Today’s baking inspiration came from Epicurious in the form of chocolate babka. This is actually one of my favorite recipes in the world, so if you have questions about it please email me.
Here are a few chocolate babka photos taken through the years.
At one point I wanted to use babka as a food swap item at the Chicago Food swap, so I started making four mini loaves instead of the usual two. It worked out just fine and no adjustments were needed. Even the baking time remained more or less the same, with mine reaching an internal temperature of 205 at 45 minutes. But these days I usually just make the two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaves.
The only caveat here is that you need to get the flour amount just right. The recipe calls for 3 1/4 cups of flour and doesn’t give a weight. I weighed the flour and it turned out to be about 17.5 oz — so each cup is a little over 5 ounces by weight. For those of you who generally get 4.5 oz per cup of flour, keep that in mind. Despite being a soft, stretchy dough, it’s actually pretty easy to work with and not too sticky thanks to all the butter.
Chocolate Babka Photos
I’ve added a few more photos of the process. Photography is not my strong suit, but even bad photos might be helpful, so here’s a little collage showing the steps. This is half the dough, which makes two mini loaves or one 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf. In the first photo you have half the dough that’s been rolled into a cylinder and cut into two logs. In the second photo the logs have been split vertically and are ready for twisting. Third photo shows two twists and the fourth shows the twists squished into loaf pans.
Here’s a new photo showing what the twists look like squished into 8 1/2 b 4 1/2 inch pans. Instead of putting one twists in each pan as you would for the four mini loaves, you put two twists side by side in each of the larger pans to make two loaves.
Chocolate Babka Mini Loaves
- 3 1/2 cups 17 ounces bread flour plus additional for dusting
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons fast rising yeast or 3 teaspoons active dry
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup very warm milk 125F
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon whole milk
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 oz Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips 60%
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar I use super fine
- Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attached.
- Add milk and stir until well mixed, then add the eggs, yolk and vanilla and continue mixing until blended. Add the butter a chunk or two at a time and continue mixing, scraping down sides of bowl with a scraper.
- Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer and let the dough hook knead for about 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky and should not completely leave the sides of the bowl as it is being kneaded. To make sure the dough feels right, stop the kneading occasionally and push dough off the side of the bowl and into the center with a scraper. It will be a sticky dough, but kneading it should give it some elasticity. If it is incredibly sticky and not leaving the side of the bowl as it is kneaded, dust sides of the bowl with a little flour.
- Scrape the dough into a bowl that has been greased very well with oil and roll the dough around so that it’s slick. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 40 minutes to an hour with the fast rising yeast). You should have 2 pounds 3 oz (35 oz) of dough. It should be a slick and oily dough. While the dough is rising, you may want to go ahead and get your egg yolk/milk mixture ready and prep your chocolate filling ingredients.
- Once the dough has risen, lay out a big pastry mat. You shouldn't need to flour the mat because the dough should be oily and not at all sticky. If the dough is sticky for some reason, you can use a little flour. Do what you need to do to control that dough!
- Take half of the dough (17 1/2 oz) and put it on the pastry mat. Press and roll or pat it into a 16x11 inch rectangle. The 16 inch side should be on the bottom closest to you.
- Prepare filling. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a microwave-safe bowl (I use a 2 cup Pyrex) on high stirring every 30 seconds. When completely melted, stir in the sugar.
- Now you are going to spread half the chocolate mixture across your rectangle, but before you do brush a little of the egg yolk/milk mixture along the 16 inch side of the rectangle.
- Now spread half of the chocolate mixture all over the rectangle as evenly as you can.
- Working from the 16 inch side, roll upward into a tight 16 inch jellyroll and pinch edges to seal. You can use a bench scraper or thin spatula to loosen dough from mat and push upward as you roll. Now you should have a messy 16 (ish) inch jellyroll.
- Carefully transfer the jellyroll to a piece of parchment and then to the freezer to set the chocolate. Don't worry too much if the log gets a little messed up during the moving process, just get it in the freezer. Repeat with the remaining dough and chocolate so that you have two jellyrolls. Let them both sit in the freezer for about 15 minutes.
- While the dough is in the freezer, grease four 5x3 inch loaf pans (or if making 2 loaves, use two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans), line with strips of parchment and dust with flour.
- Remove one of your jellyrolls from the freezer and set it on the pastry mat. At this point it will be slightly firm and cold but still malleable. With your hands, gently "neaten it" a bit so it's 16 inch cylinder. Cut in half crosswise so you have two 8 inch pieces. Take one of the pieces and cut lengthwise, exposing chocolate. Put the split pieces on their backs cut side up. Pinch the tops of the split pieces together and bring one strand over the other, alternating each time, until you have a twist. Squish the twist into a 3x5 inch loaf pan. Repeat with remaining half of the jellyroll plus the one you have in the freeze to make a total of four loaves.
- If you are making two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaves rather than four, the method will be similar. Take one of your jellyrolls out of the freezer, spiff it up to make it a neat cylinder, then cut it in half cross-wise to make two 8 inch pieces. Take one piece and split it lengthwise, then twist the halves together. Set lengthwise in the 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch pan. Repeat with remaining 8 inch piece and lay your new twist adjacent to the other one in the pan. Squish ends of the two twists together and taper a little. Take the second 16 inch jellyroll out of the freezer and repeat the process so that you have two loaves total. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and let rise for about 40 minutes (or 70 minutes if you used active dry and not fast rising).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush tops with remaining egg wash and sprinkle with sparkling sugar if desired. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted reads 205 degrees F.
- Let cool completely (or let cool and freeze), then slice and reheat just slightly.
For the chocolate filling, I've used all kinds of chocolate and really like the results I get with melted Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet Chips. When melted chopped chocolate is used, the filling spreads more and is a bit greasier, whereas with the melted chip mixture it doesn't ooze as much. Other recipes call for brushing the babka with butter, sprinkling with finely chopped chocolate and sugar. Those are probably great, but I have grown accustomed to the nice even distribution of melted chocolate.