Babka (pronounced “Bobka” and sometimes spelled as such) is a delicious Polish yeast bread, often filled with almonds, raisins, chocolate or cinnamon. This sweet bread originated in Eastern Europe and was introduced to the United States by early immigrants, and has become a popular feature in many American bakeries.
My awareness of babka started years ago while watching an episode of Seinfeld (does anyone remember the episode where Jerry & Elaine are waiting at the bakery to buy a babka, only to learn “they purchased a hair with a cake around it!”) OK, so I’m easily amused, but before that, I had never heard of babka and wondered what the fuss was about.
While at my favorite bakery over the weekend, I overheard someone asking about the babka and I had a flashback to that Seinfeld episode, so I opted to try their chocolate chip babka. I was not disappointed. This babka was prepared as a bundt style cake, but it can also be made in a traditional loaf fashion. The inside was a flaky type of bread, similar to a croissant, and was swirled with a hint of cinnamon mixed with small semi-sweet chocolate chips (no hair to be found, thank goodness). The cake was then topped with a light chocolate icing. It was absolutely delicious and can be eaten for breakfast or as a dessert.
I have included a recipe from Martha Stewart Living for Chocolate Babka, but after reviewing the elaborate directions I may still prefer to spend $5 and buy the one Bea’s Bakery has already perfected for me.
Makes 3 loaves
Recipe by Tara Bench from Martha Stewart Living
When shaping the babka, twist dough evenly throughout the length of the roll, a full 5 to 6 turns. The babka can be prepared up to step 8 and frozen for up to a month before baking. When ready to bake, remove from the freezer, let stand at room temperature for about 5 hours. Bake according to recipe instructions.
1 ½ cups warm milk (110 °F)
2 packages (1/4 oz. each) active dry yeast
1 ¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs room temperature
2 large egg yolks room temperature
6 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 tsp. Salt
3 ½ sticks (1 1/3 cups unsalted butter) cut into 1 inch pieces, room temperature plus more for bowl
2 ¼ lb. semi sweet chocolate very finely chopped
2 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Streusel topping (see below)
Pour warm milk into small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over the milk. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl whisk together ¾ cup sugar, 2 eggs and the egg yolks. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and whisk to combine.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed until almost all of the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Change to the dough hook. Add 2 sticks butter and beat until the flour and butter are completely incorporated in a smooth, soft dough, that’s slightly sticky when squeezed, is formed. About 10 minutes.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few turns until smooth. Butter a large bowl, place dough in bowl and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour.
Place chocolate, 1 cup of sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir to combine. Using two knifes or a pastry blender, cut in 1 ½ sticks butter until well combined, set aside.
Have ready three 9 x 5 x 2¾ inch loaf pans, generously buttered and lined with parchment paper. Beat the remaining eggs with one tablespoon cream, set aside. Punch back the dough and transfer to a clean surface. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut into three equal pieces, keep two pieces covered with plastic while working with the other piece. On a generously floured surface, roll dough out into a 16 inch square, 1/8 inch thick.
Crumble 1/3 of the chocolate filling over the dough. Leaving a ¼ inch border. Brush edges with egg wash. Roll dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch edges together to seal. Twist 5 or 6 turns. Brush top of roll with egg wash. Carefully crumble two tablespoons filling over the left half of the roll, being careful not to let the mixture slide off. Fold right half of the roll onto the coated left half. Fold ends under and pinch to seal. Twist roll two turns and fit into prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining two pieces of dough and remaining filling. (Freeze at this point if desired)
Heat oven 350°F. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of streusel topping over each loaf. Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place, 20-30 minutes.
Bake loaves, rotating half way through until golden, about 55 minutes. Lower temperature to 325°F and bake until babkas are deep golden, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer onto wire racks until cool. Remove from pans and serve.
Babkas freeze well for up to 3 weeks.
Recipe by Tara Bench from Martha Stewart Living
1 2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
In a large bowl combine sugar, flour and butter. Using a fork stir until fluffy, combined with clumps ranging in size from crumbs to 1 inch.
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