I know this recipe sounds a bit crazy, but believe me when I tell you it is THE BEST vegan babka I’ve ever had. It is so fluffy, has the perfect texture and the filling combination of hazelnuts and orange goes so well with the sweet potato spelt dough. It is my favorite breakfast or afternoon sweet at the moment and I will definitely bake it again this week.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT – ORANGE CULTIVATION IN THE ALGARVE
As you might probably know, here in the Algarve we have tons of oranges growing and we are in the middle of the orange season right now. When you drive around the area you see so many orange plantations, they are literally everywhere. Sadly a lot of the plantations (probably most) here use pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. This is of course unhealthy and very bad for the soil. The problem is that wholesalers, on which the farmers are dependent on, are pressing the producers for the lowest purchase price. So the orange farmers don‘t have the budget to grow organically and avoid pesticides and other chemicals. Orange trees are at high risk to be quickly affected by pests, which basically leads the oranges to become inedible and drop from the tree.
It is difficult to find organic orange farms, or producers here in the Algarve. There are some but it is hard to find them as they don’t work online, or sell to supermarkets, as it wouldn‘t be worth it. They mostly work with word of mouth recommendations, trying to reach customers who are willing to pay higher prices for a better, healthier quality and a sustainable cultivation.
From an eco retreat hotel here in the Algarve, called Quinta Vale da Lama, which also grows organic vegetables and fruits according to permaculture principles, we found out how much more complex it is to grow oranges organically. You always have to experiment with new eco-friendly methods to find a way to avoid the pests. They for instance put lime on the tree trunk. This is an ancient method to avoid pests.
Ultimately it is on us consumers to be willing to buy organic grown oranges (and of course other foods) and pay higher prices, so that the producers are paid reasonably and are able to live well with their income. Of course we shouldn‘t let ourselves be fooled by wholesalers, who probably buy it from farmers very cheap and sell it expensive. It is probably best to buy directly from the small organic farmers.
Luckily the oranges I used in my babka are from a small restaurant who has just two orange trees in its garden. I have found another organic orange farmer close buy which I will go to next week. I hope you’ll try out my babka recipe and tell me your opinion. Do you love it as much as I do?
SERVES: 26 x 11 cm loaf tin
150g spelt flour*
100g wheat flour** (or more spelt flour)
25g raw cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar, optional
pinch of salt
100g cooked sweet potato***
50g oat milk
60g lukewarm water
45g vegan butter, cubed
1 big tsp dry yeast (=4g) / or 12g fresh yeast
40g raw cane sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
35g fresh orange juice
40g oat milk
½ tsp orange zest
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp oat milk
NOTE: *white spelt flour type 630 in Germany **white wheat flour type 550 in Germany ***I cube the sweet potato and steam it in a steamer for a couple of minutes until soft
Mix the yeast into the lukewarm water together with 1 tsp of the raw cane sugar. Let it sit for around 15 minutes until it starts to foam or little bubbles form.
In the meantime add the flours, salt and remaining sugars to a stand mixer / food processor with the dough hook attachment.
In a blender mix the sweet potato together with the oat milk until smooth. Add it to the bowl with the flour, together with the yeast-water mixture.
Start kneading the dough at level 2. It will be very dry, but let it knead for 2 minutes before adding the vegan butter cubes. Mix on low speed until a ball starts to form, around 5-10 minutes. Take it out and knead it for a couple of minutes with your hands. You probably will need 1-2 tbsp of extra flour.
Grease a bowl slightly and add the dough, cover it and let it rest for 2 hours in a warm place. It should have doubled in size by then. When it has doubled, add the bowl with the dough to the fridge and let it cool for around 30-60 minutes before rolling it out. That makes it easier to work with the dough later.
In the meantime preheat oven to 180ºC (upper and lower heat) and roast your hazelnuts on a baking tray for around 9-11 minutes. Let them cool and then rub them together with your hands to get rid of the skin. You will not be able to get rid of everything, but most of it.
Blend the cooled hazelnuts in a blender until you have ground hazelnuts with some bigger pieces. So don‘t ground it too fine.
In a small pot add the sugar, cinnamon, orange juice, oat milk and orange zest. Slowly bring it to a boil. When it is simmering add the ground hazelnuts and let it simmer for another 2 minutes stirring constantly. Take it off the heat and let it cool. Before spreading it on to the dough mix in the 1 tbsp maple syrup.
Grease the loaf tin and line the bottom with parchment baking paper. Flour your working table very well before rolling out the dough to a 38 x 28 cm rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough leaving a 2 cm border all around.
Roll up the rectangle with both hands, starting to roll from the short 28 cm side. Cut the roll lengthwise into halves with a sharp knife. Twist the halves together as if you were braiding them and seal both ends together by pressing a little.
Place the braid into the loaf pan and brush with the glaze (1 tsp of maple and oat milk mixed together). Cover with a clean, slightly wet kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
When it is ready to bake preheat oven to 190ºC (upper and lower heat) and bake the babka for 30 minutes.
Let the babka cool in the loaf tin for around 30 minutes before lifting it out. I would let it cool then for at least another 30 minutes before enjoying, or leave it to cool completely. I like to brush it with a tablespoon of maple syrup so that it gets nice and shiny.
Healthy for people & planet – please go always organic!