Valentine’s Day has never been a big deal in my books, but my attitude toward it has changed quite a bit since high school. In high school, I rejected it upfront, convinced that it was a soul-sucking holiday that tried to force-feed everyone pink hearts and chocolate. I was a pretty jaded high schooler, I’m not gonna lie.
But for the past year or so, I’ve felt my feelings toward February 14th shift. Even though I’m still not big on the flowers or excess of pink and red, I do feel like Valentine’s Day is a fantastic opportunity for people to remind themselves about the people they love. We’re so busy all the time now that it’s easy to prioritize school, work, and stress, but on Valentine’s Day, people all over the world set aside a bit of time to appreciate and be with the people they love. Now ideally, everyone would be able to do this no matter what day of the year it was, but the reality of life is that it’s busy.
And Ben and I were busy this year too. But we made time to make a dinner (lamb chops, mint sauce, garlicky spinach, and roasted potatoes!), I made him matcha macarons and homemade ice cream (recipes to come!), and he bought me flours.
No, not flowers.
If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I’m obsessed with puns (As a newspaper editor, I spend a good chunk of my week surrounded by other editors who relish a pun-filled headline), that I love baking, and that I have somewhat of a gluten sensitivity. And Ben had hit all three in one go—he had bought me six varieties of gluten-free flour for all my baking needs, presenting them to me by saying: “Jenny, I got you flours.”
Man, I’m still dying with laughter.
Okay, it’s lame, I know, and a lot people roll their eyes at how much I’m into puns, but it was the perfect Valentine’s gift.
And now, we can go on with our busy schedules of studying for midterms and trying not to fall asleep on our biology notes.
And baking bread. Obviously.
This babka is filled with sugar and cinnamon and topped with the same filling as a crunchy streusel. It’s base is a sweet yeasted dough and it smells and tastes amazing.
Yields 1 loaf
For the dough:
2 tbsp warm water
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup flour
1. In a small bowl, combine yeast and warm water and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes.
2. In a larger bowl, combine milk, sugar, butter, and salt. Crack one egg into a separate bowl and whisk. Only use half of the whisked egg by pouring it into the milk and sugar mixture. Crack the other whole egg into the milk and sugar mixture as well (essentially using 1 1/2 eggs in the dough). Reserve the unused other half an egg for the egg wash later on.
3. Whisk milk and sugar mixture together. The butter may still be slightly chunky but it will be more uniform when the dough is being kneaded.
4. Add in flour, a little at a time. Once all the flour is added, knead the dough until uniform and combined. Allow dough to sit in an oiled bowl until doubled in size (around 1 hour).
5. Preheat oven to 350°F.
6. Whisk together filling ingredients.
7. Split the dough in half and roll each half out into rectangles, about 8 inches wide and at least 12 inches long.
8. Spread the filling on each rectangle, being careful to avoid the edges so that the filling won’t ooze out when the dough is rolled. Reserve 1/3 of the filling for topping the bread.
9. Roll each rectangle up (along the longer edge). Then, pinch one end of each log together and begin twisting the logs to form a braided shape. Pinch the other end together as well.
10. Brush the bread with the egg wash. Use the remaining 1/3 filling as a streusel on top of the bread.
11. Bake bread for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.