Saturday 6 April 2013

Forget your low GI diet: Sourdough Babka alla Ziets

I recently had another chance at pondering life and my experiences in general, having had a knee replaced. The time in hospital, drifting in and out of a pain killer induced daze, is quite useful for this sort of pondering. I pondered about my cooking and my lifestyle. And then some more. I thought that it was time for some baking again.

The operation went super well, everything just fine. The problem is now that I need to take things slowly, lest I damage the new joint in its settling period. So I have to slow down, take it easy. Lots of rest.

This had me reminisce about my hunting and fly-fishing days. I realised, after a number of unsuccessful outings, that you don't see anything until you slow down to the rhythm of the veld. Then suddenly, life explodes before you and you are swamped with images of movement and happenings.

Like seeing a fish jump out the water and take an insect from the air. Or, once on a memorable occasion, a bass taking a malachite kingfisher in flight. But that is a different story.

Getting back to cooking and baking, I thought that there must be a similar golden rule in preparing food. And then it jumped at me:


I realised that fast food is just what the name says, not really prepared with love and care. Quite noticeable in the food served to you in some restaurants. Or cooking things fast instead of simmering. Or using a pressure cooker. I may be on thin ice here. Another argument discussion for tomorrow.

So this is exactly what I did in my next affray into the wonderful artful world of baking with sourdough. I slowed things down.

I wanted to bake something different for a change. And I had the notion of having a celebration. Seeing that it was close to Easter, I thought babka may be in order. Something people make after a time of fasting. Something to eat in celebration.

So babka it was. Slowed down. I used a cheesy babka recipe from Comfy Cuisine.  I imagined the cheese part would blend in extremely well with the sourness of the yeast. And then there is the vanilla, of course. I tried to stick slavishly to the recipe, but had to compromise on the yeast, of course, as well as the vanilla.
I used the real thing, scraping the seeds from a pod and using those neat in the cheese filling. We don't get farmer's cheese here, so I substituted cottage cheese. And I used brown sugar, because that is what I have.

In addition, I made a mix of one cup of cake flour to three cups of white bread flour. Partly because I had run out of white bread flour and partly because I reasoned that babka should be rather more like a cake than a bread. Therefore I would need some refined flour in there to make the whole thing a bit smoother. And lighter, but that is where the slowing down bit comes to bear.

I made up a starter using a cup of white bread flour in my sourdough. This I let ferment at room temperature for 12 hours. Then I made the main dough mix, leaving out the raisins. Having had my doubts on the vitality of my home-captured yeast, I let this lot rise for a full 20 hours.

Wonderful idea. The dough almost tripled in volume. The raisins were added and the dough kneaded back to the original volume. I kept the dough on the soft side, in accordance with the recipe. I also reasoned that a softer dough will give a lighter crumb in the end.

The dough was rested only for the time it took to make the cheese filling. I rolled out the dough as per the instructions on the recipe and added the cheese filling as per instruction.

The cheese filling came out a bit too runny for my taste, so I added some cake flour to get it to the required consistency.

The loaves were prepared as per the recipe, then I left this lot to rise (second rise) for two and a half hours. The yeast performed like a champion and the loaves almost doubled in volume, looking for all the world like crocodile torsos.

The oven was heated up and the loaves popped in for the requisite period of 35 minutes. I went overboard with the egg-white wash, so the loaves came out quite brown. A very nice thin crust and a beautiful airy crumb.

Chalk one up for slowing down!

Voila! Your very high GI babka alla Ziets. To be consumed in small quantities, this one is very rich. And the sourness of the various components blended very well too. I shall keep this one for special occasions. It is very much worth the effort.

This blog post also linked to Yeastspotting!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-04-06


  1. Sorry to hear about the knee but glad to hear that it went well. Lovely babka recipe - slow cooking is simply the best! I just wish I had more time. Take care and I hope you will be fully recovered soon!

    1. Thanks Zirkie.
      And thanks for the retweet, much appreciated. I take this as a serious compliment!

  2. Johan,
    Thanks for the mention! I hope you enjoyed!

    1. You're welcome, Ma'am. I really enjoyed this, not having had it ever before.

  3. Hope the knee's doing as well as it should be. This is a superb recipe, you've done extremely well with it! You're right, on paper, it does sound like the cheese & sourdough ought to go well, the result is definitely calling to me!

    1. Thanks Azlin,

      The knee is doing superbly well.

      We froze some of the babka as an experiment and had some tonight as dessert. Warmed up and smothered in hot vanilla custard. Another successful experiment!

  4. This looks mouthwatering delicious!