Cherry Almond Babka
Adapted from Country Living Magazine
Yield: 12+ servings
1 envelope dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm milk (105-110 F)
1 t sugar
1/3 c sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 t salt
4 eggs, room temperature
1/2 c sour cream
4 c all purpose flour
1 c dried cherries
1 1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract
Dissolve 1 t sugar in the warm milk. Sprinkle in the yeast and stir to combine. Let the mixture sit for approximately 10 minutes until it becomes foamy.
In a separate bowl, beat 1 stick of butter with remaining 1/3 c sugar and 1/2 t salt until light and creamy. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, followed by the yeast mixture and the sour cream. Add the flour, one cup at a time, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough until a lightly floured surface and knead until silky and smooth.
Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise until double in bulk (1 - 1 1/2 hours).
To make the filling, cover dried cherries with hot water until softened (10-15 minutes). Drain and squeeze dry. Finely grind the almonds in a food processor. Cream remaining stick of butter with brown sugar until smooth, then add an egg, vanilla and ground almonds.
Punch down the dough and roll into a rectangle approximately 12 by 24 inches. (Alternatively, divide the dough in half and roll out 2 smaller rectangles.) Spread on almond filling, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border around the edge. Scatter on the dried cherries. Roll the dough, jelly roll style, into a tight log. Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and form into a crescent. Cover with a towel and let rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350F. Beat remaining egg with 1 t milk (or cream). Lightly brush dough with mixture and sprinkle generously with sugar. Bake on middle rack of oven until golden brown and baked through, about one hour (check babka after 45 minutes). If the babka starts to get too dark while baking, cover it loosely with foil.
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.