Recipe: Babka à la Française (Babka Rolls With Olive Tapenade)

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Adapted from Joan Nathan's Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France.

Yield: 24 babka rolls

    • 2 ½ to 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
    • ½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
    • 1 large egg, plus 3 to 4 yolks (enough to make ½ cup egg and egg yolks total)
    • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in small pieces, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter
    • 1 ¼ cups pitted black picholine olives
    • 2 canned anchovies, drained
    • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, pulverized
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

To make the dough, put two and a half cups of the flour, salt, and all but one tablespoon of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough-hook attachment.

Put the yeast and one tablespoon warm water and the reserved tablespoon of sugar in a small bowl, and stir just until the sugar and yeast have dissolved. With the mixer, using the dough hook on low speed, pour into the bowl the yeast mixture, the milk, and the egg and egg yolks. Knead the dough until it is smooth, shiny, and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed.

Add the pieces of butter a little at a time, until it is incorporated, then knead the dough on low speed for about five minutes, until it is silken and rich. Transfer it to a large, greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to rise for two hours. When the dough has risen, press it down, and put it in a plastic bag or wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one to two hours or overnight.

To make the tapenade filling, put the olives, half the anchovies, the fennel seeds, and one tablespoon of the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Puree the mixture until it is smooth. Taste, and if you want, add more anchovies or salt, and another tablespoon of olive oil if the filling is not smooth enough.

When ready to assemble the babkas, grease two nine-inch round pans. Take the dough from the refrigerator and divide it in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece into a 16-by-12-inch rectangle.

Using a knife or an offset spatula, spread half of the olive-anchovy filling very thinly over the dough, leaving a half-inch border all around. Beginning with the long side, tuck in the ends and roll the dough up tightly. Cut the rolled up dough into twelve equal pieces, and place them, with one of the cut sides of each facing up, in one of the pans in one layer. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling in the other pan.

Allow the babkas to rise, covered with a towel, for two hours before brushing with the reserved two tablespoons melted butter.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden. Once the rolls are cool enough to handle, pull them apart gently into individual babkas.

To read Jeffrey Yoskowitz's review of Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous, click here.

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Jeffrey Yoskowitz is a writer based in the New York area. More

Jeffrey Yoskowitz is a writer based in the New York area.
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