The Dough Diaries: Chocolate Babka
As promised, chocolate babka.
Confession: until I started reading food blogs, I had never heard of a babka, chocolate or otherwise. This could be down to my sheltered Irish life, but babka was just one of those things that had never crossed my path before. A travesty, for sure. This is one of my favourite things about reading food blogs from all over the world – it allows you to travel & learn about new cultures without even leaving the kitchen. Babka is a traditional Jewish bread that has been sweetened slightly & is usually filled with chocolate & cinnamon. It is twisted into a large S shape & baked in a loaf tin. Sometimes it is sprinkled with a streusel topping, sometimes it isn’t. (I think. Maybe I screwed up there.) All of the time, it is a soft, squishy dough pumped full of melted chocolate. Interested?
Chocolate Babka was not originally on the hit list when I created The Dough Diaries. Not because I didn’t want to make it & try it out, but it simply hadn’t crossed my mind when I was compiling the list. (Yes, I am an avid list maker.) That all changed, of course, when I was halfway through making & shaping one of my early challah loaves. A little light bulb went on & a question formed in my head: can you make babka from challah dough? A quick google search assured me that yes indeed you can, & I made the snap decision to turn half of my challah dough into a chocolate babka instead. Naturally, this meant that havoc ensued & suddenly the entire kitchen became covered in a huge mess, but I can assure you that your baking experience will be infinitely less chaotic & just as satisfying.
Once I had everything sorted out, it was actually surprisingly easy to switch from plain challah loaf to chocolate babka. I rolled the dough out as I did with the first half, except this time around I smeared chocolate all over it. Then I proceeded to roll it up into a big snake-like shape & pop it in the freezer for a bit of chilling. This gave me a head start on the kitchen cleanup. After 10-15 minutes, I took it out of the freezer, sliced the snake in half, laced the halves together to make a pretty twist, popped it into my loaf tin, then left it rising for another 45 minutes while I finished the kitchen. Not included in this happy montage: the complaints from Boyfriend that the kitchen was a war zone, the three different babka twisting videos I watched, and the ugly spare heater we have that I bring out to create a warm rising area for dough.
Thankfully, the end result was worth the mess & the video watching & the ugly heater. It is by far the prettiest bread I’ve baked thus far, & there’s something so satisfying about being able to say “I made that.” A pillow soft dough, swirled with chocolate.
Happy babka baking!
Makes one 9-inch loaf | Challah recipe from Molly Yeh
- 1 (7g) packet of active dry yeast
- ¾ cup warm water (room temperature / almost cool)
- ½ teaspoon caster sugar
- 1/8 cup caster sugar
- 3 ¼ cups plain flour, & more for dusting
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup flavourless oil (I used sunflower)
- 1/8 cup caster sugar
- 3/8 cup dark chocolate (I used 72%)
- ¼ cup salted butter
- ¼ cup icing sugar
- scant ¼ cup cocoa powder
- water, for washing
- In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the yeast, warm water & ½ teaspoon of sugar. Leave to develop for 5-minutes, until slightly foamy on top.
- Meanwhile, we get the rest of the ingredients ready. In a large bowl, whisk together the caster sugar, the flour, & the salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, & sugar.
- When the yeast is ready, add it to the flour mixture, immediately followed by the egg mixture. Stir everything together & turn it out onto a lightly floured surface; knead the dough by hand for 5-7 minutes, or until the dough feels smooth, supple, & only slightly sticky.
- Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, cover it with cling film, & leave it to rise in a warmish area for about 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside. Grease & line a 9 x 4-inch loaf tin with parchment paper & set aside.
- Make the chocolate filling. Sift the icing sugar & the cocoa powder into a medium bowl. Melt the chocolate & the butter together in a heatproof bowl in the microwave in bursts of 20-seconds. Once melted, pour the chocolate mixture into the dry mixture & stir to combine. It should be a fragrant spreadable paste.
- Once the dough has doubled in size remove from the warm area & begin the shaping. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a long thin rectangle (about 10-12 inches long). Spread the chocolate mixture all over the dough, leaving about ½ an inch boarder all around, & brush the longest boarder furthest from you with water. Roll the dough up into a tight long coil, finishing off & sealing the log with the wet edge. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet & place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up.
- Remove the dough from the freezer & trim the last ½-inch off each end. Using a sharp knife, gently cut the log in half length-ways down the centre, & place them cut side up beside each other. Carefully pinch the top ends together, & lift one length over until you’ve formed a twist, trying at all times to keep the cut sides facing up. When you’ve reached the end, pinch the edges together.
- Once shaped, transfer the loaf to the prepared tin & leave it – covered with cling film – for a further 45 minutes while you preheat the oven to 180C.
- Before baking in the oven, brush the loaf with a light layer of water. Bake until golden brown in colour & baked through, about 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the dough receives no resistance.