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The contrast between the layers of bread and the sticky, delicious swirls of black cocoa, chocolate chips, and cashew nuts make this babka irresistible – It’s difficult to stop at one slice! And while it’s perfect alongside coffee or tea, it is by no means limited to morning consumption and can be all-too-easily eaten as an afternoon snack or dessert.

Chocolate Babka


  • Yield: 1 9x5 loaf

Ingredients

DOUGH:

  • 114-142 grams lukewarm full-fat milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 76 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 50 grams granulated white sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 71 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 7 grams vanilla extract

TOPPING:

  • 29 grams melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 14 grams Black Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 29 grams melted butter
  • 85 grams finely chopped semisweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips, mini chips preferred
  • 57 grams chopped cashews, toasted if desired

Instructions

  1. PREPARATION. Lightly grease a 9x5 loaf pan. Alternatively, line each pan with a parchment paper sling to help you remove the loaves once they're baked.
  2. MAKE THE DOUGH. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine all the dough ingredients (start with 114 grams of milk) and mix until everything is moistened and evenly combined. Add more of the remaining milk, if necessary, to enable the dough to come together. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, cover, and let the dough rest for about 20 minutes (Note 1). 
    After about 20 minutes, mix/knead the dough until it’s soft and smooth. You can do it by hand or use the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.

    Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and cover the bowl. Let it rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until it's quite puffy. Proceed in making the streusel topping and glaze while the bread is rising.

    About 90 minutes later, the dough should have risen. Gently deflate the dough by picking it up and squeezing it. Shape the dough into a rough log. Cover then set aside.

  3. MAKE THE STREUSEL TOPPING. While letting the bread rise, make the streusel topping by mixing together the melted butter, cinnamon, confectioner's sugar and flour. You should get a crumbly mixture. Set aside.
  4. MAKE THE GLAZE. Beat 1 large egg with a pinch of salt until well-combined. Set aside.(Note 2)
  5. MAKE THE FILLING. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Stir in the melted butter. The mixture will look grainy. Set this aside.(Note 3)
  6. ASSEMBLE THE BABKA. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 9" x 18", 1/4"-thick rectangle. It is okay if the size is not exact. Spread it with the chocolate filling, leaving about an inch bare around the edges. Scatter the chocolate chips and nuts (Note 4) on top.
    Roll the dough into a log, starting with the short end. Seal the seam and ends by tucking them underneath. Use a pair of sharp knife to cut the log in half lengthwise to make 2 pieces of dough about 10" long. With the exposed filling side up, twist the two pieces into a braid, tucking the ends underneath. 
    Place the dough into the lightly greased loaf pan. Brush with some of the glaze, then sprinkle with the streusel topping. Tent the pan with plastic wrap and let the loaf rise until they're puffy and have crowned about an inch over the rim of the pan, about 1.5 to 2.5 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, heat your oven to 300 F (150 C).
  7. BAKE THE BABKA. Place the pan on a larger baking sheet, for easier handling and to catch any bits that may fall. Bake the bread for 35 minutes. Tent lightly with foil then bake for another 15-25 minutes (Note 5). The finished loaves should be a deep golden brown.
  8. COOLING AND SERVING. Remove the loaves from the oven and immediately loosen the edges with a spatula. Let it cool for about 10 minutes before removing the babka from the pan and transferring them to a cooling rack. Slice and enjoy! Best served warm. (Note 6)

Notes

(1) The resting time gives the chance the flour to absorb the water, which will make the dough less sticky and easier to knead.

(2) The salt in the egg helps break down the protein in the egg white to make it easier to spread.

(3) Make the filling right before you're going to spread it to the dough. If the filling sits too long it may harden up and become difficult to spread. If this happens, gently rewarm the mixture in the microwave oven.

(4) You can use any other nuts you like - pecans, walnuts, cashews, etc. For best flavor, toast the nuts in a frying pan (with no oil) or in a 350 F oven, or toaster oven. Watch carefully and stir often until nuts start to brown.

(5) If you wish to ensure that your loaf is baked through, insert a digital thermometer into the center of the loaf. The temperature should be at least 190 F.

(6) For leftovers, or if you're serving the next day, tightly wrap the slices in cling plastic film, then freeze. Take out from the freezer around 30 minutes before eating, spray a bit of water onto a slice, then heat in the microwave 20-30 seconds.