As the weather in Mauritius gets warmer and more summer-like, I plan to start working on ice creams and fruit desserts. Before I say a final goodbye to the chilly winter mornings and even colder nights, I feel that I should bake a pretty homemade sweet bread like this one. Laden with chocolate, butter, and old-world charm, this luscious babka by Maggie Ruggiero may be served as dessert with a good cup of latte coffee or as breakfast. While baking, the rich dough becomes incredibly tender, so it pulls apart in buttery pieces that melt in your mouth. Hmm… I really should be careful with this one!

CHOCOLATE BABKA

Ingredients:

For the Dough

3/4 cup warm milk (105–115°F)

1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

3 teaspoons active dry yeast

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting

2 whole large eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened

For the Chocolate Filling

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, well softened

3 1/2- to 4-oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 cup sugar

For the Egg Wash

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk

Method:

  • For the dough, stir together warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in bowl of mixer. Sprinkle yeast over mixture.
  • Stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup flour to yeast mixture, beat at medium speed until combined.

  • Add whole eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low.
  • Then mix in remaining 2 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium, then beat in butter.

  • Continue to beat until the dough is shiny and forms strands from paddle to bowl, after about 4 minutes.
  • Dough will be very soft and sticky. Scrape dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap.

  • Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • Line two loaf pan with parchment paper, one lengthwise and one crosswise. Punch down dough with a spatula.

  • Divide dough into halves. Roll out 1 piece of dough on a well-floured surface into an 18- by 10-inch rectangle.
  • Arrange with a long side nearest you. Beat together yolk and milk. Spread 2 1/2 tablespoons butter on dough.

  • Leave a 1/2-inch border all around. Brush egg wash on long border nearest you. Sprinkle with half of the sugar.
  • Then sprinkle half of chocolate evenly over buttered dough. Now start working with long side farthest from you.

  • Roll the dough into a log. Pinch firmly along egg-washed seam to seal. Bring ends of log together to form a ring.
  • Twist the ring twice to form a double figure 8. Fit into a prepared pan. Make another babka with remaining dough.

  • Chill remaining egg wash, covered, to use later. Loosely cover pans with buttered plastic wrap, buttered side down.
  • Let babkas rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until dough reaches top of pans, 1 to 2 hours.

  • Alternatively, let dough rise in refrigerator 8 to 12 hours; bring to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours, before baking.
  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Brush tops of dough with remaining egg wash.

  • Bake for about 40 minutes until the tops are deep golden brown. The bottoms sound hollow when tapped.
  • Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature. Babkas keep, wrapped in plastic wrap and foil, frozen 3 weeks.

Taken from Gourmet, December 2006 Edition

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