I have been intrigued and intimidated by the twisty beautiful sweet bread known as the “Babka” for some time now. I talked myself out of attempts to make it assuming it would we way too hard and should probably be left to the professionals, but you guys, I did it, and IT WAS AWESOME! I’m certain that if I can pull this off, you can too, so don’t wait as long as I did and seriously just make this, you’ll be so glad you did! I did enlist the help of my favorite food blogger @smittenkitchen Deb Perelman who gave super helpful step by step instructions and tips. I can’t say I strayed to far from her recipe, but I’m excited to mix it up in future batches. I’m sure you could make this with a cinnamon spice filling that would be epic or even something fruit-ish like with raspberry jam and cream cheese. Listen to me getting all excited about the babka possibilities of my future. Please enjoy!
4 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons instant (rapid rise) yeast
grated zest of half an orange (you could also do a lemon, but orange was sublime)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup water (cold is fine) and up to 1-2 tablespoons extra if needed
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter at room temperature
4 1/2 ounces (130 grams) dark chocolate (or 3/4 cup chocolate chips)
1/2 cup butter (cold is fine)
scant (means, not all the way full) 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional, but awesome)
1/3 cup water
6 tablespoons sugar
Make the Dough
- Combine the flour, sugar yeast and zest in the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer. Add eggs and 1/2 cup water, mixing with the dough hook until it comes together; this may take a couple of minutes. It’s okay if it’s on the dry side, but if it doesn’t come together at all add some extra water a tablespoon at a time.
- With the mixer on low add the salt and the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough.
- Mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until dough is completely smooth; you’ll need to scrape the bowl down a few times. After about 10 minutes, the dough should began to pull away from the sides of the bowl. I needed to add a few extra tablespoons of flour to help this process along.
- Coat a large bowl with oil – I used the mixer bowl by taking my dough out for a minute and greasing it down then plopping the dough back in. Cover with plastic wrap and let it refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. (don’t worry if it doesn’t look like it doubled, it won’t rise as much as you think – but it will still work!)
- Melt butter and chocolate together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar and cocoa; mixture should form a spreadable paste – but it’s not super thick – it thickens up as it cools. Add cinnamon if desired.
- Coat two 9-by-4 inch loaf pans with oil or butter and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of parchment paper. Take half the dough from the fridge (leave other half chilled). Roll out on a well-floured counter to about a 10 inch width (side closest to you) and as long in length. So about a 10×12 inch square or thereabouts.
- Spread half of the chocolate mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border all around. Brush the end farthest away from you with water. Roll the dough into a long tight cigar and seal dampened end. Keep as cold as possible – I put my cigar in the freezer while I rolled out the other half.
- Repeat these steps with the other half of the dough
- Gently cut log in half right in the middle, then cut your now two logs length-wise right down the middle opening them up and lay them next to each other cut sides up. Do the same with your other cigar/log of dough.
- Pinch the top ends together and gently lift one side over the next, forming a twist, keeping the cut sides up because they are so pretty. Pinch at the other end once you’ve made your twist. Don’t stress out if it isn’t perfect – it will all look great and taste amazing and the next rise will hide mistakes for you.
- Put your twisted dough into the prepared loaf pan and repeat with other dough.
- Cover with damp tea towel and let rise a good 1 1/2 -2 hours at room temperature. Pre-heating oven to 375 towards the end of your rise.
Bake and Finish Cakes
- With oven at 375 – Remove towels, place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 30 minutes, but you can check doneness at 25. Mine needed the full 30. My first I took out too early and it was a bit undercooked in the middle. If your babka is done you will feel almost no resistance when you push in a toothpick or cake tester.
- Make syrup while babka’s are baking. Bring sugar and water to simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool a little. As soon as your babka’s leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each. It will seem like too much, but will taste perfect.
- Let cool about halfway in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way (not something we had the patience for but suit yourself).
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen 2016