Sundays are a bit strange. I love them, but by evening, I get bitter. Because blink and they’re over.
Two Sundays ago, I was on such a bread-making high, that bitterness was nowhere on the horizon. Shaheen, from the amazing Purple Foodie took a bunch of bloggers, bakers, foodies and home cooks through 5 delicious kinds of bread.
It was incredible to be surrounded by that much good food and that many lovers of good food. Shaheen cheerfully answered an endless stream of questions, made kneading bread look laughably easy and absolutely did not judge the total gluttony with which we inhaled the warm breads.
My favourite was the Chocolate Babka (surprise, surprise) and the weekend after this class, I made it. Pretty darn good 🙂
As with pretty much everything I bake, there had to be an adventure of some sort with this babka. Babka, incidentally, is a traditional Jewish bread and basically the best one I’ve ever eaten 😀 Because the dough is so rich, it’s more of a cross between a cake and a bread. No complaints!
Coming back to what I did. Somehow, I’d managed a burn on my left wrist and a cut on my right thumb over that weekend. Which meant, kneading, something that is ideally done with two hands, was out of the question. Enter, one-handed, four-finger kneading. Luckily, this babka makes for a smooth, buttery dough, that really doesn’t require too much muscle work. Which is why, it’s also a great option if you’re making bread for the first time!
The dough itself is mixed with orange zest which is positively insane. The smell will drive you crazy, I promise you. The chocolate within the bread is mixed with cinnamon. There’s so many beautiful flavours in there, I could have eaten the entire thing. But I didn’t.
I allowed the bread to get a bit too crusty on the top, but the inside was soft, fluffy and light. Just the way I hoped. A cup of coffee and a slice of this babka, and you’re good to go. It does need to be eaten on day one though, because it has no preservatives of any kind. Make sure you’ve got people to share it with!
Shaheen shared some helpful tips on using yeast as well, and I’m pretty confident about it now.
Let’s break some more bread!
I cut her recipe down by half to make one babka. Double the proportions below if you’re really hungry 🙂
About the yeast: I used active dry yeast, which requires proofing with warm water or milk. If you’re using instant yeast, throw it in with the dry ingredients and you’re done.
About the proportions: Please use kitchen scales for this recipe. I don’t recommend a converter because I’ve found for a recipe calling entirely for weight measures, conversions can be a bit off.
About the instructions: They’re long, only because I’ve added where I faced problems and what you could do if you face the same. I promise it’s not a difficult bread to make 🙂
What you’ll need:
7.5 gms active dry yeast (I used a brand available at my local grocer, but apparently Prime yeast is the best one)
85 gms lukewarm milk
42.5 gms butter (Amul is fine)
42.5 gms caster sugar
Zest of half an orange (Use one with a nice firm orange peel, not the greenish santra)
2 egg yolks
212 gms flour
1/2 tsp salt
112 gms dark cooking chocolate
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
27 gms butter (Amul is fine)
What to do:
1. Combine the yeast and lukewarm milk and set aside for 5 minutes. It should foam up if the yeast works well. If not, get yourself a new packet.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar till smooth. Add the yolks one by one, mixing constantly for 30 seconds between each addition. Add the orange zest and salt. Swoon a bit at the aroma 🙂
3. Now add the flour and yeast-milk mixture and mix slowly till a soft, supple dough forms. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes till you’re left with a smooth, elastic dough.
4. Put the ball of dough back into the bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume.
5. Now make the filling by melting the chocolate, cinnamon and butter in a double boiler. Set aside to cool and thicken for about 10 minutes. I made the mistake of not letting this cool enough so things got a bit messy while rolling.
6. While the filling is cooling, roll out the risen dough into a roughly rectangular shape, with a thickness of about 5 mm, flouring as you go. This is best done directly on a sheet of baking paper so you can lift it and place it straight on the tray.
7. Spread the chocolate filling on the dough. I restricted it to the center because mine was a bit liquid-y but you can spread it all over. Fold the dough from both sides, covering the chocolate, pinching the seams lightly. You will have a log of sorts, filled with chocolate. Freeze for 10 minutes. Again, I made the mistake of only chilling it, and I got chocolate EVERYWHERE while shaping the bread. FREEZE for best results.
8. Once the chocolate has set, cut the log down the middle, lengthwise, leaving at least 1 inch on the top intact. Lift both halves over each other, one by one, to get the braided look. If you have a messy situation like I did, here’s a tip. Lift one side of the log over the other, and then just twist the ends to complete the shape. It won’t be intricate, but it won’t be traumatic either 🙂
9. Set aside to rest for 20 minutes and preheat the oven to 175 C. I couldn’t rest it beyond 5 minutes because it was a hot day and the chocolate was too soft but it didn’t seem to affect the final result, just in case you’re in my situation.
10. Bake the babka for 20 to 25 minutes till the top is browned. Cover with foil if it’s browning too fast. I actually poked in a toothpick to ensure it was done 🙂
Allow to cool only slightly, because a warm slice of babka really is heaven! Enjoy 😀