Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chocolate Babka

On my recent trip to Philadelphia, I stopped by my favorite bakery, Hesh's.  Turns out, you can only get chocolate babka there if you pre-order it.  Still picked up a Passover cake, which is the real reason we went out there.

I bought a regular loaf cake at Hesh's, then a babka at another bakery closer to Techie Smurf's house.  Forgot both in their freezer when I left.

So, being babka-less, I started to look for recipes online.  Wow, no wonder they taste good.  Butter, eggs, more butter, chocolate, too much sugar...

The one I found that looks closest to Hesh's is Martha Stewart's.  It is very daunting on the page and makes three.  I only have two loaf pans, and one had beer-cheese bread in it, so I started to cut down the recipe to a single loaf.

While I was at it, I also reduced the amount of butter and sugar, and the proportion of filling.  If you are using packets of yeast instead of measuring it from a jar, just double the recipe and make two loaves.

This also isn't as scary as it looks.  If you've made my chocolate rolls or sticky buns, you've already done most of this before.  Add on some twisting and streusel, and you're set.  I'm giving it the third rating just because you have to decipher my directions.  Performing them isn't difficult.

This recipe is in three parts: bread, filling, and streusel.  I'm going to list all the ingredients together to help with shopping.  Bear in mind that most are divided, sometimes in all three parts.

1/2 C milk
1-1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
2 C flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C + 2 Tb butter (real unsalted butter)
*8 oz (1/2 lb) semisweet chocolate
*1 tsp cinnamon

1.  Warm milk, 1/4 C butter, and 1/4 C sugar to 110º.  Butter does not need to melt.  Stir in yeast and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2.  In mixer, stir together 1 C flour and the salt.  Add milk mixture and beat into a batter, about 2 minutes.  Add one egg and 1/2 C flour and beat again into a light dough.  Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead into a slightly sticky, smooth ball, about 5 minutes.  Add as little flour as possible.  Add a few drops of oil to a bowl to grease it.  Turn dough over in bowl to coat all sides and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

3.  While dough is rising, cut together 1/4 C flour, 2 Tb sugar, and 2 Tb butter to make streusel topping.  Keep in refrigerator until needed.  Then chop chocolate finely and cut together with cinnamon, 2 Tb sugar, and 1/4 C butter to make a thick chocolate paste for the filling.  That one can stay at room temperature, to make it easier to work with.

4.  Punch down dough and allow to rest on floured board for 10 minutes.  Beat the other egg to use as an egg wash.  Butter a loaf pan.  With a rolling pin, roll out dough into a 16" square.  I have a huge pastry board, and it almost wasn't big enough.  You want the dough about 1/8" thick, like you were making sugar cookies, and twice as long as the loaf pan.  Brush the edges with egg wash.  Spread almost all the chocolate filling evenly over the square, leaving the edges clean.

5.  Roll up the dough like a jelly roll, sealing the far end.  Hold the left end steady, and roll the right end away from you.  Once the dough has twisted at least 4 times, lay it straight across again.  Brush top with egg wash, and place remaining filling on the roll.  Fold the roll in half, with the chocolate parts touching. Twist twice again, seal the open ends, and wedge into loaf pan.  Brush top with egg wash and sprinkle with half of the streusel topping.  Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

6.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Sprinkle babka with remaining streusel and bake for 55 minutes.  (I placed a sheet pan on the rack below to catch any falling crumbs.)  Allow to cool in pan about 10 minutes before turning out.  Cool completely before slicing.

Makes one loaf, about 12 (who are we kidding, 6) servings

Difficulty rating  :-o

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