I was invited to a pumpkin-carving party recently, and wanted to bring some kind of snack to contribute. I usually bring desserts (last year I brought these pumpkin cheesecake bars) but everyone brings desserts to these things, so I decided to go in a savory direction this time.
Butternut squash seemed the perfect ingredient to focus on for a squash-theme party, so I started with that. I wanted to keep things handheld and relatively neat to eat, so I knew I’d be enclosing the filling in a pastry, and after that it was just a matter of adding flavors I thought would work. Best of all, the prep time was relatively low since the filling ingredients were roasted together on a sheet pan.
As for the outside, I revisited the hot water crust recipe I used to make Paul Hollywood’s pork pies, since I’d been struck at the time by its flakiness and great flavor. To cut down on leftover scraps I cut my pastry into squares, which were folded diagonally to make little turnover shapes– but I’m calling them pasties here because 1) they sound more savory than “turnovers,” which always evoke dessert to me, and 2) I’m kind of on a Harry Potter kick right now and these remind me of pumpkin pasties (which were probably intended to be sweet, but whatever).
After my cream puff adventure I had extra red bean paste left over, and decided to use it in a recipe I’ve been meaning to try for ages– Hokkaido milk bread. It’s a soft, sweet, tender bread that’s made using the tangzhong method– which basically means that you make a roux out of some of the flour, then mix it into the dough. The theory is that the roux acts to lock up some of the moisture from the water, plus locking up some of the flour so that it can’t create gluten when kneaded, making the bread softer and more tender.
I decided to roll the dough up with a layer of red bean paste to add interest, kind of like cinnamon swirl bread. The experiment was a success, and just like cinnamon bread, this also makes fabulous toast.
** Note to all my readers: Just wanted to thank you all for keeping up with my posts! We reached the 5,000-view point last week, and just hit the 2,500 visitors mark this weekend! I’m thrilled that so many people seem to be enjoying the blog, and I can’t wait to share more projects with you! **
I’ll say right now that this cinnamon babka was something I made to bring to my great-aunt for her 90th birthday, so I have very few photos of the inside– it’s not like you can demand that the recipient slice into the loaf right away so you can get a picture for your blog. She did cut one slice which she shared with me, and it was delicious, so I feel comfortable posting about this recipe despite the lack of good pictures.
Anyway, cinnamon babka. I grew up eating a butter-enriched sweet loaf swirled with cinnamon for holidays, so cinnamon bread was always something I enjoyed. But this recipe, adapted from Cook’s Country, stands head and shoulders above that one (sorry, Dad). It’s soft and moist, and the cinnamon-sugar filling is thick and gooey, yet holds its shape in a way that I have to attribute to the flour and egg white– brilliant additions to the standard sugar-butter-cinnamon filling mixture.