Easter is just around the corner – time to bake some braided bread. Don’t you think of some kind of brioche/plait/whatever-you-call-it when it comes to Easter? (Second after eggs of course.) I guess this is a tradition in many christian regions: Italian Colomba di pasqua, Greek Tsoureki, Austrian/German Osterzopf/Osterstriezel Eastern European Paska,… there are probably countless more regional traditions of Easter Bread.
Though, – as you may have recognized – this isn’t a classic Easter bread… I wanted to make one with a filling, something fresh, that tasted like spring. What came out is a fusion of milk bread and cheese cake – both closely twisted with each other. It’s loosely adapted from Ottolenghis chocolate babka (“Jerusalem”, of course…) and this plait. And it’s fresh, lemony and only just enough sweet. I like! (And he did, too!)
I drained the quark for half a day – so by that time it had a creamy texture that could be compared to cream cheese. If you can’t get hold of quark around where you live, I would recommend to substitute with cream cheese.
Quark lemon babka (1 loaf)
dough: 250 g flour, 1 teaspoon active dry yeast, zest of ½ lemon, 50 g sugar, pinch of salt, 60 ml milk, 70 g butter, 1 egg
filling: 500 g quark/curd cheese (300 g after draining), 70 g sugar, zest and juice of ½ lemon, vanilla seeds
icing: 30 g icing sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice
In a medium bowl mix flour, yeast, lemon zest, sugar and salt. In a small saucepan heat milk and butter, cut into smaller pieces. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature. Add egg and butter-milk to flour. Knead for about 10 minutes. Cover bowl and let dough rise for ½ day.
Transfer quark to a cheese cloth or kitchen towel, hang up and put a small bowl underneath. Drain for ½ day. You should end up with about remaining 300 g of creamy quark. Add sugar, lemon zest and juice and vanilla seeds and mix well. Grease loaf pan.
On a floured surface roll out dough into a rectangle, the long side as long as your loaf pan. Spread with quark sparing 2 cm on the right long side. Roll from left to right. Cut the roll lengthwise into two strands and turn the strands so that the open sides are facing upwards. Braid them together by holding the ends, then lifting one strand over the other until you reach the end (about 3-4 times). Carefully transfer to loaf pan, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake babka for 35 min. Let cool on a wire rack.
Sieve icing sugar and mix with lemon juice, coat babka with icing. This babka is best eaten fresh on the first day.