Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chocolate Babka

Drat. I gifted the outcome of this recipe before I had a chance to photograph it. Curtis was slightly dismayed by the destination of this bread. He had to help finish them (as in, brush with egg glaze, slash the top, and bake) and thought one surely should have been left at home for him. Sadly enough for him, they went as Christmas gifts--one to M's teacher and one to the family we carpool with. As I was wrapping them this morning, I got a little forlorn myself and have now added them to my Christmas morning breakfast menu.

Despite the name and the delicious outcome, if you are comfortable baking bread, you will not find this recipe very difficult. It takes a chunk of time to make, but the hands on time is very short---lots and lots of rising with a little bit of work thrown in here and there.

If you would like to see the recipe step by step with fabulous pictures click here to be taken to the King Arthur Flour Baking Blog (and in case you haven't found it yet, King Arthur Flour website is wonderful!! resource). The recipe has been adapted just slightly to include generic ingredients instead of those products that King Arthur hawks. You don't need to use the espresso powder if you don't have it. However, it makes the chocolate flavor slightly stronger. I have a jar I keep in my freezer and pull out periodically for recipes. Click here for suggestions for substitutions, if you want them.

There's is still time---make this recipe, gift one loaf and enjoy the other.

Chocolate Babka
adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour baking blog: Baking Banter

2 lg eggs
6 1/4 c all purpose flour
1/3 c dry milk powder
2 T instant yeast
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 c sugar
2 1/2 t salt
10 T butter, at room temperature
1 T vanilla
1 - 1 1/4 c water (depending on humidity and season of where you live. I use 1 1/4 c in the winter)

1/2 c sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/3 c cocoa
1/2 t espresso powder (also called instant espresso)
1/4 c melted butter
1 c chocolate chips
1 c chopped pecans (walnuts are fine too--I'm just a pecan type of girl)

Combine eggs, flour, dry milk, yeast, cinnamon, sugar, salt, butter, vanilla and water in a large bowl using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle (basic attachment) until just moistened. Cover with a towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes, this will make the dough easier to knead. Put the dough hook on the mixer and knead for about 7 minutes (if you prefer, you can do all this by hand), until dough is smooth and soft. The dough will still be very sticky. Transfer to large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1 - 1 1/2 hours.

Turn the dough onto a lightly greased work surface (some surfaces are fine without grease--I didn't need to anything to my counters and it was fine). Divide the dough into two equal pieces, cover with a towel and let rest. While dough rests, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and espresso powder in small bowl. Stir in the melted butter. The mixture will look very oily and rather stiff. Shape each half of the dough into 9 x 18" rectangle (the 18" is approximate, it doesn't need to be exact). Smear each piece of dough with half of the cocoa/butter mixture, coming within an inch of the edge. Sprinkle each half with 1/2 c pecans and 1/2 c chocolate chips. Starting at the short end, roll up the dough gently into a log. Seal the bottom seams and tuck the ends under. Place each log in a greased 9 x 5" loaf pan. Tent with plastic wrap and let rise until they've crowned an inch over the rim of the pan, 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

Just before baking, brush each loaf with an egg glaze (1 egg, beaten). If there are large air bubbles, pop them gently a toothpick. Taking a sharp knife, cut one long vertical slash through the middle of each loaf, cutting through at least 3 layers. This will let the loaf expand straight up instead of blowing out at the sides. Leave the beautiful domed bread just as it is--no cutting necessary.  (It comes out perfectly and presentable uncut).  Bake in an oven preheated to 300 for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, tent the loaves lightly with foil and bake and additional 15 - 25 minutes (mine only took an extra 15 minutes). To check for doneness, use a meat thermometer to take the internal temp--it should be around 190 degrees. Remove the loaves from the oven, and let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and allow to cool completely.

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