Chocolate 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 filling, overlap them in a two-strand braid, and then get them into the 9x5" 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 it is folded 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 Dough for Chocolate Babka
2 ¼ teaspoons yeast (1 packet, 7 grams or 0.6 ounces)
2 tablespoons water
⅓ cup milk
¼ cup sugar (50 grams or 1 ¾ ounces)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick, 114 grams or4 ounces)
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups bread flour (350 grams or 12 ⅓ ounces)
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside.
Heat milk to simmering. Add sugar, butter, and salt. Stir to dissolve; cool to lukewarm. Transfer to the mixing bowl. Add the eggs, yeast, and vanilla into the milk mixture.Whisk to combine. Fit the machine with the dough hook. Add the bread flour. Beat until smooth. Knead in the 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. Remove from the machine and place in a large, greased container. Turn the dough immediately to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap or snap on the top. Mark the time and allow to rise until it is doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ 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.
Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with releasing spray. Set aside.
Filling and Shaping for Chocolate Babka
1 cup Nutella (285 grams or 10 ounces)*
2 tablespoons Nutella (36 grams or 1 ¼ ounce)
*A 13-ounce jar of Nutella equals about 1 ¼ cups.
Roll the dough into a 16x16 inch square. Spread the Nutella evenly over the dough, to within ½ inch of the edge. Starting at the end closest to you, roll the dough very tightly all the way to the end. As you approach the end lightly brush the edge with water. Pull the dough over the top and pinch the seam together. Pinch the ends shut.
Twist the roll a minimum of 6 times, more if possible. Spread the 2 tablespoons of Nutella on the left side of the roll. Fold the right side over and press together. Twist this roll 2 to 3 times and place in the prepared pan.
Flatten in the pan. Cover with a towel and allow to rise about 2 hours.
Egg Wash for Chocolate Babka
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.
Simple Syrup - While the Chocolate Babka is baking, make the simple syrup
½ cup water
½ cup sugar (100 grams or 3 ½ 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. Pour the simple syrup evenly over the babka.
Cool on a rack about 30 minutes or until the syrup is absorbed. Turn out to cool completely.
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