Chocolate Babka with cinnamon and spice

I typically don’t bake sweets.  I’m not big on cakes, pies or cookies.  Not on baking them, not on eating them.

Well, my blueberry yogurt cake is a little sweet, but you know what I mean.

Anyhoo.  My office is hosting a bake-off this Friday, and entries must be sweet.  I brainstormed with Mr. Bread Maiden about making the blueberry yogurt cake, since it’s super easy and I would have to make this thing on a weeknight.  He said that wasn’t special enough.  So instead, I came up with this: chocolate babka.

I’ve never made one before, but Peter Reinhart has a recipe in Artisan Breads Every Day, and the man has never steered me wrong.

Also, one of my favorite baking blogs, Smitten Kitchen, made a beautiful babka pattern that I’ve been itching to try.

For two bread-pan-sized loaves, you will need:

For the dough:
2 Tbs instant yeast
¾ cup milk, warmed
6 Tbs/85 g melted butter
6 Tbs/85 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
3 1/3 cups/425 g flour (all-purpose or bread flour)
1½ tsp salt

For the filling:

170 g cold semisweet chocolate (chips, chunks, or chopped)

50 g cold dark chocolate with chili powder
¾ tsp cinnamon (more if you like)
¼ cup/57 g cold butter, cut into small pieces

For the glaze:

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup hot water

1. Mix the yeast and milk in a small bowl; set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.  add the vanilla to the eggs and then add them one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture.  Then add the flour until it is the consistency of bread crumbs.

Add the yeast and milk and knead the dough for five minutes on medium speed.

3. Let the dough rest for about ten minutes, then transfer to a large oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

4. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling.  Using a food processor, pulse the chocolate until it is very fine.

Add the cinnamon, then the cold butter until it almost comes together.

I didn’t have enough regular chocolate so I added some chili powder chocolate.  I was hoping it would give the bread a tiny kick but you really can’t taste it.

 Transfer the chocolate to a small pyrex bowl and microwave until melted, about one minute.

Peter Reinhart says to spread the chocolate onto a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, then refrigerate the chocolate until it is firm.  But Deb Perelman doesn’t have you refrigerate the chocolate, and I think next time I’ll skip that step.  I think it would roll easier if it were melted.

5. When your dough has risen about 1 1/2 times its original size, place it on a clean, floured counter and cut it in half.  

Roll one half into a large rectangle, then spread the filling into a thin film on the dough.  Carefully roll the dough up, then cut it straight down the middle using a pastry scraper.

This method of braiding the babka is Israeli in origin and called a Krantz cake. 

6. Spread out your two halves next to each other, pinching one set of ends together.  Carefully braid the two halves together so the layers of chocolate and dough are visible.  When you are done, pinch the bottom ends together.  Transfer the dough to a bread pan lined with parchment paper.

7. Repeat steps #5 and #6 with the second half of dough.

8.  When your dough have risen to about the top of your bread pan, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Generously brush your sugar glaze over the top of each loaf.  Bake the loaves for 20-25 minutes, then rotate and continue baking until each is a deep, deep brown.

 9. Remove loaves from the oven and let cool in the bread pans for about 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.  Slice when the loaves have completely cooled.

Fingers crossed, guys!  The bread tastes like angels singing, but it’s pretty understated as far as sweets go.

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