Monday, January 7, 2013

Chocolate Krantz Cake or Babka and Jerusalem

 It has been almost a year since I’ve been in Jerusalem. It is calling me. The past year was difficult as many things that were supposed to happen didn’t, and well-that’s the way the cookie crumbles-so to speak. Being Jewish I get the equivalent of two new years, and I really do try to make both count. This year is all about starting over-once again- and I am grateful that I still get that chance.

But back to Jerusalem. Don’t I wish? It had been so long since I was there last, but the feeling that I felt the first and second time was identical to the third. I felt at home. I felt energized. I felt loved. Three very good feelings from someone who’d been feeling lost and lonely for a long time.  Now I am trying to regain those feelings as January gets started and I still don’t know what the year will bring.

The end of 2012 brought me the magnificent "Jerusalem" cookbook and that was a good thing. The sense of smell I think is so under rated, but looking through this book- well, I could smell Jerusalem. I swear. January is a cold month there, but upon entering the Old City, at least from the Jewish quarter, you are greeted with this intoxicating, addicting aroma of  bakeries. Whether they are making pita or bagels or burekas-it doesn’t really matter-because it’s all good. The smell alone is enough to make you think you are home. Walking by the bakeries and feeling the warm, steamy air gusting through the open doors, laden with the smell of chocolate and flour, makes me think that must be the scent of love. Well, at least it is for me.

A Bakery (See the Jerusalem stone in the reflection?)
And so it is that I had to make this recipe. A chocolate krantz cake. I always called it a babka of which I’ve made plenty. This is better. Waaaaay better. And it smells like Jerusalem. This is the aroma I was smelling. I know it. This is the smell of love. This book is worth it for just this recipe and the hummus alone. I swear. (Yes, I’ve been swearing way too much lately.) It takes me back to Jerusalem. Don’t I wish?

A couple notes: Do exactly what the recipe says. It is not hard and looks complicated but if you are familiar with bread you should not be afraid of this. And if you aren’t familiar with yeast or the like, you really should start somewhere. Like here. I googled krantz cake and still have no idea what krantz really means. Images showed rolled “cakes” with a filling. No, I don’t really consider this a cake. I consider this a bread, such as one might consider a cinnamon roll. It is great with tea or coffee. It is better in the middle of the night when you sneak into the kitchen, open the foil and cut yourself a slice preferably when no one is looking. And then you must gulp directly from the milk carton. (Don’t wear lipstick.) It is perfect for brunch, but I wouldn’t serve it as a dessert after dinner. But that is me. Do use all the syrup. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a recipe made like this. They are not kidding. Use it.  And it will keep for a few days, if well wrapped. If of course, you can contain yourself for that long.

Chocolate Krantz Cakes or Babka
Makes 2
Time to Make: About 1.5 hrs active
4 ¼ c all purpose unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting
½ c superfine sugar (This comes in a milk looking carton in the baking section)
2t fast rising active dry yeast
Grated zest of 1 small lemon (I do not like lemon in baked goods. I added 1t of vanilla extract and left the lemon out.)
3 extra large eggs (I only had large eggs on hand so I used those plus 1 extra yolk.)
½ c warm water
2/3 c unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small ¾” cubes
Canola oil for greasing

Chocolate filling
Scant ½ c confectioners sugar
1/3 c cocoa
4 ½ oz dark chocolate, melted
½ c unsalted butter, melted
1c pecans coarsely chopped (I used walnuts and if you don’t like nuts just leave them out)
2T superfine sugar

2/3 c water
1 ¼ c superfine sugar

For the dough: Place flour, sugar, yeast and zest (if you are using) in a stand mixer with the dough hook and mix on low speed for one minute. Add eggs, water and vanilla (if you are using) and mix on low speed for a few seconds. Then increase speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes, until the dough comes together. Add the salt and 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. (A side note: Do not leave your mixer unattended. It was while I was making babka and stepped away during this process and my Grandma’s Kitchen Aid ended up on the floor still spinning with the bowl attached. This is how my tile floor ended up with a 2 inch hole in it. Needless to say, the Kitchen Aid still works fine. Yes, they are worth it. And this one must be over 41 years old, I’ m guessing.) During the mixing, you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times and throw a small amount of flour onto the sides so that the dough doesn’t stick.

Place the dough in a large bowl brushed with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.

Filling: Mix together confectioners sugar, cocoa, chocolate and butter. You will get a spreadable paste.

Grease two 9x5 loaf pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Divide dough in half and keep one half covered. (I will tell you that my dough was very cold when I took it out of the fridge. I let it warm up before I started rolling it. You don’t want it to warm up to much as the butter will start to ooze out of it but this made it easier for me to work with.)

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring 15x11. Position the longest side closest to you. Cut off ends to make them even. Spread half the chocolate over the rectangle leaving a ¾ inch border all around. Sprinkle half the nuts on top of the chocolate, then sprinkle on half the superfine sugar.

Brush a bit of water along the long end furthest away from you. Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll starting from the side nearest you and ending at the long end. Press to seal the damp end and then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the roll on the seam.

Trim the ends with a serrated knife. Now use the knife to gently cut the roll in half lengthwise cutting through from the top to the bottom seam. You are essentially dividing the roll into two long even halves with the layers of dough and filling visible along each length. 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 to create a simple two pronged plait. Gently squeeze together the other ends so you are left with the two halves intertwined showing the filling on top. Carefully lift the loaf into prepared pan. Cover the pan with a clean damp towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1/1/2 hours. It will only rise by 10-20 percent. Repeat for second cake.

Preheat oven to 375. Remove the towels, place the cakes on the middle rack and bake about 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. They should be golden colored.

Make the syrup while the cakes are in the oven. Heat water and sugar in microwave for one minute. Stir. Do this again and maybe again until the sugar is dissolved. Let this cool. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush all the syrup over them. Use it all. Let the cakes cool until they are just warm to the touch and remove from pans. If you can cool completely before serving.

 Slice and serve. Tear and serve. Just devour it like a hungry dog. You know you want to. But most important-Inhale the aroma. That, my friends, is Jerusalem in January.

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  1. What an interesting cake! I don't believe I've seen one quite like it. I do like lemon in baked goods so I'd certainly include it. ;-) You're right that this is a pretty doable recipe, although one would want to read through it first (which I always do anyway; although I know some people don't). Good stuff - thanks.

  2. I agree. I have never seen one so much syrup but it worked. Let me know how the lemon one turns out:) Thanks for writing.

  3. Of course you felt loved! Thats because we love you sooo much! You remember who used to bake the best babkas? grandma Sarah...

  4. Oh Meirav, you brought tears to my eyes. I don't remember Sarah's babkas, but I do remember Sarah. She was very special.

  5. Yes she was...maybe she did not bake babkas in Ft.Collins?

  6. I can see myself having this with coffee int he morning. So want this!

  7. Just do it! You won't be sorry. Thanks for writing.

  8. I read the Krantz cake receipe, it sounds lovely! By the way, Kranz (without a 't) is a German word and means 'wreath' or 'garland'.