Recipe: Orange Chocolate Babka

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This is a long recipe, so I’ve tried to break it up into logical sections.

Ingredients: Dough

  • 530 grams all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 2.4 tsp active dry yeast
  • Grated zest of 1 orange 
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water (cold is fine) and up to 1 to 2 tablespoons extra, if needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 150 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Sunflower or other neutral oil, for greasing

Method: Dough

Combine flour, sugar, yeast and zest in the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add eggs and 1/2 cup water, mixing with the dough hook until it comes together; this may take a couple minutes.
Dough will look dry and shaggy, but if it doesn’t come together at all, add extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a mass.
With the mixer on low, add the salt, then the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough.
Mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until dough is completely smooth; you’ll need to scrape the bowl down a few times.

If the dough does not begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl after 10 minutes, you can add 1 tablespoon extra flour to help this along.

Coat a large bowl with oil and place dough inside, cover with plastic and refrigerate. Leave in fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight. Dough will not fully double, but should grow some. 

Ingredients: Filling

  • 130 grams dark chocolate 
  • 120 grams unsalted butter, temp doesn’t matter, its for melting
  • 50 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • 30 grams cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 

Method: Filling

Melt butter and chocolate together until smooth. I do this in a double boiler.
Stir in powdered sugar and cocoa; mixture should form a spreadable paste.
Add cinnamon, if desired. 

Method assembly:

Coat two 9-by-4-inch (2 1/4 or 1kg) loaf pans with oil or butter, and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of parchment paper. I use silicone loaf pans, which lets me skip this step.

Take half of dough from fridge (leave the other half chilled). Roll out on a well-floured counter or silicone mat to about a 10-inch square.

Spread half of chocolate mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Brush the end farthest away from you with water. Roll the dough up with the filling into a long, tight cigar. Seal the dampened end onto the log. Roll the log onto a silpat or cling film and transfer to a baking tray in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat with second dough, saving the cling film from this initial rise (you’ll see why shortly).

Trim last 1/2-inch off each end of the log. Gently cut the log in half lengthwise and lay them next to each other on the counter, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together. Lift one side over the next, forming a twist and trying to keep the cut sides facing out (because they’re pretty). Don’t worry if this step makes a mess, just transfer the twist as best as you can into the prepared loaf pan. Cover with the plastic wrap from the earlier rise and leave to rise another 1 to 1 1/2 hours at room temperature. While dough rises, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). 

Method: Baking

Bake loaves for 30 minutes on the middle rack of your oven, but there’s no harm in checking for doneness at 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted should encounter almost no resistance and come out with few crumbs. If your babka needs more time, bake it 5 minutes at a time before re-test. You can protect your babka with foil, if you feel it is browning too quickly. While babkas are baking, make the syrup.

Ingredients: Syrup

  • 75 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

Method: Syrup

Bring sugar and water to a simmer until sugar dissolves.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool somewhat.
As soon as the babkas leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each.

It will seem like too much syrup, but trust me, use it all! Without the right amount of syrup, your babkas will be dry. Let cool about halfway in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack. 

While I could eat two babkas in a day, I recommend freeing one. They keep for a few days at room temperature, but last much longer in the freezer and defrost just as good as they went in.

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