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!
LOVE LOVE Sarah!
This looks really impressive. The spending the whole day in my pyjamas cooking this idea sounds like a plan to me :p
Thank you for putting a Seinfeld reference here. This is why we are friends! Gorgeous babka!!
I can’t hear the word “babka” without thinking of Seinfeld. I’ve never actually eaten babka though and would love nothing more than to stay home today and bake this. Maybe next Saturday. I think it needs to happen.
Babka is on my list of things I’d love to try my hand at someday. This version looks amazing!
ooo – this looks amazing. Never heard of babka before. The name of your tea is epic. Made me chuckle – where is it from?
It’s from a shop called T2 or Tea Too? Not sure if you have those guys in the UK?
I recently made something just like this but I’m always up for a good babka! We must be on the same wavelength. Looks fabulous!
This looks amazing! I will for sure be making babka soon. Love your international eats series!
I’ve had that tea (and I’m not usually a tea drinker!). It is a very grown up kind of tea.
I am going to try a Babka but am thinking date and pistachio, although I think it will need something else too- a third ingredient. Maybe Date Molasses dribbled over the top?
I’m a bit leary of yeasted bread/cake hybrids, hell I’m a bit scared of all yeast baking if the truth be told. I worry that all that effort will produe nothing but an unrisen soggy brick.
How easy is this truly? Is it entry level leavened?
Hey Nicola! I wouldn’t call this entry level – it’s an enriched dough (with butter, egg, milk added) so that means that it can be a little temperamental. But in all honesty, I think it’s pretty hard to screw up. If you’re worried about the dough rising, it could be good to make it the night before, and let it rise slowly in the fridge overnight. Then, shape the loaf, leave it for about an hour to prove (it needs longer because it’s cold) and bake!
Oh and also, I think a date, pistachio and cardamom loaf would be amazing.
GIRL. YOU BAKE THE MOST GORGEOUS BREAD. *googly eyes*
I LOVE CHOCOLATE BABKA! Yours looks so rich and that streusel on top totally puts it over the edge of yum!
YES. I love me some babka! Pass me a slice and let’s talk about that weird tea some more, eh?
This looks beautiful!!! can’t wait to make it :)
love the international theme!
THis loaf looks so impressive and tasty, I cant wait to try it! i have been going crazy with the yeast dough lately, its my new obsessoin for sure. And the being in your jammies and baking all day? Sounds like the most perfect day to me!
I see from your picture that you have a global knife!±Are they really as good as they say? The loaf looks delicious!
I got those for Christmas when I was like 15 years old – and yeah dude, they’re freaking awesome! 8 years later, still great.
The chocolate babka has been everywhere lately! This one looks just as fabulous as all the other ones :) I’ve never tasted it so I might have to do that soon !
That looks awesome! Love the streusel you used. I’ve made babka a few times, it’s always terrific :)
oh man. Chocolate babka is a thing of beauty. The one at Russ & Daughters here in NYC is unbeatable. You’ll have to try it one day :)
As a matter of fact, I’m Ukrainian and my mom always called jewish kugel (baked egg noodle casserole) babka. Now I’m wondering if babka is some sort of umbrella term… of maybe my mom had it all wrong?
Wowza! That looks incredible. I’m going to gather all the ingredients today so I can make it this weekend!
THESE ARE AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!! I ADDED SOME NUTELLA TO THE FILLING AND TO SERVE, I TOASTED THEM AND ATE THEM WITH VANILLA ICE CREAM AND OH MY GOSH IT’S JUST SOOOOOOOO AMAZING THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE RECIPE :)))))))