Call me a hopeless romantic, but I believe in the concept of “The One”. As for the process of discovering who that is, that’s where I’m left a bit clueless. Do you catch sight of each other in a crowded room and feel oddly drawn, your heart pounding faster as you near? Could it be someone you once knew, and when you meet again you realize there’s some strange electric chemistry you never noticed before?
The practical side of me is skeptical about these things, because it all sounds vague and hormonal– something that works better in movies rather than the real world– but the fantastical side of me loves these kinds of things. Funny, isn’t it?
Thankfully when it comes to food, picking “The One” isn’t all too complicated or controversial. Today you can feel strongly about a recipe or a dish, tomorrow your attention can shift, and nobody will give you flak about jumping from one to another! Such is the case of the recipe I’m writing about today.
I’ve made some pretty awesome babkas before and I can’t remember if I’ve ever declared any of them “The One”, but it must be good news when the recipes you make keep being better than the last. I hope it also means I’m getting better at filtering recipes as I read them.
In any case, this Matcha Black Sesame Babka recipe is “The One” at the moment. It is absolute perfection!
Babkas are really interesting breads for me. I feel like on the richness scale, they are a couple of steps away from the croissant, which if you’ve ever tried making one at home you will know is butter overload bread. Of course butter is where most baked things get their texture, and in the same way babkas also get their beautiful crumb from the amount of butter added.
Interesting bit about this babka is the yeast starter. I do believe this was my first time using this kind of method where flour is added into the yeast solution, and just imagine me in my spectacles standing over a living, breathing glass of foamy yeast and maybe you can get a sense of how I felt. It was kind of like a science experiment where in my head I’m going: It’s alive! It’s alive!
The original instructions state that the dough should be refrigerated overnight as it undergoes its first rise, but because I am a rebel without much time, I decided to just let it rise for an hour. The resulting loaves are still SUPERB, but it does make me wonder how much the texture could still improve if I followed the process to a T.
I think I might use this as my babka base from now on for whatever flavour I think of, because the breads this recipe produces are amazing in terms of texture and fluffiness. They can even give the breads produced by the Asian tangzhong method a run for their money! Just amazing. I could try to think of other adjectives to use but bottom line is these are some of the best babkas I have ever made in my life.
Makes two 9x5 -inch loaves
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 4 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, divided use
- 9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons matcha powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 ½ Tablespoons honey
- 5 Tablespoons toasted black sesame seeds, coarsely ground
- 1. In an ovenproof measuring glass, warm milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until thermometer reads 110°F. Sprinkle in the yeast and whisk in 1 cup of the flour. Let the mixture stand for 20 minutes, until foamy.
- 2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and granulated sugar for 4 minutes on medium, until light and fluffy.
- 3. Add eggs and then the yolk, one at a time, mixing on medium for 30 seconds between each addition. (Slight curdling may occur but keep going.) Scrape down sides as necessary throughout this process. Add in vanilla and mix for an additional 30 seconds.
- 4. Turn mixer to lowest speed and slowly add the remaining flour and matcha powder until almost completely combined. Add the foamy milk-yeast mixture and mix on low for 1 minute. Add salt and continue to mix on medium-low at least 5 minutes, or until dough starts to cleanly pull away from the bowl and the colour is a solid consistent green.
- 5. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 1 hour or until doubled, or you can refrigerate the dough overnight.
- 6. In the bowl of stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, beat together unsalted butter, granulated sugar, honey, and coarsely ground toasted sesame seeds on medium, until thoroughly combined and slightly fluffy. Refrigerate if not using immediately but bring back to room temperature once ready to bake.
- 7. Line two 9-inch loaf pans with parchment paper and set aside. Punch down risen dough and divide into two equal pieces.
- 8. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the first piece of dough (keeping the other covered with a towel) into a 12-x 20-inch rectangle. Using an offset spatula or spoon, spread half the prepared sesame filling evenly over the dough. (It's best to leave half an inch all around the dough to keep it from getting messy later on.)
- 9. Tightly roll the dough from the shorter end, pinching the seam shut and positioning the roll of dough so the seam is at the bottom. Trim about 1/2-inch off both ends of the roll with a serrated bread knife or dough cutter, then carefully cut the roll into half right down the middle lengthwise.
- 10. Roll doughs halves over so that the cut sides are facing up, then pinch one end of the two halves together. Twist the two halves together by crossing the left half over the right half, until you reach the end and the two halves are intertwined. Pinch together the ends of the dough lightly to seal.
- 11. Carefully but quickly transfer the twisted dough into one of the prepped pans. Cover with a damp, clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm area for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Repeat for second loaf.
- 12. Preheat oven to 325°F (165°C), at least 30 minutes before babkas have finished rising.
- 13. Place the risen loaves onto a baking sheet to catch any filling that might bubble over, then remove towels and bake the loaves on the middle rack for 75 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. If your loaves are browning too quickly, tent with foil.
- 14. Allow loaves to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack completely before cutting in.
What I am a huge fan of is the matcha-black sesame combo, and my goodness did these babkas do a terrific job of showcasing this pair of flavours!