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Subtitle: and why it’s not good to bake when you are in a rush and doing too many things at the same time.
I thought it would be nice to make a little gluten-free babka for Easter this year. Some years I make the Hot Cross Buns from Gluten-Free Baking Classics, and in others, I make the European Yeast Coffee Cake recipe from the next page of the same book. But this year, I turned all the way to the bread chapter. Babka it is. And it’s not just any babka. The recipe goes way back to when I was growing up: each year my family would receive a much-coveted Ukrainian Easter bread from the kitchen of John and Mary Fizer. The Fizers baked the dough in coffee cans because they made so many breads at the same time. But the unique shape was only part of what we looked forward to. The sweetened, egg-enriched bread came studded with rum-infused golden raisins. My family served it for breakfast and brunch over the holiday and savored each morsel.
I decided to make my babka on very a busy day- one in which I was already testing several recipes, baking for an evening speech I was giving to a celiac support group, and getting my house ready for the holiday weekend when I will be hosting my entire family for a huge extravaganza in which we celebrate all the birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays in one day because we live so far apart. At the same time, I was contemplating the fact that I needed to get out and work in my garden because spring sprang up way earlier than normal here in the northeast: my rock walls need repairing, my beds need mulching, my hosta need separating, and I need to deal elegantly and forcefully with some mutant plant that started out innocently but proceeded to take over large areas of my garden (it looks like Gill Over the Ground. I will post a picture below and beg for help identifying it). In other words, I had a lot on my mind.
So back to the babka. I ran out of my shiny metal 8 x 4-inch loaf pans because I was testing other bread recipes. I ended up using my slightly darker non-stick pan (yes, I know, a big no-no in my book) and forgot to turn down the heat by 25ºF. I did make sure that I floured the pan really well to cover up the non-stick coating as much as possible. But then after the first 10 minutes of baking, I opened the oven to put some foil over the top of the bread and failed to crimp the edges well. Twenty minutes later I looked in and found the foil completely opened up on the back-side of the oven. The result was a somewhat uneven, over-browned loaf. Delicious, but not picture perfect.
And while we’re on the topic of baking bread and things that can go wrong……
When you make bread, did you ever notice that one side of your loaf “opens up” a bit and rises more than the other? This can also happen when baking hamburger and hot dog buns. The side where the bread seems to “open up” and rise more is the hot spot in your oven. My hot spot is in the back, so I typically try to position the whole pan as far into that area as possible so it will rise evenly. When the foil opened up on my babka, it seemed to exacerbate the problem of my hot spot. One side of my loaf is perfect, and the other side looks, well, uneven.
My Gluten-free Easter Babka is a little darker, a little lopsided, and not as pretty as normal, but it was delicious this morning, none the less. I warmed up a slice in the toaster and served it with a touch of Sarahbeth’s® Strawberry Peach Preserves. It was a perfect way to start the holiday weekend a little early.
BABKA (UKRAINIAN STYLE)
Allow the bread to rise slowly. Don’t put it in a place that is too warm; the ideal temperature is about 80ºF. A fast rise will contribute to an unstable bread that is likely to fall. The xanthan gum needs time to “set” in gluten-free breads. Also, try not to let the bread rise above the pan before you bake it, because this will contribute to instability.
Makes one 1 lb. loaf.
3/4 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon rum
2 large eggs and 2 egg yolks (room temperature is best)
2 cups Bread Flour Mix
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 packet (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast granules (not quick-rise)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (or dairy substitute)
2/3 cup milk, heated to 110°F* (or dairy substitute)
- Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and dust with rice flour.
- Mix raisins and rum in a small bowl and set aside. Put eggs and egg yolks in a small bowl and set aside.
- Mix all dry ingredients in large bowl of electric mixer. Quickly add eggs, egg yolks, warm milk, and butter to the bowl; mix until just blended. Scrape bowl and beaters, and then beat at high speed for 3 minutes. Add raisin and rum mixture and mix well. Spoon dough into prepared pan; cover with a light cloth and let rise in a warm place for about 50-80 minutes (until dough is about 1 inch from below top of pan).
- Place rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 400ºF while bread is rising (do not use a convection oven because it will brown the bread too quickly).
- Bake bread for about 10 minutes; remove from oven, cover bread with aluminum foil, return to oven, and bake another 40-45 minutes. Bread should have a heavy but hollow sound when tapped on the sides and bottom. Your instant-read thermometer should register about 205ºF. Remove bread from oven and turn onto a rack to cool. Wrap bread well in plastic wrap and then foil. Store in refrigerator for up to three days or freezer for up to three weeks.
Cook’s Note: Dry ingredients can be mixed ahead and stored in plastic containers for future use. Do not add yeast until just ready to bake babka.
* Find my Bread Flour Mix in the Guide to Flour Mix section of this blog.
OK plant lovers- what is this beautiful plant that is taking over my flower beds?