Chocolate-Cinnamon Babka

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When my husband and I were planning our wedding, I got disproportionately stressed out about the whole bridal registry thing. I tried very hard to register only for things that I thought we’d actually use — we asked for plain dinner plates instead of china, I skipped registering for a blender even though my current blender was missing its lid, and I largely avoided those fancy serving dish-type things that you only use once or twice a year. I’ll admit that I wasn’t absolutely perfect in my predicting — regrettably, I have not gotten as much use as I’d hoped out of my electric griddle or springform pan, and I ended up having to go out and buy a mortar and pestle later on — but on the whole, I think we’ve gotten good use out of all our lovely gifts.

[On an unrelated note, we have gotten a surprising amount of use out of our chip-and-dip. Brides of America, don’t forget the chip-and-dip!]

Another thing that stressed me out about registering was, well, looking like a jerk. People can be judgmental about other people’s wedding registries, and I didn’t want the things on our registry to convey presumptuousness or jerkishness. Apparently I failed at this, too, with the inclusion of $40 towels on our registry. In my defense, they are amazing and we love them!

The jerk-factor was the main reason why I didn’t register for a fancy Kitchenaid stand-mixer. I know everyone raves about them, but at the time I didn’t feel like I did enough baking to really justify asking someone for a $350 mixer. But now that I’m in the kitchen more and more, well…it sounds kindof nice!

Take this babka for example. It calls for 7 minutes of kneading in a stand-mixer, so I set my kitchen timer for 7 minutes and got to work kneading by hand. When the babka was in the oven, I texted one of my friends who is quite skilled in working with yeast to brag about my awesome babka-making. That’s when he told me that 7 minutes of kneading in a stand-mixer actually translates to 30-45 minutes of kneading by hand. Oops.

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CHOCOLATE-CINNAMON BABKA (barely adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures)

DOUGH:
1/2 cups lukewarm water (add an extra 1-2 tbsp in winter/dry climate)
1 large eggs
3 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp + 2 tsp nonfat dry milk
1 tbsp instant yeast (if you get packets, you’ll need one full packet and part of another)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

FILLING
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp + 2 tsp Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp espresso powder (I subbed in a pinch of ground coffee)
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup diced pecans or walnuts, toasted if desired (I used half walnuts, half almonds)

GLAZE
1 large egg beaten with a pinch of salt until well-combined

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine all dough ingredients, mixing just until everything is moistened. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. Then switch to dough hook and knead dough until soft and smooth, about 7 minutes.  Dough may still be slightly tacky.
2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
3. Gently deflate dough and keep covered while you make filling.
4. To make filling, combine sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and espresso. Stir in melted butter (mixture will look grainy and oily).
5. Shape dough into 9 x 18, 1/4-inch-thick rectangle (no need to get out a ruler, eyeball it). Spread filling over dough, leaving about a 1-inch border on all sides. Scatter chocolate chips and nuts over dough. Starting at short end, roll dough gently into a log, sealing seam and ends (folding it under works fine). Place log of dough into lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
6. Tent pan with plastic wrap, and let loaf rise until it’s very puffy and has crowned about one inch over the rim of the pan, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Toward the end of rising time, preheat oven to 300.
7. Just before baking, brush loaf with egg glaze, and pop any air bubbles with a toothpick. Then, cut a deep vertical slash the length of the loaf, cutting through at least 3 layers (this will feel wrong, but do it anyway). Bake loaf 35 minutes, then tent lightly with foil and bake an additional 15 to 25 minutes (for a total of 50 to 60 minutes). The babka should be a deep-golden brown with an internal temperature of at least 190.
8. Remove babka from oven and immediately loosen edges with a heatproof spatula or table knife. Let babka cool for 10 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely.

Even with my kneading snafu, this was still delicioussssssss. The chocolate-cinnamon filling in particular is amazing, and I loved the shiny glaze the egg gave it. I will say that the actual bread part was just the tiniest bit dry, so I do think some additional kneading time would have been beneficial, though it was in no way ruined.

This is a great project for a lazy Sunday around the house. I made this one Sunday night and I absolutely refuse to tell you how many days it lasted in my two-person household. Hint: not many. Better hint: probably shouldn’t have said “days.”

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