Last year, after being in the food business for most of my life, I started my first office job. For a few months I worked in a large open-office with lots of people and had a great experience. Before moving out to my own office (which only lasted another few months before moving into my home office), I baked a few things for my office-mates, most of whom didn’t know about my history with food.
My favorite item was Pumpkin Spice Babka with a Cream Cheese Swirl, that I created last fall. It seems that people fall on the “I love all pumpkin spice things — bring it on!!” side or on the “pumpkin spice anything is disgusting”. I’m on the I love it. Bring on the coffees, frozen custards, muffins, pie, everything. So it absolutely made sense to combine the flavors of pumpkin spice and the oh–so-popular babka.
If you haven’t tried babka, it’s a sweetened, yeasted cake/bread with a swirl of something delicious inside. The most typical flavours are chocolate or cinnamon, but you can really do any flavours you like.
If you like pumpkin spice things, this is the babka for you!
1/3 cup warm milk
1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
6 Tbsp granulated sugar
12 1/2 ounces (355 grams) all-purpose flour (2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
5 Tbsp softened butter
1 large egg
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1 tsp allspice
12 ounces (340 grams) cream cheese, room temperture
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
For the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the milk, yeast, 1 Tbsp of the sugar and 1/4 cup of the flour. Leave for 5-6 minutes or until the mixture becomes frothy. Add the rest of the sugar, pumpkin, butter, egg, salt and spices and mix with a dough hook until combined. Add the rest of flour and mix on low until combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead for 7-minutes. This makes a soft dough that won’t form a ball in the mixer. Use a spatula to scrape the dough into a well-greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.
For the filling: While the dough chills in the fridge, combine the cream cheese, vanilla and sugar in a bowl. You can use a stand mixer, but if the cream cheese is room temperature, you can mix this together in a bowl with a spoon. Set aside.
Form the babka: After 4-6 hours, lightly flour your counter and turn the dough out onto the flour. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour, then roll out into a large square, approximately 14″ x 14″. Use a spatula to spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the dough, leaving approximately 1/4″ at the top. Roll the dough into a log, then use a sharp knife to carefully cut the roll in half, lengthwise (see pictures below). Twist the two halves together, keeping the sliced sides of the pieces facing up. Place the babka in a well-greased loaf-pan, pushing the loaf together from both ends, plumping up the loaf and fitting it to the pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside to rise for an hour or until it’s puffed up.
While the babka rises, preheat the oven to 350°F. When it’s ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap and bake for 30 minutes, turn and bake another 30 minutes or until the loaf is a deep, golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when you insert it into the middle of the loaf. (If the babka is browning too quickly, reduce the heat to 325 and bake until a skewer comes out clean.)
For the glaze: Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 1 minute then remove from the heat. Set aside.
When the babka is baked, remove from the oven and brush the babka with the glaze, using all of the glaze. Set aside to cool.
Let cool completely before slicing. This is best eaten the day it’s baked, but it keeps well for a couple of days on the counter, covered with plastic wrap.