Cakes & Bakes

Chocolate Babka

Time: 10 minutes in the Thermomix; 2–2½ hours resting of the dough; 10 minutes assembling; 40–45 minutes baking
Yield: 12, makes 1 jumbo loaf

The origins of the babka—meaning “little grandmother” in several of the languages of Eastern Europe—are shrouded in mystery. It’s strongly associated with the Baltic states, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, but the inclusion of chocolate in so many recipes for this yeasty treat has led some food historians to believe it was first made in the Mediterranean. For hundreds of years, chocolate was a rare and unaffordable luxury for the Jews of Europe’s east—but in the sunnier south, there was a strong tradition of Jewish chocolatiers. 

Ari Weinzweig, writing in The Atlantic, notes that while one school of thought suggests the first babka emerged from an oven in Ukraine, historian Lesley Chamberlain believes it was a type of panettone brought from Italy to Poland. The person deemed responsible was Bona Sforza—a daughter of Milan’s most noble family who, at the age of 26, was selected by the recently widowed King Sigismund I The Old of Poland (he was also Grand Duke of Lithuania) to be his new bride. 

Bona is reputed to have been hot-tempered. Although the marriage lasted 30 years and produced six children, she and her much older (and apparently much calmer) husband were known to disagree. Perhaps this chocolate-spiked take on a sweet Italian bread was a post-argument peace offering. Or, as Weinzweig argues is more likely, the chocolate babka is “a mid-century American Jewish invention”.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the light and lovely texture infused with the flavours of vanilla, orange zest and chocolate—fit for a queen, or for a treasured grandmother.

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Chocolate Babka
Bakba Dough
80 grams sugar
zest of ½ orange
440 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons dried yeast
90 grams buttermilk or milk
120 grams butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sea salt
Filling
75 grams good quality dark chocolate
75 grams butter
45 grams castor sugar
15 grams cocoa powder
pinch of salt
Streusel (optional)
20 grams plain flour
20 grams light brown sugar
15 grams butter, cold
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
15 grams dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs
To Assemble/Glaze
1 egg white
Method
  1. For the dough, place sugar and orange zest in the bowl and whizz 10 seconds/speed 10. Add flour, yeast and combine 5 seconds/speed 7. Set aside.
  2. Without washing the bowl, warm buttermilk/milk and butter 2 minutes/50 degrees/speed 2.
  3. Add eggs, vanilla and salt, return the dry ingredients mixture to the bowl and blend 10 seconds/speed 6 then Knead 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer this dough to a lightly oiled bowl , cover with cling film (or wrap in silcone) and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1–1½ hours).
  5. Meanwhile, make the chocolate filling by grating the chocolate 5 seconds/speed 7. Add butter and melt 3 minutes/50 degrees/speed 2. Add the sugar, cocoa and salt and mix 30 seconds/speed 3. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  6. To assemble, roll out the dough to a rectangle about 45 x 25 centimetres on a floured surface. Spread the chocolate filling evenly, leaving 2-centimetre borders on the long sides of the dough. Brush the long edges with egg white and roll the dough up along its length, pressing the edge to seal so you end up with a long sausage. 
  7. Using a sharp knife, cut this roll in half lengthwise then carefully twist the 2 pieces around each other like a plait to create those beautiful twisted layers. Transfer into a prepared greased jumbo bread tin with the cut side of the dough up . Cover and prove a second time in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
  8. Make the streusel, if using, by placing all the ingredients in the bowl except chocolate chips/cacao nibs and blitz 8 seconds/speed 6. Add the chocolate chips/cacao nibs and mix 4 seconds/speed 4. Reserve in the fridge until needed.
  9. When ready to bake, brush the surface of the dough with egg white. Sprinkle some streusel over (if using) and bake for 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 180C. Cover with foil and bake for a further 10–15 minutes if needed—a skewer inserted in the middle should come out dry.

2 Comments

Jr166's picture
Jr166 3 months 2 weeks ago

The flavor of the bread is great. Mine created quite a dry crust, so personally I prefer the inside to the outside of the loaf. Only having regular loaf tins, I created two. When slicing the dough, I found it easier to use my pizza cutter rather than the knife. Also I left one end of the dough attached when cutting it, so that it was easier for me to wrap the two pieces over each other. Would be happy to make it again.

TMixPlus Team's picture
TMixPlus Team 3 months 2 weeks ago

Thanks for the feedback Jr166. We're glad to hear you'd make this recipe again and enjoyed.

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