Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chocolate Babkas

I have thoroughly enjoyed Christmas break for so many reasons. I am always thrilled when my kiddos are home and I never tire of listening to their laughter while they play and the loud voices as they fight with one another. Sometimes the arguing gets tiresome, but I remind myself how blessed we are that they have those voices to express their emotions. We also enjoyed a break from all music, sports, and work commitments. Since I provide childcare for teachers in our school district, I am blessed to be off when my kids are off, it's the best. Christmas break has also allowed me some spare time in the kitchen and I spent every extra minute there was "playing" and trying new tasty treats. I had bookmarked so many recipes, most I didn't get to, but the ones I did...I experienced great successes.

I have to say that at the top of my success list is this delicious bread. When I read through the recipe in Martha's Baking Handbook, I was hooked. My two favorites are yeast breads, especially homemade and of course every woman's love...chocolate. Oh my, just reading the recipe practically had me drooling all over the page. Embarrassing.

The dough was so easy to mix and knead together and smelled amazing as it was rising in the breakfast nook. There's something about making homemade yeast bread that gives me great pleasure and a feeling of profound accomplishment. After the dough has doubled in size, you divide the dough into 3 equal portions and "sprinkle" with the 2 POUNDS of chocolate filling. After rolling the dough jelly roll style, the bread is again sprinkled with more chocolate then shaped into a horseshoe and twisted.

It's now time to prepare the streusel topping...yeah, I know, the bread already sounded rich and wonderful, but we're about to make rich and wonderful even better! The topping is a combination of butter, flour and powdered sugar. Ooo-la-la! Sprinkle over the dough and let the loaves rise for another 4o minutes, then it's time for the magic. Baking.

When these beautiful babies came out of the oven, my little babies came-a-runnin'! The aroma of the chocolate and yeast permeated our entire house and smelled absolutely divine. We couldn't wait to cut a slice or two to taste, but from experience with filled breads, I knew the loaves had to cool completely before we savored it.
The waiting was worth every minute! My foodie friends, I think these loaves are a small slice of heaven on earth. This bread is divinely delicious! It's filled with yummy rich with chocolate, the crust was perfectly soft on the sides and the streusel topping was wonderful.
As you read through the recipe, don't be put off by the length of it! I found that because Martha is so thorough in the explanation of preparing this bread, it makes for very long, detailed directions. I was extremely thankful for her details, it helped me to prepare my bread to look almost identical to hers. I love it when that happens. :) Enjoy!
Chocolate Babkas
1 1/2 cups warm milk (110 degrees)
2 envelopes (1/3 ounce each) active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups plus a pinch of sugar
3 whole large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 sticks (1 3/4 cups) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temp., plus more for bowl and pans
2 pounds semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Streusel Topping (recipe following)
In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast and a pinch of sugar over the warm milk; stir until dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and the yolks; add yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add the egg mixture, and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough hook. Add 2 sticks butter and beat until completely incorporated and a smooth, soft dough forms, about 10 minutes. The dough should still be slightly sticky when squeezed.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead a few times until smooth. Place dough in a well-buttered bowl, and turn to coat with butter. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
In a bowl, stir together chocolate, remaining cup sugar, and the cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in remaining 1 1/2 sticks butter until combined; set aside filling. (I used my new food processor for this and it worked great!)
Generously butter three 9-by-5-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pans and line with parchment paper, leaving a 1 1/2 inch overhang along the long sides. Brush more butter over the parchment, and set aside. Punch down the dough, and transfer to a clean work surface. Let the dough rest 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the remaining egg with the cream. Cut dough into three equal pieces. On a well-floured work surface, roll out one piece of dough to a 16-inch square, about 1/8 inch thick. (Keep other pieces covered with plastic wrap while you work. Brush edges of dough with the egg wash. Crumble one-third of the chocolate filling evenly over dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border on the long sides. Roll up dough lengthwise into a tight log, pinching ends together to seal. Twist dough evenly down the length of the log, a full five or six times. Brush to top of the log with egg wash. Crumble 2 tablespoons filling down the center of the log, being careful not to let mixture slide off. Fold log in half into a horseshoe shape, then cross the right half over the left. Pinch ends together to seal and form a figure eight. Twist two more times, and fit into a prepared pan. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the lower third. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash; sprinkle with one-third of the Streusel Topping. Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until dough has expanded and feels pillowy, about 40 minutes.
Bake loaves, rotating halfway through, until golden, about 55 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees; bake until loaves are deep golden, 20 to 30 minutes more. (If the tops begin to brown too quickly, tent with aluminum foil.) Transfer pans to wire racks to cool completely. Babkas can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Streusel Topping
1 2/3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
Combine sugar and flour in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger clumps remaining.
**Note** A babka can be frozen in the pan for up to a month before baking. When ready to bake, remove from freezer, let stand at room temperature for about five hours. Be careful not to underbake; otherwise, the center may not set properly.
Source: Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook


Megan said...

Wow - that looks great! I made a babka (Nick Maglieri's recipe) a few months ago, and it was amazing. I have Martha's book and I'll have to try that one as a comparison.

annieseats said...

This looks so amazing! I love yeast breads for the same reasons as you, and anything that comes out looking this cool - well, I just have to try it!

Linda said...

OK, I am not a yeast baker, but you are inspiring me to try this.
It looks so delicious.
Also congrats on the new baby in your family. Our own little granddaughter turned 1 on Christmas Day..the greatest goft we received last year!

I love your recipes and hope to try some of them!

Sophie said...

Yeast breads can be quite difficult sometimes, but yours came out flawless! Chocolate and bread, two of my favorite things. I can smell the heavenly aroma from here :)! I would love to make a gluten-free version of this :D.