Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Chocolate Babka


Last year I had the smart idea to try making a matcha babka wreath with milk bread dough.  In my head it would be pretty, and green-tinged, and perfect for the holidays.  In reality, it was dense, ugly, and I ended up throwing it out.

This year I decided to follow this tried-and-true recipe for chocolate babka from Smitten Kitchen.  The only change I made to the ingredients is that I used the zest from a whole orange instead of half an orange, and the smells that came out of my oven were glorious.  I also tried shaping it using what I remembered from the pictures in the Baking Breads cookbook.


Since the recipe makes two loaves, I decided to give one of the loaves the "pull-apart swirly bread" treatment.  If you'd like to try it, roll out a quarter of the dough (half a loaf) into a rectangle about 10" wide and as long as you can get it.  Spread with 1/4 of the filling and roll it up along the long edge.  Seal the seam and place in the freezer for 15 minutes while you repeat the same with the other quarter of dough.  Slice each log into 8 pieces, and arrange all 16 pieces in a well-greased 9" springform or square pan.  Let rise for an hour and then bake for 25-30 minutes at 375°F until nicely browned.  Brush with syrup and serve.


Chocolate Babka (based on Smitten Kitchen)
makes 2 loaves

For the dough:
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (about 100 F)
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest from 1 orange
3 large eggs
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

For the filling:
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the syrup:
1/3 cup water
6 tablespoons sugar

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and let sit while you measure out the rest of the ingredients.  Add all the ingredients for the dough except the butter and mix with a dough hook until it comes together.  Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until it is all incorporated.  Knead on medium until the dough is completely smooth and comes away from the bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, make the filling by melting the chocolate chips and butter together, stirring until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon and stir until it forms a spreadable paste.  Grease 2 loaf pans and line with parchment paper.

Remove half the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a floured surface until 10" wide on the bottom and as long as you can get it.  Spread the filling on top, leaving an inch border on all sides except the bottom.  Roll up the dough in a tight spiral starting from the bottom.  Wet the top edge and seal together.  Wrap with aluminum foil and place in the freezer while you work on the second half of the dough.


Remove the first log from the freezer and use a sharp knife to slice in half, lengthwise, revealing all the layers of dough and chocolate filling.  Make an "X" with the two halves, placing the prettier half on top.  Twist the top half and bottom half and place in one of the greased pans, tucking the ends underneath.  Repeat with the second half.  Cover both and let rise another hour.  Preheat oven to 375°F.


Bake loaves for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer meets no resistance when inserted and comes out without any dough (it will most likely come out with some chocolate filling which is very tempting to lick).

While the babka is baking, make the syrup by combining the water and sugar in a small pot and heating until the sugar is all dissolved.  Brush the loaves with the syrup as soon as they come out of the oven.


And if you manage to have any leftover babka, you can turn it into the most amazing bread pudding using this recipe from Serious Eats!  (I just added some coconut milk on top for contrast.)


Next:  Marion Cunningham's Yeast-Raised Waffles
Previously:  Pull-Apart Scallion Swirly Bread
Two Years Ago:  Zuppa Toscana
Three Years Ago:  Flower Pavlovas
Four Years Ago:  Tartine Lemon Cream Tart
Seven Years Ago:  Gaufres de Liege (Belgian Waffles)
Eight Years Ago:  Hua Juan

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