Babka By Committee

chocolate walnut cinnamon babkaA blizzard was coating the trees outside my kitchen window with billowy frosting but inside the house it was dry and toasty warm.  I shuttled trays of cookies from counter to oven to cooling racks; a few detouring into my mouth.

Since I was not going out anytime soon, it the perfect time to make a yeast bread and I had been craving babka since the weather had turned cold.    I grew up in New York City where babka was the queen of Jewish breads.  If you were visiting someone for brunch or making a shiva* call, you would always stop by the bakery on your way and pick up a chocolate babka or its more subdued and traditional cousin, the cinnamon strusel babka.

I couldn’t decide which flavor to make so I left it up to my foodie pals on Twitter to  make the choice for me.  I should have know who I was dealing with as the leading votes were “combine the two” and “make both”.  So here is my rather untraditional cinnamon chocolate walnut babka recipe or Babka By Committee.

 Chocolate Walnut Cinnamon Babka
3 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 ounces milk chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Melt butter and chocolate until smooth, allow to cool slightly

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoons sugar mixed with sprinkle of cinnamon 

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Heat butter and milk in a small pan until very warm-butter does not need to melt completely
Mix yeast, sugar, cinnamon, and milk and butter mixture in a large bowl or stand mixer
Add 1/2 cup of flour and mix well
Beat together eggs and sour cream
Add to the dough in the mixer and blend well
Add 2 cups flour and mix for a sticky soft dough
Turn out onto a floured board and knead about another 1/2 cup of flour into the dough until it is no longer sticky but still soft and easy to work
Form dough into a ball
Grease a large bowl and the top of the dough and allow to rise until doubled covered with a towel for about 1 hour
Pat the dough into a rectangle about 9″x12″
Spread cooled chocolate (see filling below) on the dough leaving a strip of dough the short length without chocolate
Sprinkle with nuts and cinnamon sugar
Roll up jelly roll style from the short end
Place in a baking pan and allow to rest for about 20 minutes
Brush with egg and water mixture and sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar
Bake for about 50 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped
Allow to cool before slicing 

*a Jewish custom to visit and bring food to the house of a family in mourning for seven days after the funeral


5 responses to “Babka By Committee

  1. Babka–swoon. Babka is one of my absolute favorite desserts. It’s funny though, I’m not sure I could say which place makes the best. I usually have it, like you said, at various gatherings or celebrations and so it’s not always clear where it’s from. I always eye it when I stop into Russ & Daughters on the lower east side. Although I would LOVE to try your homemade version. Don’t know if I’ve ever had it homemade.

    • Russ & Daughter babka is delicious. We mostly got it from Zabars. Let me know if your make it-I would love to have your feedback on the recipe.

  2. I don’t think I can do anything but drool…

  3. It looks delicious. I almost made one during the snowstorm but got lazy at the last minute. Cinnamon and chocolate is my favorite version!

  4. Oh, my, babka! I grew up eating the Polish variant, usually with raisins or a sweet cheese filling. A few years ago I ran a home-based (yes, unbelievably) baking business and made some pretty amazing babki, I must say. There’s another version, called Placek, that has a huge butter crumb topping over a loaf of butter-rich dough.

    I no longer make babka, but often buy them at Easter time. There are some marvelous Polish delis and bakeries in Dorchester, near Andrew Square. Fabulous food, and everything I remember – right down to the aroma the minute you walk in the store.

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