“Strengthened by the goodness of winter fruit, I brought the fire into the house. The civilization of storms dripped from the overhanging tiles. I’ll now be free to detest tradition, to dream of the frost of those that passed on the scarcely captious pathways. But to whom will I entrust my unborn children? Solitude was without its spaces; the white flame sank and its warmth only offered an expiring gesture.”- René Char, from End of Solemnities.
The winter has arrived ahead of itself. It’s been cold here, bitter. You could almost taste it, the bitterness. We don’t go coatless anymore. And how it eats. The rise of sudden chill that surges and floods. In my heart I become the winter, as skinless as the weather that threatens to consume. The harshness, the bitterness, the numbness. Possession is all I ask for. I’ve always thought we grow greatest from cold places. And I’d gladly become coated in the winter of you. I wanted to sing for the winter, sing for you, but singing only ever comes with the promise of screaming and the cold has left me throatless.
White Chocolate and Ras el Hanout Ice Cream. It’s an ice cream that far exceeds delicious. With a supple, creamy, and smooth-as-anything texture, it's heavenly. The base is a custard deeply enriched with sweetness and spice. I discovered ras el hanout when I was in the Middle East and I haven't been without it since. The spice provides an earthen undertone like nothing else. And when paired with ultra-sweet white chocolate in ice cream? It’s perfect. A wintered mouthful of richness and flames.
The butter for the brioche should be very soft before it’s added into the dough. Not so soft that it loses its shape, but soft, malleable, and able to be handled. I like to let the butter sit out on the kitchen counter for four or so hours, to let it come down to temperature slowly and naturally. However, this will depend upon the heat of your kitchen and the climate in which you live - so adjust accordingly. If you have a thermometer, the temperature of the butter should sit around 20 c (68 f). All other ingredients should be room temperature too.
The filling will be a thick, spreadable paste which should be close to room-temperature before use. Depending on the warmth of your butter, the filling could be a little runny. If this happens, simply place it in the refrigerator to firm slightly before using on the babka, about 5 minutes.
ESPRESSO CACAO BRIOCHE BABKA WITH ROSE
For the brioche dough:
125 milliliters whole milk
7 grams instant dried yeast
260 grams all-purpose flour
30 grams granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 medium (about 50 gram) eggs, at room temperature
65 grams unsalted butter, soft at room temperature
Place the milk in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring often, until it is lukewarm in temperature. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the yeast until dissolved. Set aside to proof for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, and salt. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are evenly combined.
Pour the yeast mixture into the dry flour ingredients. Mix, on medium speed, until a rough and shaggy mixture begins to form, about 1 minute. Add in the eggs, one at a time, kneading until incorporated. Add in the butter, a tablespoon at a time and waiting until each piece is just combined before adding another, until all incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and let the dough knead for a further 8 minutes, or until elastic, velvety, and smooth.
Place the dough into a separate lightly greased bowl and cover it with a layer of plastic wrap. Let it rise in a just warm place until doubled in size, about an hour. Once risen, punch the dough down to deflate it, then re-cover the bowl and set it in the refrigerator to chill for at least six hours, or preferably, overnight.
For the filling:
110 grams light brown sugar
50 grams dutch processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon finely ground espresso powder
¼ teaspoon salt
100 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Just before you’re ready to bake, make the filling. Combine the light brown sugar, dutch processed cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt, until evenly combined. Stir in the melted butter. The mixture should be thick, slightly grainy, and slick. Set the bowl aside until needed.
60 grams cacao nibs
1 tablespoon rose petals
1 medium egg, lightly beaten for the egg wash
Lightly grease and line a 22 x 12 cm (9” x 5”) loaf pan with non-stick parchment paper. Set aside.
Turn the chilled dough out and onto a floured work surface. Lightly flour the top. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out and into a 22 x 45 cm (9” x 18”) rectangle that's about 0.6 cm’s (¼”) thick. The rectangle doesn’t have to be perfect, it can be done to the measurements quite roughly. Then, using an offset palette knife or butter knife, evenly spread the filling over the face of the dough. Scatter over the cacao nibs and rose petals.
Starting with the shortest end, carefully roll the dough into a tight log and pinch the ends to seal. Once rolled, turn the dough over so that the seam is facing down. Using a very sharp knife or kitchen scissors, trim about 2.5 cm’s (1”) of the dough off the ends of the log, then, carefully slice the log through the middle. The layers of the dough should be visible and you’ll end up with two half pieces. Begin to tightly twist the pieces over and under each other to form something that resembles a braid. Pinch the ends together to seal. Place the braid into the prepared loaf pan, cover, and let it rise in a warm place for a further hour, or until just under doubled in size.
Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 180 c (350 f).
When the babka has risen, use a pastry brush to lightly coat the top of it with a little of the egg wash.
Bake, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the babka from the oven and immediately pour over the sugar syrup (recipe follows). Allow the babka to cool in its tin for about 15 minutes, before carefully transferring it out and onto a wire rack to cool further before slicing and serving.
For the syrup: (optional)
30 grams granulated sugar
30 milliliters tablespoons espresso liqueur
1 tablespoon water
Place the granulated sugar, espresso liqueur, and water in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved completely. Increase the temperature medium. Allow the syrup to come to a simmer before removing from the heat and using on the babka.