If Rita Ora had eaten this babka before attending the Oscar’s, she’d likely have rolled up in a Moo Moo instead of a Marchesa. Oh but it would have been worth it! Besides, like most of these Oscar-goers it looks like she could really use a little babka binge or cheese-burger force feeding. Am I right?
This babka, or Krantz cake is probably a prime contender for nursing the malnourished back to health. It. is. dec-a-deeeent. Babka’s, as you can imagine, are definitely in the royal family of Jew food along with bagels and lox, challah, rainbow cake, and brisket. Growing up in north-west Baltimore, which has the largest Jewish population per-capita outside of Tel Aviv, all of these foods, luckily, grow on trees. They were often on the table for holiday meals and occasionally on Fridays, if my mother caved to her sweet tooth during the week. Our challahs and sweets, for a time, came from Adler’s bakery, which has, sadly, since shuttered to make way for a yolo or yogola or something (one of those 100 handle fro-yo chains).
So if you, like me, can’t remember the last time you saw a real Jewish bakery selling freshly made babka (chocolate, or strudel, or cinnamon, or cheese even), I suggest you take note of the ingredients above, and get to baking!
This recipe for babka is modified slightly from Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Jerusalem, which I think has become one of my all-time favorites. Although they say that babka takes a ton of time to make, it doesn’t. If you split the recipe into two parts–dough making v. babka prepping and cooking), it is definitely manageable. The most challenging part, as with any yeasty cake or bread, is forming the dough. If you haven’t made bread before or aren’t gifted with a bread-making gene, consider this just a test run. It’s hard, so don’t get too disappointed, if you need to try again.
Kind of lumpy…I really thought I had done something wrong!
To make this babka, first gather all of your ingredients. Most importantly, separate out those ingredients you’ll use for the dough from those you will use for the chocolate filling and for the syrup. Before starting, cut your butter into cubes and wait until the butter is at room temperature. Seriously, wait.
To start, combine the flour, lemon zest, and yeast in the bowl of your stand-mixer and mix using the dough hook. Add in the eggs and allow to mix for a few seconds. Follow with the water and mix on medium-high for 5 minutes, until the the ingredients are incorporated and the dough begins to form. If you make a mistake and only use large eggs v. extra large eggs, your babka dough will be too dry. If this happens, you can add 3/4 of another large egg and another 1/2 cup of water. Regardless of what type of eggs you use, the dough may appear lumpy or dry at this point. I wish I had taken a picture of mine. I was pretty worried I had messed it up. Have no fear though, because my babka was top notch! Once the eggs and water are combined, add the butter cubes in one at a time transforming the dry gross dough into creamy goodness.:) Mix for another 10 minutes or until the ingredients are nice and incorporated. If you’re lucky and you’ve done everything perfectly, the dough will be smooth, elastic, and shiny. If not, the dough may seem slightly lumpy, when you form it into a ball (like mine above), but fear not–smooth or lumpy, I’m here to tell you it makes no difference!
Bring the dough together with floured hands and form into a ball. Brush a large bowl with canola/sunflower oil and place the dough ball inside. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge over night. Oh yes…and now for the fun part!
On medium-high heat, melt the dark chocolate in a double-boiler, filling the water in the base pot no more than half-way. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can place a sautee pan on top of pot of boiling water. It won’t fit as snuggly, but it works just as well. Melt the chocolate until its nice and smooth.
Sift the confectioner’s sugar and the cocoa powder together and combine in a stand mixer. Add the chocolate to the powdery mixture. I added mine all at once–totally fine–and mixed the ingredients until small chocolatey beads formed.
In a small sauce pan, melt the remaining butter and pour slowly into the chocolate mixture. This will cause the mixture to turn into a nice and creamy chocolate paste.
I may or may not have had my butter at room temperature…
Little chocolate babka shout out for marriage equality 😉
Cut the dough in two. Place one on a floured surface to be rolled out. Place the other back in the bowl and pop back into the fridge. Roll half of the dough out into a 15 x 11 inch rectangle. Trim the edges as necessary, spread half of the chocolate paste onto the dough leaving a 3/4” border. Sprinkle with coconut shavings and 1 tbsp of sugar.
Using a pastry brush (if you don’t have a pastry brush, use a wet towel and dab), brush one of the width-borders of the dough with water. This will help seal the dough as you roll it up. Now starting with the other end…roll!
Roll the dough up completely and seal together. Flip the dough over so that it’s resting seam down. Make sure the roll is nice and even in thickness. Smooth it out a bit if necessary. Trim 3/4” off of the edges, so that you expose the chocolate and dough rings.
Now cut the dough in half length-wise. Into two even pieces. Bring the two pieces together at the end farthest away from you and give them a good smush, so that they stay stuck together. Now twist the two babka pieces together (place left side over the right side and then the left over the right). When you do this, the babka pieces will likely open slightly, exposing the filling. This is fine. It’s what makes the final product look so good!
Oil a loaf pan (use a paper towel to wipe the oil around the pan). Gently lift the babka twist into the pan. Cover with a wet towel and set the babka aside to rise slightly for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough.
Preheat the oven to 375 F and bake for 30 minutes. Test the loaf at 30 minutes using a toothpick. It should come out clear. Depending upon the oven and loaf pan you use, the loaf could be perfectly done at 30 minutes, or need additional time. I had one end up perfect at 30 minutes and another at 45 minutes.
While the babkas cook, make the syrup. Combine the sugar and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from the heat. As soon as the babkas come out of the oven, brush the syrup over the cakes. It will seem like a lot of syrup, but the cakes will soak it up. Yum yum yum! Allow them to cool in the pans before removing. Enjoy!
Oh pssst…if you saved any remaining chocolate pieces, coconut and dough scraps you can roll them out into a small dough sheet, roll them up again like you did to make the babka, cut it into small rings, toss those rings into a Ziploc bag with sugar and cinnamon, pop into a ramekin, cover with maple syrup and bake at 350F for 20 mins for a new twist on monkey bread!
- 4¼ cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp yeast (1 package fleishman's)
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- 3 extra large eggs
- ½ cup water
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅔ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- canola oil for greasing loaf pans
- ½ cup confectioner's sugar
- ⅓ cup cocoa powder
- 4½ oz dark chocolate (70%)
- ½ cup melted unsalted butter
- 1 cup coconut shavings
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup water
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- mix together flour, sugar, yeast, and zest in a stand mixer with a dough hook.
- Add eggs and water and mix on medium for 5 minutes until the dough forms.
- Add the salt and the butter cubes one at a time. Mix for an additional 10 minutes on medium.
- Form the dough into a ball with well-floured hands. Place the dough into a large bowl brushed with canola oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place int the fridge over night.
- Grease two loaf pans (9x4inches) with canola oil. Cut the dough in half, placing one half onto a well-floured surface to be rolled out and the other place back into the bowl in the fridge.
- Sift the cocoa powder and confectioner's sugar. Melt the chocolate and add to the cocoa and confectioner's sugar. Melt the butter and add slowly to the mixture until a smooth chocolatey paste forms.
- Roll the dough out into a 15 x 11 inch rectangle. Trim the rectangle as necessary.
- Using a spatula, spread half of the chocolate paste over the dough leaving a ¾ inch border.
- Sprinkle the coconut over the chocolate
- Sprinkle 1 tbsp of sugar over the coconut.
- Brush water over one of the width-borders so that you can easily seal the babka when you roll it up.
- Starting from the other end, roll the babka up into a roulade.
- Seal the roll and place seam down.
- Trim ¾ inch off of both sides exposing the chocolate rings.
- Cut the babka length-wise into two equal pieces.
- Fold the left side over the right side, then the left side over the right side again.
- Gently place the babka into the greased pans.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F
- Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Combine ⅔ cup water with 1¼ cup sugar into a small pot. Bring to a boil and remove from heat as soon as the sugar dissolves completely and the syrup is clear.
- Brush the cakes as soon as they come out of the oven with all of the syrup.
- Cool to warm and serve!
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