Never have I had a chocolate babka before until one of the parents in MERC Chinese School gave me one to try– and man, that was GOOD! I searched online about this bread, and found out it is a Jewish Easter bread filled mostly with bittersweet chocolate. Well, I am not a Jewish, but I made this bread for Easter Sunday’s breakfast. A lot of butter was used making babka, to a point that when I remove the bread from loaf pan/muffin pans I see there’s lots oil at the bottom of the pans (I used non-stick pans and I didn’t spray!) Luckily we don’t eat babka on a regular basis. Despite that, the bread is very rich and chocolatey. Chocolate babka is best when enjoyed fresh hot from the oven– as the streusel topping is crunchy while the bread is buttery soft, moist and chocolatey. Since only bittersweet chocolate is used, the babka doesn’t taste awfully sweet at all, just the way I like it. It’s not that difficult to make. Try it, my friend; your Easter baking will never be the same… 🙂
Chocolate Babka Recipe (makes 1 loaf and 12 muffin size pieces– adapted from Epicurious.com)
3/4 cup warm milk
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
3 tsp yeast
3 1/4 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
10 tbsp (1 1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
For egg wash (mix well):
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp heavy cream or whole milk
For chocolate filling (mix together):
5 tbsp unsalted butter, very well softened
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped– see note below
4 tbsp almond meals– toast in dry frying pan on low heat until pale golden, cool
1 tbsp candied orange peel– finely chopped
unsweetened cocoa powder
For streusel topping (combine flour and sugar, then cut in butter using a fork or butter knife until it resembles crumbs):
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (4oz, 1 stick) unsealed butter (room temperature)– cut into small pieces
- To make dough: Stir together warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in bowl of mixer. Stir in yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5-8 minutes. (If yeast doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
- Add 1/2 cup flour to yeast mixture and beat at medium speed until combined. Add whole eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low, then mix in remaining 2 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium, then beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to beat until dough is shiny and forms strands from paddle to bowl (the dough will be very soft and sticky).
- Scrape dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (I sit my bowl on top of a big pot filled with hot tap water at the bottom of the pot– just be sure the water doesn’t touch the dough bowl).
- Line loaf pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper (1 lengthwise and 1 crosswise), and liner for muffin pans.
- Punch down dough with a lightly oiled rubber spatula, then divide the dough into 1/3 (for loaf pan) and 2/3 (for 12 muffin molds) portion.
- For loaf pan: Roll out 1/3 of dough on a well-floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13×10 inch rectangle, with the long side in front of you. Brush egg wash on the long side farthest from you.
- Dust cocoa powder evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch space all around. Spread remaining 1/3 of the chocolate filling evenly on top of cocoa powder. Starting from the long side nearest to you, roll up the dough tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch firmly along egg-wash side to seal.
- Bring ends of log together to form a ring, pinching to seal. Twist entire ring twice to form a double figure 8 and fit into lined loaf pan.
- For muffin pans: Roll remaining 2/3 of dough on a well-floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 15×10 inch rectangle, with the long side in front of you. Brush egg wash on the long side farthest from you.
- Dust cocoa powder evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch space all around. Spread remaining 2/3 of the chocolate filling evenly on top of cocoa powder. Starting from the long side nearest to you, roll up the dough tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch firmly along egg-wash side to seal. Divide dough log into 12 even pieces.
- Take a piece of dough, hold it with one hand and twist the dough with the other hand (so it looks like a cinnamon twist). Carefully place the dough into lined muffin mold. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
- Loosely cover pans with greased plastic wrap (buttered side down) and let babkas rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until dough reaches top of pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Alternatively, 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. Meanwhile, prepare streusel.
- Brush tops of dough with remaining egg wash. Scoop some streusel topping on the top. Bake until tops are deep golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped (when loaves are removed from pans), about 35-40 minutes. Transfer loaves to a rack and cool to room temperature (please note muffin pans take a little less time to bake).
- Bittersweet chocolate: it’s better to use good quality chocolate for this recipe. Also, use a food processor for the chopping– just be sure to freeze the chocolate and blade before chopping.
- Babka tastes best when warm, reheat in toaster or toaster oven when it is cold.
- According to Martha Stewart, unbaked babka can be frozen for up to 1 month. After 2nd rise in the pan, wrap the pan with plastic wrap, followed by foil. When ready to bake, remove from freezer; let stand at room temperature for about 5 hours, and bake.
- Alternatively, this recipe yields 2 loaf pans– I don’t have second loaf pan so I used muffin pans.