So lets break it up shall we first..What in the world is babka?
Babka is a sweet rich bread traditionally made in Jewish households though not as loved as you would think(come on look at the picture!).That’s because the last century babka bread was dry and dairy free as opposed to the the modern day version which is a soft rich bread – cake which has the best of all worlds.It’s a love child of bread, croissant and cake, if three could produce a child that is.It’s probably best described as a sweet yeasted bread with a decadent filling.
Today’s Babka has eggs, butter and milk giving it the richness a sweet bread deserves but the real clincher is in the filling.The best filling is chocolate(obviously).That said, there are other equally intriguing non chocolate fillings like-cinnamon,peanut butter,custard which are also quite enticing(if you take chocolate out of picture).
The recipe I have followed is from the book How to Bake Everything,by Mark Bittman. This recipe yields two loaves so I have made the two classics-Chocolate and Cinnamon Honey.Ideally you can proof(let it rise) the bread for 1 to 2 hours but I stuck it in the fridge for about 10 hours following the science of the No knead bread where slow fermentation results in an automatic gluten formation.(yes its true!You can see it with your own eyes)
Every time I start a diet, the one thing that stops me is not chocolate or sugar but bread that I will have to give up.My favourite thing to do it to sit by a cafe, on a cobble stoned pavement ,sip on my coffee and eat a chocolate croissant while reading a book.Did I conjure up Paris for you?I have gone to Paris once and I did whole sipping coffee in quaint cafes all day long..for 3 days..and now I am caught in a never ending dream where every night I am eating soft buttery flaky croissants along with butter basil escargots.
Since that dream is a little far away I decided to take the matters in my own hand, literally. A coffee is doable but a croissant is something very very cumbersome to put together, oh and escargots are simply unrealistic to source in India.The dough making process in a croissant is not something I am ready to tackle in my culinary journey at the moment so I settled for making a Chocolate babka instead.
Dark Chocolate inside soft buttery folds of a rich bread with a just brewed cup of my favourite coffee can banish staunchest of demons.I can vouch for it!
Tips on making the best Chocolate Babka By Hand
It’s easy to make the dough if you have a stand mixer or a food processor with the dough making attachment.Any bread needs to be kneaded to develop gluten which can be done in about 1 minute in the food processor of your choice and a minute by hand, but if you are relying only on your bare hands to get the dough together it will take time but I promise you all this effort will yield the best sweet bread of your life.
Take your time incorporating the liquids in the flour and once all the loose flour has been incorporated together start kneading.I find the traditional Indian way of kneading the best, in a large flat shallow bowl(parat as called in Hindi) but you can also do this on a counter.The best and fastest way to develop gluten is to keep a firm hand on the dough and pull the dough from the side with he other hand and laying it back on the dough.This is called the pull method of making the dough.This needs to be repeated in quick successions for about 15-20 minute to develop adequate gluten which will make your bread soft.
Where hand kneading is to be done for atleast 15 minutes, when kneading in a food processor with blades, only process for a maximum of 1 minute because the blades in a processor can end up breaking the gluten bonds instead of forming them.
The last trick up your sleeve is a long and slow rise in the fridge.A bread which is left to its own devices in the fridge will develop its own gluten without too much of heavy kneading.This is the principle employed in making the No Knead breads.
How to Eat Babka
I can eat this straight out of my oven, getting my hands burnt in the process, but the right thing to do is to let it rest for at-least 30 minute before cutting it open.This will ensure the moisture is retained.
I can have this everyday for breakfast with some soft butter.But that said it makes a mean French toast and off course a meaner bread pudding!
Serves: 2 loafs
- 3½ Cups All Purpose Flour
- 2 tsp instant Yeast
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- 2 tbsp Cold Butter
- 2 Eggs
- 1½ Cup Milk(Lukewarm)
- ½ Cup Chopped Chocolate
- 5 tbsp Butter
- ¼ Cup of water
- ¼ Cup of Sugar
- Add the flour, yeast,salt,sugar and cold butter in the food processor.
- Pulse till the butter disintegrates and mixes with the flour.(but you should see the specks)
- Add the eggs one by one while keeping the food processor on.
- Trickle in the 1 cup of milk.The dough should start to come together now.Process for 10 more seconds.
- Take the dough out.If it seems to dry add ½ cup of milk in increments till you get a soft dough.
- Mix in the flour, yeast,sugar and salt in a large sturdy bowl.Add the cold cubed butter.
- Now pinch the butter with your index finger and thumb and mix it with the flour.Rub the butter in the flour till you don't have any big cubes of butter left but small clumps of it.
- Add the eggs and 1 cup milk.Start by mixing and wetting all the ingredients.Once the dough starts to come together ,add more milk in ¼ cup increments if the dough is dry or if its too wet add more flour.
- Knead the dough well for about 10 minute. Strech and fold..and Repeat.This is done t develop Gluten.If this step is omitted the bread will be chewy instead of pillowy.
- Use a large bowl for this step. It should be big enough to fit a triple amount of the dough.
- The quick way is to keep the kneaded bread in a bowl, covered with wet kitchen towel for 2-4 hours.
- The easier way is to keep the dough in a covered bowl(use cling film) in the fridge for 8-10 hours.
- If in the fridge,Take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
- Knead the dough for 2 minutes to make it pliable.Divide it into two halves.
- Make a Ball of the one halve and roll it into a rectangle.About ¼ inch thick.
- Spread the butter in the rectangle by leaving 1 inch space.Sprinkle the chopped Chocolate.Roll it from the longer side to make a long log.
- Keep it in the fridge for 10 minutes to make it easier to cut.
- Cut the log along its length and then braid it.Lift this into a prepared loaf pan lined with parchment paper.
- Let it rise for another 30 min-1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
- Bake the babka in the oven for about 40 minutes.
- Bread is done if the skewer inserted comes in clean.Also when you knock on the back of the bread and it feels hollow.
- Make this ahead of time so that it can be brushed over the bread as soon as its out of the oven.
- Heat the sugar and water in a sauce pan together till the sugar crystals dissolve and the syrup thickens.
- Brush it generously over the babka for the beautiful glossy look.