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The perfect Christmas gift for you or a loved one
Put the milk in a small pan over a low heat until it feels slightly warm (not hot). Dissolve the yeast in a small bowl with a tablespoon or two of the milk and a large pinch of the sugar. Set aside for 10 mins.
Meanwhile mix 265g of the flour, the remaining sugar and ¼ tsp salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and stir to combine. Make a well in the flour and once the yeast has started to foam, pour it in together with the beaten egg and the butter. Add the yeast mixture, then use the remaining milk to rinse all the yeast out of the bowl and add this too.
Mix to combine the ingredients until they form a ball of dough, then continue to knead it for 5-6 mins until elastic and shiny. (You can do all of this by hand if you do not have a mixer.) If the dough is very sticky you can add more of the flour a tablespoon at a time. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave to rise at room temperature, around 45 mins, then put in the fridge to rise for at least 6 hrs or overnight.
To make the filling, chop the dates if they are whole, then put them in a heatproof bowl with 90ml boiling water and leave to soften for 30 mins. Blitz to a paste in a food processor, adding more water, a tablespoon at a time if it is too thick. Don’t add too much — you want a spreadable paste and not a liquid. Once the consistency is right, add the cinnamon and stir to combine.
Lightly oil a 23cm loose bottom cake tin and line with baking parchment. Put the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a 40cm x 30cm rectangle. Spread with the date paste and sprinkle with the chopped pistachios. Roll up from one of the shorter sides to make a log. If the dough has become soft, lift onto a baking sheet and chill for 20 mins in the fridge until firm. (If the log is too large for the fridge, carefully slice it in half using a sharp serrated knife.)
Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the log into slices 5cm thick. You should have about seven slices. Arrange them in the prepared tin, with the spiral facing upwards, beginning with one in the centre and the others around it. Leave space between them so they can spread as they rise. Cover and leave in a warm space to prove until they have doubled in size (about 1 hr-1 hr 30 mins).
About 20 mins before the end of proving, heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Lightly brush the dough with the beaten egg. Bake for 20 mins.
Meanwhile, make the sugar syrup by dissolving the sugar and honey in 2 tbsp water in a small pan over a low heat. As soon as the babka buns come out of the oven, brush generously with the honey syrup and leave to cool in the tin. Serve warm or at room temperature. Will keep for up to three days covered in an airtight container.