Babka Stuffed with Chocolate, Cinnamon and Almonds.
A while back I read a book about woman who’s grandfather was a Jewish baker. In the story, her grandmother told her that the type of filling her grandfather put in that day’s Babka carried a message, and chocolate meant “I’m sorry.” She also said they ate a lot of chocolate babka.
Apart from finding that adorable, I had never heard of babka. So I looked it up. It looks like this….
So, yeah. I made some that day. And since once you have a bite of something this awesome, you want another… and another… and another…, my family ate Chocolate Almond Babka for dinner that night. Don’t judge.
Late that night, as we were drifting off to sleep (or perhaps into a sugar-induced coma), my husband mentions that his office is having a potluck the next day and everyone is supposed to bring something. Did I mention that it was late at night? And the potluck was the next day? And he doesn’t cook?
“No problem”, he says. “I’ll just pick something up at the store on the way.” I told him to take a loaf of Babka instead, because this recipe makes 3 loaves (!) and no family should eat three loaves of Chocolate Babka. So he did.
You know what else he had forgotten about? They were having a “Best Dessert” contest at this little shindig. This Babka took home the first place $50 prize. Score!
A few months later, we took a family vacation to New York. I was on the lookout for two things that are common place to New Yorkers, but which, growing up in Colorado, I had never tasted until I made them myself: New York Black and White Cookies and Babka. Here’s the verdict: We never had a Black and White Cookie that we liked as much as the ones I make. Sorry, New York. I love you, but I’m not impressed with your Black and Whites. But your Babka is TO DIE FOR.
We had Cinnamon Babka and Chocolate Babka from a couple different bakeries and it was all so amazing that I decided I needed to up my babka game. So, here is the new-and-improved-even-better-than-the-$50-prize-winning-loaves I originally made. I won’t say it’s better than what you can get in New York… but, since we’re not likely to jump on a plane every time we want Chocolate Babka, this is a very good alternative.
One final thing: this looks more difficult than it is. The trickiest part is folding in all those almonds and chocolate, which isn’t really a problem because as far as I’m concerned, whatever doesn’t make it into the dough is the baker’s reward. So, it’s all good.
- 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 4½ tsp active dry yeast
- ¾ cup, plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- ½ cup full-fat sour cream
- 2 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 sticks butter, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp cream
- 1½ lbs bittersweet good quality chocolate (at least 60% cocoa), finely chopped
- ¾ lb dry roasted almonds, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
- 6 tbsp dark rum
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp almond extract
- 1½ sticks butter, at room temperature
- 1⅔ cups confectioners sugar
- 1⅓ cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 12 tbsp (1½ sticks) butter, at room temperature
- Pour the milk into a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast and a tablespoon of sugar over the top. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the sour cream, ¾ cup sugar, eggs and egg yolks. Add the yeast mixture and whisk briefly to combine.
- Switch to the dough hook and gradually add about 5 cups of the flour, beating on low speed until a very soft dough forms, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the salt and mix 1 minute more.
- Continuing to knead the dough in the mixer on low speed, add the butter bit by bit, incorporating it into the dough. Add 1 more cup of flour as needed to create a smooth, soft dough that's slightly sticky. This will take about 10 minutes of continuous mixing.
- Butter a large bowl or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Turn the dough out onto a countertop, form it into a large ball, place in the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap that is also buttered or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and set aside in a warm place to rise until it'd doubled in bulk, 2 to 2½ hours.
- Place the chocolate, almonds, sugar, cinnamon, salt, brown sugar, rum and extracts in a large bowl and stir to combine. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the chocolate almond mixture until thoroughly mixed in. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- Put all the streusel ingredients into a medium bowl and mash together with a fork or your fingers to make clumps. Cover and place in the refrigerator.
- Generously butter three 9x5x2¾ inch load pans, or spray with non-stick cooking spray, and then line them with parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment paper, or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
- Make the egg wash by whisking the egg and cream together in a small bowl with a fork until combined. Set aside
- When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a clean work surface and cut into 3 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and let rest, covered with plastic wrap, for 5 minutes.
- Keep 2 pieces covered while working with the first piece. Roll the dough into a 16-inch square. (*NOTE: Because of the butter content of the dough, it shouldn't stick to your work surface. However, if it does, just lightly flour the surface as needed.) Crumble ⅓ of the chocolate-almond filling evenly over the dough, leaving a ¼-inch border. Roll the dough up tightly like a jelly roll and pinch the ends together to seal. Twist the roll 5 or 6 turns and then fold the dough in half so that the ends meet. Pinch the ends together to seal. Twist once more and place into one of the prepared pans. Repete with the remaining pieces of dough and filling.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush the top of each loaf with the egg wash and crumble ⅓ of the streusel over each. Cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with non-stick baking spray and let rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes.
- Bake the loaves for 65 minutes, until golden. Reduce the temperature to 325 and bake about 20 minutes longer until they are deep golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Remove from the pans and serve.