I’m at it with Peter Reinhart again! I just love his Artisan Breads Every Day book and am diligently working my way through it. I’ve always wanted to make a Babka. Even since I saw that Seinfeld episode where Elaine is so desperately trying to purchase a chocolate babka for a dinner party she is about to attend. I had never experienced a Babka in person at that point, but just knew I couldn’t wait to try it out. I am happy to report that I have now successfully managed to progress from purchasing Babkas into making my own and I dare say mine was better than the last one I got from an actual bakery! (so proud, patting myself on the back as I type…quite a trick!) As with any yeast bread, there is some preparation involved. You can’t just whip one up on the spur of the moment. There are a couple different rising times of 2-3 hours or more. So you want to plan ahead. Luckily the recipe gives good tips on when you can stop, refrigerate the dough and then continue on the following day. I started early and soldiered through from start to finish. But breaking it up a bit does make sense.
Babka is a yeast bread which heavily leans towards a coffee cake. The name Babka comes from the Russian word baba, which means grandmother. And just like your granny, this bread is sweet and comforting! The bread itself is buttery and rich and then it also has the rich vein of chocolate and cinnamon swirling through it. Oh save us!!! It is completely irresistable!
Chocolate Cinnamon Babka
yield: 1 loaf
Recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day
- 2 tablespoons (0.66 oz/19 g) instant yeast
- 3/4 cup (6 oz/170 g) lukewarm milk (95°F or 35°C)
- 6 Tablespoons (3 oz/85 g) unsalted butter, melted or at room temperature
- 6 Tablespoons (3 oz/85 g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon (0.25 oz/7 g) vanilla extract
- 4 egg yolks (3 oz/ 85 g)
- 3 1/3 Cups (15 oz/425 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (0.25 oz/7 g) salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 egg, for egg wash (if using streusel topping)
- 1 Tablespoon water, for egg wash (if using streusel topping)
- 1 1/2 Cups (9 oz/255 g) frozen semisweet dark chocolate chips or chunks
- 1 teaspoon (0.25 oz/7 g) ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup (2 oz/56.5 g) cold unsalted butter
- 1/4 Cup (2 oz/56.5 g) cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 Cup (2.25 oz/64 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 Cup (4 oz/113 g) brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm milk until dissolved, then set aside for about 5 minutes before mixing it into the dough.
Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes. If mixing by hand, use a large wooden spoon and beat vigorously for about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla to the egg yolks and whisk lightly to break up the yolks, then add the yolks to the sugar mixture in four portions, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next. Increase the mixer speed to medium high or continue mixing by hand for another 2 minutes, until the mixture is fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times during the process.
Stop mixing and add the flour and salt, then pour in the milk mixture. Resume mixing at low-speed, or continue to stir by hand, for 2 to 3 minutes, to make a soft, supple, tacky dough. If using a mixer and the mixer begins to struggle, switch to the dough hook.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead by hand for 2 minutes more, adding more flour as needed to make the dough pliable. The dough should be a beautiful golden colour and feel soft and supple. Form the dough into a ball.
Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for about 2 1/2 hours. It will rise somewhat, but won’t double in size. If it rises significantly in less time, you can move to the shaping step or place it in the refrigerator overnight to be rolled out the next day.
Filling and Baking:
Prepare the filling while the dough is rising. Grind the chocolate in a food processor until it’s nearly powdered: if you don’t have a food processor, chop the chocolate as fine as possible. Add the cinnamon and pulse or stir a time or two to incorporate. Cut the butter into 8-10 pieces, add it to the food processor, and pulse until the butter is evenly dispersed into the chocolate mixture; or cut the butter into the chocolate mixture with a metal pastry scraper to make a streusel-like chocolate crumble.
Once the dough has risen, roll it into a 15 x 15 inch square on a lightly floured surface. It should be between 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. As you roll, frequently lift the dough with a metal pastry scraper or bowl scraper and dust with more flour underneath to prevent sticking. Sprinkle the chocolate mixture over the dough, breaking up any clumps, so the filling covers the surface of the dough evenly, leaving a 1/4 inch border.
Roll up the dough like a jelly roll and place it seam side down on the work surface. With firm but gently pressure, rock the log back and forth to extend its length until it is 18 to 24 inches long.
Grease a 5×9 inch loaf pan. Carefully twist the log from both ends without tearing it, just enough to accentuate the chocolate spiral. Coil the log into a circular snail shape, then stand the coil on its end so it’s perpendicular to the counter rather than lying flat. Press down on the coil to compress it into a loaf shape. Place it in the greased loaf pan.
Cover the loaf pan loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, until the babka fills the pan or has increased to about 1 1/2 times its original size. At this pint, you can proceed directly to baking or refrigerate the babka overnight. If holding it overnight, remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 hours before you plan to bake it.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Use a toothpick to poke a few holes in the top of the babka to eliminate possible air pockets between the layers of chocolate and dough.
While the oven preheats, make the streusel if you’d like to use it. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine, or cut the butter into small bits, then add the other ingredients and stir or mix with your hands. The texture should resemble cornmeal. If using streusel, brush the top of the babka with egg wash, then scatter the streusel over the top.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake until the top is a rich dark brown, the sides are a rich golden brown, the loaf sound hollow when thumped on the bottom, and the internal temperature is about 185°F (85°C) in the center. The babka will begin to brown quickly because of the sugar but it won’t burn. The total baking time is 50 to 60 minutes. The sides may feel soft because of air pockets in the spirals. The babka will soften as it cools.
Cool for at least 90 minutes before serving. The babka is best served at room temperature after the chocolate has had time to set.