Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chocolate Babka

When I heard about the Bob’s Red Mill challenge, I knew I was in because I love working with yeast; and flour and yeast go hand in hand. I have made this Chocolate Babka once before and it was wonderful. I didn't even know what babka was until it was discussed in a Facebook cooking group I'm in. Someone reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Elaine miss out on the last babka at a bakery on the way to their dinner party. Oh, so that’s babka! It is easy to change up the filling for babka. One could add pecans to the chocolate version or experiment with different kinds of jam. Raspberry is my favorite and I think I need to make it soon.

 While not difficult to make, one must allow time for chilling and rising, so allow about 8 hours from start to finish. It will be well worth it! Serious Eats describes babka as “...pastry pretending to be bread, a classification it owes largely to the loaf pan in which it's baked. It's made from flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar, eggs, milk, butter, and more butter. Inside, you find a spiral of chocolate, cinnamon, or almond filling, and there's often a little streusel on top. Eat it with coffee for breakfast or dessert, and prepare to add a notch to your belt.”

If you live in New York, I'm jealous that you can try the different babka at these bakeries here and here. In the meantime, I will keep making and experimenting with babka.

Chocolate Babka
by Sharyl
Adapted from this Chocolate Babka

(makes two 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” loaf pans)
3/4 cup warm milk (105-115°F)
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups Bob's Red Mill Organic Unbleached White Flour
2 whole large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter (10 Tablespoons) - cut into pieces and allow to soften

Chocolate Filling:
5 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter
8 - 10 ounces of fine quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (60% cacao or less)
1/4 cup sugar

Egg Wash:
1 large egg yolk
1 Tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk

Add warm milk and the 2 teaspoons of sugar to the stand mixer bowl. Sprinkle yeast over milk and let sit for about 5 minutes, until foamy. Add 1/2 cup of the flour to bowl and beat at medium speed. Add 2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk, vanilla, salt, 1/2 cup of sugar and mix until combined. With mixer on low, add remaining 2 3/4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. With mixer on medium, add the butter, a few pieces at a time, and beat until dough is shiny, about 4 minutes. Dough will be soft and sticky. If you've made bread before, this is a different texture. Don't keep adding flour to make it feel like other bread dough. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Set dough aside, to rise, until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Line 2 loaf pans with parchment paper or spray with baking spray. Punch dough down and then split dough in half and cover one with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. I found it easier to flour parchment paper and roll the dough out on that. Sprinkle rolling pin with flour. Roll out the first piece of dough into a 10" x 18” rectangle. Transfer the rolled dough on the parchment paper to a cookie sheet, cover and put in the refrigerator. Repeat for 2nd piece of dough. Cover and chill both for 1 - 2 hours. This will make the dough much easier to twist later. 

When chilled, brush 2 1/2 Tablespoons of melted butter over the dough, leaving a 1/2” border. Prepare the egg wash by mixing the 1 egg yolk and 1 Tablespoon milk or heavy cream. Brush 1 short side of the dough with the egg wash. Sprinkle half of the chocolate and half of the sugar, saving the rest for 2nd piece of dough. Starting with the short side, (farthest from you), that doesn't have the egg wash, roll the dough tightly, similar to a jelly roll. Seal with egg wash side. Seal the ends of dough and twist the dough several times. Fold dough in half and twist again. Place dough in loaf pan and repeat steps for second loaf. There are many different ways online to prepare and twist the dough before putting it in the pan. This worked best for me, but I would encourage you to find the way that you like the best. 

Lay buttered plastic wrap over the loaf pans for 1 – 2 hours, until dough rises to just above top of pans. This is the time to save one for the freezer if you so choose (see note below.) Brush tops of dough with egg wash and bake on the middle rack in a 350°F preheated oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven, let it sit in pan for 10 minutes or so and then remove bread from pan and cool on rack. Slice and enjoy!

Note: The 2nd loaf may be frozen for up to a month after it has been filled, rolled and laid in loaf pan. When the craving overtakes you, remove from freezer and allow to defrost and rise for about 5 hours. Brush with egg wash and bake as directed above.

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