I first tasted chocolate babka from a small Jewish store tucked in at the underground parking lot in the building where I used to work at Robinson Road in Hongkong. I saw men in their Kippah and women in their Mitpachat that go in and out to the store. To my naivety, I thought it belongs to someone sacred- that was 2 decades ago, makes me laugh when I thought about it. It took me a year before I finally got the nerve to ask if I could go inside the store. To my amazement, there were a lot of goodies labelled strange yet interesting, and one thing that caught my attention was a nicely twisted bread filled with a dark chocolate filling that looks like it wants to come out from its uneven – imperfect crust, a perfect seduction! It was a great experience, I enjoyed every layer, something I did have for breakfast to start the day, for afternoon tea when needed a few minutes break. It is soothing, satisfying, and comforting.
When I moved here to Canada, I never thought I will do a lot of baking. At first, baking is like my personal therapist, then I found myself at a baking school. I enjoyed the process of calculating, kneading and shaping. The smell of fresh bread is like a drug that became addictive. After learning all those different techniques, learning about brioche,….. I thought about Babka….buttery and delicious bread filled with rich chocolate, a perfect reminder of a great experience two decades ago.
There are many techniques and different ways of making babka. From yeasted bread to croissant babka, different forms and fillings, it is limitless. I have tasted some babka that is so delicious that you will faint after eating just one slice, but to me, I want to have a slice and go back again for another piece. It should taste like having a cake for dessert after dinner but it is also great with a morning cup of coffee for breakfast.
My love for this decadent bread loaf is the reason I shared with you another story of my life. Thank you to the Jewish community who introduced this luscious form of bread to the world, that everybody enjoys and craves to make especially when feeling blue. The fragrance while baking envelope your whole place, tease your nostrils and your neighbour. Perfect to uplift the mood, and an antidote for winter blues to come. You will gonna love it too! Don’t let the length of time terrify you. Once everything is all prepared and kneaded, you’re free to do other things.
- 2 9×5 inch loaf pans, generously greased with butter or lined with parchment paper.
- 4 Cup All purpose flour
- 2 +1/4 Teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/2 Cup sugar
- 1 Cup Whole milk – room temperature not hot (120 F)
- 3 Egg yolk
- 1/2 Cup Unsalted butter- melted
- 1 Teaspoon Salt (pink salt if available)
- 1/4 Cup light brown sugar
- 250 Grams (about 1½ Cup) Dark chocolate – (60% to 70% – my preference) or semi-sweet chocolate
- 1/4 Cup Unsalted butter, chilled
- 1½ Teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1/4 Cup flour
- 2 Tablespoon icing sugar
- 3 tablespoon Brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoon Butter, chilled
- 1 Egg white
- 1 Teaspoon Milk
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and melted butter until thoroughly combined then set aside.
- Place 3 cups of flour, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to combine using the paddle attachment. At low speed, add the warm milk and mix just to combine. Slowly drizzle the egg yolk mixture until fully incorporated with the flour mixture.
- If kneading by hand, transfer the wet-sticky dough to the floured countertop and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the remaining flour on top of the dough. Using your greased or floured hand, knead the dough for approximately 12 to 15 minutes until it is stretchy, soft and tacky to the touch. If the dough is very sticky, sprinkle the remaining flour a little at a time until it is manageable.(See note 1)
- Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly greased large mixing bowl. Cover with a plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 2 hours or until the dough doubles its size.(See note 2)
- Using a food processor, process all the ingredients until the mixtures are all combined forming to small crumbly pieces. If preparing by hand, very finely chop the chocolate, cut the butter into small pieces (or freeze the butter and grate using the large hole). Stir together the sugar and cinnamon until well combined and crumbly. Keep in the fridge if not using immediately.
- In a small bowl, stir together the flour and sugars and grate the frozen butter using the big holes or use chilled butter instead and process using food processor. Mix all to combine until the mixture is crumbly and sandy. Keep in the fridge. (See note 3)
- When the dough has risen, lightly flour the countertop. Divide the dough into two equal parts, roll out the dough into a 10 x 14 – inch rectangle (approximate). Spread half of the filling evenly leaving 1 inch around the edges. Roll the dough from the long side of the rectangle forming a 14 inches long log. Twist gently to make the log tighter. Place the log seam side down. Using a serrated knife or sharp knife, cut the log in half lengthwise. Cris-cross one half cut side down on top of the other. Twist it together and place it in the prepared loaf pan. Cover with a clean towel or cover lightly with plastic wrap. Repeat with the second dough. Let it rest at room temperature until it almost doubles its size, approximately 2 to 3 hours. (See note 4)** An easier way of shaping the dough is to roll the dough into a 16×12 inch rectangle. Spread the filling evenly leaving 1 inch along the border. Roll the dough along the longer side of the rectangle forming a 16-inch log. Wring the dough by twisting gently to make it tighter and adding extra inches longer. Fold the log into half and cross alternately over one another. Pinch the end together and tucked underneath and place in the prepared loaf pan. cover lightly and let rest until almost double it's size, approximately 2 to 3 hours in room temperature. (See note 5)Or my favorite, "free form"; place the prepared dough in a cookie sheet, let it rise and bake freely.
- Once the loaves have risen, Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Whisk the egg wash and lightly brush the loaves using the pastry brush. Sprinkle the crumble toppings and place it in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes Unti ldark golden brown. Take it out from the oven, remove the loaves from the pan and let it cool in the wire rack to cool and let the filling get set.
- At this point, you can let it rest in the fridge overnight to be baked the next day. Bring to room temperature before rolling to add the filling.
- Note 1
- Note 2
- Note 3