Saturday, November 2, 2013

Chocolate Babka

Last weekend was my birthday. The days leading up it I was caught up with extreme fatigue at work, my long commutes and early wake up calls sometimes bring me down. Besides, the bewilderment of being another year ‘wiser’ seemed unreal. When Friday finally came, I was ready to parrrrty. I went to Reservoir Lounge with some close friends, enjoyed many sweet cocktails (Mmm I can still taste the strawberry coconut martini), not to mention the tequila shots my friends bought me, and one of them made peanut butter cupcakes with the most decadent chocolate frosting I've ever had. We drank some more then danced a little. We left after midnight, and my boyfriend, Jacques, drove us home.

The next day we slept in, had a lazy morning drinking coffee and reading the paper, Jacques and I planned our pub crawl for the night. We managed to hit Biermarkt, Lou Dawg's for chili cheese poutine, and then Bassline. It's rare that we get to spend the whole day together and it was awesome. He spoiled me and I was thankful for it, he’s my instant cheerer-upper.

I didn't bake for my birthday, but I didn't make this a few weeks ago. It's kind of a chocolate croissant-challah hybrid if you will. I ate two thick slices still piping hot from the oven. The crust is amazing. It's a gorgeous golden colour, with the same buttery, flakiness like a fresh croissant just slightly thicker. The bread itself is rich and buttery, yet each bite is pillowy and intoxicating with melted chocolate. If you're impatient like me and cut into it before it has time to cool down, warm air escapes, letting out a scent of warm chocolate and sugar. Promise me you'll make it and then rave to all your family and friends how good it is. Please, spread the word, everyone has got to know how good fucking good this is.

I know the recipe is long, I looked at it once and immediately turned up my nose, ready to find another simpler project to do, but trust me on this, you won’t regret making this babka. It’s a sure crowd-pleaser that you will make over and over again.

Chocolate Babka
From Epicurious

The dough is quite different from other yeast-based breads I've made, there's a lot more butter and its added last to the dough, something I haven't done before, but once its done and you take your first bite, you will know why all that butter is worth it. For elaborate recipes like this, I like to read it a few times over first so I know what I’m doing. You will need a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, 2 regular loaf pans, and parchment paper.

Ingredients for the dough

3/4 cup warm milk (105–115°F)
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons active dry yeast (from two 1/4-oz packages)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
2 whole large eggs
1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened

For egg wash

1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

For chocolate filling
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, well softened
6-7 ounces dark chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
1/4 cup sugar 

Preparation for the dough

Stir together warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in bowl of mixer. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast doesn't foam, discard and start over with new yeast.) Line each loaf pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper (1 lengthwise and 1 crosswise).

Add 1/2 cup flour to yeast mixture and beat at medium speed until combined. Add whole eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low, then mix in remaining two 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium, then beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to beat until dough is shiny and forms strands from paddle to bowl, about 4 minutes. (Dough will be very soft and sticky.)

Scrape dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Assemble babkas with the filling
Punch down dough with a lightly oiled rubber spatula, then halve dough. Roll out 1 piece of dough on a well-floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into an 18- by 10-inch rectangle and arrange with a long side nearest you.
Beat together yolk and cream. Spread 2 1/2 tablespoons softened butter on dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Brush some of egg wash on long border nearest you.

Sprinkle half of chocolate evenly over buttered dough, then sprinkle with half of sugar (2 tablespoons). Starting with long side farthest from you, roll dough into a snug log, pinching firmly along egg-washed seam to seal. Bring ends of log together to form a ring, pinching to seal. Twist entire ring twice to form a double figure 8 and fit into one of lined loaf pans.

Make another babka with remaining dough, some of egg wash, and remaining butter and chocolate in same manner. 
Chill remaining egg wash, covered, to use later. Loosely cover pans with buttered plastic wrap (buttered side down) and let babkas rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until dough reaches top of pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Alternatively, let dough rise in pans in refrigerator 8 to 12 hours; bring to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours, before baking.) 

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Brush tops of dough with remaining egg wash. Bake until tops are deep golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped (when loaves are removed from pans), about 40 minutes. Transfer loaves to a rack and cool to room temperature.

Recipe here!

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