For the longest time, chocolate babka was one of those foods for me.
You know those foods. You ate something once, many years ago, and became sick from it. Now, you experience awful nausea every time you see it, smell it, or even think about it.
My parents once brought a loaf of chocolate babka bread on one of our vacations to somewhere in the Bahamas. I was so sick that trip — probably not even from the babka — but for years I couldn’t stand it. I finally overcame my aversion earlier this year, when a chocoholic friend brought down the most amazing loaf from a bakery near his home in Long Island. I once again found this amazing food irresistible.
Our decision to bake a loaf of babka was random. No reason other than that we just felt like eating some. This recipe, adapted from this one on Epicurious, will make your kitchen smell as good as the best bakery in the world, and the bread that it produces is soft, bittersweet, and utterly worth the effort and there is definitely some required). Our best advice for this bread is to be patient, and to perform each step with tender care. Love the loaf, and you’ll be rewarded.
3/4 cup warm milk
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 extra tsp
3 tsp active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (you can use chips or bars)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cinnamon
1 tbsp milk
1 egg yolk
Stir together warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup flour and beat using dough hook until combined. Add whole eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat until combined. Mix in remaining 2 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. Then beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to beat until dough is shiny, soft, and sticky. You can also use a wooden spoon to rapidly mix ingredients together. Put dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Line each loaf pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper (one horizontal and one vertical). Punch down dough, then divide it in half. Roll out one piece into an 18×10-inch rectangle, with the longer edge nearest you. Beat together yolk and milk. Spread 2 1/2 tbsp spoon softened butter on the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Brush some egg wash on the long border. Sprinkle half of chocolate over buttered dough, then sprinkle with half of sugar and cinnamon. Starting with long side farthest from you, roll dough into a snug log, pinching firmly along egg-washed seam to seal. Bring ends of log together to form a ring, pinching to seal. Twist entire ring twice to form a double figure 8 and fit into one of lined loaf pans. Repeat with remaining dough, chill egg wash, and loosely cover pans. Let dough rise an additional 1 to 2 hours, until dough reaches top of loaf pans, then bake in an oven preheated to 350 for about 40 minutes, until tops are a deep golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes in pans, then remove from pans. Serve warm.