During the holidays I was somehow lucky enough to receive not one but two Bouchon Bakery cookbooks as gifts. Alas, you’ll have to wait for a report on my adventures with Bouchon for another day. Today we’re visiting what I traded the second Bouchon cookbook for: Jerusalem. I’ve had my eye on this beautifully photographed and narrated cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi since it popped onto the scene last October. I’ve long been intrigued by cuisines that cross boundaries as a result of geographic and cultural proximity. For me, there has also always been a deep stirring for this part of the world, a sort of calling of some memory from generations ago. Most likely I’ve romanticized the idea, but there is a part of me that, despite a complete lack of hereditary evidence, believes this is where I started.
Genetics notwithstanding, it should be no surprise that I started the book with the sweets section. Specifically, a gorgeous pair of chocolate krantz cakes. While the name was new to me, I’ve long been familiar with this particular delicacy in the form of babka. Nearly identical in recipe, babka is the Eastern European Jewish name for Israeli Jewish krantz cake.
Perhaps the exact opposite of a quick bread, krantz cake takes a day or so but is incredibly satisfying to make.
Yeast dough is topped with chocolate, pecans and sugar and rolled into a thick cigar. I apologize for the awful picture but…but the roll needed to be shown.
Then the real fun begins. The roulade is split down the middle longways.
And twisted into a pretty braid.
One last proofing gives the dough a little volume.
This is one of those recipes that smells ridiculously delicious while in the oven.
Out of the oven you’ll wonder; ‘holy smokes, did I just make this?’ Oh, but there is more. The piece de resistance is a thorough drenching of the still warm cake with simple syrup. Now, you’ll ask yourself, ‘really, is this last step necessary on top of such obvious decadence.’ Yes, it is.
Quick recipes have a serious place in my heart. In fact, I consider myself the queen of the brownie (at least in my own little kingdom of TD and a couple of Kitchen Gods). But, this recipe was an absolute pleasure to make with an outcome equal to the time.
Depeche Mode. I know right?
Chocolate Krantz Cakes
from Jersualem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Smi Tamimi, Ten Speed Press
- 4 1/2 C (530 grams) all purpose flour plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 C (100 grams) superfine sugar
- 2 tsp fast-rising active dry yeast
- grated zest of one small lemon
- 3 extra-large eggs
- 1/2 C (120 ml water)
- rounded 1/4tsp salt
- 2/3 C (150 grams) unsalted butter at room temp. cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- sunflower oil for greasing
- scant 1/2 C (50 grams) confectioner’s sugar
- 1/3 C (30 grams) best quality cocoa powder
- 4 1/2 ounces (130 grams) good quality dark chocolate, melted
- 1/2 C (120 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 C (100 grams) pecans, coarsely chopped
- 2 TBS superfine sugar
SYRUP (enough to cover both cakes)
- 2/3 C (160 ml) water
- 1 1/4 C (260 grams) superfine sugar
FOR THE DOUGH
- Place the flour, sugar, yeast and lemon zest in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on low for 1 minutes.
- Add the eggs and water and mix on low speed for a few second, then increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes, until the dough comes together.
- Add the salte and then start adding the butter, a few cubes at a time, mixing until it is incorporated into the dough. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed, until the dough is completely smooth, elastic and shiny. During the mixing, scrape-down the sides of the bowl a few times and throw a small amount of flour onto the sides so that all of the dough leaves them.
- Place the dough in a large bowl brushed with sunflower oil, cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for at least half-a-day (overnight is best).
- Grease two 2 1/4 lb loaf pans (9X4 inches) with some sunflower oil and line the bottom of each pan with a piece of parchment paper.
- Divide the dough in half and keep one-half covered in the fridge.
- Make the filling by mixing together the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate and butter into a spreadable paste.
- Roll-out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring 15X11 inches. Trim the sides to make them even.
- Use an offset spatula to spread half the chocolate mixture over the rectangle, leaving 3/4 inch border all around. Sprinkle half the pecans on top of the chocolate, then sprinkle with half the superfine sugar.
- Brush a little bit of water along the long end furthest away from you.
- Use both hands to roll-up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side that is closest to you. Be sure to roll tightly.
- Press to seal the dampened end onto the roulade and then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect, thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam.
- Trim about 3/4 inch off both ends of the cigar with a serrated knife.
- Using a serrated knife, gently cut the roll into half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing on the seamm.
- With the cut sides facing up, gently press together one end of each half and then lift the right half over the left half. Repeat the process, but this time lift the left half over the right.
- Gently squeeze together the other ends so that you are left with the two halves, intertwined, showing the filling on top.
- Carefully lift the dough into a loaf pan.
- Cover the pan with a wet tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-1 1/2 hours. The cake will rise by 10-20 percent.
- Repeat with second ball of dough.
- Preheat oven to 374 degrees.
- Remove the tea towels, place the cakes on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
- While the cakes are in the oven, make the syrup.
- Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan, place over medium heat and bring to a boil.
- As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from te heat and leave to cool down.
- As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush all of the syrup over them. Use up all the syrup.
- Allow cakes to cool until just warm, then remove from the pans and let cool completely before serving.