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Chocolate Babka


I have a confession. It takes people by surprise every time I admit it, and sometimes it even takes me by surprise when I think about it. But the truth is: I don't crave sweets. In all honesty, they're not my thing.

I KNOW.

I go for the savory stuff: steaks, burgers, pasta, eggs & bacon (anything for breakfast), and... bread. I absolutely love bread. I go bonkers over toast, I'll lose my mind over garlic bread and if it's anything at all to do with a soft and puffy dinner roll, I am all over it.

That said, I will almost always reach for a sweet bread over anything else sweet. And I know it's weird, because here I am blogging about all sorts of sweets all the time, and I spend the majority of my evenings sitting on the couch watching the Great British Baking Show with a cup of tea... But in all honesty, it's more about the act of baking, and giving away whatever I bake rather than eating it. It's so much more gratifying that way. Plus, it's a challenge; and bread especially is its own challenge, particularly when it's filled and rolled, then sliced and twisted.

That's babka, baby.

Chocolate babka with a delicious streusel on top. It's to-die-for, and when you pop it in the toaster, slather it with butter and have it with your morning cup of coffee, oh goodness. It is quite the treat.

This recipe comes from King Arthur Flour. The recipe makes 2 loaves -- and believe me, you'll want both -- but if you'd only like one, simply halve the measurements. I also made a very slight change to the filling by melting my chocolate chips instead of scattering them over the filling, which helped the dough to roll and twist much more easily. But you do you.

INGREDIENTS

For the dough:

1 cup lukewarm water

2 large eggs

6 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour

1/3 cup nonfat dry milk

2 tablespoons instant yeast

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

1/4 cup melted unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

For the glaze:

1 large egg beaten with a pinch of salt

For the topping:

4 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup All-Purpose flour

DIRECTIONS

Combine all of the dough ingredients (starting with the lesser amount of water), mixing until everything is moistened. Add additional water if necessary to enable the dough to come together. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Then mix/knead it until it's soft and smooth.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and cover the bowl. The dough is going to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it's quite puffy. Gently deflate the dough, and divide it in half. Set the pieces aside, covered, while you make the filling.

To make the filling: Combine the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and espresso. Stir in the melted butter and the melted chocolate. The mixture will be thick and grainy; that's OK.

Shape each half of the dough into a 9" x 18", 1/4"-thick rectangle. If the dough "fights back," let it rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten, then stretch it some more. Don't be fussy about this; 19" or 20" is as good as 18".

Smear each piece of the dough with half the filling, coming to within an inch of the edges.

Starting with a short end, roll each piece gently into a log, sealing the seam and ends. Working with one log at a time, use a pair of scissors or a sharp knife to cut the log in half lengthwise (not crosswise) to make two pieces of dough about 10" long each; cut carefully, to prevent too much filling from spilling out. With the exposed filling side up, twist the two pieces into a braid, tucking the ends underneath. Repeat with the other log. Place each log into a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan.

Brush each loaf with the egg glaze. Mix together the topping ingredients until crumbly, and sprinkle half the topping over each loaf.

Tent each pan with plastic wrap, and let the loaves rise until they're very puffy and have crowned a good inch over the rim of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 300°F.

Bake the bread for 35 minutes. Tent lightly with foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 25 minutes (for a total of 50 to 60 minutes); the loaves should be a deep-golden brown. To ensure the loaves are baked through, insert a digital thermometer into the center of one loaf. It should register at least 190°F.

Remove the loaves from the oven, and immediately loosen the edges with a heatproof spatula or table knife. Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out of the pans onto a rack to cool completely.

Slice the babka and serve it at room temperature; or rewarm individual slices briefly in a toaster, if desired. Store any leftovers, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.


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