I spent this last weekend catching up with family out of town. Family I haven’t seen in nearly a year. A couple of days sitting around in the backyard doing absolutely nothing was precisely what the doctor ordered. Luckily enough I have one more day off, and it’s the perfect sunny September afternoon. Perfect for flinging open the balcony door and getting some chocolatey scented bread in the oven. I’ve been wanting to make Babka for a few months now, but haven’t gotten around to it until today.
An except from good ‘ol Wiki for you:
Babka is a spongy, brioche-like yeast cake made mainly in Eastern Europe. It is traditionally baked for Easter Sunday in Poland, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania, and for the major holidays (Christmas, Easter, New Year, Pentecost) in Romania. Traditionally it does not have any filling, and is glazed with a vanilla- or chocolate-flavored icing and decorated with almonds or candied fruit, sometimes with rum added.
Another version of babka is associated with the Eastern European Jewish tradition. This babka is made from a doubled and twisted length of yeast dough and is typically baked in a high loaf pan. Instead of a fruit filling the dough contains cinnamon or chocolate. The babka is usually topped with streusel. A similar cake called a kokosh is also popular in Jewish bakeries. Kokosh also comes in chocolate and cinnamon varieties, but it is lower and longer than babka, is not twisted, and not topped with streusel.
And here I am, in Toronto. Making Babka. For me, and for you!
The Babka Dough: makes 1 large loaf
2 + 1/8 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup + 2 TB warm water
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 whole egg
1/3 cup (75 g) soft butter
-In a large bowl mix the flour, salt, and sugar together.
-Stir together the yeast and warm water to dissolve, and allow 2-4 mins for yeast to active/start to froth.
-Add the yeast mixture and the eggs to the flour, and stir with a spatula or your hands until the dough begins to hold together in a large mass.
-Add the soft butter and continue working into the dough until it forms an even ball with no lumps. I used my hands, but if you’re using a stand mixer you can mix the dough nicely to a smooth mass (with the dough hook attachment) before adding the butter, and then slowly add pieces of butter and continue mixing until all butter is incorporated into the dough. I added the butter earlier in this case because I didn’t want the warmth of my hands melting the fat too much as I tried to add it into an already formed dough.
-When dough is a nice even and smooth looking ball, place it in a large bowl, rub with a small amount of oil, cover with a towel, and allow to relax in a war place until it is doubled in size. Mine took about 2 hours because I rest it on top of my preheating oven. Depending on your kitchen or wherever you decide to rest your dough- times will vary. What matters is that it’s doubled in size. Check on it every 15-20 mins to get a feel for it’s speed.
-When the dough looks nearly doubled it’s time to make the filling.
The Babka Filling: enough for 1 large loaf
80 g dark chocolate
60 g butter, soft
20 g sugar + 1TB for dusting
15 g cocoa powder
-Place the chocolate, sugar and butter together in a microwaveable bowl and heat for 25-30 seconds at a time to melt. 25-30 seconds at a time will ensure you don’t burn the chocolate while melting. It burns easily.
-Whisk the cocoa powder into the chocolate mixture and stir until there are no lumps.
To Build the Babka:
-Prepare a large loaf pan with butter and parchment paper.
-Remove the dough from it’s bowl, oil your work surface, and using a rolling pin roll the dough out into a large square. Ensure the dough is about 1/4 inch thick. It will be approximately the size of a small home-sized baking tray.
-Smear the chocolate filling evenly over the dough, and roll it up like a jelly roll starting in the from and rolling the log away from you.
-Pinch together the seam that is now running lengthwise across the log, and the ends as well.
-Place the log in the fridge for 30 mins to help the dough firm up.
-Remove from the fridge and cut the log lengthwise, exposing the interior layers of dough and chocolate, while keeping one end intact and still connected. Place the log in front of you on the cutting board so that it looks like an upside down letter V.
-Grab the strand of dough on the right and lift it up and over the left one, exposing the layers of chocolate filling. Do the same again but fold the left strand over top of the right strand. Do this until you have a nice twisted looking loaf.
-Pinch and fold under the top and bottom ends so that they are no exposed, and so that the loaf looks rounded on the ends. Carefully pick up the loaf and place it in your prepared loaf pan.
-Rest the braid of dough in it’s loaf pan, back in a warm place once again, until the loaf is doubled in size. As stated above- the rising time will depend on how warm your resting area is, mine took about two hours.
-When the loaf has doubled in size sprinkle it with the remaining 1 TB of sugar, and place it on the oven to bake until golden brown.
-Once dark golden brown, remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Once the pan is cool enough to touch lift the loaf out by the parchment paper ends, and place on a wire cooling rack for 30 minutes to cool completely.
Slice up, and enjoy!
And a little preview from this weekend, for Mum:
Ciao for now guys!