Duccio Babkallah

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Madonna and Child, ca. 1300, tempera and gold on wood, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Just a note, the irregular gaps in the bottom of the frame are where the candles have burned away over many, many years of religious worship.
I follow recipes as I imagine Hermione Granger follows spell books. However, as of late, after I have mastered a recipe, I have been dabbling at making it my own, to delicious results. This post is a recipe for my own variation of the traditional Babkallah bread, and I'm crazy about it. So what's with the Duccio painting? Well, I debuted my bread at our annual graduate school reunion dinner party, and it turns out my dear friend Elliott loves Babkallah, and I was so pleased I had spontaneously brought him one of his favorite desserts. Elliott has just completed his year long internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and if he could take home one painting, it would be the above Duccio painting. So in our house, this recipe is called in Elliott's honor:
Duccio Babkallah

1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp yeast
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pastry flour

1 dime-sized droplet of almond emulsion*
1 package almond paste*
3/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter

Warm the milk in the microwave until just warm, maybe 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in the yeast. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Stir the flours, salt and sugar together in a medium-sized bowl. Mix the milk mixture with the egg yolks, vanilla and butter.
Letting the yeast do its magic!
My favorite vanilla bean paste. So scrumptious! 
I'm crazy about this pastry flour, Bob's Red Mill Fine Pastry Flour. It makes everything better, and makes the dough for the babkallah a little extra stretchy, and ultimately lighter.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients, stir until it starts to stick together. Put your arms into it! Stir that sucker!
This will be your beautiful little ball of doughy glory. Spray a bowl with a little Pam, cover well, and let it sit for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours in a warm place.

While you're waiting for the dough, here's the directions for the filling:
Your almonds need to be finely chopped, or the bread will fall apart. 
With a non-stick rolling pin, roll out the almond paste as thin as you can without breaking it apart. Partition three equal portions with a sharp knife.
Thin almond paste dries out quickly, and you don't want that fate to befall your paste! So cover it tightly with saran wrap. 
When your dough is ready, partition it also into three parts. Gently roll one part of the dough at a time into a long, flat ovals. 
Place one of the almond paste sections in the center of your oval dough, and roll them together. You can't tell from the photo very well, but you can see where the paste has been rolled into the dough. 
Spread the filling onto the dough, but leave a little space around the edges so it rolls easily. Roll the dough lengthwise tightly, and pinch the dough to keep it together. Place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down. Do the same to the rest of the dough, paste and filling.
This is the most fun part, braid the dough together! You may need to pinch the ends with wetted fingers, and turn them under. Let this braided beauty for another 1 1/2 -2 hours, covered so it doesn't dry. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and when the dough is ready, if you'd like you can use a brush and gently cover the bread with an egg wash - an egg yolk mixed with a tablespoon of water.

Bake it 35-45 minutes. Let it cool completely, slice, and revel in the deliciousness you created!
Tell me that doesn't look delicious?! Because it IS.

*If you aren't as nutty about almonds as I am, you can skip these additions!

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful. :) I hope I can taste it someday!