My Chocolate Babka

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2017. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Chocolate BabkaChocolate Babka is seeing its day in the new world.  Babka is a sweet bread from old world Poland or at least central Europe. While it is traditionally a cinnamon bread with a crumb crust, If you look at this list of the 10 best places to get Chocolate Babka in New York, it is apparent it is much loved without or without the crumb topping.

I decided to go new world with my mothers old world sweet yeast dough. This dough is the perfect vehicle to be filled with any sweet filling I can think of. It is very easy to work with because it doesn’t spring back when you are rolling it very thinly.

The traditional method of twisting the dough is to cut it in half to expose the filing, overlap them in a two strand braid, and then get them into the 9×5″ loaf pan.  The best photo example of shaping this way I could find is on  David Leibovitz’s  blog.   This is the method I used for my first try.  I added chocolate chips to the filling and proceeded to cut it, twist it and get it into the pan.  But it was a mess!  The filling stuck to my hands, the table, all over the babka and it wasn’t fun.  This was the method everyone used except one.

Martha Stewart’s Babka did not cut the dough.  It is just twisted, twisted and twisted some more.  Then is is fold upon itself and it is twisted again.  It fits easily in the pan and all of the mess was avoided.  However, I didn’t think her version of this European favorite was rolled as thinly as most.

This Babka is rolled so thinly that there are many, many layers of dough and filling making is visually stunning as well as a fantastic treat. Most of the recipes for Chocolate Babka have an involved chocolate filling. The fillings can also contain nuts, cookie bits, chocolate chips, whatever you wish. While not adverse to involved fillings, I wanted to make this just chocolate so I took a page from Breads Bakery in New York that fills theirs with Nutella. Why not I thought. How easy would it be to just spread on Nutella, roll it up and be almost done. They also sprinkled theirs with chocolate chips, but I didn’t like the texture of the chips after baking, so I skipped that part. Feel free to put whatever extras you want in the filling.

So here is my version of Chocolate Babka.  It is not too sweet and is the perfect anytime, any reason to treat yourself – and hopefully your family and friends – from breakfast to dinner dessert and anytime in between.

Yeast DoughIngredients for the Chocolate Babka2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 packet, 7 grams or 0.6 ounces)
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar (50 grams or 1 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 sticks, 114 grams or4 ounces)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups bread flour (350 grams or 12 1/3 ounces)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside.

Heat milk to simmering. Add sugar, butter and salt. Butter in scalded milk for the Chocolate BabkaStir to dissolve; cool to lukewarm.  Transfer to the mixing bowl.  Add the eggs, yeast and vanilla into the milk mixture.Eggs, yeast milk in bowl for the Chocolate BabkaWhisk to combine.  Whisking the eggs,milk and yeast for the Chocolate BabkaFit the machine with the dough hook.  Add  the bread flour. Flour in the mixing bowl for the Chocolate BabkaBeat until smooth.  Knead in bowl for 3 minutes. You can test the readiness of the dough by preforming the windowpane test.  Take a small piece of dough and stretch it out very thinly.  If it is very thin without breaking the gluten has been developed enough.  Window pane test for the Chocolate BabkaRemove from the machine and place in a large, greased container. Turn the dough immediately to grease the top. Dough in container for the Chocolate BabkeCover with plastic wrap or snap on the top.  Mark the time and allow to rise until it is doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2  hours hours.   Punch the dough down and use immediately or refrigerate up to 3 days.  It is much easier to roll and shape if it is refrigerated.  Time on the lid for the Chocolate Babka

Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with releasing spray. Set aside.

Filling and Shaping
Yeast Dough
1 cup Nutella (285 grams or 10 ounces)*
2 tablespoons Nutella (36 grams or 1 1/4 ounce)

*A 13 ounce jar of Nutella equals about 1 1/4 cups.

Roll the the dough into a 16×16 inch square.  Dough rolled out for the Chocolate BabkaSpread the Nutella evenly over the dough, to within 1/2 inch of the edge.Nutella spread on dough for the Chocolate Babka Starting at the end closest to you, roll the dough very tightly all the way to the end.  Rolling babka for Chocolate BabkaRolling up for the Chocolate BabkaAs you approach the end lightly brush the edge with water. Moistening edge with water for the Chocolate BabkaPull the dough over the top and pinch the seam together.  Pinching seam together for the Chocolate BabkaRoll pinched together for the Chocolate BabkaPinch the ends shut.Pinching ends together for the Chocolate Babka

Twist the roll a minimum of 6 times, more if possible.  Twisting roll for the Chocolate BabkaTwisted roll for the Chocolate BabkaSpread the 2 tablespoons of Nutella on the left side of the roll.  Nutella o half of twist roll for the Chocolate BabkaFold the right side over and press together.  Folded in half for the Chocolate BabkaTwist this roll 2 to 3 times and place in the prepared pan.Folded in half and twisted for Chocolate BabkaBabka in pan for Chocolate Babka

Flatten in the pan.  Flattened in the pan for the Chocolate BabkaBabka ready to rise for the Chocolate BabkaCover with a towel and allow to rise, about 2 hours.

Egg Wash
1 egg, well beaten

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the top of the Babka with the egg wash. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean and the Babka sounds hollow when tapped.Baked Babka

Simple Syrup – While the Babka is baking, make the simple syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces)

Combine in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat and cool.

When baked, immediately poke holes all over the chocolate babka with a cake tester. Poking holes in the babka for the Chocolate BabkaPour the simple syrup evenly over the babka.Pouring the syrup on the Chocolate BabkaSoaking Chocolate Babka

Cool on a rack about 30 minutes or until the syrup is absorbed.   Turn out to cool completely.Chocolate Babka

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19 thoughts on “My Chocolate Babka

  1. Nikki

    Alright you can put me on the list that would like to see a recipe for the “Deep Butter Cake” that was so mouthwateringly described by Sharon.

    1. Mari

      I too would love the old deep butter cake from St. Louis. Put me on the list too, please. Also for years I have tried to find the recipe for paradise cake recipe or any from lake forest bakery that was on Clayton road”. HElp!, or miss Hullings split layer loaf cake, chocolate or lemon.

  2. Sharon Thomas

    Please forgive me. This wonder dough brings me thoughts of another childhood favorite here in St. Louis. This was one we did not make ourselves, rather bought it at the then local Knodel’s Bakery (1940’s) in Jennings, Missouri. It was called a deep butter cake but some years later few bakeries continued making one. One was Kirkwood Bakery (gone) on S. Lindbergh North of the railroad station, another has been some years ago but more recently and they were Ozzenkoski’s Bakery (gone) then located in Saint Peters and already moved on, and the Clayton Bakery on Manchester just East of 270. For years, I have searched for a decent recipe but 99% of recipes are not the cakelike deep butter cake. They are most often the gooey butter cake which is considerably different being sunken and very wet with excess butter, but they are also mistakenly titled as “deep”. The deep renders more of the wonderful visual of cake and the flavor of the dough is more subtle, rather than a predominance of melted butter, and it is not sunken but a beautiful even cake dough straight across the pan. The bottom thin layer of the deep butter seemed to have a somewhat different appearance but gave a touch more body to lifting a slice of cake. I’m uncertain if this was a natural settlement of the dough, or actually a small amount of a different combination of ingredients. Might you be able to give some direction or websites on some recipes toward achieving something like the original deep butter cake. It was made in a one layer cake pan and enjoyed more as a “coffee cake” in lieu of doughnuts with a cup of coffee or glass of milk. It was also topped with a thin sifting of confectioners’ sugar. It is years between being able to find a bakery in the St. Louis area, and with living in the far northwestern corner of St. Charles county, it is a rare treat, again 6+ years since the last time my family was able to enjoy it. We love to bake and cook for family and friends (extended family) but I learned in 8th grade that I have no brain (only appreciation) for the science of everything. Would you know how I might get some ideas for this long-time, and much beloved delightful cake? Thank you for taking time to even look at this message. Any bit of help you might have with this would be greatly appreciated. I do have a photo on my computer that I had taken of the last one I had bought from the Clayton Bakery but I do not know how to put it in this message.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Dear Sharon – I agree that the deep butter cake is different from the gooey butter that has garnered so much attention lately. I too loved the deep butter. I have never made it nor do I remember seeing many recipes for it. There is someone I can contact and I’ll see if they can steer us in the right direction. I can’t say when I will get this done as my schedule is quite full, but I will look into it at some point.

      1. Sharon Thomas

        How wonderfully kind and generous of you. I am delighted you share in the appreciation of the deep butter cake, when so few seem to know of it. It is amazing that each person can render something of themselves into making their recipe efforts somewhat unique from all others, making billions and more results! Each recipe is a meeting of a new friend in our lives and giving of oneself in that creation! Your delight in this uniqueness is also a deep love that you share with all of us. I wish you success in this endeavor, and thank you for your sense of interest and adventure, and for the desire to share of your love and passion to all of us! – Sharon Thomas

  3. Vicki Bensinger

    Helen your babka is beautiful! I recently made a chocolate babka as well but twisted mine like a braid – it turned out beautiful too but like your variation and it has the same stunning effect. Now I’ll have to try your version.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Vicki – It’s good to hear from you. My first attempt was the more traditional. I have to say I had nutella all over me, the marble, the babka, the pan. It was mess. I was so happy to find this version as the filling is totally encased except at the end when you fold it over but that went well. I love the look of a babka.

  4. Rockyrd

    Hi Helen,
    Can you email me a piece to have with my coffee- RIGHT NOW?
    OK its on the list to try. I have made it like David L. And yes it was a mess but a good mess. I am wondering if the Nutella melts out? Or does it just give a flavor to the dough once baked?
    I have never done them in a loaf pan but used a tube pan like an angel food and if contained they get higher, kwim?
    Also, The ones I have had in NY have the buttery crumbly top, so I am wondering if the syrup would be needed?
    Do you ever take the temp of your breads to see if they are baked?
    I know- lotsa questions….

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi M.J. The nutella is completely enclosed in the dough. The long seam is pinched shut as well as the ends. This is what makes this so much easier and less messy. The only time the nutella is exposed is when you add it at the very last. The crumb topping is traditional with the cinnamon babka. Some of the chocolate babka have the crumb topping, some even have ganache. I wanted my mothers dough to be the star and felt no need to crumb it. But I am sure it is good. I don’t temp my breads. I started making bread long before temping and I bake a lot by feel.

  5. Patty Padawer

    at Breads… one block from my daughters NYC co-op….which is good and bad! They use mini chips… not the standard size… that really does make a difference.
    Next trip will try to remember to bring one back to STL… and you can have a personal taste test.
    I have made many a chocolate babka none as good as Breads!
    Will try baking yours!
    P

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Patty – So good to hear from you. Lucky you with a daughter that close to what I hear is the premier bakery in NY. I did use the mini chips but since I generally think there is no such thing as too much chocolate, I used too many.

      It would be a huge treat to try the best. You’re the best. Miss you.

  6. sallybr

    a work of art! That is one bread sitting in my list of “to bake soon”….

    maybe with your virtual push I will go for it! ;-)

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Sally – do try it when you can. You will find this yeast dough so very easy to work with and this method of twisting to make the layers is a snap. I know you’ll love it.

  7. Nikki

    I have tried the cutting of the dough and twisting it and pushing it into the pan. Just as David Leibovitz suggested in his post. And it turned out well…just a bit messy in the making. I will try this and I love the idea of using Nutella for the filling, maybe a handful of toasted chopped hazelnuts just for some added crunch.
    I also did not add the simple syrup when I made mine and I like the idea of it. Will add some much needed moisture to the bread.
    Sounds like I have my weekend baking project all figured out.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Nikki – I think the hazelnuts would be a great addition. Some recipes use the simple syrup, some don’t but it truly adds so much to the babka – and it isn’t overly sweet. Have fun on the weekend. A really great reward awaits you.

  8. ellen graves

    Can’t wait to try this! Feeling flat after end of lovely but brief visit with older daughter and family. Will definitely try this!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Elen – It’s always good to see our children. We had a surprise visit, short as it was yesterday. My son and daughter-in-law stopped by and took us to dinner on their way home to Chicago. This babka will perk you up again.

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