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. 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, 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. 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.

CHOCOLATE BABKA

Ingredients:

For the Dough

1 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water

2 large eggs, room temperature

6 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup milk powder

2 tablespoons instant yeast

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons kitchen salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Filling

1/2 cup muscovado sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup cocoa, Dutch-process or natural

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

1/4 cup melted unsalted butter

1 cup finely chopped semisweet chocolate

1 cup diced pecans or walnuts, toasted

For the Glaze & Topping

1 large egg, beaten with a pinch of salt

4 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup all purpose flour

Method:

  • Combine all of the dough ingredients (starting with 1 cup water), mixing until everything is moistened.
  • Add extra water if necessary to enable dough to come together. Cover and let dough rest for 20 minutes.

  • Then mix/knead it until it is soft and smooth. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and cover bowl.
  • The dough is going to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it is quite puffy. Now gently deflate the dough.

  • Divide the dough into halves. Set the pieces aside, covered with plastic wrap, while you make the filling.
  • To make filling, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and espresso powder and stir in the melted butter.

  • The mixture will look grainy and slick. Shape each half of the dough into a 9″ x 18″, 1/4″-thick rectangle.
  • Smear each piece of dough with half the filling, coming to within 1″ of the edges. Scatter half of the nuts.

  • Then add half the chopped chocolate over each piece. Starting with a short end, roll each piece into a log.
  • Seal the seam and ends. Working with one log at a time, use sharp knife to cut the log in half lengthwise.

  • Be careful to prevent filling from spilling out. With exposed filling side up, twist the 2 pieces into a braid.
  • Tuck the ends underneath. Repeat with the other log. Place each log in a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

  • Brush each loaf with the egg glaze. Mix the topping ingredients till crumbly and sprinkle over each loaf.
  • Tent each pan with plastic wrap, and let the loaves rise until they are puffy for about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.

  • Towards the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 300°F. Bake for 35 minutes and tent lightly with foil.
  • Bake for another 15 to 25 minutes (for a total of 50 to 60 minutes); loaves should be deep-golden brown.

  • Remove the loaves from the oven, and immediately loosen edges with a heatproof spatula or table knife.
  • Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out of the baking pans onto a rack to cool completely.

  • Slice babka and serve at room temperature or rewarm individual slices briefly in a toaster before serving.
  • Store any leftovers, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days or freeze them for longer storage.

KAF April 2017 Challenge

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