There’s always something new one can learn, even from a recipe. I’ve made croissants, breads and even puff pastry from scratch, but this recipe taught me some new tricks about baking.
Tackling a new recipe on a Sunday morning was not something I wanted to do, but sometimes you have to fight the fear of failure to succeed. In the past, most of my kitchen failures had some baking involved. I set out to prepare this recipe with the knowledge that, if I failed, at least I tried.
This recipe has been on my desk, back in my recipe binder, out again, and moved around the table and back to my desk for several weeks. And now all I can say is that I wish I had known how uncomplicated and easy it was to put together.
Babka is more of a winter dish, something to serve during the holiday. It seemed crazy to heat up the kitchen to make this when the temperatures are still near 100 degrees here. But I had to try it now and share it with you. That way I could give you enough time to make it. And I didn’t tell you the best part. Once baked, babka can be kept in your freezer for up to a month.
So if you are expecting a busy holiday season with lots of visitors and gatherings, I think you should bake a few of these now and freeze them for later to minimize some the holiday stress.
It was well worth taking the risk that I would fail with this recipe. It turned out so much better than I expected, and if I had not tried it, I would have missed the opportunity to share a great recipe with not just my family but yours, too. Enjoy!
Makes 2 loaves
Active Time: 1 hour
- 3/4 cup warm mil (105 – 115° F)
- 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoon sugar
- 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour plus additional for dusting*
- 2 whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 (3 1/2 to 4 oz) bars fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup sugar
You’ll also need a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, parchment paper and 2 (8 3/4- by 4 1/2- by 2 3/4-inch)
Combine warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add yeast over mixture and let stand for about 5 minutes. Make sure the mixture is foamy, if it doesn’t foam you’ll need to discard and start over with new yeast.
Add 1/2 cup flour to yeast mixture and at medium speed give it a quick mix until combined. Add the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar continue to beat until combined. Lower the speed and add in remaining 2 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium, add in butter, a few pieces at a time, beat until dough is shiny and forms strands from paddle to bowl, continue to beat for about 4 minutes. (Dough will be very sticky and quite soft.)
Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
You’ll need to line the loaf pans with 2 pieces of parchment paper (1 lengthwise and 1 crosswise).
Using a lightly oiled rubber spatula, punch down dough and halve dough.
Place dough on a well-floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin roll out to a 18- by 10-inch rectangle and arrange with a long side nearest you.
Whisk together yolk and cream. Set aside.
Spread 2 1/2 tablespoons softened butter on dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Brush border nearest you with some egg wash.
Sprinkle half of chocolate evenly over buttered dough, then sprinkle with half of sugar (2 tablespoons). Starting with long side farthest from you, roll dough into a sausage shape, pinching firmly along egg-washed seam to seal. Bring ends of log together and form a ring, pinching to seal. Twist entire ring twice to form a double figure 8 and fit into one of lined loaf pans. Repeat with the remaining dough and make another babka.
Place remaining egg wash covered in the refrigerator, to use later.
Loosely cover pans with buttered plastic wrap (buttered side down) and let babkas stand in a warm place until dough has risen above the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (you can also let dough rise in pans in refrigerator 8 to 12 hours; bring to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours, before baking.)
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Brush with remaining egg wash and bake loaves until tops are deep golden brown, about 40 minutes. Transfer loaves to a rack and cool to room temperature.
Babkas can be frozen, just bake, let cool and wrap with plastic wrap and then foil.
My notes: The dough will be very sticky, so you may need extra flour for your surface and for rolling the dough.
Recipe adapted from Gourmet, December 2006