Recipes

Maple Caramel Pecan Sticky Babka

4th June 2019

I’ve been thinking: when is it a good to get your hands covered in sticky sweet caramel and indulge in a scrumptious pecan babka cake? A rainy day, perhaps? A cold one? After a breakup? After a row? Definitely this cake can be classified as comfort food and, if you allow yourself to eat without guilt and without thinking about the calorie count, you will love every single bite of it!

All these thoughts about comfort food comes from having a “down day” and feeling sorry for myself for absolutely no good reason. I opened up about it on Instagram this morning and a friend suggested that “eating your feelings” is a good way to get over the blues. Another friend said that when she feels down, she takes extra care of herself, allowing herself extra treats without guilt. It could taking time off work, watch a rom-com, eat ice-cream or chocolate, sleep, read a book, paint or even work out if that’s what you consider a treat.

This maple caramel pecan sticky babka definitely feels like a treat to me. So much so, that when I made it I was able to eat just two or three slices over the five days. If you’re wondering: that’s not a lot! My usual cake consumption rate is much higher than that!

The truth is that you don’t need a lot of this cake (or bread, for technically that’s what it is). Each slice has a dozen of dough layers folded around a syrupy maple caramel sauce and pecan nuts: more than enough to make you feel satisfied.

The idea for this sticky bun – babka crossover came from Half Baked Harvest. I found her recipe on Pinterest and used it to prepare the dough and the maple caramel sauce.

I intended to follow the recipe to the letter, but as I started rolling the dough I thought: why not make a babka instead of buns?! I actually made two babkas with the quantity of dough I had: one for home and one for office (my husband’s).

To create the distinctive, twisted babka shape, I followed the method highlighted in Ottolenghi Chocolate Babka. You can find this recipe on my blog; in fact it is one of the most popular recipes on Mondomulia, because it is so good! But let’s forget about traditional chocolate babka FOR NOW and focus on this maple caramel pecan sticky babka instead.

What else can I say about this cake (yes I will continue to call it cake)? I found it very sweet, but luckily I have a very sweet tooth so I loved it – in small amounts. I also am obsessed with pecans and I love maple syrup in anything!

My husband’s colleagues were the best judges and raved about the cake. It was all gone in 7 minutes, my husband says! Someone said he hadn’t eaten such a tasty cake in years; someone else asked for the recipe; and my husband said I should open a café and sell my cakes here in Wroclaw.

What can I say… by moving to Poland, I definitely got lucky with new recipe testers for my baking experiments! ;)

The original recipe by Half Baked Harvest is listed here with US measurements (converted in millilitres and grams by me).

Ingredients

Makes two babka cakes if you use 2lb bread tins. 

For the dough

  • 1 cup (240ml) warm whole milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp (7g) instant dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp (12g) brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tbsp (60g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 3/4 cups (450g) plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5g) salt

For the maple caramel sauce

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) double cream
  • 2/3 cup (107ml) maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
  • 12 tbsp (170g) salted butter
  • 2 tsp (10ml) vanilla extract

For the filling

  • 2 cups (200g) roughly chopped pecans

Preparation

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the milk, yeast, brown sugar, eggs, butter, flour, and salt. Using the dough hook, mix until the flour is completely incorporated, about 4-5 minutes. The dough should be a little bit sticky, but not wet.

Cover the bowl with cling film and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

To make the maple caramel sauce, combine the milk, maple syrup, brown sugar and salted butter in a medium sauce pot. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring regularly to keep it from burning. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Grease two 2lb bread tins and line the bottom with parchment baking paper.

Lightly dust a surface with flour. Divide the dough into two parts. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough onto the surface, then trim the edges with a knife to obtain a rectangle of about 40cm x 30cm.

Spread half of the maple caramel sauce over the dough, leaving a 2 cm border all around. Sprinkle half of the pecan nuts.

Brush a little of water over the long edge of the dough on your left. Using both hands, roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side on your right, rolling towards the left side. Roll the dough completely into a perfect, thick log, sitting on its seam.

With a knife, trim off 2 cm of both ends. Gently, cut the roll into two, lenght-way, from the top to the bottom. Position the cut sides facing up, gently press the ends together.

Lift the right half over the left half. Repeat with the left half over the right half and press the ends together to seal it.

Carefully lift the loaf and place into the tin.

Repeat the process with the remaining dough. Cover the two bread tins with cling film or a tea towel. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan. Transfer the tins to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the loaves are golden brown on top. If they are browning too quickly on top, cover with foil halfway through cooking.

Leave the loaves in their tins until completely cool before moving onto a serving plate. Store in airtight containers.

Note 1: don’t forget to rest the babka cakes in the tins after you have folded them and before baking!

Note 2: the cake in this photos is slightly under-baked, because I got confused with my new oven settings and later realised the fan wasn’t on (it was on half oven, half grill!). So I put the cake back into the oven after taking the photos to cook it through. Obviously, it’s not ideal but no one is perfect; accidents and mistakes can and do happen in the kitchen all the time.

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