Cookbook Inspiration: Jerusalem and the Hazelnut Babka

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Jerusalem Cookbook Inspires
Jerusalem Cookbook Inspires

People ask me if I use cookbooks. Yes I do. I’m a voracious consumer of food information and ideas, so if a cookbook piques my interest I will browse through it to see what I can learn.  Rarely do I ever make a recipe exactly. Not even with my own recipes from my own cookbooks. Cooking is a fluid mode of expression for me so I look at recipes as variations. One of my favorite cookbooks of 2012 was the Ottolenghi and Tamimi collaboration Jerusalem. It’s a gorgeous book, filled with takes on the familiar and lovely presentations of the unfamiliar. I’ve been enjoying playing with the ideas in the book. The dough recipe makes two cakes so I made the first one exactly like the book, then I filled the second cake with hazelnut paste and chocolate and formed it into a round to differentiate it. And yes, I used all the syrup called for in the recipe.

Hazelnut-Chocolate Babka
Hazelnut-Chocolate Babka

Recently I decided to honor my mom on the occasion of her birthday with some traditional Eastern European food.  I was fascinated by the pictorial demo for Kranz Cakes, what most of us know as the Babka.  I’d made yeasted sweet breads before but the instruction to cut the filled roulade in half vertically before braiding was new for me.  I was eager to try it.  So after making the Chocolate Kranz as pictured in the book I decided to break out a can of hazelnut paste I had in my pantry and try one inspired by the Italian combination of hazelnut and chocolate called gianduia.  I bought the hazelnut paste in the supermarket baking aisle, but you can easily find it online and at Surfas in Culver City and Costa Mesa.

The next day I ate babka while watching this Seinfeld episode.