Chocolate Babka.

Chocolate Babka

By some strange coincidence, all of my cousins are Jewish while my grandparents and my immediate family remain in some state of religious denial with exceptions, of course, for all the festivities and foods.  We’ve had parsnip latkes for Christmas, sugar candies for Boys and Girls days, challah braiding lessons, matzo ball soup making, and voluntary participation in Passover.

One of the byproducts of having five Jewish cousins and an oddly large number of Jewish friends during the thirteen-year-old stage has resulted in more Bar and Bat20Mitzvahs than my siblings and I can count.  On our combined fingers.  Mitzvahs are great, but when it comes to the point that you can sing and chant almost as well—in some cases, better—than the Bar or Bat Mitzvah, you get the feeling that maybe you’ve attended one too many Saturday morning services.

However, surrounded by all this Jewishness, it was not one of my cousins or my friends, nor even a rabbi or a platter at an after-service brunch or the post-Mitzvah party that introduced me to what in my small-experiences should be the start and end of all things Jewish—the Chocolate Babka.  It was Martha Stewart.  My relatives let me, and my Babka-crazed brother, down.

Chocolate Babka

This rich brioche bread swirled with cinnamon chocolate and encased in buttery sweet streusel is perfect.  Perfect enough to have a Seinfeld episode featuring it in all its chocolate glory.  Nothing, not even the breakfast-of-champions partner donut, pairs as well with coffee as a thick slice of Chocolate Babka.  I honestly do not understand how, after sitting through Saturday morning services, Friday night services, Shabbat, Hanukah, and gefilte fish, I had to wait until I was sixteen for Martha to teach about the Babka.

I mean really.  Every one of those Mitzvahs would have been infinitely improved if complementary Babka had been included.

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka
From Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Makes three loves.  A babka can be frozen before or after baking for up to a month.  When ready to bake, take the babka out of the freezer and place on a metal cooling rack set over a pan of hot water with a kitchen cloth draped over the babka pan trap steam.  Leave for about half an hour before baking.  This will bring the babka up to temperature and allow it to rise.

I add an extra egg to Martha’s brioche dough to make it more moist and rich since generally I leave the babka in the fridge overnight to bake in the morning, warming the loaves up before baking as described above.

1-½ cups warm whole milk (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 envelopes (¼ oz. each) active dry yeast
¾ cup white sugar
3 whole large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
6 cups plus more for dusting flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed

32 oz. or 2 lbs. semisweet chocolate finely chopped in a food processor (Trust me, this is the easiest way to chop chocolate for ‘the swirl.’)
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
1 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon

1.  In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast and a pinch of white sugar over the warm milk; stir until dissolved and then let stand until foamy, about five minutes.  1 ½ cups of milk heat to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the microwave after about 1 and a half minutes when stirred.  Make sure milk doesn’t boil; it should be just hot to the touch.

2. Whisk together the eggs and yolks and the salt and sugar.  Add the yeast mixture to the eggs a little at a time and whisk to combine.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and salt and then add the egg mixture with the paddle on a low speed until just combined.  Switch to the dough hook and add the 1 cup of butter.  Beat until incorporated and smooth on medium-high speed, about 10 minutes.

3.  Knead the dough a couple of times in the bowl, and then place in a different large, buttered metal bowl.  (All the butter wrappers lying around are great for greasing bowls and pans.)  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise for at least one hour.

4.  In a bowl, stir together the chocolate, ¾ cup butter, 1 cup white sugar, and cinnamon.  Make streusel topping.  Butter and line three bread pans (9 by 5 by 2 ¾ inch) with parchment paper.   Lightly butter the parchment.

5.  After dough has doubled in size, turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead a couple of times until relaxed and smooth.  Divided dough into three equal parts.  One at a time, roll out each piece dough to a 16-inch square.  Reserving ½ cup of the chocolate mixture, sprinkle each dough square with one third of the chocolate, leaving an edge.  Roll each dough square and fold each roll in half.  Tuck the dough ends under the rolls and twist the rolls several times for a nice swirl.  Place each twist in the prepared pans.  Brush with cream and sprinkle with the streusel and remain chocolate.  At this point refrigerate, freeze, or bake the babkas.  If freezer, tightly wrap in plastic wrap and foil.  Lightly cover the babkas if refrigerating.

6.  To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the lower third.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the loaves in the middle of baking, and then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes to brown the tops.  If the loaves start becoming too brown, cover with tin foil.  Let cool completely before slicing, as the loaves will continue baking even after removed from the oven.  Delicious at any temperature.

Streusel topping

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed

1.  Combine sugar, flour, and salt together in a large bowl.  Cut the butter in using a pastry cutter until large and small clumps form.  The streusel can be packed together and then broken for a large crumb.

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3 thoughts on “Chocolate Babka.

  1. Kayla

    As I was copy and pasting the recipe to make later, I noticed it only says “6 cups plus more for dusting”. Obviously that is flour, but is there a specific kind of flour that is best to use?

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