Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chocolate (not cinnamon) Babka

I've been thinking about posting this for awhile. It's a subject I approach gingerly. It is not to be taken lightly. Chocolate (not cinnamon)  babka is serious business. It really is. It has been seriously considered by famous and unknown alike. And like those who have gone before me in this weighty debate, I come down squarely on the side of chocolate, not cinnamon babka. Actually, it was hard to decide and so what I am posting is a recipe for chocolate (with a little cinnamon) babka.

To the uninitiated, a babka is a celebration bread originating in Poland. It is served by Poles for Easter. They add a glaze, raisins and other dried fruit, and slather it with butter. As if there isn't enough butter in it already! Some versions use fruit preserves (jam not jelly). It is served by Jews from Poland as a breakfast bread especially for holidays and the Sabbath.

And so I have been searching all over for a perfect babka recipe that would live up to the expectations I have from a good, no great, chocolate babka. It is no simple task, but |I think I have finally found it! So without any further ado here it is. This recipe is an adaptation from one I found on http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/chocolate-babka . I mean, this baby has 2 1/4 pounds of chocolate!!! And 1 3/4 cups of butter!!! And cream!!! It is not for the faint of heart or the timid - so if you are any of those things, this one's not for you.

Here's what you'll need for three loaves:
1 1/2 cups warm milk
1 Tbs. yeast
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 whole large eggs
2 large egg yolks
6 cups AP flour
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for bowl and loaf pans
2 1/4 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, chopped very finely
2 1/2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
1 Tbs. heavy cream
Streusel (crumb) topping for 3 3/4 cups:
1 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/3 cups AP flour
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

Here's what you'll need to do:
1. Pour the warm milk into a bowl, add the yeast with a pinch of sugar and stir to dissolve. Let it stand for about 5 minutes until it becomes frothy.
2. In a separate bowl, mix 3/4 cups of the sugar, along with 2 eggs and the egg yolks. Then add this mixture to the yeast mixture and mix the whole thing together.
3.Now get out you electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt, then add the egg mixture and beat on low speed until the flour is nearly incorporated. This will only take about 30 seconds or so. Now, using the dough hook, add 2 sticks of butter, beating it into the flour and egg mixture until a smooth slightly tacky, dough is formed. This could take about 10 minutes.
4. Remove the dough from the mixer, then knead it on a lightly floured surface a few times until the dough is smooth.
Place the dough in a buttered bowl turning to coat, covered with plastic wrap until doubled. This will take about an hour.
5. In the meantime, while you wait for the dough to rise, place the chocolate, the remaining cup of sugar and the cinnamon in a bowl and stir to combine. The, using a knife (or a pastry cutter) combine with the remaining 1 1/2 sticks of butter. Set aside after mixing the filling.
6. Butter 3 loaf pans ( 9 by 5 by 2 3/4 in. or 22.5 by 12.5 by 7 cm.) then line them with parchment paper. Beat the remaining egg with the cream as an egg wash and set aside. 
7. Now take the dough, punch it down to deflate, then let it rest for about 5 minutes. After resting, cut it into 3 equal pieces. Cover 2 pieces with plastic wrap while you work with the remaining piece to prevent them from drying out.
8. On a floured surface, roll out one piece of dough into a 16-inch (40 cm) square that is about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick.

9. Brush the edges with the reserved egg wash, then crumble 1/3 of the filling over the square of dough, leaving a border. You may need to refresh the egg wash. Roll the dough up tightly, like a jelly roll, pinching the ends to seal it. Twist the roll 5 or 6 times (like for wringing out a towel), then sprinkle about 2 Tbs. of the filling over the left half of the roll. 

Now, being careful not to let the filling fall off the roll, take the right half of the roll and fold it over onto the left half of the roll. Fold the two ends under and pinch to seal, then give this new folded roll 2 turns and place it into the prepared loaf pan. 
10. Repeat this procedure with the other 2 pieces of dough. If you prefer, babka can be made in a bundt pan, like a cake, but it's really a bread, not a cake.

11. Start heating the oven to 350 F (180 C) degrees. Meanwhile, brush each loaf with the remaining egg wash, and sprinkle 1/3 of the Streusel topping on each loaf. Cover them loosely with plastic wrap, and let them stand to rest and rise a little while the oven heats. This will be about 20 to 30 minutes.
12. Bake the loaves for about 55 minutes rotating them halfway through so they brown evenly. Then lower the temperature to 325 F (160 C) and bake for an additional 15 minutes or so until golden brown. 
13. Remove from the oven, letting them cool in the pans on a wire cooling rack. Afterwards, remove them from the pans, and serve. 
14. I defy you to resist these babkas. It can't be done, I swear! Babkas can be frozen for up to a month but generally disappear within days, so why bother! Yum!!


  1. David, this looks sinfully delicious. I will have to attempt this when we have friends over, or Steven and I will end up eating it all ourselves...as I told you before, it is a favorite.

  2. can't wait to try!
    So excited about your new adventure in creativity!
    Very happy to have stumbled on this site and hope to catch up = many changes and experiences over the years.
    Saw Naava on facebook a while back.
    Will try your challah on vacation in loon lake next shabbat. Can't wait.
    Then, we'll try the babka for Rosh Hashanah. I will have to ship to our kids because no one will be with us this year!
    Good luck.