Chocolate Babka: Loaves of Evil

I have been wanting to do the Chocolate Babka recipe in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook for the longest time but always lacked the courage to bake something so decadent.

So when I finally had to dispose of a huge bar of chocolate from the freezer (binge shopping for chocolate fountain ingredients), I braved the calories. Note that this recipe is almost 50% butter-chocolate content :), which is an ironclad guarantee of the flakiness and softness of the crumb. It’s so good, I might  use the basic sweet dough recipe to replace my old ensaymada recipe standby.

Halfway into chopping the chocolate, I found myself thinking about that old Peter Reinhart quote re uber-rich sweet buns from his book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: ” Why eat the buns? You might as well strap them right onto your hips, since that’s where they will end up.” Yep, they definitely ended up on my hips and everywhere else.

Recipe adapted from: Chocolate Babka – Martha Stewart Recipes. It comes with a streusel topping which I thought was just. too. much.

Yield

3 9x5in loaves. One for devouring immediately, one for sharing, one for freezing until the chocolate itchies come back.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk, 110 degrees
  • 2 (1/4 ounce each) packages active dry yeast
  • 1 3/4 cups plus a pinch of sugar

(Since this is a Martha  S. recipe, I reduced the amount of sugar to 1/3 cup. It was just right. Make sure you taste your chocolate first to judge the amount of sugar you need to use. )

  • 3 whole large eggs, room temperature

(Skip one of the eggs, that’s just for the egg wash.)

  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for bowl and loaf pans

(Separate into two bowls: 2 sticks for the loaf, 1 1/2 sticks for the chocolate, the rest for greasing the pans.)

  • 2 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped

(Initially I thought this was too much chocolate but you will find out it its just right.)

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
(Don’t sweat it, since this is just for the egg wash, I just used the leftover whites plus milk.)

Directions

  • Pour warm milk into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar over milk; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  • In a bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and egg yolks. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.
  •  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add egg mixture, and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Change to the dough hook. Add 2 sticks butter, and beat until flour mixture and butter are completely incorporated, and a smooth, soft dough that’s slightly sticky when squeezed is formed, about 10 minutes.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few turns until smooth. Butter a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  • Place chocolate and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut in remaining 1 1/2 sticks butter until well combined; set filling aside.
(Some recipes I’ve seen make a chocolate ganache instead of chopping the chocolate to make it easier to spread. I will use this technique in the future, because dotting the dough takes a lot of time.)
  • Generously butter three 9-by-5-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pans; line them with parchment paper. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon cream; set egg wash aside. Punch back the dough, and transfer to a clean surface. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Keep 2 pieces covered with plastic wrap while working with the remaining piece. On a generously floured surface, roll dough out into a 16-inch square; it should be 1/8 inch thick.
  • Brush edges with reserved egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of the reserved chocolate filling evenly over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Refresh egg wash if needed. Roll dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch ends together to seal. Twist 5 or 6 turns. Brush top of roll with egg wash.

(I skipped this step – carefully crumble 2 tablespoons filling over the left half of the roll, being careful not to let mixture slide off.)

  • Fold right half of the roll over onto the coated left half. Fold ends under, and pinch to seal. Twist roll 2 turns, and fit into prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of dough and remaining filling.

(The more twists you can manage the better, so you will get that really complicated chocolate layered look in store-bought babkas).

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of streusel topping over each loaf, if using.  Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Bake loaves, rotating halfway through, until golden, about 55 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until babkas are deep golden, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from oven, and transfer to wire racks until cool. Remove from pans; serve.

By this time, I had no patience to setup the camera equipment, so the camera phone had to do!

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