Hey hey hey! I’m writing at another ski lodge again. It is equally as distracting as the last ski lodge I wrote at. Except it doesn’t quite smell like sweat, chicken fingers and donuts. I snagged myself a nice sunny table outside. So it smells like clean mountain air and bbq from the bqq tent 15 feet from me. I am surrounded by children bickering over pizza in German, but I’m hoping they leave soon.
It’s Easter Sunday. Not that that really means anything to me. When my brother and I were little, my family would entertain us with the always fun Easter egg hunt, egg dyeing, and copious amounts of Easter candy. I feel like Easter is the most magical for kids. As my brother and I and our cousins grew older, Easter festivities started to fade. Plus my family is not really religious at all. I think this weekend would just be another weekend that we would all get together for Dim Sum or lunch at my grandparents’ house.
Reuben and I have spent this Easter weekend up in Auburn, California enjoying some nature. He is skiing in Tahoe today (Sunday), which is why I am writing at a ski lodge again. As much as I’ve enjoyed all the beautiful sites and the great food this weekend, I can’t seem to shake the little bit of homesickness I’ve been feeling. Even though Easter is not a big deal for my family and I don’t even think they are getting together this weekend, I still miss the crap out of home. I probably bring up homesickness on this blog all the time. Maybe a little too much… sorry! When you’re the only one from your family that lives far away, you start to get really sappy. Thankfully I’m going home in 3 weeks! Work is taking me to Chicago so I’m going to hop on an extra plane to get my family fix. I actually just realized that I’m going to be away almost every weekend in April. Next weekend I’ll be home. But then after that I have a weekend in Palm Springs, Cleveland, and then Seattle. All very exhausting and exciting. Since I do all my recipe testing and photography on the weekends, I’ll be a tornado in the kitchen this weekend so that EatChoFood is not a vacant wasteland for the month of April! I do this for you.
I have this ridiculous google doc where I put all my of random recipe ideas. You never know when inspiration is going to hit you! Some of the recipes are weird. Some of them aren’t really coherent, just a stringing of words that described something that’s hopefully edible. I should be able to take a pretty good chunk off the list next weekend. One thing that has been on my recipe google doc for the longest time is Peanut Butter and Jelly Babka. It has to have been on there for at least a year. I’ve made a babka a few years ago and it turned out okay. I think I rushed it. It tasted great, but the effort involved sort of made me not want to make a babka for a while. Until a month ago! I first tested out this recipe a month ago and it was not perfect. I made my own jam and it was just a little too loose, so the jam just disappeared after it was baked. The second issue was that it didn’t bake long enough. I trusted the base recipe with the cooking time, and it was definitely 15 minutes shy from a full bake. It ended up tasting fine and my coworkers loved it, but I knew I could do better. So I took my notes and tweaked my game plan. Cooked it longer, bought jam from a professional, and made some other flavor adjustments. It freaking worked! It’s so satisfying to see an experiment work out. You feel like a scientist of something!
The bread is super light and fluffily. The jam is very present and tart to balance the sweet an thick peanut butter. My mom would always use grape jelly in our PB&Js so that flavor has been ingrained in my brain. I used blackberry preserves, which comes pretty close to grape jelly. But you can use whatever jam, jelly, or preserve that you like! The top has a sweet and shiny glaze that adds the perfect amount of sweetness to a not super sweet bread. It’s so good with a glass of cold milk! Eating it fresh is definitely best, but I also had a slice with some yogurt and it was almost like having birthday cake for breakfast. That’s the dream right? I also think that it is totally justifiable to eat this babka for lunch because people eat PB&J sandwiches all the time! Right? So I say go for it. Eat it all day long!
Peanut Butter and Jelly Babka
makes 2 loaves
530 g (4 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
100 g (1/2 cup) white sugar
2 tsp rapid rise yeast
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter softened and cut into small cubes
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp crush peanuts
1/2 cup berry jam
1 tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup water
1 1/4 cup sugar
1. Place flour, sugar, and yeast into a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Slowly add in eggs and water and mix for another 3 minutes at medium speed. Add salt and butter a few cubes at a time until incorporated into the dough. Mix dough at medium speed for 10 minutes. Scrape down the sides every few minutes. Remove dough from the bowl and shape on the counter into a smooth round dough ball.
2. Brush a bowl with 1 tbsp olive oil and place dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight or atleast 12 hours.
3. Remove the dough from the fridge and leave out on the counter for 30 mins to get the chill off the dough. Divide the dough in half. Roll out half the dough into 15"x15" rectangle on a lightly floured surface.
4. Spread creamy peanut butter with an offset spatula over the rectangle. Drizzle honey and sprinkle the crushed peanuts. Begin rolling the dough by starting with the 15" long edge and continue to tightly roll until you reach the other long edge. Trim about 3/4" to 1" off either end. With a really sharp knife, cut the roll in half lengthwise. Set aside and repeat with the jam filling.
5. Line 2 loaf pans with parchment paper. Take one peanut butter half and one jam half and place them side by side with the cut side facing up. Pinch one end together and cross one half over the other half. Repeat until the halves are braided. It's going to get really messy, but it's worth it! Carefully lift the braided loaf and place in the parchment lined loaf pan. Use a large spatula or dough scraper if you feel like you need some help. Repeat to make the second loaf.
6. Cover the loaf pans with a damp paper towel. Place in a warm place and allow to proof for 90 minutes.
7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until deeply golden. If it starts to get a little too dark, cover the loaves with foil. The internal temperature should be 185 degrees.
8. While the loaves bake, make your syrup. Combine the water and sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the sugar dissolves, remove from heat and allow to cool down.
9. Remove the loaves from the oven and immediately brush the babkas with the syrup. It seems like a lot but use all of it. Allow the babkas to to cool in the pan until warm. Remove from the pan and allow to completely cool on a cooling rack.
10. Slice and enjoy!
recipe is adapted from the Chocolate Krantz Cakes recipe from the Jerusalem Cookbook