Chocolate-Cherry BabkaPosted on Sep 7, 2011 | 28 comments
When my editor at the Jew and the Carrot (the food blog of the Jewish Daily Forward) asked me if I’d be interested in writing an article about babka, there was only one answer – YES. Babka, for those who have been sadly deprived, is a yeasty bread that is rolled around a filling (typically cinnamon or chocolate), stuffed in a loaf pan, and baked. It’s decadent and yet as appropriate for breakfast as for dessert. Yet somehow it seemed beyond my reach to make it at home. And in New York, when you have Zabar’s why bother? I was thrilled to learn it’s incredibly easy to prepare. Even better, most recipes make two to three loaves, which you can freeze and enjoy later.
Researching the article I uncovered all kinds of fun babka facts. For one, Zabar’s doesn’t make their babka! Green’s kosher bakery in Williamsburg does. Not only that, Green’s makes 12,000 loaves weekly and also supply babka to Russ and Daughters, Whole Foods, and Dean and Deluca, among others. Also, even though chocolate is the preferred flavor (Elaine on Seinfeld dealt cinnamon quite the blow when she called it “the lesser babka”) it’s a fairly recent American addition. In the spirit of creating new traditions (and at the suggestion of my lovely editor) I made a chocolate and dried cherry filling, recipe below. For more background and fun facts about babka be sure to check out my article at the Jew and the Carrot!
Chocolate and Cherry Babka
Yield: 2 Loaves
¾ cup milk
½ cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons active dry yeast (from two ¼-oz packages)
3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and brought to room temp
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
8 ounces 60% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup roughly chopped dry Bing cherries (un-soaked)
For the Dough:
Heat the milk to 105–115°F in a small pot. Stir together the warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in a heat-proof bowl. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes. If the yeast does not foam then you should discard it and start over with fresh yeast.
Add ½ cup flour to the milk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until fully combined. Add the eggs, vanilla, salt, and remaining ½ cup sugar and stir thoroughly until combined. Mix in remaining 3 cups flour, a little at a time, until fully incorporated. Stir in the butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to stir until butter is fully incorporated and dough is shiny, about 6 minutes. (Don’t worry if the dough is very soft and sticky; that is good.)
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put in a draft-free, room temperature place and allow to rise until doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours.
Assemble Babkas With Filling:
Butter two loaf pans or line with parchment paper. Punch down dough with your fist or a lightly oiled rubber spatula, then halve. Roll out 1 piece of dough on a floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into an 18- by 10-inch rectangle and arrange with a long side near you.
Beat together the yolk and cream. Using your hands, spread half of the softened butter on the dough, leaving a ½-inch border all around. Brush some of egg wash on the long border farthest from you.
Sprinkle half of the chocolate evenly over the buttered dough, then sprinkle with half of the dried cherries (½ cup). Starting with long side closest to you, carefully roll the dough into a snug log, pinching firmly along the egg-washed seam to seal. Bring the ends of the log together to form a circle and pinch to seal. Twist the entire ring twice to form a double figure 8 and carefully transfer to one of the loaf pans.
Make another babka with the remaining dough, some of egg wash, and remaining butter, chocolate, and cherries in same way. Chill the remaining egg wash, covered, to use later on babka. Loosely cover the pans with plastic wrap and allow the babkas to rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until the dough reaches the tops of the pans, 1 to 2 hours. Alternatively, you can let the dough rise in the pans in refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours; bring to room temperature 3 to 4 hours before baking.
Put an oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the tops of the dough with the remaining egg wash. Bake until tops are deep golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped (when loaves are removed from pans), 30 to 40 minutes, rotating halfway. Transfer loaves to a rack and cool to room temperature.