Why this recipe works If you don’t live within driving distance of New York City, it’s hard to get your hands on really great babka. For that reason, we decided to devise a foolproof recipe to use in our own Boston kitchens. While cinnamon filling is also a common choice for babka, we wanted to make a decadent chocolate babka, with a deep, dark filling. By definition, babka is a rich, tender dough, akin to brioche. But go too far in that direction and the dough will collapse under the weight of the filling, leaving large holes in the bread. To add richness yet preserve the loaf’s structural integrity, we cut back on the butter found in most traditional recipes and substituted two egg yolks for one whole egg. Chilling the dough after rising ensured that it was firm and pliable enough to fill and twist into its signature shape. For the filling, we used a combination of bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder, which provided the full, rounded chocolate flavor and appealingly fudgy texture we were looking for. To make sure that the filling stayed put and didn’t sink to the bottom of the loaf, we also mixed in confectioners’ sugar and an egg white, which helped stiffen it up. The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures 8½ by 4½ inches; if you use a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, increase the shaped rising time by 20 to 30 minutes and start checking for doneness 10 minutes earlier than advised in the recipe. We do not recommend mixing this dough by hand. If the dough becomes too soft to work with at any point, refrigerate it until it’s firm enough to easily handle.
- makes 1 loaf
- rising time 3 to 4 hours
- resting time 1 hour
- baking time 40 minutes
- total time 5 to 6 hours, plus 3 hours cooling time
- key equipment stand mixer, 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan, rolling pin, pastry brush, instant-read thermometer
- 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (4 ounces) whole milk, room temperature
- ¼ cup (1¾ ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ cup (1 ounce) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 large egg white
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water and pinch salt
1). For the dough Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk milk, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until sugar has dissolved. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed.
2). Increase speed to medium-low, add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and knead until butter is fully incorporated, about 4 minutes. Continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 10 to 12 minutes.
3). Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until increased in size by about half, 1½ to 2 hours. Place in refrigerator until dough is firm, at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. (If dough is chilled longer than 1 hour, let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling out in step 5.)
4). For the filling Microwave chocolate, butter, and cocoa together in medium bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, about 30 seconds. Stir in sugar until combined and let cool completely. Whisk in egg white until fully combined and mixture turns glossy. Measure out and reserve 1 tablespoon filling.
5). Grease 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan. Press down on dough to deflate, then transfer to lightly floured counter. Press and roll dough into 18 by 14-inch rectangle, with long side parallel to counter edge. Spread remaining filling over dough, leaving ½-inch border around edges.
6). Roll dough away from you into firm cylinder, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Pinch seam closed, then reshape cylinder as needed to be 18 inches in length with uniform thickness. Position cylinder seam side up and spread reserved filling over top. Fold cylinder on top of itself and pinch ends to seal.
7). Gently twist double cylinder twice to form double figure eight. Place loaf seam side down in prepared pan, pressing dough gently into corners. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until loaf is level with lip of pan, 1½ to 2 hours.
8). Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Gently brush loaf with egg mixture and bake until deep golden brown and loaf registers 190 to 195 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let loaf cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours, before serving.
problem The dough doesn’t engage the dough hook in a large mixer.
solution Scrape down the mixer bowl.
Our babka recipe yields a smaller amount of dough than you’ll find in many of the other breads in this book—which leaves all the more room for generous ribbons of rich chocolate. Because the yield of dough is modest, bakers with larger stand mixers (our favorite stand mixer is outfitted with a 7-quart bowl) may notice that the dough doesn’t always engage with the dough hook. Without proper kneading, the loaf will lack structure. To ensure that the dough is actively kneaded in a large stand mixer, be sure to scrape the bowl down often so that the dough doesn’t just stick to the bottom of the bowl for the entire mixing time.
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