Sunday, January 16, 2011

chocolate babka

Here's the thing about our household. I found this recipe in Martha Stewart's excellent Baking Handbook when all of Atlanta was trapped under snow, making do only with what it already had in its kitchen pantries. The recipe calls for a full two pounds of one type of chocolate, and I thought, "Well, I'm sure we've got that!"

Good thing I made it; this bread sustained us and neighbors through a full three days of offices-closed, grocery-stores-depleted, full-on Deep-South snow freakout.

I've adapted this recipe slightly; my first loaf got too dark on the bottom, but the recipe makes three loaves, so there was plenty of time to adjust. I used glass loaf pans; if you use metal ones, the over-browning may be no problem at all.

This is the recipe that I used, but I've made some small adaptations (like omitting the streusel topping, with I think is completely unnecessary) - but feel free to just use Martha's original.

Chocolate Babka
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk (110F)
  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast (1/2 ounce total)
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus a pinch
  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks, all room temperature
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 2 pounds semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (or any mix of milk, semisweet, and bittersweet chocolate)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
Egg wash:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Place warm milk in a small bowl and stir in yeast and a pinch of sugar to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and the yolks. Add yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add the egg mixture, and beat on low speed until the flour is mostly incorporated. Switch to the dough hook, and add 2 sticks butter, beating until completely smooth - about 10 minutes. Dough will be sticky.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few times. Place in a buttered bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

In a large bowl, stir together chocolate, cinnamon, and 1 cup sugar. Use a pastry blender to cut in the 1 1/2 sticks butter until combined.

Butter three 9" by 5" loaf pans (light-colored metal is best), and line with parchment paper, leaving overhang on the long sides. Butter the parchment, too.

Punch down the risen dough. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface, and let dough rest 5 minutes. In a small bowl, beat together remaining egg and cream.

Cut dough into three equal pieces. Roll one piece out to a 16-inch square, and brush the edges with the egg wash. Sprinkle about 1/4 of the chocolate mixture onto the dough, keeping the edges clean. Roll the dough into a log, sealing the ends.

Twist the dough evenly (about 4 to 6 times) to form a tight log, and brush the top with egg wash. Sprinkle a little more of the chocolate mixture on top (so that you've used about 1/3 of the mixture, total).

Turn the log into a U-shape, then cross one leg over the other. Now press the ends together to make a figure-8. Twist the figure-8 a couple more times, so you have a tight twist. Place into a prepared pan, and sprinkle with any chocolate mixture that has fallen off.

At this point, you may wrap the pans tightly in plastic and freeze for up to a month.

Preheat the oven to 325F, with a rack between the middle and the lower third (Martha just says the lower third, but I'm trying not to overbrown).

Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until dough has expanded and become soft, about 45 minutes.

Unwrap and bake loaves, rotating twice during baking, for 90 minutes. Tent with aluminum foil for the final 30 minutes. Bread will be deep brown. Use the parchment paper to remove the loaves from the pans, and let cool on racks.

Loaves will keep, wrapped well, for three days.


  1. I love Martha's baking handbook! I just purchased it and am working or converting every recipe into a vegan recipe. My brother asked for the babka last night but, I'm trying hard to think of a good egg substitute. Yours looks delicious and I LOVE your scale.

  2. Why have I never heard of something so chocolatey and delicious before? PS. Your marble slab there is larger than all of my net kitchen counter space.

  3. Jess - that's why we have to keep it in another room.

    Ashlae - the Baking Handbook is great. I bet I've made at least 1/3 of the recipes in the book, and the only one that really failed me was the sticky buns (and even that had a wonderful dough - it was the topping that didn't work). If you come up with any reliable vegan conversions, I'd love to hear them! I love the chemistry of baking, and converting a baking recipe to vegan seems like a huge problem-solving challenge.