Jan 282009
 
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I think there are about 9 or 10 different varieties of dates grown here in Israel. Dates were always an exotic treat for me as a kid. My father made a delicious apple and date cake, and I would always sneak some of the dates to munch on. My favourite variety of dates is Medjoul, they are  luscious pieces of caramel in your mouth. They are so rich that I can only eat a couple at a time.

Babkas are dime a dozen here because of the Eastern European influence on baked goods, but this is the Middle East and there is definitely a twist on things. For example, I don’t think you would find a Babka filled with date filling in Russia or Poland, at least not thirty or forty years ago. Here you find them filled with halva and chocolate, date, chocolate, hazelnut or walnut filling.

This recipe produces a moist and not too sweet babka. I glazed this babka with orange syrup that I had from making candied orange peel. It was a nice added touch to the cake.


Date, Orange and Walnut Babka

Yield: 2 loaves

For the dough:

4 cups all purpose flour

1 cup, less one tablespoon milk or water

50g fresh yeast

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 egg

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100g (3-1/2oz) butter, softened or margarine

For Date, Orange and Walnut Filling:

1 cup date filling

(if you can't buy pre-prepared date filling, see below)

Grated zest of 1 medium orange

1 cup chopped walnuts

For syrup (optional):

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Prepare the dough:

Place all of the ingredients except the butter in a mixer fitted with a kneading hook and knead for seven minutes or mix and knead by hand. Add butter and continue kneading for five minutes. The dough should be shiny and very soft. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise to twice the original size.

Meanwhile mix the date filling and grated zest together and set aside.

Prepare the cakes:

Divide the dough in half and roll one piece on a well-floured surface to 20x30cm (9x12 inches) rectangle. Spread half of date filling on the dough and then sprinkle half of the walnuts on top of the date filling.

Roll the dough into a tight log, pinching either end of the log. Slice the log lengthwise and braid the two pieces together. Line a loaf pan with baking paper and tuck in the ends of cake so it fits snugly into the pan. Repeat the process with the second piece of dough.

Allow to rise until doubled. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes until deep golden brown.

While the cakes are baking, bring the water and sugar to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes. Brush the hot cakes with the syrup. They will keep fresh wrapped in foil for 3-4 days or you can freeze them.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/01/28/grandmothers-cake/

Date Filling

Yield: 1-1/2 cups

1 cup chopped, pitted dates

6 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine both ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat about five minutes or until thick. Let cool before using.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/01/28/grandmothers-cake/

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Baroness Tapuzina

avatarMichelle Nordell (aka Baroness Tapuzina) was a foodie from the womb growing up in the House of Weird Vegetables, so named by a family friend because all of the unusual and exotic food cooked and eaten there. She loves to change recipes using herbs from her garden and spices from the spice shops she enjoys visiting.

  7 Responses to “Grandmother’s Cake”

  1. This is a little embarrassing, but I’ve never actually had babka. I think I’ll go get one for this Shabbat so I know what they’re meant to be like, and then try making yours so that I have something to compare it with. It looks delicious, I must say.

    Quick question, though: Can you use margarine as a substitute for butter in this, or is this one of the few recipes that actually does require the dairy? I ask because I know that with milk, it can be added for wetness, for flavor, or for its chemical reactions with other ingredients, and so sometimes substitutions don’t work. Butter can be for flavor, for fat, or for… something else, I’m assuming — do substitutions work for babka?

  2. Brilliant, thanks! Then I can make it lichvod Shabbat sometime soon.

  3. Yes, margarine and water is fine for this recipe.

  4. I would eat this any day over a cake frosted or filled with buttercream. Looks fantastic.

  5. That looks delicious! There’s no prepared date filling that I know of here in France, but because of the Maghrebin influence, there are lots of wonderful dates. I look forward to trying this.

  6. This cake looks fabulous. Now I know what I’m baking for Tu B’Shvat!

  7. Hi Abra,

    On your next trip to Lyon, try to find a Middle Eastern shop. They should sell a package of date paste. Ask them if they have date paste to fill mamoul biscuits. You will need to thin the paste with either a little orange juice or some water.

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