Sunday, April 25, 2010

To Babke and Bust

I haven't had a total kitchen meltdown for a while now. Which means either I'm getting better or I'm not being very adventurous. Presumably the latter. But this latest endeavor falls squarely in the "mistaking" category. A failed, hard-as-a-rock, completely inedible babke - chocolate yeast cake.
This disaster actually happened a couple months ago, for my mother's birthday, but like many things (books, shoes, furniture) it got lost in the post tree shuffle. The fact that this was for an "occasion" makes the failure even more acute.

I have a healthy fear of yeast. And by healthy fear I mean I cower in the corner shivering when asked to bake with it. It's scary. It's alive. And sometimes, it doesn't work. The instructions for this recipe require the yeast to be mixed with warm water and left for ten minutes, when bubbles should form. How many bubbles? What size bubbles? How close together are the bubbles? Bubbles bubbles?
Sorry, where was I? Right, yeast. Well, I don't know if the yeast was the problem here, or I over kneaded, or under kneaded, or didn't roll it out well enough, or any combination of the above, but this was totally inedible. And I had a hunch it wasn't going to turn out well earlier. But stupidly, as usual, I persevered. And was not rewarded. Seriously, it was impossible to even saw through this thing.
What was even worse was that the recipe made two! Luckily, this was not the only dessert in the making for my mother's birthday weekend, and I had a trusty Dorie Greenspan recipe also on hand that delivered, as usual. But more on that later!
Since this happened I have been too afraid to try babke again, but there is a Smitten Kitchen recipe I have my eye on that may be in my future. Maybe.

Tip of the Day: Know when to give up. And don't use old yeast! It only has a shelf life of 3 to 4 months.


  1. I have a bread machine and if it wasn't for the pre-measured out bread mixes I would never use it. I've tried to make breads but they NEVER rise for me. I can't for the life of me figure out why. I give you props for trying a handmade one! Yeast isn't my friend either.

  2. yeast actually lasts a lot longer than that--keep it in the fridge or the freezer. it's the moisture that will kill it.

    it used to scare me to do yeast as well but it's really not that bad. try making pita bread a couple times--it's super easy and it will give you a healthy familiarity with baking it.

    good luck!