3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into pieces and at room temperature
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup pesto (recipe below)
5 to 6 ounces fresh ramp leaves (about 6 cups roughly chopped), or any other fragrant
greens such as basil
1/2 cup toasted walnuts (or any nut)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of one large lemon (about 3 to 4 Tbsp. lemon juice)
To make the dough: Combine the water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Wait until yeast has dissolved, around 5 minutes. Add all the ingredients (except the butter) and mix on low speed, using the hook attachment, until you get a shaggy dough. Continue mixing on low speed about 5 minutes. Add the soft butter pieces, one piece at a time, waiting until each piece is somewhat incorporated before adding the next one.
When all the butter is incorporated, continue mixing for another 5 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth. If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl, you can add a bit more flour (2 tablespoonfuls at a time) but keep in mind this is a somewhat sticky dough. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel, and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. (Optional: after the 1 12 hour rise at room temperature, you can cover the dough with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for an additional overnight rise of about 12 hours. This helps develop the flavour and texture. In this case, you would resume the recipe in the morning).
While the dough is rising, prepare the pesto: Place roughly chopped leaves and all other ingredients (except the olive oil) in a food processor. Pulse several times, stopping as soon as everything is minced, before it starts turning to a paste. Drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing until just incorporated. This pesto should be slightly chunky, it should not be a smooth paste. Taste and add a bit of salt or olive oil if needed. The pesto should taste lemony and salty for a bright, zesty, garlicky flavour to your bread.
Assemble the babka: When the dough has doubled in size, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface and roll it into a large rectangle approximately 16 inches by 20 inches with the long end facing you. Sprinkle more flour on rolling pin and work surface if the dough sticks. If you have a very hot kitchen and the dough is too soft, you can place it (covered) in the fridge for one hour so the butter in the dough hardens which will make rolling easier.
Spread the pesto on top of the whole rectangle, in an even layer. Top with the grated cheddar cheese.
Starting with the long end closest to you, roll the dough into a log. Seal the closing edge with a bit of water and turn the log so the sealer edge is facing down. Using a serrated knife, gently slice the log lengthwise, creating two halves, with their layers facing up. Beginning in the middle, twist each half around the other, creating a type of braided spiral. Seal the halves together at each end. Carefully transfer onto a large greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Shape into a circle and seal the two edges together by pressing them together. Don’t worry if this process is a little messy, it will still come out looking great.
Cover the babka lightly with a plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let it rise until puffed out a bit, about 1 1/2 hour.
Place a rack in the middle of your oven and heat to 350°F. Whisk the extra egg with a teaspoon water and gently brush it all over the surface of your wreath. If you wish, sprinkle with a bit of black pepper, and flaky sea salt on top. Bake until golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, around 45 to 50 minutes.
Let the babka cool for about 20 minutes. Serve warm (reheating if necessary).
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