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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chocolate Babka






I like to have TV on in the background when I'm cleaning, blogging, or lately, packing. Luckily I found an "I Love Lucy" marathon the other day! One of my favorite episodes came on - where Lucy and Ethel take on the roles of Pioneer Women and make their own bread and butter. Lucy mistakenly uses 13 cakes of yeast in her bread; the recipe called for 3. What ensues is kind of ridiculous, but pretty funny, and got me in the mood to make a yeast bread!

I've been saving this recipe since January when I saw it on Sugar Plum and finally decided to make it. My Polish relatives used to bring homemade babka to family functions. I've never made any sort of babka before, so I thought I'd practice with this one before attempting my family recipe. Plus, a Cooking Light recipe that involves chocolate and cinnamon? Sign me up!

A quick Wikipedia search turned up that this version of babka is a spin on the Eastern European Jewish tradition. Different from the Polish version I've had in the past, but certainly delicious sounding!

I really should have read the recipe reviews first, because although they are overwhelmingly positive, they would have alerted me to a mistake in the recipe. The streusel topping calls for softened butter, rather than cold. This goes against everything I've ever read about streusel, but I went with it. The mixture turned into a paste rather than crumbs. I decided to just use it anyway and it looks, well...interesting :)

One other problem with my bread is that the top layer seems to have separated from the others on one end of the loaf, maybe because the other layers didn't rise as well during baking? Or maybe I just didn't roll it up tight enough. Like I said, I need practice with this before I try to make our family recipe! Regardless, the bread was still delicious. Love the cinnamon and chocolate flavors together! I'm happy to report that this bread certainly doesn't taste "light." Bob was really surprised by how much he liked it. He took out the butter and a knife prepared to slather his slice, but soon realized he didn't need it. His words: "I usually don't like dessert breads that much, but this is great" and "I would pay for this stuff!" I'd say this recipe is a keeper!

Chocolate Babka

For the dough:
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm 1% low-fat milk (105 - 110F)*
6 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
7.5 ounces all purpose flour (about 1 2/3 cups), divided
5.85 ounces bread flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
5 Tablespoons butter, cut into pieces and softened
Cooking spray

For the filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used mini-chocolate chips)

For the streusel:
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon butter, cold

*I used what I had on hand - 3/4 cup skim milk with 1/2 Tablespoon heavy cream. I guessed that the heavy cream was approximately 30% fat (it's probably more), and calculated how much to add to make 1% milkfat in the final solution.

1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and yeast in warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer; let stand 5 minutes.

2. Stir in 6 Tablespoons granulated sugar, vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and egg yolk. Add 6 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour and the bread flour to milk mixture; beat with dough hook attachment at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes).

3. Add 5 Tablespoons butter, beating until well blended. Scrape dough out onto a floured surface (dough will be very sticky). Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add 1.5 ounces (about 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will be very soft). **I used my mixer to knead the dough. I just set it to medium speed and used the dough hook to knead for 10 minutes. I added the 1.5 ounces of flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the dough every minute or so, until it was completely incorporated.

4. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let dough rest 5 minutes.

5. Line the bottom of a 9 x 5–inch loaf pan with parchment paper; coat sides of pan with cooking spray.

6. To prepare filling, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, and chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside.

7. Place dough on a generously floured surface; roll dough out into a 16-inch square. Sprinkle filling over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Roll up dough tightly, jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam and ends to seal. Holding dough by ends, twist dough 4 times as if wringing out a towel. Fit dough into prepared pan. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

8. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F and prepare streusel: combine powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, and 1 tablespoon cold butter, stirring with a fork until mixture is crumbly.

9. Sprinkle streusel evenly over dough. Bake for 40 minutes or until loaf is browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped.

10. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool bread completely on wire rack before slicing.

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light


  1. Oh wow, any kind of bread makes me happy, but this looks like it would make me drool haha! :-)

  2. Yum! Wow, this sounds amazing! I love the chocolate cinnamony swirls inside this delicious babka!

  3. Devastating. Heh, you could just fill the gap in the top with cream cheese... ;)

  4. I better be getting some of these recipes when you get home. As our dear friend BOB would say, "this looks wicked good".

  5. Your babka looks quite delicious! Despite the little problems - it turned out perfect! I don't think I would be able to stop snacking on this. Irresistible.

  6. This looks positively delicious!

  7. The babka makes me hungry right now,looks yummy!

  8. Despite the "problems" this bread sounds amazing. I think the split in the bread looks amazing!

  9. My sister actually made this for Easter and it was delicious, yours looks fantastic!!

  10. Very sweet!

    Looks like cinnamon :D

    Anyway, I want to try your chocolate babka =))

  11. Did you ever see the episode of "The Nanny" where they bring babka to the nursing home, and all of the patients start following them chanting "Babka! Babka!" That's the first time I'd ever heard of it. Your recipe sounds yummy!

  12. Wow, it looks amazing and I'd definitely pay for a loaf :) Good luck packing!

  13. Chocolate Babka is a marvelous tasty item. It also looking so nice. I like it so much.


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