It is with sadness that I write this post as this is the last challenge for the Sourdough Surprises Group. In the nearly two years I’ve been a part of the group, I have grown as a baker and in my understanding of my starter and how to use it. With the encouragement of the monthly challenges, I have learned to use my starter not only in traditional yeast breads, but also in unusual ways such as granola bars and pasta. I have made simple quick breads and challenging technical bakes such as croissants. I believe that this group is the sole reason that the sourdough starter I grew for another challenge group in 2011 is still living today, nearly 4 years later. I have become comfortable enough with sourdough that it is actually now my yeast of choice. Thank you, Sourdough Surprises! I will miss you.
Now, on to the current challenge. This month’s challenge, appropriately, is holiday breads. Breads are a pretty traditional use of sourdough starter. Holiday breads can be a little tricky to make as they are often enriched (lots of butter and sugar) which makes the yeast slower to rise. The house is also chillier, making for very long rise times. For my holiday bread, I decided to make Babka Bites, a mini version of the Jewish Babka loaf. It wasn’t until I was writing up this post that I realized that my very first Sourdough Surprises baking challenge in 2013 was traditional Babka! How appropriate to come full circle with my last challenge also being a variation on Babka.
Babka Bites have been on my to-do list since I got The Holiday Kosher Baker by Paula Shoyer last year. Babka is traditionally a rich brioche-type loaf which is swirled with chocolate filling. Babka Bites are a smaller version of this holiday loaf, baked in a mini-muffin pan instead. The idea is to keep one from eating slice after slice of Babka. The recipe was an epic fail in this regard as it’s really easy to just pop these babies into my mouth, one after another after another!
To make the dough for the Babka Bites, I made a sponge using 1/2 cup of active sourdough starter as well as a little sugar and some extra flour. The next morning, when the sponge was bubbly and active, I mixed in the remaining ingredients. As I am not keeping kosher or observing Jewish holidays, I used regular butter in the dough and filling in place of the margarine. I let the dough rise at room temperature for a couple of hours, then moved it into the refrigerator to continue to develop and to delay having to continue with the recipe until the next morning.
The dough is divided into two. I only have two mini-muffin pans, so I put the other half in the fridge to use after baking the first batch. The dough is rolled into a rectangle and spread with a rich chocolate filling and sprinkled with mini chocolate chips.
The dough is rolled up and cut just like cinnamon rolls. The spirals are placed into lined mini muffin cups and baked until golden. I had a bit of trouble with the filling running out, which may because of my butter substitution, but the resulting Babka Bites were delicious and all too snackable.
- For the Sponge:
- ½ C active sourdough starter (100% hydration)
- 1 tsp. sugar
- ¼ C. (35g) all purpose unbleached flour
- For the Dough:
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 2 C (280g) all purpose unbleached flour
- pinch of salt
- 4 T unsalted butter (or margarine), softened
- ¼ cup (60ml) canola/vegetable oil
- 1 large egg plus 1 egg white
- For the Filling:
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter (or margarine)
- ¼ cup (20g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (60g) mini chocolate chips
- Mix the sponge ingredients together and cover loosely. Let stand at room temperature or in a warm place until the mixture is bubbly and light. I typically do this overnight on my counter or in the oven with the light on.
- In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the bubble sponge and the remaining dough ingredients and mix until combined.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled. I let mine sit a couple hours at room temperature and then moved it to the fridge overnight. Let it come back to room temperature before continuing.
- Make the filling by beating the butter until creamy. Add the cocoa and sugar and beat until combined.
- Preheat the oven to 325F/160C. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough out into a 9"x12" rectangle. Gently spread half of the filling over the dough using a silicone spatula. Sprinkle with half of the chocolate chips. From one of the long sides, roll the dough up into a cylinder. Cut the cylinder into ½" slices (you will have approximately 24). Place each slice into a paper-lined mini-muffin cup well.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden. Store covered at room temperature for up to four days or freeze for up to three months.