Chocolate Babka

Babka showed up at my grandmother’s house at various times throughout the year, although once a year I could always count on a great big slice – that was after fasting for the day on Yom Kippur.  She also had chocolate cake, but I usually turned that down for the babka.  She wasn’t much of a baker (she spent most of her time cooking at the stove), but there was a really great kosher grocery store down the street where she got all of her baked goods.

When I was older, I remember watching Seinfield one night – and there was a big debate on the show about which was the better babka – the chocolate or the cinnamon.  They determined on the show that the chocolate was superior.  I actually never knew there were two kinds – and I also thought, why wouldn’t you just put cinnamon in with the chocolate?  Since then I have seen babka at the store, and there are definitely two kinds – and I also prefer the chocolate.  It just has a richer flavor – and often I do taste a hint of cinnamon.

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light this month – and of course had to give it a try.  I had never made babka before, so this was definitely going to be a challenge.  I ended up doubling the cinnamon in what was printed, and made a couple other changes as well – but this recipe was fabulous.  When I sliced it open, my husband and I stared in amazement.  I had done it.  I even had my neighbors come over so they could stare at it as well.  The bonus – it tasted even better than it looked.  It was a good day.

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 1  teaspoon  granulated sugar
  • 1  package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3/4  cup  warm 1% low-fat milk (105° to 110°)
  • 6  tablespoons  granulated sugar
  • 1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 7.5  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 2/3 cups), divided
  • 5.85  ounces  bread flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 5  tablespoons  butter, cut into pieces and softened
  • Cooking spray

Filling:

  • 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
  • 3  tablespoons  unsweetened cocoa
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 4  ounces  semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Streusel:

  • 2  tablespoons  powdered sugar
  • 1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
  • 1  tablespoon  butter, chilled, chopped into pieces

Preparation

Dissolve 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and yeast in warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 6 tablespoons granulated sugar, vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and egg yolk. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 6 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour and bread flour to milk mixture; beat with dough hook attachment at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add 5 tablespoons butter, beating until well blended. Scrape dough out onto a floured surface (dough will be very sticky). Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add 1.5 ounces (about 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will be very soft).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let dough rest 5 minutes.

Line the bottom of a 9 x 5–inch loaf pan with parchment paper; coat sides of pan with cooking spray.

 To prepare filling, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, and chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside.

Place dough on a generously floured surface; roll dough out into a 16-inch square. Sprinkle filling over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Roll up dough tightly, jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam and ends to seal. Holding dough by ends, twist dough 4 times as if wringing out a towel. Fit dough into prepared pan. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare streusel, combine powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, and 1 tablespoon  butter, mixing with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal; sprinkle streusel evenly over dough. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until loaf is browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool bread completely on wire rack before slicing.

 For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, click here:  Chocolate Babka

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