For the technical challenge in the chocolate week episode of The Great British Bake-Off, Paul challenged contestants to make a chocolate babka loaf. I’ve made a babka before and posted a recipe for Cinnamon Babka a few weeks ago, so it wouldn’t be a huge challenge for me. I left this one to last.
For those that haven’t heard of or seen a babka before, it’s a bread that is rolled out and filled with a filling, as you would a cinnamon roll, then after it is rolled up, you cut the log in half length-wise and twine the halves together like a rope. Then it is put in a loaf tin for a final rise before baking. After baking, it is brushed with a sugar syrup to give a loaf a crunchy glazed top.
Apparently there was a Seinfeld episode all about getting a babka.
Because it was a technical challenge, I was going to do the exact recipe that they did on bake-off, but when I went to The Great British Bake-Off website the day I was going to bake the bread, it had been removed! After a quick internet search, I did find one site that listed the ingredients, but I found the instructions lacking as it didn’t say to do the first proof before rolling out and filling the dough. When I made babka before and when I watched the contestants do it on the show there were two rises involved.
On a whim, I decided to do the same dough that I had done for my other babka but fill it with the ingredients listed in the other recipe I found. After I made the filling I tasted it and found it to be very bitter with both 70% dark chocolate and quite a bit of cocoa powder, so I added another tablespoon of sugar to balance that a bit.
This recipe makes a LOT of filling. Much more than I had with the cinnamon babka I did and more than the chocolate version from The Perfect Loaf, where I got my original cinnamon babka recipe. I decided to go with it but was worried that it would be overwhelmingly chocolate. Last time I made the babka I twisted the loaf back on itself to fit in the pan, but apparently, that is a no-no, so this time I ensured that the roll was the size of the pan before putting it in.
I made the loaf in the evening and we tried it the next morning for breakfast. It was great! You can see in the picture that there is quite a bit of chocolate filling, but honestly, it was quite lovely tasting and not overwhelming at all. I found it neither too bitter or too sweet and quite enjoyed my breakfast.
And now all three challenges for chocolate week are in the bag 🙂 Next week is pastry week … that one makes me nervous!
Chocolate Babka LoafThis delicious twisted chocolate babka bread is filled with a rich chocolate filling and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser! Because this is an enriched dough, it takes a bit longer for the initial rise (about 2 hours). Adapted from The Perfect Loaf and The Great British Bake-Off. This recipe uses rapid-rise yeast which doesn’t need to be bloomed in advance. If your yeast needs to be bloomed, mix it with the milk and let it sit for 10 minutes until foamy.
For the Filling
- For the Dough
- To finish
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the flour, yeast, whole milk, large eggs, salt, and half of the sugar. Set the mixer to low and mix until everything is incorporated. Let the dough rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
- After the 10 minute rest, turn the mixer up to medium and mix for 5 minutes until the dough starts to pull from the sides of the mixing bowl. At this point, slowly stream in the remaining sugar while the mixer is running. Mix for another 1-2 minutes until the dough comes back together.
- With the mixer still set to medium, add the room temperature butter, one pat at a time, waiting to add the next until the previous is absorbed into the dough. It might take around 5 minutes to mix all the butter into the dough. After all of the butter is added, continue mixing for another few minutes until the dough smooths out and once again begins to cling to the dough hook.
- Transfer the dough to a clean bowl. Cover and let rise somewhere warm (ideally 24-25 C) until doubled in size, about 2 hours. You can rise the dough in the oven with the light on if it is cold in your house.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Place the hazelnuts into a baking tray and roast in the bottom of the oven for 4–5 minutes, tossing occasionally, until lightly golden. Tip them onto a chopping board, leave to cool, then roughly chop half the hazelnuts and finely chop the remainder. Set aside.
- Place the butter, sugar, and chocolate in a pan and melt very slowly over low heat, stirring until smooth and combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool and thicken slightly.
- Once the dough has doubled, place in the fridge to chill for 1 hour before rolling out (you can skip this step, but it does make it easier to roll).
- Place dough on a floured counter and flour the top of the dough as well. Roll to an approximate 10 x 12 inch/25 x 20 cm rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough leaving about 1″ clean on the short side farthest from you. Starting at the side closest to you, roll up the dough into a tight cylinder. It’s important for the dough to be rolled up rather tight, so pull the dough at each revolution of the cylinder. Place the rolled dough log on a baking sheet and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes before cutting.
- Prepare your baking pan by inserting a piece of parchment so two “handles” stick up at the long sides of the pan. The parchment will drape down one long side, over the bottom, and up the other side. Once it fits, take it out and place it on the counter next to your pan.
- After the 15-minute freezer rest, take the baking sheet out of the freezer and return the dough log to the counter. Using a sharp knife, cut the log to split open the log from one side to the other. Pinch the two top halves together and braid the dough one strand over the other. At the bottom, pinch the two halves together again.
- After the dough is braided, pick up the braid and place it on the parchment right in the middle, then pick up the sides of the parchment and lift the dough up and drop it into the pan.
- Cover and let rise until the dough fills the pan, about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180 C.
- When the oven is preheated and the babka dough is fully proofed, place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (to catch any sugar spilling over). In a small bowl, whisk together one whole egg and 1 Tbsp water and brush a thin layer of the egg wash on the top of the dough. Then, slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until the center of the babka reaches 200°F (93°C). Keep an eye on the babka in the last 10 minutes of the bake, if it’s coloring too quickly, loosely cover the top of the loaf with some aluminum foil.
- While the babka is baking, make the simple syrup. In a small saucepan granulated sugar with water. Heat until the mixture bubbles a bit and stir occasionally until the sugar fully dissolves in the water. Transfer this simple syrup to a container to cool. If covered, it will keep indefinitely in the fridge
- When the babka is fully baked, remove the pan to a cooling rack. Using a plastic spatula, free the short sides of the babka (the sides without parchment) from the sides and bottom of the pan by pressing the spatula down from top to bottom. Using a pastry brush, brush on a thin layer of the simple syrup. The amount you put on is up to you: the more you add the sweeter the crust will become. Let the babka rest for 10 minutes in the pan. Do not let the babka rest for longer than 10 minutes or it’ll be hard to remove from the pan.
- After the rest, lift the babka out of the pan using the parchment paper sticking up as a set of handles. You might have to use a spatula and pry it out a bit, but be gentle. Remove from the parchment paper and let it rest on a wire rack until cool to the touch. It’s even better if it sits for an hour or so to let the crust fully harden. (Don't forget to remove the parchment or the hardened sugar will make it hard to remove later!)