I distinctly remember the first time I ate a piece of chocolate babka bread. It floored me. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that it looked so sweet– like a dessert bread– but instead had so much more flavorful depth. Those simple swirls wrapped around chunks of bittersweet chocolate were amazing. And though it wasn’t what I was expecting, I loved it. I was hooked. Since that first piece, I’ve ordered chocolate babka whenever I’ve had the opportunity. Some have been amazing, while others just didn’t quite get it right.
For today’s recipe, I’ve found a babka that definitely gets it right. Being able to make something at home that is just as good, if not better, than the versions I’ve tried elsewhere is one of the most satisfying things about cooking and baking. And this babka ranks right up there with the best I’ve ever eaten. The bread is moist and soft, and of course, not overly sweet. I love the big chunks of chocolate and the subtle kiss of cinnamon that make every bite interesting. In a word, it’s perfect.
This babka is not difficult to make, and I think the pictures should help you visualize each step. As always, fancy equipment is not necessary. Every step can be done by hand, though it’ll take a bit longer to mix and knead the dough. The results are worth the little added effort. This babka begs to be eaten while sipping a cup of coffee and chatting with a good friend. I hope you make this one, you’ll be so happy you did!
The Recipe: Chocolate Babka
For the Bread:
2 1/4 teaspoons (one 1/4-ounce envelope) active dry yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
1 large egg plus one large egg yolk
3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for bowl and pan
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash
For the Filling:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (1 1/4 cups)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Crumb Topping:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
To make the bread: In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over the milk and let stand for about 5 minutes, or until foamy. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, the egg and the yolk. Whisk into the yeast mixture. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and kosher salt. Add the egg mixture and mix on low speed until almost fully combined, about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough-hook attachment, and add the butter. Mix until smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 9-10 minutes. Butter a large bowl. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead a few times until smooth. Place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, roughly 1- 1 1/2 hours or longer (it will depend upon how warm your house is).
Meanwhile, make the chocolate filling. In a medium bowl, combine the chocolate chunks, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in the butter with a fork, pastry cutter, or my favorite way, your fingers, until combined.
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Place it on a flour work surface. Let rest for 5 minutes and then roll it out into a 18-inch square. Reserve a 1/2 cup of the filling and sprinkle the rest over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush the edges with the egg wash. Tightly roll the dough from one end to the other, like a jelly roll. Pinch the seam to seal. Fold in half and form a “U” shape. Twist 2 or 3 times to “braid”. Make sure to pinch the ends of braid together, as well. Butter a 5-by-10-inch loaf pan, line with parchment, leaving 1-inch overhangs; then butter the parchment paper. Place the dough in the pan and brush with egg wash.
To make the crumb topping, in a small bowl combine the confectioners’ sugar, flour, and butter. Mix with your finger until large, moist clumps form. Sprinkle topping along with 1/2 cup reserved chocolate filling over the cake. It’s ok if it falls down the sides of the cake, it will bake up beautifully.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Drape plastic wrap over the dough. Let rise in a warm place until risen by half, about 30 minutes.
Place bread pan on a cookie sheet, in case any of the topping tumbles off while baking. Place in the oven (center rack). Bake rotating halfway through, until golden, about 55 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Bake until deeply golden, about 15-20 minutes more (cover with foil if top gets too dark). Transfer pan to wire rack to cool completely before removing from pan. Bread can be stored in an airtight container (with plastic wrap placed on cut ends) for about 3 days.
Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, 2011
Thanks for stopping by Relishing It. I’d love to hear about some of the foods you’ve been relishing in your life lately!