Lebkuchengewuerz or gingerbread spice is what gives the German gingerbread its distinct flavour. It’s an anise-heavy spice mix that plays beautifully with flavours of coffee and chocolate, so I decided to try it in a babka. Needless to say, it was astonishingly good and tasted like a spiced hot chocolate when warmed.
Makes 1 Babka
For the Lebkuchen Spice:
1 – cinnamon 1/2 quill (the slender, sweeter variety)
2 – Cloves 1/2 tsp
3 – Allspice berries 1/4 tsp
4 – Nutmeg 1/4 tsp
5 – Dry Ginger powder 1/2 tsp
6 – Coriander seeds 1/4 tsp
7 – Cardamom pods 1/4 tsp
8 – Fennel seeds 1/4 tsp
9 – Star anise 1/2 of a piece
For the babka dough
1 – Milk 125ml
2 – Instant dry yeast 7g
3 – All-purpose flour 260g
4 – Caster Sugar 2 tbsp
5 – Salt 1/2 tsp
6 – Eggs 2
7 – Butter 65g, also at room temperature
For the filling
1 – Brown sugar 120g
2 – Cocoa powder 50g
3 – Coffee powder 1 tsp
4 – Salt 1/4 tsp
5 –Lebkuchen Spice mix 1 tsp
6 – Butter 100g, melted and cooled
For the sugar syrup
1 – Sugar 45g
2 – Water 1-2 tbsp
3 – Egg 1 for egg wash
– Start by making the lebkuchen spice mix. It’ll make a little more than you need but if your plan is to make gingerbread cookies later, use this spice mix in the cookies.
– Grind together the ingredients of the spice mix in a mixer grinder till it is a fine powder.
– Keep covered so that the freshly ground spice mix doesn’t lose any of its potency.
– Next up for the babka dough, heat the milk in a microwave safe bowl until lukewarm, half a minute or so. Whisk in the yeast and let this lounge outside as you get on with the rest of the ingredients. To the bowl of a stand mixer, add the all-purpose flour, sugar, salt and set the dough hook in place. Run the stand mixer on low speed just to combine everything together. With the mixers still running, drizzle in the milk and yeast mixture, followed by the eggs one at a time. It should’ve formed a sticky shaggy mixture by now. Continue by adding the butter a tablespoon at a time and continue to run the mixer. Next turn up the speed to a medium to medium-high and let the stand mixer run for at least 8 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.
– Turn out the dough into a greased bowl, cover loosely with cling film and let it proof for an hour in a warm place until doubled in size, then punch down and let it proof overnight in the refrigerator.
– The next morning make the filling by whisking together all the filling ingredients till it is a grainy icing kind of texture.
– The next day, generously flour a work surface and turn out the dough. Flour the top of the dough a bit and roll the babka dough into a rectangle that’s about a 1/4 inch thick. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
– Spread the icing over the surface of the rolled out dough using an offset spatula to even it out and push it towards the corners. Starting with the long side of the rectangle, and using a dough scraper if necessary, start rolling the dough inwards onto itself to form a tight log.
– Once you have finished rolling the log and it is seam side down, take a sharp knife and slice right in the centre of the long roll dividing it into two long halves. Braid the dough’s halves and pinch the edges after you’re done.
– Lightly grease a loaf tin and transfer the dough, folding the braid into half upon itself so it fits in the tin. Let the dough rise in a warm place again for another hour.
– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and when it’s time to bake, brush the top of the babka with one lightly whisked egg and transfer to the oven where it can bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
– While the babka bakes, heat the sugar with the water in a saucepan over low heat till all the sugar has dissolved. Take it off the heat.
Take the babka out of the oven and pour over the sugar syrup. Let the babka cool in its tin for 15 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack where it can finish cooling. The babka tastes best warm by the way.