Chocolate Babka Bakealong: Challenge #9

bakealong-logo Welcome to our April Bakealong challenge. Each month, we’ll announce a new recipe for you to try, along with helpful tips and step-by-step instructions here on our blog. We invite you to bake, then share a photo of your creation, tagging it #bakealong. Enjoy!

The New York Times says making it is “no casual undertaking.” Noted food writer David Lebovitz offers a recipe for a stunning version he enjoyed at Honey & Co. in London. Dean & DeLuca sells it online — for $28 a loaf. What is this mysterious bread, and is it really worth it? Take our Chocolate Babka Bakealong challenge, and find out!

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Chocolate babka, a dense, rich loaf swirled with an equally rich chocolate/butter/sugar/nut filling, is a classic eastern European Jewish bread. Here in the U.S., chocolate babka has gradually spread from its native big city bakeries into suburban bistros and coffee shops — and thence to the kitchens of those of us who enjoy an interesting yeast bread project.

This Chocolate Babka #bakealong offers everything you need to create a spectacular loaf. Click To Tweet

While we agree baking babka is “no casual undertaking,” it’s also attainable by bakers of any skill level — even beginner. Simply follow the steps one by one and before you know it, you’ll be pulling a couple of gorgeous loaves out of the oven.

Are you ready to take the Chocolate Babka Bakealong challenge? Let’s begin.

The following recipe makes two loaves: one to keep, one to give away. But if you’d rather make a single loaf, simply halve all of the ingredients and proceed with the recipe as written.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Chocolate Babka Bakealong challenge

Make the dough

Place all of the following in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer:

1 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 large eggs
6 1/4 cups (26 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk*
2 tablespoons instant yeast, SAF Red or SAF Gold preferred
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

*Don’t have dry milk on hand? Omit it, and substitute liquid milk for the water.

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.

What does this short rest do? It allows the flour to absorb the water, which will make the dough less sticky and easier to knead — and help prevent you from adding too much flour, which would make your babka dry.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

After about 20 minutes, mix/knead the dough until it’s soft and smooth.

Let the dough rise

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.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Ninety minutes later, see how nicely the dough has risen? Deflate it gently by picking it up and squeezing it.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a rough log. Set the logs aside, covered, while you make the filling.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Prepare the filling

To make the filling, combine the following in a medium mixing bowl:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa, Triple Cocoa Blend, or the cocoa powder* of your choice
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

*Should you use Dutch process or natural cocoa here? We prefer Dutch process for its rich, smooth flavor, but use natural if you prefer.

Stir in 1/4 cup melted butter. The mixture will look grainy and slick; that’s OK. Set this aside; it’s your first layer of filling. Note: If the filling sits too long it may harden up and become difficult to spread. If this happens, simply rewarm it gently; a microwave works well here.

Next, measure out 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, and 1 cup diced pecans or walnuts.

For a less-chunky filling, whirl the chips in a food processor briefly, to break them up a bit; or use chocolate mini chips. For best flavor, toast the nuts in a frying pan (no oil), 350°F oven, or toaster oven, watching carefully and stirring often until the nuts start to brown and become aromatic.

Assemble the babka

Shape each piece of dough into a 9″ x 18″, 1/4″-thick rectangle. Don’t be fussy about this; 19″ or 20″ is as good as 18″.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Working with one piece of dough at a time, spread it with half the chocolate filling. Leave about an inch bare around the edges.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Scatter half the chips and nuts on top.

Next: two choices for shaping your babka.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Shape your babka

Simple shaping:

Roll the dough into a log, starting with a long edge.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Double the log back on itself, like a skinny horseshoe.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Give the horseshoe a twist.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

More complex shaping:

Starting with a short end, roll the dough gently into a log, sealing the seam and ends. 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.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

With the exposed filling side up, twist the two pieces into a braid, tucking the ends underneath.

Repeat with the remaining piece of dough, using whatever shaping method you choose.

Place each log into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. If desired, line each pan with a parchment paper sling, which will help you remove the loaves once they’re baked. 

Top the babka

Next, make the streusel topping by mixing together the following ingredients until crumbly:

4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Beat 1 large egg with a pinch of salt until well-combined. (What does the salt do? It helps break down the protein in the egg white, making it less viscous and easier to spread.)

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Brush each loaf with some of the beaten egg.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Sprinkle each loaf with half the topping.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Let the loaves rise

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 babka

Place the two pans onto a larger baking sheet, for ease of handling (and to catch any potential streusel-shedding). 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). To ensure the loaves are baked through, insert a digital thermometer into the center of one loaf; it should register at least 190°F.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

The finished loaves should be a deep-golden brown.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Remove the loaves from the oven, and immediately loosen the edges with a heatproof spatula or table knife.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out of the pans onto a rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Babka Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Slice and enjoy!

And here are what the loaves look like inside. At left is the babka with the more complex shaping method; at right, the simpler one.

With the more complex shaping, the one where you slit the dough log in half, you’re never quite sure what kind of interesting pattern you’ll see inside. With the simpler method, you’ll quite reliably see this double swirl.

Are you ready to take the Chocolate Babka Bakealong challenge? Follow this post on your tablet or laptop, or print the recipe. And when you’re done, remember to post your stunning photos, tagged #bakealong. We’re looking forward to sharing your success.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Kathleen

    Love the bake-along! My daughter and I attempted this- as others have said, I have wanted to make it for a long time but was intimidated- it was easy and delicious! We even managed to run out and have a nice lunch during the first rise 🙂 Definitely plan to make this for gifts at Christmas.

    Reply

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