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Babka with chocolate filling

(Food Styling/Lisa Zwirn; Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)
December 1, 2010

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Makes 2 loaves

Making babka is a half-day project. If you like, make the dough, let it rise, set it in the pans, then refrigerate overnight to bake the next day.

DOUGH

3/4 cup whole milk, heated until warm
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 package ( 1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
2 whole eggs plus 2 extra yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut up
Canola oil (for the bowl)

1. In a bowl, combine the milk and 1 teaspoon sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 8 to 10 minutes or until foamy. (If the yeast doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

2. In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla. Add the yeast mixture and 2 cups of flour. Mix on low speed to combine. Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups of flour and salt and beat until combined.

3. Remove the paddle attachment (scrape it off and add any dough to the bowl), and switch to the dough hook. On medium speed, add the butter, a few pieces at a time, and mix about 8 minutes or until the dough is silky-smooth and sticky.

4. Lightly oil a bowl. Scrape the dough into it and turn to coat it all over. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until almost doubled in bulk.

FILLING

8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup sugar

1. In a food processor, chop the chocolate until it is pebbly.

2. Add the sugar and pulse once to combine.

STREUSEL

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

1. In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly.

2. Use your hands to gather the mixture until it comes together in one mass; break it into clumps.

ASSEMBLY

Canola oil (for the pans)
Flour (for sprinkling)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, beaten with 2 teaspoons water (for glaze)

1. Lightly oil two 9-by-5-inch metal loaf pans. Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper, each about 8 1/2 by 12 inches. Line each pan with the paper, so it comes 1 inch above the long sides. Lightly oil the paper.

2. Scrape the dough onto a floured counter. Divide it in half. Sprinkle one piece with flour. Pat or roll into a 12-by-8-inch rectangle, with a long side nearest you.

3. Brush the dough with half the melted butter to within 1/2 inch of the long side farthest from you. Sprinkle half the filling over the dough, except for the top border. Starting with the long side nearest you, roll up the dough like a jelly roll, and pinch the ends shut. Starting at one end, gently twist the roll every 2 inches or so as if wringing out a towel. (Some of the filling leaks out.) Place the roll in a pan, pushing it toward the center slightly and curving the ends around to fit. Repeat with the remaining dough, butter, and filling.

4. Brush the tops and sides of the loaves with egg glaze. Sprinkle each with streusel, pressing it gently into the sides. Let the rest of the streusel fall into the pan. Loosely cover with plastic wrap.

5. Let the loaves rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (They will expand, but not to the rims of the pans.) Alternatively, rest in the refrigerator overnight. Let stand at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours before baking.

6. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Bake the babkas for 35 to 45 minutes or until they are golden and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped.

7. Transfer the pans to a rack to cool for 30 minutes. Use a blunt knife to loosen the sides. Holding onto the parchment, lift the loaves out of the pans, set on a wire rack, and slide the parchment off. Leave to cool.

Lisa Zwirn