Chocolate Babka

May your bread always be swirled with chocolate.

Holy moly you guys, last week was exhausting. It was my first official week of both working and going to school full-time and it was a lot of work. It’ll for sure take some getting used to and excellent time management skills. I’ll need to work on that.

We did have employee appreciation week at work last week though and that was a lot of fun. I work in a pretty fun clinic and last week was just filled with extra laughter and fun. It was a very “pun”ny week. On Monday we got pears that said “You’re ‘pear’fect”, Tuesday was a bag of peppermint patties that said “thanks for your commit’mint'”, Wednesday was a bag of popcorn that said “for a ‘pop’ular caregiver and ingredients to make s’mores that said “we need ‘s’more’ staff like you”, Thursday our clinic managers made everyone breakfast because they appreciate us a “waffle” lot, and on Friday we played bingo. It was a great week!

You know what else I appreciate? King Arthur Flour and the fun monthly baking challenges they’ve been putting on. I haven’t participated in all of them but I did make this incredible chocolate babka that they selected for their May challenge and boy oh boy am I glad I did.

It’s fun, it’s filled with chocolate, it’s bread, it’s swirly and the recipe makes two loaves. It’s like hitting the bread lottery. And as I’m realistically never going to win the real lottery, this is my kind of lottery. It should probably be your kind of lottery too – low risk, high reward.

And the best kind of reward involves chocolate.

Chocolate Babka

Yield: 2 babka loaves

Ingredients

    Dough:
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 2 tbsp. instant yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
    Filling:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped semisweet chocolate or mini chocolate chips
    Glaze:
  • 1 large egg beaten with a pinch of salt until well-combined
    Topping:
  • 4 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Instructions

    Dough:
  1. Combine all of the dough ingredients (starting with the lesser amount of water), mixing until everything is moistened. Add additional water if necessary to enable the dough to come together. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Then mix/knead it until it's soft and smooth.
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and cover the bowl. The dough is going to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it's quite puffy.
  3. Gently deflate the dough, and divide it in half. Set the pieces aside, covered, while you make the filling.
    Filling/Assembly:
  1. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and espresso. Stir in the melted butter. The mixture will look grainy and slick; that's OK.
  2. Shape each half of the dough into a 9" x 18", 1/4"-thick rectangle. If the dough "fights back," let it rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten, then stretch it some more. Don't be fussy about this; 19" or 20" is as good as 18".
  3. Smear each piece of the dough with half the filling, coming to within an inch of the edges.
  4. Scatter half the nuts, and half the chopped chocolate/chips over each piece. If using standard-size chips, process them in a food processor first, to create smaller bits of chocolate and a less chunky filling.
  5. Starting with a short end, roll each piece gently into a log, sealing the seam and ends. Working with one log at a time, use a pair of scissors or a sharp knife to cut the log in half lengthwise (not crosswise) to make two pieces of dough about 10" long each; cut carefully, to prevent too much filling from spilling out. With the exposed filling side up, twist the two pieces into a braid, tucking the ends underneath. Repeat with the other log. Place each log into a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan.
  6. Brush each loaf with the egg glaze. Mix together the topping ingredients until crumbly, and sprinkle half the topping over each loaf.
  7. Tent each pan with plastic wrap, and let the loaves rise until they're very puffy and have crowned a good inch over the rim of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 300°F.
  8. Bake the bread for 35 minutes. Tent lightly with foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 25 minutes (for a total of 50 to 60 minutes); the loaves should be a deep-golden brown.
  9. To ensure the loaves are baked through, insert a digital thermometer into the center of one loaf. It should register at least 190°F.
  10. Remove the loaves from the oven, and immediately loosen the edges with a heatproof spatula or table knife. Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out of the pans onto a rack to cool completely.
  11. Slice the babka and serve it at room temperature; or rewarm individual slices briefly in a toaster, if desired. Store any leftovers, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.
http://www.bryonycooks.com/chocolate-babka/

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