It’s so easy to be lured by a Babka. It has everything - soft, buttery yeast dough, rich chocolate, a sticky glaze, a pretty swirly pattern, and an intoxicating aroma. It just oozes baking comfort. Plus every time I bake it I’m reminded of Seinfeld and I can’t stop with the Seinfeld quotes ! Use the best ingredients you can and give yourself time to enjoy the process - you will be rewarded by a very special bake.
I have made mine with roasted hazelnuts and orange zest to add some toasty and rich flavours, plus this technique is a little different in that the butter is rolled into the yeast dough, much like puff pastry, before spreading on the chocolate paste. This creates an extra fluffy babka which stays soft for several days - if it lasts that long.
For the dough:
500g bakers flour
10g instant yeast
250ml lukewarm milk (about 37 degrees C)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Zest of one orange
!/4 teaspoon of salt
60g raw caster sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
150g soft unsalted butter
For the chocolate filling:
100g dark chocolate
100g unsalted butter
20g cocoa (dutch process)
50g brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla essence
pinch of sea salt flakes
100g whole hazelnuts
For the glaze:
1 teaspoon vanilla
whole peel of one orange
For the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt and whisk together until well combined.
Warm the milk either in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat until lukewarm (if you stick your finger in it should feel only slightly warm)
Whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla, orange zest and sugar, than add to the bowl of flour mix.
Use a spoon or spatula to combine the ingredients until moist, and forming a ball.
Transfer to a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and knead until soft and elastic. This will take about 6 minutes. Alternatively you can knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured bench until elastic and smooth which will take about 8 minutes.
Allow the dough to prove in a warm place in an oiled bowl covered in cling film or a silicon lid until it has doubled in size. (1-2 hours)
Gently press the dough down and refrigerate for an hour.
For the Chocolate filling:
Break the chocolate into smaller pieces place in a microwave safe bowl.
Melt in burst the microwave, taking care not to overheat it. Stir until smooth and all the chocolate has melted. The chocolate can alternatively be melted in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water placed over low heat.
Add the cubed soft butter and remaining ingredients to the chocolate and mix together until smooth and combined. Allow the filling to sit until it has cooled and reached a slightly firm spreadable consistency. If it firms up too much give it a few seconds in the microwave until it’s little smoother to spread.
To prepare the nuts:
Spread the hazelnuts on a baking tray, and bake at 180 deg C for around 5 minutes or until well toasted.
Remove the hot nuts from the oven and empty them onto a clean tea towel. Gather up the tea towel around the nuts and rub them until the skins have come off.
Transfer the nuts onto a board and crush with a mallet into coarse chunks. (if the nuts are cooled they can be emptied into a plastic bag and crush through the bag to keep them together.
To assemble the Babka:
Have ready a large loaf pan. Grease with a little melted butter. (I use the @Bakemaster_au Farmhouse Loaf tin which is nice and deep, and has a great non stick coating)
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll onto a lightly floured bench into a large rectangle, measuring approximately 25 x 35 cm. A little extra flour can be dusted while you do this to help with rolling.
Spread the softened butter evenly over 2/3 of the rectangle starting from the shorter sides. Leave a 1cm gap along the edges to allow the dough to stick together.
Fold the dough like a letter starting with folding the non buttered third over the middle third, then the other side on top of these two layers.
Rotate the dough 90 degrees.
Roll the dough out again to a large rectangle - as big as you can get it (ie 30 x 40cm plus). Try to stop any butter oozing out the sides by rolling gently and dusting the bench periodically.
Spread the dough with the chocolate filling to a centimetre from the edges.
Sprinkle with the hazelnuts.
Brush a little water along one long edge.
Starting at the other long edge, roll the babka tightly into a long sausage and seal when you get to the end.
Roll over so the sealed side is at the bottom, then chop the sausage into two halves.
Spit each half lengthwise into two, using a large knife or sharp pastry scraper. You will now have four long pieces of dough.
Join the pieces at one end with a little water to start to make a four way plait. Plait the four lengths of dough and tuck under the ends.
Lift the loaf into the greased loaf tin, cover with a damp tea towel and allow to rise for around an hour until double. (in a warm part of the kitchen - I like to use near the stove)
Preheat the oven to 175 deg C. Fan forced.
Bake the babka for 30-40 minutes or until well risen and golden.
While the Babka is baking, prepare the glaze.
For the glaze:
Mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool off the heat.
Spread liberally over the warm cooked Babka once it is out of the oven.
Chocolate, hazelnut and orange babka, sliced
If you like, you can make the Babka the traditional way and add the butter to the flour along with the other ingredients. Just melt it first and cool to lukewarm, before adding to the other dough ingredients.
To assemble the dough, just roll it out to a large rectangle, spread with the chocolate mixture and roll up tightly. You can even just halve the initial sausage and twist the two halves together for a different pattern style.
Bakeware supplied by @bakemaster_au