Chocolate babka from “Artisan Breads Every Day”

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Given the contents of this blog, it might surprise you to learn that in fact we try to eat sensibly during the week and reserve our most decadent dining for the weekends. This recipe definitely falls into the category of indulgence. When I was living in New York, I discovered chocolate babka at Zabar’s, which is pretty much the Platonic ideal of bread + chocolate. Or at least my ideal. While it most definitely originates in Central Europe, I haven’t seen babka in a bakery there (the fact that there aren’t many Jewish people left to bake it being the obvious reason). We have tried a variety of similar things with different names, all good but not quite babka.

Valerian got me Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day for my birthday this year and I just recently got around to trying to bake a loaf of my own babka from there. It turned out better than I could have hoped, and it certainly didn’t survive the weekend. Perfect with a cup of coffee, this is a treat that is worth the calories.

Chocolate Babka
Serves 1
Chocolate babka from “Artisan Breads Every Day”
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Ingredients
  1. 2 Tbs instant yeast
  2. ¾ cup milk, warmed
  3. 6 Tbs/85 g melted butter
  4. 6 Tbs/85 g sugar
  5. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  6. 4 egg yolks, plus one egg for the wash
  7. 3 1/3 cups/425 g flour (all-purpose or bread flour)
  8. 1½ tsp salt
For the filling
  1. 1½ cups/255 g frozen semisweet chocolate (chips, chunks, or chopped)
  2. ¾ tsp cinnamon (more if you like)
  3. ¼ cup/57 g cold butter, cut into small pieces
For the streusel topping
  1. ¼ cup/57 g cold butter, cut into small pieces
  2. ½ cup/65 g flour
  3. ½ cup/113 g brown sugar
  4. pinch salt
Instructions
  1. Make the dough: dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and set it aside for about 5 minutes.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the 4 egg yolks one at a time, mixing to incorporate each one. Add the vanilla. Continue mixing until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the flour and salt, then the milk mixture. Keep mixing until you have a soft dough, then turn out the dough and knead it for 2-3 minutes until the dough is smooth and satiny. Form the dough into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl to rise for about 2½ hours. (I accidentally left mine much longer and it grew enormously but was fine.)
  4. While the dough rises, make the filling.
  5. Grind the chocolate to a powder, pulsing in a food processor or by chopping it as finely as you can. Add the cinnamon, then cut in the butter until you have a crumbly texture.
  6. Once the dough has risen, roll it out into a square about 15″x15″ (38×38 cm) on a floured surface; be careful to keep lifting the dough to ensure it doesn’t stick. Sprinkly the filling mixture evenly over the dough.
  7. Oil a 5×9″ (large) loaf pan.
  8. Roll up the dough square like a jelly roll, pinch the long seam closed and roll it to the underside of the log. Gently rock the log back and forth to lengthen it out to about 18-24″ (45-60 cm). Coil the roll up like a snail, the turn in on its side so it really looks like a snail – then smoosh it down so that it more or less fits inside the loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  9. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours, until the babka fills the pan or has increased to about 1½ times its size. At this point you can either bake it or put it in the fridge overnight. Let it sit out at room temp for about 2 hours before baking if you do refrigerate.
  10. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).
  11. Make the streusel – in a food processor or with a pastry blender (or even a fork) cut together the cold butter, flour, sugar and salt until you have small crumbs. Make an egg wash by beating together the whole egg and a tablespoon of water, brush it over the top of the babka and sprinkle the streusel over that.
  12. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotate the pan and bake for another 25 minutes or until the top is a dark brown. If you have a thermometer, the internal temperature will be around 185 F (85 C) when it’s done.
  13. Let the loaf cool before you try to slice it so the chocolate has time to set somewhat. Yum!
Adapted from Peter Reinhart
Adapted from Peter Reinhart
Emperors Crumbs https://emperorscrumbs.com/
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21 Responses

  1. So I am no baker, but I grew up on this stuff so I had to try it. My first rising went ok, but after I rolled it up and stuffed it into my loaf pan, the 2nd rising didn’t do squat. I am about to bake it, but I’m afraid I’m going to end up with loaf of biscotti. Any tips?

    1. Did you put it in the fridge for the second rise? The cooler temp in the fridge is supposed to slow the rising down, but sometimes it can slow things down too much and it might need more time for the second rise. So my first thought would be to give it a little more time before you bake it. It’s not too tightly covered or anything that might hold back the rising, right? If it still doesn’t get any puffier after another 45 minutes or so, I’d go ahead and bake it as usual – I’ve had breads turn out fine even when the proofing step seems like a bust. Good luck and report back!

  2. Success! The loaf rose normally in the oven. The crust is a bit crunchy, and I may have oversalted the streusal, but it’s delicious. I also just realized I added _twice_ as much butter to the chocolate mixture as was called for, so it’s way too rich, but that will at least keep me from eating the whole loaf myself. Thanks for this recipe!

  3. This looks delicious!
    I came across another recipe for a babka and immediately decided i had to find a fantastic babka recipe. I’m with you on Zabar’s being outstanding, however, my nephew who is now at NYU happened to wander in Dean & Deluca (yes, he is also a “foodie”) and tried their babka and loved it. In fact, when he came home for spring break, he came walking in with a D&D babka for us all to try. By the way, we live in Los Angeles! Anyway, i told him i’m going to make a babka before he goes back to school, and he replied “you shouldn’t. The babka MUST be perfect”. Well, needless to say, he may not think that mine will measure up to his perfect D&D babka, but i will be trying your recipe in the next couple of weeks and i’ll let you know the verdict.

    Also, great blog which i’m now going to follow.

  4. THANX 🙂 i had zabars babka and i had katy’s babka. this babka is awesome and wins on the “fresh” front. to eat it just when it cools with a great cup of coffee! i think you will see that it is a great recipe.

  5. Katy,
    I read my nephew the description of your babka, along with your comment to my post. He said it sounds like you understand why the babka must be “perfect”, and can’t wait for me to try yours. Now i just have to find some time.

  6. Hi,
    Please doublecheck the streusal topping ingredients – I think there’s a typo in your list above. There should be brown sugar (I checked the cookbook at the bookstore over the weekend), and I think an optional spice (cinnamon maybe?). Flour, butter, and a pinch of salt doesn’t make a tasty streudal topping which is how you’ve got it listed now. I made this (and guessed on the addition of sugar to the topping) and it was fabulous. Thanks for printing the recipe.

  7. Hey Kate, thanks for catching that! I have corrected the recipe now. I’m surprised no one (uh, including me) noticed before, so if anyone made the babka with sugarless streusel, you should try it again as corrected!

  8. I just received a Zabar’s gift basket which included a Chocolate Babka. The babka was out of this world, and now I’m thrilled to have the recipe to make it myself .

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