Ever since I heard about Chocolate Babkas, they immediately wrote themselves into my to-bake list. I had no idea what a Babka was except that it involved chocolate. Surely anything with chocolate would be fantastic right? Later on I learn that it is actually a loaf of yeast bread with chocolate inside!
The reason why I am not all that familiar with babkas is because, other than the fact that I’m fairly new to the foodie world, we don’t really have much of a designated food item for the Lenten Season. I guess you can call my efforts at making these Easter pastries an attempt to start some sort of tradition. Well people here at home are kind of picky, so it would have to be something marvelously tasty, this to-be tradition of ours.
Personally I would love for it to involve dark chocolate, which is why I knew I had to make babka the moment I saw it. And knowing me, I not only had to make it, I had to make the one.
For all my excitement, the days got pretty busy around here and so I found myself with very little time to hatch my plan of baking several different versions of this Easter classic. I wanted to find a favourite, as is my usual practice. Alas, not this year. I decided simple was the way to go this time.
Babkas are traditionally rolled in a different way than regular swirl breads, and then sprinkled with streusel on top. As divine as that sounds, I chose to go with this particular recipe I found on the King Arthur Flour website, which looked to be simple enough to make in the limited amount of time I find myself in. So at least that’s one version down right?
So how did this babka fare? Well, I left one loaf for my family and sent the other one off to my grandmum, and the next thing I know the babkas have all but disappeared into thin air. The bread had a very firm but soft crumb, and the flavours were nice, with very tiny hints of cinnamon amongst the chocolate. However I did not think there was enough chocolate, to be honest. I guess I was expecting it to be the predominant flavour here, but it came out rather mild for me. It’s the sort of mildness you would expect from a breakfast bread; not overwhelming but still present.
As it is, it justifies eating chocolate for breakfast without going overboard. And while I eat chocolate whenever the heck I want, I think you will find this bread to be a good excuse to have chocolate with your morning toast if you don’t.
Easier Chocolate Babkas
Makes two 9 x 5-inch loaves
For the dough
- 1 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
- 2 large eggs
- 6 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose Flour
- 1/3 cup nonfat powdered milk
- 2 tablespoons instant yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature**
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the filling
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup diced pecans or walnuts, toasted if desired
For the glaze
- 1 large egg
- pinch of salt, beaten with the egg until well-combined
To make the dough
- 1. Combine all of the dough ingredients in an electric mixer by hand or with the paddle attachment, just until everything is moistened. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Then mix/knead the dough once more until soft and smooth.
- 2. Cover the dough and let rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- 3. Gently deflate the dough and divide it in half. Set the pieces aside, covered, while you make the filling.
To make the filling
- 4. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and espresso. Stir in the melted butter. The mixture will be grainy but paste-like, and slightly oily.
To assemble the bread
- 5. Shape each half of the dough roughly into a 9" x 18" rectangle, 1/4"-thick. It doesn't to be in the exact size.
- 6. Smear one piece of the dough with half the chocolate paste, coming to within an inch of the edges. Scatter half of the chocolate chips and nuts over the paste. Repeat with the second piece.
- 7. Starting with one short end, roll each piece gently into a log, sealing the seam and ends. Place each log of dough into a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan.
- 8. Tent each pan with a light cloth or plastic wrap, and let the loaves rise until they are very puffy and have crowned a good inch over the rim of the pan, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
- 9. Just before baking, brush each loaf with the egg glaze; pop any air bubbles with a toothpick. Then, cut a deep vertical slash the length of each loaf, cutting through at least 3 layers.
- 10. Bake the bread for 35 minutes. Tent lightly with foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 25 minutes (for a total of 50 to 60 minutes). The loaves should be a deep-golden brown once baked.***
- 11. Remove the loaves from the oven, and immediately loosen the edges with a heatproof spatula or table knife. Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out of the pans onto a rack to cool completely.
**Reduce the salt to 2 1/4 teaspoons if you use salted butter.
***To ensure the loaves are baked through, insert an instant-read thermometer into the center of one loaf. It should register at least 190°F (90°C). Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Speaking of time, it really flies fast doesn’t it? Last I checked it was January, then I blinked and all of a sudden it’s April, with Easter right around the bend to boot. It’s crazy! But for now let us just enjoy this fine day. Happy Easter, everyone! 🙂