Chocolate Babka

chocolate babka“Mmmm! Dad, this is probably the best thing we’ve ever made!”

Those were David’s words as he took a bite of the chocolate babka loaf that we’d left cooling for awhile after taking it out of the oven. And sure enough, it was quite amazing to taste – so good that it was not long after that the entire loaf had been devoured.

I had tried making it a couple of weeks earlier, and while it was good, it was not as good as I had hoped it would be. I know why it did not turn out as good as the second time: I did not let the dough warm up to room temperature long enough before putting it in the oven.  When I baked it a second time with my son, I did not make that mistake and the bread came out amazing!

I learned about this bread and how easy it is to make from Peter Reinhart’s video series on Artisan Bread Making. A fantastic course, by the way. I would never have thought to try this if I had not watched Mr. Reinhart make it. Some of my friends, family and acquaintances have seen photos of the finished baked chocolate loaf, and have asked for the recipe, so here goes:

One thing to be noted is that Peter Reinhart’s recipe calls for dark chocolate chips. I did not have those, but we had milk chocolate chips.  Even though we had to substitute the milk chocolate, it still came out very good. As well, you will need to start the dough the night before you want to bake the bread. Be sure to note that there is a recipe for the dough, and a separate recipe for the filling, which you can make just before you want to bake the bread.

Dough Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Instant Yeast
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 oz) Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 6 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 4 Egg Yolks
  • 3 1/3 Cups All-purpose flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt

Method for Dough (1st Day):

Heat the milk in a small pot to around 97F. Add the butter, stirring until thoroughly melted. Stir in the oil.

Whisk in the yeast, sugar, vanilla and egg yolks.

In a mixing bowl, add the flour and salt and then stir in the milk mixture. Continue to stir until thoroughly mixed and you should end up with a smooth, soft and sticky dough.

Transfer the dough to a floured or oiled surface where you can stretch and fold it several times. The dough should firm up, when you should then transfer it to a an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to make the loaf the next day, remove it from the refrigerator, and roll out the dough into a 15″ X 15″ square, with the dough about 1/4″ thick.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Chocolate Chips (we used milk chocolate, Mr. Reinhart used dark chocolate)
  • 8 Tablespoons (4 oz) Butter

With the chocolate chips in a mixing bowl, melt the butter and then pour over the chocolate chips. Mix thoroughly, coating all of the chips with melted butter. Some of the chocolate will melt a bit; you do not however need to try to melt them all.

Method To Finish Loaf (2nd Day):

Preheat oven to 325F.

After you have rolled out the dough, pour the chocolate/butter mixture onto the centre of the dough. Spread out leaving about a half inch border on all sides.  After you have evenly spread the filling, begin rolling the dough up, being sure to pinch the ends as you do to prevent the filling from leaking or squeezing out. You’re likely to get some filling on your fingers, and some will possibly squeeze out. Just rub it back into the dough.

After you have completely rolled the dough, cut it in half lengthwise, and then spiral the two parts together.

This will leave you with one very large loaf, or you can divide the dough into two, and bake two loaves in loaf pans.

babka loaf in loaf pan

Loaf resting in loaf pan before putting in oven.

Alternately, you could also bake one full loaf on parchment paper place on a baking sheet.  We decided to do two loaves, each in a loaf pan. If using loaf pans, make sure they are well greased.

Put the loaves in the loaf pans (or on the parchment paper lined sheet) and cover with plastic wrap for an hour before baking.

Peter Reinhart says that if you bake one full size loaf with this recipe (instead of dividing the dough into two), it will take 50 to 60 minutes to bake completely. We found that 35 minutes was perfect with the dough made into two separate loaves.

After baking, allow to cool for half an hour before removing from the loaf pan. It will still be quite warm and will need more time to cool before slicing and eating. You could also glaze the loaves as we did, using a mixture of 2 cups icing sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 cup of milk.

Enjoy. You will be wanting to make this again, soon!

babka slice

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Learn Artisan Bread Making

loaves of bread and irish soda farls

David & I Were Busy Today – No Knead Bread, a Pain de Campagne loaf, and Irish Soda Farls

Many years ago, I would admire the wonderful looking loaves of bread that I would come across in bakeries. They had both a visual appeal and that wonderful fresh baked scent, and I’d dream that maybe someday, I’d have the equipment and skills needed to bake such good bread! I had the erroneous belief that baking artisan and bakery quality bread was difficult, if not impossible, in a home kitchen. I thought you’d need special bake ovens, unique and expensive equipment, and thought it would be a lot of work.

While some artisan breads are a lot of work, you can make high quality loaves with basic equipment you have in your home, as well as that regular home kitchen oven.  I’ve been baking a variety of breads for decades, including sandwich loaves, Irish Soda Farls and Wheaten bread, but was afraid of attempting much more than that.

My first venture into trying artisan breads was about ten years ago, with the publication of the “No Knead” bread recipe in a major New York newspaper. Requiring little effort but lots of time, and only a dutch oven to bake it in, the no knead loaf was an immediate hit with guests and friends, and my son and I even baked about 12 loaves in one day for my mom’s wedding!

In the subsequent years, I’ve picked up a couple of amazing books by Peter Reinhart:

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread &

Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers

Both are wonderful books with lots of information and teaching and my copies are well used! In fact, I may need to replace them as they are always in my kitchen, have been spilled on, and the pages show much use including wear and tear. But even with these books, sometimes it would be nice to see how things are done, either watching Peter work in person, or perhaps in video.

Well, I discovered some time ago that Peter Reinhart teamed up with a crafts site that provides a variety of courses, and one of those courses is Peter teaching how to bake artisan bread with the use of video. I quickly signed up and have been learning ever since!  The course is wonderful as it provides a medium for being able to visualize what Peter is doing when he bakes his breads, and he is a wonderful teacher as well. The course starts out with an introduction to artisan baking along with important information to understand the entire making, baking, and eating of good quality bread. Peter refers to a 12 step process (yes, the last step is eating the bread!) that makes it easier to know what is going on and what makes a good bread, good.

In addition, the course then covers the following:

  • Country Bread Variation & Shaping Options
  • Rustic Breads including Pain a L’ancienne, Classic Ciabatta, Focaccia, and Mini Baguettes.
  • Enriched Bread including dinner rolls
  • Marble Rye (with a lesson on braiding)
  • Making Babka
  • And Much More!

I tried making the Chocolate Babka for a family Christmas event, and while it did not turn out quite as impressive looking, visually, as Peter’s did, I was quite pleased with the many comments about how good it tasted! It was my first time attempting at such a rich bread with chocolate (although Peter uses semi-sweet dark chocolate chips but all I had on hand were milk chocolate chips).

If you are interested in learning techniques for artisan bread baking (or improving on your present skills), I highly recommend this course:

Artisan Bread Making

I know you’ll love the course! Peter is a wonderful instructor, and the course also comes with downloadable resources in PDF format that you can print, including recipes and instructions.

Related:

 Improved Northern Irish Soda Farl

The Trouble With Wheat

Currant Soda Farls

French Pain de Campagne