To learn more about this recipe, click here to read the related story, "Dessert First," in TastingTable's Los Angeles edition.
Salted Caramel-Pecan Babkas
Recipe adapted from Karen Hatfield, The Sycamore Kitchen, Los Angeles, CA
Yield: 12 babka rolls
Cook Time: 40 minutes (plus 8 hours chilling and rising)
½ cup cold whole milk
1¼ teaspoons instant yeast
3 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter cut into ½-inch cubes, plus 1 tablespoon at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup pecan halves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1¼ cups packed dark brown sugar, divided
1½ tablespoons light corn syrup
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup crème fraîche
¼ cup granulated sugar
- Make the dough: In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and yeast and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. Add the butter cubes and mix until the butter pieces are no bigger than a large pea. Whisk the eggs into the milk mixture and then add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until a dough just comes together.
- Grease a rimmed baking sheet with the room-temperature butter. Dust a cutting board with some flour and place the dough on top. Knead a few times and then use a rolling pin to roll into a ¾-inch-thick, 8-by-9-inch rectangle. Place the dough on the greased baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
- Make the babka: Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Turn off the oven.
- In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, melt the butter, then stir in ¾ cup of the brown sugar, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the corn syrup and salt and divide evenly among the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin. Divide the toasted pecans among the buttered muffin cups.
- On a lightly floured cutting board, roll the chilled dough into a ⅜-inch-thick, 11-by-14-inch rectangle. Spread with the crème fraîche and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup brown sugar and the granulated sugar. Roll from the bottom up into a log and use a knife or dough scraper to divide into 12 equal pieces.
- Place each piece in a muffin cup cut side down and set aside until each piece is doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- Place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom oven rack. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a second rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Bake the babkas on the middle oven rack (the baking sheet on the bottom rack will catch any potential overflow of melted sugar) until golden-brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately invert onto the prepared baking sheet. Use tongs to stick any fallen pecans back on top of the babkas. Serve warm or at room temperature.