Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate babka....I don't remember where I first read about it, but I do remember when I first tasted it.  It was almost Christmas one year and I was out running errands.  I wanted to buy some fresh bread because back in those days I was afraid of yeast since I had disastrous results when trying to use yeast.  I was in love with a sunflower bread that I discovered at one of the bakeries near my university.  So I stopped in the bakery, and every day during the week they would bake a specialty bread and that day was chocolate babka.  Oh, how I love chocolate and I remember the days when I was first introduced to nutella so I could eat chocolate and bread every day.  I remember in the summers during middle school where I would live off of chocolate and toast.  But this day in the bakery where two of my favorite things to eat came together, I was in love.

Eventually, I got over my fear of yeast, but I don't know why I never tried to bake a chocolate babka before now.  The scent of the bread and chocolate is still wafting through my house.  The loaves are left on my counter waiting to be eaten.  Now my task has been completed, and I will have chocolate babka for the next few days though my idea had been first to have it for Easter.  I may even freeze one for guests who will be coming soon.

Chocolate Babka
1 1/2 cups warm milk, 110 -115 degrees
2 (1/4 ounce each) packages active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups plus a pinch of sugar
3 whole large eggs, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for bowl and loaf pans
2 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped*
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Pour warm milk (from 110-115F) into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar over milk; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  While the yeast is developing, in a small bowl whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and egg yolks.  After the yeast mixture is frothy, add the egg mixture to yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour and salt whisk quickly and then add the egg and yeast mixture.  Mix until flour has been incorporated.  Use the dough hook and add 2 sticks room temperature butter, and mix until flour mixture and butter are completely incorporated, and a smooth, soft dough that’s slightly sticky is formed, about 8-10 minutes.

Pour out the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead to renew tension in the dough.  Place in a buttered bowl (large enough for it to double).  Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm spot.  I use the oven at about 75-80F.  This should take about an hour.

Place chocolate, remaining 1 cup sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Cut in remaining 1 1/2 sticks butter until well combined; set filling aside.  Grease three loaf pans (9x5inches).  Beat the last egg with 1 tablespoon cream and set aside.

Once the dough has double in size, punch it down and transfer to a lightly-floured surface. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Keep 2 pieces covered with plastic wrap while working with the remaining piece. On floured surface, roll dough out into a 16-inch square; it should be 1/8 inch thick.

Use 1/3 of the chocolate mixture and spread onto the dough, leaving about 1/4 inch border. Brush the edge with egg wash and then roll up the dough.  Pinch the dough together to seal it along the seam and ends.  Twist the dough about 5 times.  Brush the top with more egg wash and crumble 1-2 tablespoons of chocolate mixture on half of the loaf.  Fold the half without the chocolate crumb over the other half and again pinch together edges and then twist the dough once or twice.  Place dough into prepared pan and repeat with the next two pieces of dough.

Heat oven to 350F. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash.  Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place 20 to 30 minutes.  Bake leaves for about 50 minutes at 350F.  Then lower the temperature to 325Fand bake the remaining 20 minutes until the loaves are a deep golden brown.   Remove from oven and cool on racks.  Loaves will freeze well for one month.