both halves in prepared pan, beside each other - it doesn't matter if they are a little squished.

Brush well egg wash and sprinkle with some sugar. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Spray the tops of both loaves with nonstick cooking spray. Place the pans on the prepared baking sheet and cover with the large, clear plastic bag. Let rise until the bubka is flush or a touch over the sides of the pan, 45-75 minutes. Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with Crumb Topping.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake 40-50 minutes (55-70 minutes for one large bubka) until bubka is medium brown. Cool in pan fifteen minutes before removing to a rack or serving plate. Makes one large or two medium bubkas.

Quick: Get this Babka Out of the House!!!

...because i can't stop eating it! when i saw the article by my friend and esteemed colleague joan nathan in last wednesday's new york times, the texture and swirl of the crumb just drew me right in.

i grew up on 95th street and central park west and my parents each went to eclair on a regular basis (eclair was mentioned in the article), my mother during the week to pick up my favorite whipped cream filled eclair and my father on sundays to pick up a babka. in my bread book i have recipes for brioche and for kugelhopf, both of which are similar to babka but not the same thing. babka is somewhere between a rich coffee cake and a brioche. compared to my brioche it has about half the egg, two-thirds the butter, and about 1/3 cup more liquid. All this conspires to make a softer and lighter cake/bread.

i am a great fan of ann amernick whose new book "the art of the dessert"(john wiley 2007) contains this recipe. you can also get the recipe by going to this link at the New York Times. you will find several choices of filling and topping. i used the cinnamon-raisin filling adapted from katja goldman, but soaked the raisins in rum as adapted from mrs. london's, saratoga springs, n.y. and i used ann's streusel topping with the cinnamon.

here are a few of my baking notes: i like ann's use of part cake flour as it makes a more tender cake-like crumb but it also makes the dough fragile and prone to tearing so lift it carefully when placing it in the pan and if it tears as mine did, just pinch it together. it actually looks most attractive with some of the raisins and sugar spilling out and caramelizing on the crust. but i wouldn't try twisting it as indicated when placing it in the pan unless you use all unbleached all-purpose flour or you want it to break open. those of you who prefer weight to volume, the all-purpose flour (be sure to use unbleached or the dough will fall apart completely) is 10 ounces/285 grams and the cake flour 3 ounces/85 grams. alternatively use a total of 13 ounces/369 grams unbleached all-purpose flour.

if you use instant yeast you can add it directly to the flour. use only 2 teaspoons and add the 1 tablespoon of water to the milk (which by the way i prefer to scald and then bring to room temperature before using). i also increased the salt from 1/8 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon.

i used my nordicware "Classic Anniversary Bundt" which is non-stick and 15 cup capacity but the standard 12 cup bundt that's called for will work as it didn't come up to the very top of the pan. but the extra height did serve to shield the streusel topping so if using the 12 cup bundt you may want to tent it loosely with foil after the first 30 minutes of baking. by the way, i did not line the pan with parchment, but coated it with cooking spray and it released beautifully--even the escaped caramel part. my instant read thermometer registered 188˚F after 50 minutes of baking.

i unmolded the babka onto a rack as soon as it came out of the oven. almost all of the streusel stayed on what was now the bottom. as it was 11:00 at night, and i didn't want to ruin the crisp crust and streusel by covering it, i stayed up to watch "kinsey" on the late show and by the time it was over the babka was completely cool! so i covered it with an inverted plastic box and dove into it this morning. when you see the photos i took you'll understand just why it provided such a temptation. by the way, the little brass doorstop in the photo is an antique punch and judy. i usually move it away from the best light location for photos but this time it seemed appropriate as babka means little old-lady. actually just old lady or grandmother but in my era they were always little (now we take calcium pills)! bubba, alta bubba, babcha--they're all yiddish and polish variations which sound as endearing, comforting, and lovable as this recipe. p.s. except for one piece, the missing part in the photo was all consumed by me within 10 minutes!

Crossing the Atlantic by Cookbook

Cookbooks, particularly baking books, that cross the Atlantic have the well-earned reputation of being troublemakers.  Differences in flour have long been suspected of being the culprit.  When MacMillan of London bought the rights to publish my book The Cake Bible in the U.K., I was determined to get to the bottom of this culinary Tower of Babel.  A British friend began sending me kilograms of the two basic flours available to British consumers:  self-raising and plain, and I started baking.  Much to my alarm, the cakes produced with the British flour were unrecognizable from their original models.  It was hard to believe that innocent seeming flour could be responsible for such a dramatic difference.  The logical way to conquer the problem seemed clear:  to retest and redevelop the recipes to work as well as the originals, but with British ingredients. The only place to do this was in the UK with native equipment and native ingredients.

Kyle Cathie, my brilliant British editor with pioneering spirit, made it possible for me to spend two weeks in a charming airy flat retesting recipes.  She purchased a heavy duty mixer, food processor, 12 dozen eggs and arranged a shopping tour to Sainsbury, a large British supermarket.  I was delighted to discover that England is a baker's paradise:  double cream with pure uncooked flavor, wondrous clotted cream which is divine simply spread on cake in place of buttercream, glorious golden refiners syrup, flavorful marzipan and nuts of every type and gradation imaginable.
The problem was indeed the flour.  Bleached cake flour is indispensable for butter cakes.  But the only bleached flour available was the "self-raising" variety which contained leavening.  When a cake uses an acid ingredient such as sour cream, it needs to be tempered with baking soda.  But when the flour already contains the maximum amount of baking powder, adding baking soda would make the combined leavening too high, causing the cake to collapse.  Fortunately, the plain unbleached flour is just fine for all the sponge type of cakes.
The solution was first to assess how much baking powder was contained in the cake flour and then to create a blend of self-raising and plain flour in order to lower the overall leavening but still have the benefit of the cake flour.  This necessitated other changes as well, such as replacing all yolk cakes with whole eggs and decreasing butter to strengthen the cakes' structure.  With sour cream cakes, extra sugar was needed for aeration.   Each and every cake had to be adjusted separately, sometimes as many as three times before it was exactly right.  It was a night and day job, without much sleep, but well worth the effort because I can now be confident that when a British person is baking one of my cakes, it will have essentially the same flavor and texture as mine.  
While in England, Kyle told me that the book could not be called The Cake Bible if it did not contain the beloved British gingerbread, a moist, spicy cake with an intriguing blend of  buttery, lemony, wheaty treacley flavors.
I developed the recipe while still on British soil but am happy to report that it works equally well in America, especially if you use the golden refiners syrup.  It is easy to make, not even requiring a mixer, and is a wonderful addition to the book.  Regrettably, I didn't know to include it in the American version, so here it is now!

Beloved English Gingerbread Cake
                                Serves:  10 to 12

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1¼ liquid cups golden refiner's syrup or corn syrup* 
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 heaping tablespoon marmalade
2 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 cup (4 ozs.) sifted cake flour (lightly spooned into cup and leveled off)
1 cup -1 tablespoon (4 ozs.) whole wheat flour     (lightly spooned into cup and         leveled off)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch salt        
lemon syrup:
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed    
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar

One 8-inch square cake pan, preferably metal*, greased, bottom lined with parchment or waxed paper, then greased and floured.  
Note:  some metal pans slope inward and are less than 8-inches at the bottom.  In this case it is better to use a 9-inch square pan or fill the pan ½ full and bake the excess batter as cup cakes.
In a small, heavy saucepan, on medium-low heat, stir together the butter, golden syrup, sugar and marmalade until melted and uniform.  Set aside until just barely warm, then whisk in the eggs and milk.  
In a large bowl, whisk together all the remaining dry ingredients.  Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring with a large spoon or rubber spatula just until the batter is smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin, no more than ½ full.  Bake for 50-60 minute or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.  The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.
To make syrup:  In a small pan, stir together the 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons softened butter and the 3 tablespoons sugar.  Heat stirring, until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved.  Brush half the syrup on to the top of the cake.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.
Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto a greased wire rack.  Brush the bottom with the remaining syrup.  To prevent splitting, reinvert so that the top is up.
For extra moistness, cover the cake with plastic wrap while still hot and allow it to cool.  Wrap airtight for 24 hours before eating.

FINISHED HEIGHT:  about 2 inches
STORE:  2 days room temperature, 5 days refrigerated, 2 months frozen.


Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake for 45 minutes.

Pumpkin Cheesecake.png

Pumpkin Cheesecake Crust

Equipment: One 9-inch by 2 1/2-inch or higher springform pan, greased, outside of the pan wrapped with a double layer of heavy-duty foil to prevent seepage. One 12-inch by 2-inch cake pan or roasting pan to serve as a water bath.

CRUST: 4 1/4 oz. gingersnaps, broken (preferably Swedish brand), 2 oz. pecans, toasted, 1T sugar, 2 pinches salt, 2 oz. butter, melted. Process cookies and pecans, sugar, salt til fine crumbs (app 20 secs.) Add melted butter and pulse 10 times til just incorporated. Press into pan and up the sides.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a small, heavy saucepan, stir together the pumpkin and sugar. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick and shiny.
Scrape the mixture into a large food processor, fitted with the metal blade and process for 1 minute with the feed tube open.

With the motor running, add the cold cream. Add the cream cheese in several pieces and process for 30 seconds, scraping the sides two or three times, or until smoothly incorporated. Add the eggs and yolks and process for about 5 seconds or just until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set the pan in the larger pan and surround it with 1 inch of very hot water. Bake the cake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven without opening the door and let the cake cool for 1 hour. Remove it to a rack and cool to room temperature (about 1 hour). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. To unmold, wipe sides of pan with towel run under hot water and wrung out. The cake will be 1 3/4-inches high.

Optional Caramel and Pecan Garnish: Arrange the pecan halves around the perimeter of the cake pointed ends out. If using extra pecan pieces, scatter them evenly within the circle of pecan halves. The caramel can be added 6 hours ahead but the cake cannot be covered, as the condensation will soften the caramel.

Pour the caramel into a quart-size freezer weight zip-seal bag (without a “zipper”) or a piping page. Cut a small amount from one corner and pipe the caramel in swirls on top of the pecans.

Caramel Sauce

Take care when making it not to have any small children about and give it your undivided attention. Caramel burns are extremely painful.

Makes: 1 full cup, app 10.5 ounces/308 grams

Caramel Sauce.png

Equipment: 1 heavy saucepan, at least 5 cup capacity, ideally with a non-stick lining

In the saucepan, stir together the sugar, syrup, and the water until the sugar is completely moistened. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Stop stirring completely and allow it to boil undisturbed until it turns a deep amber (360°F to 380°F.). Immediately remove it from the heat and slowly and carefully pour the hot cream into the caramel. It will bubble up furiously.

Use a high temperature spatula, to stir the mixture until smooth, scraping the thicker part that settles on the bottom. If any lumps develop, return the pan to the heat and stir until they dissolve. Stir in the butter. The mixture will be streaky but become uniform after cooling slightly and stirring.
Allow it to cool for 3 minutes. Gently stir in the vanilla extract.

For a decorative lacing effect, the caramel pours perfectly at room temperature. For the greatest precision, use a pastry bag with a small decorating tube or zip seal bag with a small amount of the corner cut.

Store: Room temperature up to 3 days; refrigerated at least 3 months.

To reheat: If the caramel is in a microwave-safe container at room temperature, microwave it on high power for 1 minute, stirring twice. Alternatively, place it in a pan of simmering water and heat, stirring occasionally, until warm, about 7 minutes.

Pointers for Success:
After the caramel is prepared, do not stir it too much as this also may eventually cause crystallization. The syrup will help to prevent this.

Variation: Bourbon Butterscotch Caramel: Substitute 2 tablespoons of bourbon for an equal amount of the cream. Add it together with the vanilla extract.

This recipe first appeared in an article I wrote for Fine Cooking Magazine, 2001

Rose's Favorite Yellow Layer Cake

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bake 35  to 45 minutes

Makes:  A 1-3/4 inch high cake

The Batter

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Equipment: A 9 inch springform pan, bottom greased, lined with parchment, then greased and floured (preferably with spray that contains flour)

Preheat the Oven: 20 minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the Batter
In a medium bowl, lightly combine the yolks, about 1/4 of the sour cream, and the vanilla.
In a stand mixer bowl, with paddle attachment, combine the cake flour, the sugar, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt.
Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and the remaining sour cream and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Increase to medium speed, or high speed if using a hand held mixer, and beat for 1 minute to aerate and develop the structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 2 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides.

Bake the Cake
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the surface. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and it springs back when pressed lightly in the center.
Remove the cake from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides of the cake with a small metal spatula, and remove the sides of the springform. Invert the cake onto a wire rack and reinvert onto a second rack it so that the top faces up. Cool completely before frosting or wrapping airtight.

Finished Height: 1-3/4 inches

Store airtight  3 days room temperature;  1 week refrigerated;  3 months frozen.

Pointers for Success

  • Weigh or measure the egg yolks as they vary considerably
  • Use superfine sugar for the finest texture.  (You can make it by processing fine granulated sugar in the food processor for a few minutes.) 
  • Use cake flour without leavening or bleached all purpose flour.
  • Use unsalted butter for the best flavor. 
  • Use fresh baking powder under 1 year old. 


Adapted from “The Cake Bible”

Copyright 2005 Rose Levy Berenbaum