Ooooooooh Chocolate Babka. The coveted Babka, if Elaine Benes is to be believed. And as much as I believe the Cinnamon Babka to be worthy of recognition – the chocolate babka is pretty damned hard to beat.
This recipe makes one bulging, streusel-strewn loaf of delicious Eastern-European bread, and is actually pretty straight forward – it just takes a little hanging-around time, as most bread recipes do.
The Babka, though I know it from New York City more than anywhere else, thanks to Seinfeld, is a bread made across Eastern-Europe, and as best I can tell has roots in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Macedonia and Albania.
I’ve always found that recipes with this kind of impossible-to-pin-down history, are the most delicious. Why else would they be so widely adapted and adopted? And when the recipe is for Chocolate Babka, it’s no surprise.
I mean, if I had never seen nor heard of this kind of thing before, and then some lovely baker passed me a slice of buttery bread, swirled with chocolate, and smothered in sweet streusel, YOU KNOW I’d be asking for the recipe.
The other cool thing is that there are so many different recipes out there. This is just my version, and I’ve tried to keep it as simple as I could. It’s definitely rich, with plenty of butter and chocolate, but this only makes one loaf, instead of the 2-4 that most other recipes seem to produce. Restraint isn’t exactly my middle name, but I had to draw the line somewhere!
So, sometime this week, you need to tell everybody you have a dentist appointment – nothing serious, but it’ll take a while. Then, turn off all your devices, and bake this babka. Hang around the house, play a tape, or a CD or even a record, if you’ve got one. Wear your pyjamas all day.
Brew that weird tea that your Aunt gave you at Christmas and see what it takes like. Let the dough rise. Read some poetry, or a Roald Dahl book, or a magazine that you love – who cares? The point is, you need some time to bake, be by yourself, and do weird, different things. Some serious kitchen therapy, coupled with home-body hanging out. Do it for me. Have fun!
PS – The weird tea I have is called ‘Really Russian Caravan’, the record I’m listening to is Dark Horse by George Harrison, and I’m reading The Hound of the Baskervilles. What about you?
- ½ (70g) cup icing sugar
- ⅓ (50g) cup flour
- ½ stick (50g) butter
- ⅓ cup (75g) caster sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cocoa
- ½ stick (50g) butter
- 4 oz (100g) dark chocolate, chopped
- ⅓ cup (50g) pecans, chopped
- ½ cup (125ml) milk, warmed
- 2 tsp dry active yeast
- ¼ cup (50g) sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 cups (300g) flour
- pinch of salt
- ¾ stick (80g) butter, cubed, at room temperature
- First, make the streusel. Throw all the ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Paddle on a low speed until the ingredients look like sandy oatmeal.
- Using your hands gather up the streusel and put it into a bowl, it should clump together when squeezed. Place in the fridge.
- Next, make the filling. In the same mixer bowl (up to you whether you rinse it or not – I don't), throw in all the filling ingredients and paddle until they are completely combined and smooth. Scrape this mixture out into a small bowl (get all of it! it’s precious) and then set it aside, at room temperature.
- Now, make the dough. Place the warm milk, the yeast, and a pinch of the sugar into the bowl of your mixer (again, rinse if you wish, but I don’t) and leave it for 10 minutes to get frothy.
- Once the yeast is frothy, add the remaining sugar and the egg and paddle to combine. Next, add the flour and salt and paddle until a dough starts to form, at which point you need to switch to a dough hook.
- Continue mixing with the dough hook until the dough comes together. Now, the butter needs to be gradually added, cube by cube, mixing all the while. This will probably take anyting from 10 to 20 minutes, so keep the mixer on low, and be prepared to stop the mixer occasionally to redistribute the dough.
- TIP: if your butter is not quite room temperature, squeeze each piece in your hand to warm it up as you add them in.
- Once all the butter is incorporated, remove the mixer bowl, cling wrap the top of it, and leave it in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
- Assemble the Babka. Grease and line a 9×5 inch loaf tin. Punch the dough down, and place it on a floured surface, before rolling it out into a rectangle twice the length of your loaf tin, and as wide.
- Spread the almost all the filling all over the dough, and then roll it up, starting from one of the long side. Now smear the remaining filling over the top of the rolled up dough, and fold the log in half lengthways.
- Now take the folded log and twist it in your hands about 5 times, before placing it in your lined loaf tin.
- Crumble over the streusel and leave to prove for about 30 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 170C (350F). Once the loaf is proved, bake the Babka for 40-45 minutes.
- Cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing!