1/2 cup unsalted butter -- room temperature
4 cups unbleached all purpose flour -- (up to 5)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup dried cherries
FOR THE TOPPING
1/4 cup fine bread crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg white -- lightly beaten
Grease a 9-inch springform pan with a tablespoon of the butter. Cut a strip of parchment paper or aluminum foil measuring about 4 inches wide and long enough to fit as a collar around the pan. Set aside.
Place the flour, sugar, salt, and remaining butter in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of the milk. Add to the mixture in the processor and process for 10 seconds.
Combine the remaining milk, eggs, and egg yolk in a small metal bowl. Using an instant read thermometer, adjust the temperature of the milk and egg mixture so that the combined temperature of the liquid and the flour blend gives a base temperature of 130 degrees if using a Cuisinart or KitchenAid, or 150 degrees if using a Braun. To warm the milk and eggs, place the bowl in another bowl with hot tap water. With a wire whisk, stir the mixture until it reaches the desired temperature. If the milk and eggs are too warm, cool them by placing the metal bowl over ice water. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until the liquid reaches the desired temperature. With the machine running, pour all the liquid through the feed tube. Process for 45 seconds.
Stop the machine and take the temperature of the dough with an instant read thermometer, which should read between 75 and 80 degrees. If the temperature is lower than 75 degrees, process the dough for an additional 5 seconds, up to twice more, until the dough reaches the desired temperature. If the temperature is higher than 80 degrees, remove the thermometer, scrape the dough from the food processor into an ungreased bowl, and refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes. Check the temperature of the dough after 5 minutes; the dough should be 80 degrees or cooler by that time. Return the dough to the processor, add the dried cherries and pulse for 5 seconds to blend them into the dough.
Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dough directly into the prepared pan. Wrap the strip of parchment of foil collar around the top of the pan, letting it extend at least 3 inches above the rim. Tie the collar securely to the pan using a piece of butcher's twine. Cover the babka loosely with plastic wrap, then a cloth towel. Let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a draft free place at room temperature.
While the babka is rising, prepare the topping. Place the bread crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and butter in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process for 1 minute until all ingredients are completely blended. With a spatula, scrape the topping into a small bowl and set aside.
Thirty minutes before baking, put the oven rack on the middle shelf of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees. To bake the babka, remove the towel and plastic wrap. The babka should have risen and crested the top of the pan. If it has not, cover it with plastic wrap and let it proof for up to 1 hour longer. Brush the top of the babka with the egg white, then sprinkle with the topping mixture.
Using a spray bottle, mist the inside of the oven with water 2 or 3 times. Place the babka in the oven directly on the center rack. Bake for 5 minutes, then spray the oven with water again. Bake the babka for about 50 to 55 minutes longer until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Or, it will be finished when it reaches an internal temperature of 205 to 210 degrees on an instant read thermometer.
Remove the babka from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool and rest for 20 minutes. Use a paring knife to loosen it, then remove it from the pan. Cut into 2-inch wedges and serve immediately, dusted with confectioners' sugar.
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