An Essay: Me Versus My First Babka


2:17 AM For my birthday, I got a great cookbook with NYC recipes and when I checked the first pages, I knew right away that I will try the babka recipe soon! My first thought was "I remember this from Seinfeld." You know the "Dinner Party" episode, where the babka is gone and they find out about a cinnamon babka - I just love Seinfeld!

Many countries bake their own versions of a babka and my mom does a really good one, so I took this as a challenge to be as good as my mom. When Easter was knocking on our doors, I finally wanted to bake my first babka.
I was really curious, if it's hard to bake one and if mine tastes at all (the dough is such a tricky thing...). But I was full of motivation and I was ready for this challenge. A little tip: if you want to bake a babka, plan a lot of time. I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier, but yeah... you only realize things when you really do them. And I was learning a lot during baking it...soooo.

There I was. I gathered my ingredients and I even locked myself in the kitchen to not be annoyed by anyone and anything. It was just me and the thousand ingredients. And that's where my shlamazel already started. I thought I read the recipe right, but yeah, I messed up when it comes to the yeast. Proudly, I took the active yeast out of the fridge, while reading that I needed to use instant yeast. "Okay, chill, everything is fine...". I took out my iPad and searched for the right conversion from instant into active yeast. 5 minutes later I was back on track.
I mixed all the ingredients and almost had a heart attack reading that I needed to knead the dough now for 20 minutes by hand. Are you serious??

I called my mom, asking if this was normal and what I can do to change this. She heavily emphasized on kneading right. If I have a good technique, the dough will feel good after 7-10 minutes. I trusted her, but didn't really understand how my kneading technique should look like.
I just started massaging this big friend of yeast and prayed that my way of treating it was right.

While kneading, I re-read the recipe again. My dough was sticky and I felt like I needed to add so much flour, this was a really bad vibe and I started to get a little worried. I continued kneading and realized that this was the worst recipe I have ever tried.

Slowly, my dough had enough flour, but my hands started hurting.
Lession 682: I am such a cry baby and I don't understand what I am doing here. I need help...never feel ashamed to ask for help. Lession 683: By now, I wonder if I should really write my experience down, because you will laugh about me. This is really embarrassing. But it's even more embarrassing that the dough and I don't really love each other. What's happening here?

I blame the yeast. But after 12 minutes of kneading, I decided to let the dough rest. People always talk about how important it is to let the dough rest, gluten things, etc. Okay, I have to admit that I was sick and tired of baking this and I was still at the beginning. My dough felt weird (maybe it was right, but I just had a sexier imagination of it). Also I never knead with my hands, so 12 minutes of kneading was a hardcore workout for me and I feel more punished than happy now.
I looked at my dough, chilling inside the bowl, and told him to please rise and shine! Be a good boy and help me survive this.

After 1 1/2 hours, my dough was risen about 1/4.
Okay, now I want to cry. What is this? No, no, wait. I wanted to blame someone, the yeast. I was doing everything that I can... yeah, it was the yeast. It's not my fault. 
I looked at the time and wondered what else I could have done in those wasted hours, but I decided to continue.

It was time to fill the babka.
Chocolate, butter, and sugar. Yes, this is my thing and I believe that this is something that can bring a smile upon my face again. I followed the instructions and checked my phone parallel to that with my mom texting me how everything was going. I knew she wanted to hear that I suck and I couldn't bake a babka and she's the best, blah blah...
I told my mom I was doing great and 2 minutes later, I literally thought about throwing the dough against my fridge. While twisting the babka all of my filling just left me. My filling was crumbling out of the dough and rather decided to stay on my table and baking surface. Fine. Fuck you. Excuse me. 

I ended this freak show as quick as I could, threw this thing in my loaf pan and worked with my aggression through the streusel I had to make. I actually love making streusel and I enjoy eating them even more. Now this is something I really can't screw up!!!

45 minutes later, I opened the oven and welcomed my first babka baby. It was really a baby, since my friend, the yeast, didn't make this into a big loaf... it still looked as normal sized as during baking it, no growth, no nothing.
Hmm...I went out of the kitchen and just wanted to not hang out with this dude any longer.

An hour later, I checked how it really turned out when I removed it from the pan. Still ugly.
I cut it and prayed it was baked beautifully and I was already tasting a moist dough on my tongue. I took a bite. Yeah. Nice. It's beyond dry. What the actual fuck again.

I texted my mom.
You won. I just eat the streusel off this and then I throw it away. Bullshit. 

Dear babka, I still love you.
I don't know what went wrong here (the yeast...shhhh), but I will definitely try to bake another babka recipe one day. Until then, I will enjoy the best babkas in NYC and I need time to heal. This experience was funny to you, I bet, actually it was funny to me, too, but it also showed me how much patience I got. ZERO.
Baking a babka can teach us many things and this therapy here was a great teacher in showing me what I still need to learn and understand.

Most importantly here is that I didn't give up. I might feel a little proud. Proud with a broken heart, haha.