Chocolate Babka Loaf

Probably original to Russia, Poland, or another location in Eastern Europe, in the United States babka is primarily associated with the Jewish baking tradition. A store-bought babka has usually been baked in a loaf pan, whereas homemade versions are baked in a tube or Bundt pan-there are instructions for both shapes here. Thanks to Mildred Shapiro for sharing her family babka recipe.

Ingredients

Babka Dough

  • cups milk
  • 5 teaspoons (2 envelopes) active dry yeast
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)

Chocolate Filling

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces/100 grams) walnut or pecan pieces, coarsely chopped
  • Two 8½ × 4½ × 2¾-inch (22 × 11 × 7-cm) loaf pans, buttered and the bottoms lined with rectangles of parchment or buttered wax paper cut to fit

Method

  1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it is just lukewarm, about 110°F (45°C). Pour the milk into the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk in the yeast. Whisk in the butter, sugar, salt, egg yolks, and vanilla. Use a large rubber spatula to stir in ½ the flour.
  2. Place the bowl on the mixer and use the paddle attachment to beat the dough on low speed. Add the remaining Hour about ½ cup at a time, beating to incorporate between additions. When all the flour has been added, beat the dough for 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Beat the dough on low to medium speed for 2 minutes more.
  3. Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl and turn it over so that the top is buttered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1½ hours.
  4. While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the chocolate with the sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon, and pulse to grind finely. Pour the filling into a bowl and set aside.
  5. After the dough has chilled, scrape it onto a floured work surface and press it out to a rectangle about 10 × 15 inches (25 × 38 cm) (figure a). Evenly scatter the chocolate filling on the dough. Scatter the chopped walnuts over the filling (figure b). Roll up the dough from one long side jelly-roll style (figure c), and pinch the ends to seal. Use a knife to cut the roll into 2 equal pieces.
  6. Invert one of the rolls, seam side down, into one of the prepared pans (figure d). Repeat with the second roll. Cover the pans with towels or buttered plastic wrap and let them rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room.
  7. About 20 minutes before the babkas are completely risen, set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C).
  8. Bake until the babkas are well risen and deep golden, about 45 minutes. Cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then unmold and cool on their sides to prevent collapsing.

Serving

Slide a loaf onto a cutting board and slice it at the table. Serve babkas for breakfast, brunch, or any time with tea or coffee.

Storage

Keep the babkas loosely covered with plastic wrap on the day they are baked. Wrap and freeze for longer storage. Defrost, reheat at 350°F (180°C) for 10 minutes, and cool before serving.

Home-Style Chocolate Babka

Bake the babka in a buttered 10-inch (12-cup/25 cm) tube or Bundt pan. Place the whole coil of dough in the pan seam side down. Join the ends together as well as possible. The baking time is the same.

Babka with Traditional Filling

Whip 3 egg whites with an electric mixer until they hold a soft peak. Add ½ cup sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, continuing to whip the egg whites until they hold a firm peak. Spread the egg-white mixture on the rectangle of dough and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 cup dark raisins, and cups walnut or pecan pieces, coarsely chopped. Bake in a tube pan.