Sending the Kids Back to School with #SpicyChat Treat – Chocolate Babka: Is it Dessert or Bread?

As some of you already know, one tradition I diligently maintain on Friday’s is baking something sweet for the children; a small treat for the end of the school week and an indulgent start to the weekend.  Well, the past Friday was momentous since it marked the end of summer vacation for the kids.

Keeping that in mind, I went in reverse mode this past weekend by baking an indulgent treat to send the kids off to school with some sweetness. After all, we did survive another year of summer vacation!!

And since ‘Chocolate’ is the theme for this week’s #SpicyChat, it seemed apt to bake a Chocolate & Cinnamon Babka.  As this was the first time I made Babka, allow me to describe it. If a Challah married a Sticky Bun or Coffee Cake and had a baby, it would be called a Babka. Babka has roots from Russian and Polish heritage. The name is derived from the Russian baba which means grand-mother. Now we all know that grand-mother’s are the best cooks and make the ultimate comfort dishes.

As usual, I am using Peter Rienhardt’s recipe for Chocolate Cinnamon Babka. Baking is a science and personally for me, his recipes are fool-proof and always yield exceptional flavors.

 

Chocolate Cinnamon Babka

Any time is a good time to dig into a slice of sweet goodness of a babka. Perfectly swirled gooey chocolate, coiled with a moist challah style dough, streusel crumble on top; whether it is breakfast or dessert, it will surely please all your senses.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk (95 degrees)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 31/3 cups KA flour
  • 11/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg for egg wash with 1 tbs water
  • 11/2 cups frozen semi-sweet & bitter-sweet dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter

Streusel (optional):

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter cold
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

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Directions:

  1. Whisk the yeast and lukewarm milk until combined. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the oil, vanilla, and egg yolks in four portions on slow speed. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high for 2 minutes until the mixture is fluffy.
  3. Add the flour, salt, and yeast mixture to the stand mixer bowl. Mix on low-speed for 2 minutes and additional 2 minutes on medium speed until the dough is soft and pliable. Knead by hand gently till the golden-colored dough feels soft and supple.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rest for 21/2 hours at room temperature.
  5. After 21/2 hours, prepare the chocolate filling. Grind the chocolate in a food processor until it is nearly powdered. Add the cinnamon and pulse few times. Cut the cold butter into 8 pieces and pulse until the butter is fully incorporated in the chocolate. It should resemble a stresuel like crumble.
  6. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 15 by 15 inch square. Sprinkle the chocolate streusel filling over the dough, leaving 1/4 inch border around the sides. Roll up the dough like a jelly roll and with gentle pressure rock it back and forth to extend it’s length to 24 inches. Carefully twist the log from both ends and coil the log into a circular spiral shape. Press down on the coil to compress it into a loaf shape and place it in a lightly oiled 5 by 9 inch loaf pan.
  7. Cover the dough loosely with a plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for 3 hours. At this point, refrigerate the dough overnight.
  8. Next day remove the dough from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to bake it.
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make the streusel  by combining all ingredients in a food processor until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
  10. Right before baking, poke a few holes into the top of the bakba to eliminate air pockets. Brush the top of the babka with the egg wash, sprinkle streusel over the top and bake in the middle rack for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake until the sides are a rich golden brown. The loaf should sound hollow when thumped. The total baking time is 50 to 60 minutes.
  11. Cool for at least 2 hrs before serving, allowing the chocolate to set.

After waiting a painful 2 hours, my family and friends proclaimed it to be my BEST bread ever. Though the question still remains unanswered, whether it is a bread or dessert? I prefer it without the streusel. It’s moist, gooey, and delicate in each bite and an ideal start to your weekend breakfast. I think it would make a great addition to your holiday table too. What are some of your favorite breads you would consider rich and indulgent?

 

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