Friday, February 6, 2009

'Sour Cream' Babka

I'm playing around with another traditional prairie baking recipe today, this time a variation on the kind of babka brought over to this country with Russian immigrants. A more traditional babka would contain dried cherries, but this variation makes use of dried cranberries and golden raisins - and, of course, vegan sour cream!

(A babka, FYI, is just a spongy yeast cake. Although traditional around Easter, it is delicious any time!)

First, however, this is one of those recipes that calls for evaporated milk, and unlike lacto-ovo vegetarians, a vegan can't buy a ready-made can at the grocery store, but has to make her own. I've talked about how soothing I find the "long method", although you can do it a bit quicker by making soy milk using powder, using double the powder called for. But for the fun, longer method: pour 3 cups plain soy milk into a saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat and cook until reduced to 1 and 1/2 cups, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes - this time around, I listened to French radio to entertain me.

The original recipe started by heating one cup of evaporated milk to 180 degrees, but since you'll just have finished evaporating your own soy milk, it should already be hot enough! Stir in 8 ounces (about one cup) vegan sour cream - try Tofutti's Better Than Sour Cream. Let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, combine 1 cup dried cranberries and 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur (Disaronno is vegan) in a bowl, and set aside.

Dissolve one packet (2 and 1/4 tsps) of yeast in 1/4 cup warm water, (heated to between 100 and 110 degrees). Let stand 5 minutes.

Here, the original recipe called for 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks. If you're using Ener-G egg replacer, make 2 "eggs" according to the regular directions - 1 and 1/2 teaspoons powder plus 2 tablespoons warm water for each. For the egg yolks, combine 1 and 1/2 teaspoons powder with only 1 tablespoon warm water each.

Combine all of your "eggs" in a large bowl with 1/2 cup raw sugar. Beat with a mixer for about 2 minutes, until smooth. Add the cooled soy milk mixture, the yeast mixture, 1 teaspoon almond extract and 1/2 tsp. salt. Beat until combined.

Now it's time to spoon out 5 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour into measuring cups, leveling with a knife; add to the wet ingredients. Stir until a soft dough forms, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes (punch dough down with palm, fold over, quarter turn, repeat!). Add up to 1/2 cup more flour a little at a time to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands - I didn't need to use quite the whole half-cup.

Place in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat the top, and let rise for 1 hour, ideally somewhere free from drafts and about 85 degrees. Punch the dough down and let rest 10 minutes.

Before moving on to the next step, it helps to prepare a Bundt pan for baking - coat the pan with cooking spray, and dust with 1 tablespoon raw sugar. Set aside.

Transfer your dough back to a work surface and knead in the cranberry/amaretto mixture, 1 cup golden raisins and 1/2 cup slivered almonds. I found that it was easiest to knead in batches of each a bit at a time. Using floured hands, pat the dough into an 8-inch circle. Form a smaller 2-inch hole in the center. Transfer to the prepared Bundt pan, fitting the center of the pan through the hole in your dough. Coat the top of the dough with cooking spray, cover and let rise for 45 minutes.

Uncover the dough and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, before inverting onto a serving plate or platter.

During those 5 minutes, whisk together another 1/4 cup evaporated soy milk (reserved from earlier!) with 1 and 1/2 cups organic powdered sugar and 1/4 tsp. almond extract. Drizzle this icing over the babka once it's on the serving platter, then let cool completely.

Cut the babka into 28 slices - since it makes so many servings, you'll probably want to make this recipe when you have a crowd to feed! Each slice is 220 calories.

plain soy milk $2.49
vegan sour cream $2.49
all-purpose flour $4.69
golden raisins $2.79

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The Vegan Pantry

  • Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy
  • Vegan milk - Silk
  • Vegan Feta - Sunergia
  • Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods
  • Vegan Eggs - Ener-G
  • Vegan Butter - Earth Balance