Babka is originally from Eastern Europe, although its exact origins are unknown. Whether it’s a Polish or Russian dessert, it has definitely spread its way through the world and has become a rather well known and popular treat. Some credit its fame to the Seinfeld episode ‘The Dinner Party’ where Seinfeld wishes to buy a loaf but the customer in front of him buys the last chocolate babka. Babka is often also referred to as a Jewish dessert, stating that Jewish housewives used leftover challah and braided it together with jam, nuts and seeds. This marbled dessert has become so popular for a good reason. It is a truly unique kind of bread, which has similarities to a quick bread, without being just as ‘quick’. If you have never made babka before, go ahead and give this wonderful dessert a try! It is definitely something you should have eaten once in your life.
A babka is typically made with a sweet yeast dough (brioche dough) or pâte levée sucrée, as the French refer to it. Its main components are flour, milk, egg, sugar and yeast. Many desserts are made with this kind of dough such as donuts, dinner rolls, yeast waffles and sticky buns. It’s an incredibly versatile kind of dough and can be prepared in multiple ways such as baking, deep-frying and steaming. If you want to achieve a perfectly fluffy and tender yeast dough, there are two secrets you must know.
Fresh Yeast vs. Dry Yeast
Opinions differ on whether fresh yeast is superior to dry yeast. A lot of professional bakers will use fresh as opposed to dry and some even claim that their bread has a better taste and texture when opting for fresh. We prefer using fresh yeast cubes whenever possible but also keep backups of dry yeast since fresh yeast has a very short shelf life (about 2 weeks) and needs to be stored in the fridge. Ultimately it is up to you and which you want to use, though you may want to try both and see if you can detect a difference in your baked goods. Whichever type of yeast you chose, it is vital to proof it before adding it to the rest of your ingredients. This is done by dissolving it in sugar or milk. If it dissolves and throws a few bubbles it’s still good. If it does nothing, throw it out and start again with a new package of yeast.
A fluffy yeast dough has had plenty of time to rise…twice! This is an incredibly important step and you should not cut away any of its rising time. The first resting time your dough needs is right after you have combined the ingredients to form your dough. During this time the bacteria in the yeast feed on the sugar and multiply. As a result the dough rises to about double its size. Once you have braided your babka into a loaf it needs to rise a second time. This is done for better aeration.
This chocolate babka is great for entertaining as it makes a rather large loaf, which can be prepared ahead of time. You can bake this a day before and store it at room temperature until the next day. It stays incredibly soft! It’s a wonderful addition to a cup of coffee and the gorgeous marbled effect is sure to stun your guests.
This article and recipe is used with permission of the Jen's Reviews website and recipe has been Thermi-fied!
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- 250 mls milk
- 15 g fresh yeast or 1 tsp dried active yeast
- 130 g golden caster sugar
- 500 g bakers flour
- 1 egg
- Pinch Pink Salt Flakes BUY
- 80 g butter, softened
- egg wash for glazing
- 100 g Chocolate - Callebaut dark callets BUY
- 40 g butter
- 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
- 100 g nuts of choice, toasted
Heat milk and 1 tablespoon of sugar in Thermomix bowl 2 min/37°C/speed 1. Crumble in the yeast. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then stir until the yeast is completely dissolved.
Add the flour, egg, salt, cubed butter to yeast mixture. Knead 3 min/Interval. If the dough is too sticky to touch, add a bit more flour but don't over do it as it can ruin the texture. More kneading can also help bring the dough to an easier texture to work with.
Tip into a buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 1 hour at room temperature.
In the meantime, prepare the filling by placing chocolate, butter and sugar into Thermomix bowl and melting together 8 min/50°C/speed 1. Stop and scrape down the chocolate so that it is all beneath the blades as it melts. Cool in the fridge until the dough is ready.
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it to remove the air.
Preheat your oven to 180°C (350F) and butter a flat baking tray or use a bread tin of choice.
Then roll dough on a floured surface to a rectangle about 30cm x 50cm (11.8 x 19.6 inches). Spread the chocolate filling evenly onto the dough and sprinkle with the toasted mixed nuts. Carefully roll it up lengthwise.
Cut the dough lengthwise into two even pieces and braid them together with the cut facing upwards. Tuck the ends underneath.
Carefully transfer onto your prepared tray and cover with a kitchen towel. Let it rise for 30 minutes. Brush with egg wash and bake for 50 minutes.
If the top starts to become too dark, cover it with aluminum foil. Let it cool before attempting to remove it from the tray.
Do not use anything but coverture chocolate for this one. It will not taste the same with chocolate chips or an inferior chocolate that is used for baking. Use hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts, even slivered almonds. (Maybe not peanuts...IMHO!)