As a born and bred Londoner, there’s only two Instagram hashtags that I’m able to get fully lost in. There are as follows: #LondonEats and #LondonFashion. The latter is usually a result of my monthly shopping bug and ends up with me realising how poor I am and heading off to H&M to buy a couple of underwhelming jumpers which I will probably never wear. The former, however, is certainly a productive activity. And even more so now that I’m not longer hunting sugar-free, carb-free poo-balls to satisfy that little brain bastard. A notable discovery was that of The Good Egg and their bountiful choice of Babka.
I can’t help but be especially attracted to middle eastern delights; it’s in my goddam blood. The brainchild of Joel Braham, Alex Coppard and Oded Mizrachi, The Good Egg’s Israeli-style brunches and beautiful bakes has been a staple for London food instagram accounts for the past couple of years. However given that the joint was all the way in sodding Stoke Newington (I live in Hammersmith), I rarely could be arsed to make the pilgrimage across the city.
Until… they went and opened up a secondary restaurant in Soho. Naturally, I dragged my perpetually unenthusiastic boyfriend to Kingly Court and insisted we endure the two hour wait for a table. The restaurant itself is small. It’s sort of, ‘inhale the humous-breath of the opposite hipster’ small. The food (I had a banging Jerusalem plate; small dishes including sweet fleshy aubergine, tahini and smoked paprika and crispy fried eggs) was predictably incredible, but there was one very obvious highlight.
Every morning, the pastry chefs at The Good Egg bake a fresh batch of seasonal Babka. Now, it’s not like me to take a risk on an unfamiliar sweet treat after a sizeable meal, but the promise of challah bread + sticky, sweet, gnarly crusts drew me right in. It was legit the best thing I’ve eaten since the last latest Ben & Jerry’s flavour launched (peanut butter something…go find it) and I gobbled it up on the walk back to the station without giving my (still unenthusiastic) boyfriend so much as a whiff.
It reminded me of the importance of adhering to your innate desires. There are many untapped pleasures in life, and allowing your senses to guide you into realms of happiness is one of them. I mean, I know; ‘listen to your body’ and all that, but occasionally…don’t, just make a Babka instead.
FIG AND CHOCOLATE BABKA
25g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp honey
420g strong flour
1 packet dried yeast
1 pinch table salt
100g dark chocolate
1 pinch cinnamon
1 tbsp honey
100g dried figs, chopped into small pieces
Large knob of butter
Handful of chopped walnuts
50g caster sugar
Pistachios (smashed with a rolling pin)
Note: Don’t be put off. It’s a hell of a lot easier than it looks and the pay off is buttery, chocolatey euphoria. This makes two Babkas.
- Combine the flour and yeast, then add eggs, milk, sugar, honey. You can do this in a free-standing mixer for ease, but I did it by hand because I am a) cheap and b) an absolute machine.
- Add the salt and knead for two minutes until the mixture all comes together. Then add the butter (melted, if easier) and knead in the bowl. It should be sticky and shiny, if it’s dry add a touch of tepid water.
- Keep kneading for about 10 minutes until the dough is elastic. You can tip out onto a surface and kneed if easier.
- Lightly oil a glass or plastic bowl, place the dough inside the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove for at least 8 hours in the fridge.
- Remove dough from the fridge & bring it back to room temperature and make the fig jam. Combine the figs, honey and 50ml of water in a pan. Bring to the boil and then simmer until figs have softened enough for you to mash them up.
- Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knock out the air, and split it into two.
- On two pieces of (greased) greaseproof paper, roll out each half into a 45x55cm rectangle (or oblong). If it springs back slightly, wait a minute or so and try again.
- Melt the chocolate and butter, and add the cinnamon.
- Spread the fig jam onto each rectangle using a pastry brush. Then spread the chocolate on top of the fig layer using a palette knife, leaving about 1.5cm around the edges clear. Sprinkle over walnuts. Don’t worry if it’s messy, that’s kind of the point.
- Using the greaseproof paper to help you, roll each rectangle up lengthways into a tight sausage.
- Using a knife or dough cutter, split each sausage into two, lengthways.
- Twist the two halves of one sausage slightly so that the chocolate is showing, then cross the two over each other and twist both ends around the other to shape your babka. Repeat with the other babka.
- Cover and leave to prove for 2-3 hours.
- Heat the sugar and water until the sugar crystals have dissolved and preheat oven to 155 °C.
- Transfer – keeping the the greaseproof paper – the babkas to two loaf tins. Use a pastry brush to coat in sugar syrup.
- Bake in the oven for 1 hour and baste twice with remaining sugar syrup. Sprinkle with pistachios before serving.