Turning wine into bread is easy and delicious when you make Cranberry Wine Babka. Made with a cranberry wine reduction, it’s sweet-tart goodness!
Wine as Bread
So, you get wine as a gift…do you drink it? I suspect that the vast majority do just that. However, if you’re a baker, maybe, just maybe, you think like I do and start dreaming up ways to bake with it, especially if it’s a semi-sweet fruit wine. After all, there’s concentrated flavor there…
Remember the fruit wines I reviewed a few weeks back? They were from Plymouth Bay Winery, where my daughter and her husband connected me to Gabrielle Summer, the winery’s Assistant Manager. Gabrielle had kindly arranged for me to receive a sample basket of wines, jelly, and candy, and, along with the raspberry jelly I used for Hamantaschen, I knew I was going to bake something yummy and tell you all about it. Well folks, it’s time to start baking…let’s begin with the Cranberry Bay cranberry table wine and the Bad Newz raspberry wine jelly. What shall I bake? How about a Cranberry Wine Babka?
Bread for breakfast, brunch and dessert
Babka is in essence an egg-enriched bread that’s spread with a filling and rolled up like a cinnamon roll (or cinnamon roll cookies, perhaps?). It’s then split, twisted, and shoved into a loaf pan to bake into dreamy dessert-bread. It’s so versatile, what with different filling options (Apricot! Chocolate!), it can be served at almost any meal. So what if I reduced the cranberry wine to a syrup and spread it on the dough for the filling? Wait, what if I soaked dried cranberries in the wine first and sprinkled them on top? An idea for Cranberry Wine Babka was forming.
Then a babka recipe from Momfluentrial (made with challah dough, boysenberry jam, and brown sugar) caught my eye…I have an excellent recipe for challah that I’ve been making for years, and I loved the idea of a cinnamon-spiked brown sugar to sweeten the wine syrup. And orange zest! Oranges and cranberries go together like butter on toast..how’s about add that in! I had also previously tried a Splendid Table recipe for Chocolate Cinnamon Babka that had excellent, detailed instructions and more validation about the direction I was going…the dough in that recipe looked almost identical to my challah except for the addition of vanilla extract and milk was substituted for water.
Ok, now you have a glimpse into my thought processes…sorry about the mess. Let’s get baking.
[Side note: I didn’t initially use raspberry wine jelly in the recipe (that’s why it’s not in the ingredient photo below), but added it on my second attempt. It helped to counter the cranberry wine tartness. Experimentation is good, people.]
It was my challah dough that failed me. Oh, not the recipe (that’s tried and true). No, my first batch didn’t rise, just sat there like a sad lump of wanna-be-bread (probably because I killed the yeast when I heated the milk too hot…rookie mistake). I tried again…uhm…my second batch also didn’t rise. Maybe the yeast I was using was dead? I called the King Arthur Hotline (1-855-371-2253…a wonderful resource, to be sure)…I thought maybe using milk instead of water was the problem? It wasn’t, so they suggested I try again with fresh, new yeast. Ok, the third time was the charm…I opened a new bag of yeast, measured the milk temperature carefully…and then noticed my KitchenAid Precise Heat Mixing Bowl (the same device I use to temper chocolate) wasn’t getting warm. (Really?? That’s the problem?!? Luckily, the good people at KitchenAid replaced it under warranty, so all is good there). Also, I guess the second time had been the charm, because when I put that batch of dough in the oven with the light on, it rose beautifully. So now I had two batches of challah dough…an abundance of riches.
So, how did it go? The Babka?
This Cranberry Wine Babka had an eggy, sweet bread base, just like always (with no perceptible difference from the milk). The brown sugar added crunch, but it was the sweet tartness from the cranberries with a hint of wine that stole the show…the wine reduction added a deep flavor of tart cranberries and dark cherries, sticky and rich (the orange flavor was overpowered by the cranberries, so it wasn’t noticeable at all).
On my second try I spread Bad Newz raspberry jam along with the wine reduction for the filling, opted for no orange zest, and added cocoa powder to the brown sugar (the cocoa powder and brown sugar didn’t really mix well, but I went ahead anyway). In the end, the wine flavor still dominated everything, and the cocoa powder (like the orange zest before) wasn’t noticeable at all, so you probably don’t need either. Also, this time having a drizzle of wine syrup on top of the slice added a burst of sweet cranberry tartness. Wonderful.
So there you have it…my Cranberry Wine Babka experience, two ways. Both delicious, and (if your bread dough rises the first time), relatively easy to make. It was a fun way to serve wine as bread, and a fun exercise in creativity. Next up will be the Widow’s Walk white table wine and the What’ta Pair jelly…wait ‘til you see what I do with that!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Cranberry Wine Babka
- 3/4 cup milk (6 oz), warm (85-105°F)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (1-3/4 oz, 50g), divided
- 2 tsp yeast (7g, 1 packet)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup canola oil (1-3/4 oz, 50g)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (15 oz, 425g), plus more as needed
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (1/3 oz, 9g)
- 1 1/2 cups cranberry wine, see Recipe Notes
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries, sweetened
- 1/2 cup raspberry wine jelly, see Recipe Notes
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (120g)
- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder (13g), optional
- 2 tsp orange zest, optional
- 1/8 tsp Kosher salt
- Heat the milk and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a medium saucepan until the milk is warm to the touch. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and set aside to proof for about 5 minutes, or until bubbles form on the surface of the milk (see Recipe Notes).
- Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to incorporate. Add the flour, the remaining sugar, and the salt and mix on low speed until the flour is incorporated into the liquid and a sticky dough forms. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on medium speed until a smooth and slightly sticky dough forms, about 5 minutes. Add more flour if needed to make the dough the right consistency.
- Gather the dough into a ball, stretching the dough so the top of the ball is smooth. Wipe a large bowl with a small amount of canola oil, then place the dough back into the bowl with the gathered rough part of the dough down and the smooth surface of the ball facing up. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size (inside an oven with the light on works well if you don't have a proofing machine, or one that doesn't work).
- While the dough is resting, heat wine in the microwave for 1 minute on HIGH. Soak the dried cranberries in the warmed wine for at least an hour. Strain the wine into a small saucepan, and set the cranberries aside. Bring the wine to boil over medium-high heat and reduce to ½ cup (about 15 minutes). Keep an eye on it so the wine doesn’t reduce too fast and burn. It will have a slightly thickened texture and will coat the back of a spoon (it will firm up upon chilling). Pour into a small bowl and chill until ready to use.
- Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder and/or orange zest (if using) and salt in a small bowl.
Assemble the Babka
- Once the dough has doubled, coat a standard loaf pan (8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inches) with cooking spray and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper, with an inch or two of the paper overhanging the edges of the pan. Dust a clean surface with flour and roll the dough out to a rectangle roughly 15 x 17-inches, with a long side facing you (landscape orientation). Spread the jelly over the surface of the dough, then drizzle some the cooled wine syrup, reserving the rest, and spread it over the jelly. Sprinkle the sugar mixture to lightly cover the spread (you’ll have some left over). Finally, sprinkle reserved cranberries evenly over everything.
- Tightly roll the dough up from the bottom, making a 17-inch rope. Slice the dough in half lengthwise, making two 17-inch long pieces (the dough might start to fall apart because of the cranberries). Twist each long piece individually so the cranberries are trapped inside the dough, tucking in any that have fallen out. Then twist and wrap the two ropes of dough together. Squish the twisted dough together and transfer it to the prepared loaf pan, tucking in any stray cranberries and dough. Sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture over the top of the dough (again, you may not use it all) and then cover with a piece of plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
- While the babka loaf is resting, preheat the oven to 350°F. Once the dough has rested (it won’t have risen much, just a tiny bit), place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 50 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue to bake until the top of the dough is deep brown, about 15 to 20 minutes more. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then use the parchment paper to lift the babka out of the pan and transfer it to a wire cooling rack. Let cool to room temperature.
- When ready to serve, warm the babka or serve at room temperature. Slice thickly and drizzle the reserved wine syrup. Enjoy!