Across the street in Wynnford Park Kitchen this morning, the sun was shining on the newly fallen snow outside the window. It was, at its onset, a peaceful Saturday morning with no pressing engagements hustling things along unnecessarily. The television played in the background, undoubtably an old episode of the Great British Baking Show projecting images of mouth-watering cakes, entremets, tarts, and signature dishes. The gentle clatter of measuring cups and spoons began filling the air as time rolled past.
You see, a few weeks ago, likely in the midst of a blizzard or ice storm or some other such wintry excitement and definitely after a few cocktails from The Laundry Room, Wynnford Park’s chef and I began to lay the groundwork for baking challenges of our own. One per month, we decided, rotating the level of craziness with each new objective.
Today’s challenge actually began…yesterday. We’d selected the coveted (have you seen the Seinfeld episode??) chocolate babka. I don’t know what prompted this choice, other than the fact that it has been a tab open on my phone for over a year…a plan just waiting to be executed…just waiting for the right moment in time. The Wynnford Park chef sent a distress text yesterday: “the dough needs to chilled for 8 hours????”
The realization was a “Friday night plans” game-changer for sure.
Every moment of the baking, however, was well worth the effort. From the Friday night dough preparation right through brushing the sugar syrup on the final loaves and listening to the crackle of sugar on the heat of the bake. Gratifying. Certainly a learning curve. Entertaining. Just a fabulous amount of fun!
The babka was our “technical challenge,” meaning both of us had the exact same recipe to work with from beginning to end, the same “tips” and the same time frame.
The peace within the walls of Wynnford Park Kitchen this morning came to a screeching halt, however, with what I am going to call “The Chocolate Disaster.” As I glanced out our picture window, I caught sight of a little blue Escape tearing down the street like the Batmobile responding to the Batsignal. The follow up text came from the candy aisle of the grocery store 5 minutes later.
“My chocolate is ruined. I have to start over.”
Now, you have to know that even though the Wynnford Park chef’s cream curdled sending the whole batch “into the bin,” her second batch was quite simply second to none. Delicious! She couldn’t have known that from within the depths of the dark chocolate selections with precious minutes tick-tick-ticking away, however. Fortunately, one of the judges had to finish shoveling and the other had to get the dogs walked prior to the competition’s start, affording the extra time she needed to achieve a chocolate spread that was more than tent-worthy.
The Babka Bake Off ended in…a draw…I think? The two judges never really gave us anything decisive to work with. Of course they have to live with us, so that’s an element that Paul and Prue don’t really have to contend with when they are judging on GBBO.
In the end, the judges AND the bakers agreed. Wynnford Park’s babka held together better when it was sliced though perhaps could have come out of the oven a minute or two earlier. The Scullery’s had beautiful swirls on the outside though it was clearly underbaked in the center. “It’s a shame, really,” Paul Hollywood would say to the Scullery’s chef, “All that work and you just needed to leave it to bake for 5 more minutes to get it right.” (Leaving the baker gutted…)
The bakers also agreed on our overall babka opinion: we could both take it or leave it. “I need something sweeter,” was the verdict of Wynnford Park’s chef. As for me, I’ll take a red velvet cake over a babka any day. Fortunately for me…one of the judges is in the kitchen polishing it off so I can get on with my next bake.
Click here for the Chocolate Babka recipe used in today’s baking challenge.