(This recipe appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)
After years of teaching in renowned pastry schools around the world, pastry chefs and friends Vinesh Johny and Andrés Lara have experienced pastries and desserts from Singapore to Stockholm, and lots of places in between. Inspired by the amazing treats they tasted while traveling, the duo decided to create a collection of recipes that is an exciting mash-up of their favorites from around the world. New-School Sweets: Old-School Pastries with an Insanely Delicious Twist (Page Street Publishing, 2021; $22.99) is just as the title suggests: a compilation of over 70 recipes for desserts and pastries that combine classic techniques with surprising flavor combinations and contemporary tricks that the chefs use to make these pastries their own. French classics get a makeover in recipes such as Saffron Milk Brioche, Rocky Chocolate Financier and Cinnamon Roll Créme Brûlée, and there are unexpected bursts of flavor in desserts like the Szechuan Peppercorn Hazelnut Tart and Pandan Pumpkin Chiffon. Here is the recipe for one our favorites from the book, an indulgent Caramel Babka that is layered with dark chocolate ganache and milk chocolate caramel.
Yield: 2 loaves
Mold: 6 1/2 x 3-inch (16 1/2 x 7 1/2-cm) loaf pan
- 250 g bread flour, plus more for dusting
- 25 g granulated sugar
- 13.5 g fresh yeast
- 30 g unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- 130 g water
- 1 tsp salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the bread flour, granulated sugar, yeast, butter, egg, water and salt. Knead the dough for 8 minutes at medium speed until it comes together well and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Perform a window-pane test on the dough by taking a small, flattened piece and gently spreading it apart with your fingers: if the dough forms a thin, even, translucent membrane without tearing, then the gluten is perfectly developed. If a clear “window” isn’t forming yet, keep kneading and checking until the dough is ready. We also want to make sure that the dough temperature always stays between 68 and 75°F (20 and 24°C) so our bread has the best flavor and an even rise.
- Dust a bowl with flour, take the dough out of the mixer and shape it into a nice smooth mound. Place it in the bowl, then cover with cling film and rest it at room temperature for an hour.
- Once the dough has risen, you’ll need to knock it back. Do this by firmly pressing or punching down the dough to properly distribute the air bubbles. Then place the dough on a surface dusted with flour, and roll it into a rectangle of 8 x 6 inches (20 1/3 x 15 1/4 cm) that’s ½ inch (1.3 cm) thick. Transfer the dough to a tray, wrap it with cling film and keep it in the refrigerator for later.
Milk Chocolate Caramel
- 60 g milk chocolate, chopped
- 10 g honey
- 100 g heavy cream
- 55 g granulated sugar
- 30 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ tsp sea salt
- Place the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it aside.
- In a saucepan, warm the honey and cream.
- In another saucepan, start heating the granulated sugar, stirring continuously, until it caramelizes to a deep amber color. Add the butter to the sugar to help deglaze the pan. Add the warmed honey-cream mixture, stirring until it all comes together. Pour the mixture into the bowl containing the milk chocolate, allowing it to melt. Toss in the salt, and use a hand blender to bring it to a smooth emulsion, then refrigerate for 2 hours to get it to the right consistency.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
- 90 g dark chocolate, chopped
- ¾ tsp corn syrup
- 90 g heavy cream
- 10 g unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
- Place the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it aside.
- In a saucepan, combine the corn syrup and cream, and heat it to a simmer. Then pour the heated mixture into the bowl containing the dark chocolate, and allow it to melt. Mix well, and let it cool to room temperature.
- Add the butter at the end, and use a hand blender to get a nice smooth ganache.
Assembly and Baking
- 30 g sliced almonds
- Milk, for brushing
- Grease the loaf pan with butter. Spread a layer of chocolate ganache on the dough within 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) of the edges. Then use a piping bag to drizzle milk chocolate caramel all over the ganache, and roll the dough along the longer side into a log. Wrap this in cling film and freeze for an hour to get the dough a little firmer.
- Now use a small sharp knife to cut along the center of the log lengthwise, so we get two long halves with the layers exposed. Twist the halves together to form a braid, and place it into the prepared loaf tin. Leave it to proof in a bread fermentation box at 79°F (26°C) and 60 percent humidity, or place it in a switched-off oven with a bowl of hot water. Proofing usually takes about 2 hours; you’ll know it’s just right when the dough has doubled in size.
- While the dough is proofing, soak the sliced almond in a bowl of water to get them ready for baking. Once the bread is proofed, brush a layer of milk over the surface, and sprinkle the almonds on top. Also preheat the oven to 392°F (200°C). Bake the loaf for 35 to 40 minutes, until it turns a perfect golden brown. This beautiful layered babka is ready to serve up nice and warm. You can store it wrapped at room temperature for up to a day.
Reprinted with permission from New-School Sweets by Vinesh Johny and Andrés Lara, Page Street Publishing Co. 2021.
Photo credit: Manek D’Silva