Sunday, June 26, 2016

Chocolate Babka

I have a confession to make concerning holiday baking. Unlike most people, I do not have a secret stash of recipes that are on reserve for just the holidays. Sometimes special recipes are better received as a surprise than received when expected. Answering that question of "what is this for?" with "just because" always elicits a smile.

Today, I bring you a delicious recipe for chocolate babka. Since there are numerous recipes for this tasty and stunning dessert, I had to go through an evaluation process regarding the filling. After reviewing recipes with brownie bits, cinnamon and streusel, I came to the conclusion that I wanted a rich, dark chocolate filling. After all, this item should be more upscale and different from a coffee cake.

This particular babka recipe was exactly what I was looking for. It has just the right amount of decadent dark chocolate filling with a wonderful crunch of hazelnuts. Also, the Amaretto syrup soak does give the outer edges of babka a delicious texture. Regarding the dough, it actually stems from a donut recipe which lies somewhere between bread and cake.

Most of the time in this recipe is rise time and the chilling process for the dough. It rises 2 hours, chills overnight and then is formed and rises again 2 hours before baking. The recipe is in grams, so if you work in cup measurements, you will need a conversion chart. It makes 2 loaves, using two 5X10 inch loaf pans.

Chocolate Babka
adapted from Violet Bakery

3 eggs
125 grams butter
120 milliliters warm water
50 grams sugar
1 package yeast
2 tsp sea salt
500 grams flour

200 grams dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa bar or chips)
60 grams cocoa powder (I used dutch, but since type not specific either is acceptable)
160 grams butter
160 grams brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
160 grams finely chopped and toasted hazelnuts

Ingredients/Syrup Soak
160 grams sugar
200 grams water
4 tsp honey
2 tbs Amaretto
pinch of salt

For the dough, you will need a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour the yeast in the bowl and whisk in the sugar. Then add the warm water. Let sit for 2 minutes to dissolve and then stir. Sprinkle in the salt and then add the flour in 100 gram increments, running the mixer about 1 minute and scraping down the sides after each addition. Add the eggs, one by one and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Once all the eggs are blended, beat mixture for about 10 minutes on medium speed. While the mixer is running cut the cold butter into cubes.

After the 10 minutes of beating, beat for an additional 10 minutes, this time dropping the cubes of butter into the dough. The end result will be a big ball of dough that has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Pull out a medium size bowl and oil the interior. Transfer the dough to this prepared oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours. Then, eliminate the air in the dough by punching down with your fist. Cover again and place in refrigerator to chill overnight.

The next morning, prepare 2 loaf pans by buttering the interior and lining the bottom and long sides with parchment paper. Set aside.

Now it is time to make the second component of this dessert. With the exception of the hazelnuts and salt, place all the filling ingredients in a medium saucepan. Set the saucepan over medium heat and whisk until every thing is melted and blended together. Set aside to cool for about 20 minutes.

Prepare a flat surface by lightly dusting with flour.  Divide the dough in half, placing one piece on the flat surface and returning the other piece to the refrigerator. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough on the flat surface into a 12 inch by 12 inch square. Spread half the filling onto the dough, leaving about 1/4 inch border, and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt. Then sprinkle half of the nuts on top.

Roll the dough up tightly, like a jelly roll with the seam on the bottom. Lightly press the top of the roll to make sure the bottom seam is sealed. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll lengthwise, forming 2-12 inch ropes. Twist the ropes together into one piece and place in prepared pan, folding under the ends. Repeat this process to form the other loaf.

Lightly cover each loaf with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours. During rise time, prepare the syrup soak by putting all the ingredients in a saucepan. Then place over medium high heat and let come to a boil. Remove and stir. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place both loaves in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Then check on the loaves to make sure they are not getting too brown on the surface. At this time, you can lightly cover with foil if the loaves have the desired hue. Bake for another 15 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Remove loaves and place on cooling rack and immediately pour half of the syrup over top of each warm babka. Let cool completely before taking out of pan.

Tips and Notes:
1. Do not expect the filling to be smooth after melting everything in the saucepan, mine was grainy but was not that texture after baking the bread.

2. Both doughs should have an even amount of rise time in the last session. Form one into a jelly roll and set aside. Then form the other. Slice each into 2 pieces and then twist each and place in pan. Cover and  set the timer for 2 hours

3. Having the filling exposed to the surface does not harm the flavor of the filling. You can have a toasty bread-like surface or a surface with many threads of chocolate. For the most exposure of chocolate filling, twist each dough log with cut side face up.

4. There is a lot of syrup, but it soaks in quickly, so there is little chance of it running off the sides.
                                        **Last Year: Butternut Cookies**