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My pistachio babka is seriously addicting! It’s sweet without being too sweet, and has the most amazing textures between the creamy filling, fluffy bread, crunchy nuts and crispy exterior.
Warm milk to 107-112°F. Sprinkle yeast over top and add a pinch of sugar. Allow to sit 5–10 minutes, until foamy.
Whisk whole egg, yolk and sugar. When yeast is activated, whisk milk mixture into egg mixture.
Add flour and salt to the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a dough hook attachment. Slowly add wet ingredients into flour and mix on low until completely incorporated.
While mixing over medium speed, add butter to dough, one slice at a time. Continue to beat for 10–12 minutes or until dough becomes very smooth and elastic. It will be slightly tacky to the touch.
Lightly butter a large, clean bowl. Form dough into a ball and roll around in bowl to coat with butter. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for 1–2 hours in a warm draft-free place (such as the inside of a turned-off oven). The dough should puff and rise, although it may not quite double in bulk.
Punch down the dough and recover the bowl. Refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours to allow the flavors to develop.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Place pistachios on a parchment-lined baking sheet, lightly sprinkle with salt and bake approximately 8–10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool. Finely chop by hand or in a food processer. Store until ready to use.
Butter a 9-inch loaf pan. Line with parchment overhanging on the sides. Butter parchment. The overhanging edges will be used to lift the bread out of the pan.
Remove dough from fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 18 x 16 inch rectangle. Spread with the filling all the way to the edges, using an offset spatula or plastic bench scraper. Sprinkle over chopped nuts. With the longer side facing you, roll the dough into a tight coiled shape.
Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Remove from freezer, place on a lightly floured surface and slice in half length-wise. With the cut sides up, make an ‘X’ using the two halves. On one side, working from the center outwards, cross the pieces once over each other and once again, as if braiding. Repeat on opposite side. Lightly pinch and tuck under ends.
Gently squoosh dough so it’s short enough to fit into the prepared pan. Carefully lift and transfer into pan. Loosely cover with a clean towel and rise in a warm, draft free place for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until puffy. See note for proofing suggestion.
While bread rises, prepare sugar syrup. Add sugar and water to a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a bowl to cool. This can also be made a day ahead and refrigerated (see note).
When dough is almost done rising, transfer dough to the top of the oven (if it was rising inside), and preheat oven to 350°F. Uncover dough and brush with egg wash. Bake on the center rack of the oven for a total of 40–50 minutes. After 20–30 minutes or when golden brown, tent with foil to avoid overbrowning. The bread is done when a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. An instant read thermometer will read between 185-200°F. The bread will also sound hollow after unmolding when you tap the bottom.
Place babka over a wire rack to cool. Brush immediately with sugar syrup. After 15 minutes, lift the bread out of the pan, using the overhanging edges of parchment. Carefully peel away parchment and allow to cool directly on rack. Brush newly exposed sides with sugar syrup. When completely cool, slice & enjoy.
1. Pistachio cream can be found at Italian specialty stores or online. At stores, I’m able to find it for between $7-$12 per 6 1/2 ounce jar, while it costs between $14-25 on Amazon. I like the Fiasconaro brand from Amazon, although it is a bit pricey. The brand shown in my photo is from Eataly in NYC. There are also recipes for homemade pistachio paste, which might be good to try.
2. For a more ideal proofing environment, I actually turned on my oven until it reached about 90-100°F, according to an oven thermometer. Then I turned off the oven and place the dough inside to proof.
3. If you have leftover simple syrup, filter it through a mesh sieve, place it in a small jar and refrigerate for other uses. It canned be used to sweeten chilled beverages, such as cocktails or iced coffee.
4. The dough recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit.
5. Total time does not reflect time needed to proof dough.
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