Thursday, 28 February 2013

Chocolate Babka

A wiser individual than I once proclaimed "you can't beat a babka" and after recently sampling one for myself, I find this hard to dispute. A brioche-like sweet bread, it is as satisfying as it is shameless, rich, buttery and smeared with chocolate. It's a real rascal of a loaf and one that I shall be making frequently in the future. As the name suggests I've used chocolate alone when making this version, but there is plenty of room for manoeuvre. Chopped nuts, spices, fruit or a combination of each would all be welcome additions.

Prep time: 30 Mins (Plus time to prove, etc)
Baking time: 25 Mins
15g Fresh Yeast
100ml Warm Water
320g Strong White Bread Flour
50ml Milk
50g Caster Sugar
50g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
2 Large Egg Yolks
1tsp Salt
1tsp Vanilla

For the filling and topping
100g Chopped Chocolate
35g Unsalted Butter
3tbsp Golden Syrup

A fair few ingredients for this one, but worry not, it's so simple to make. Crumble the fresh yeast into a large bowl, then pour over the water and mix together until most of the yeast has dissolved. Tip in the flour, followed by (deep breath) the milk, caster sugar, melted butter, egg yolks, salt and vanilla. Mix it together with a wooden spoon until it starts to form a loose dough then tip out onto a clean dry surface. Knead the dough for about 7 minutes. The dough will be quite sticky initially but I promise it will come together with just a little elbow grease. Speaking of grease, when the dough is smooth and elastic place it in a clean bowl that has been lightly greased, cover with cling film and place in the fridge overnight or for around 6-8 hours.

Remove the dough from the fridge and leave for 30 minutes just to come up to temperature a bit. Whilst the dough is warming up, you can melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave or over a bain-marie. Grease a large surface with a little oil, remove the dough from the bowl and roll out to a large rectangle, around 30x40cm. You could even go a bit bigger if your surface allows. Spread the melted chocolate/butter all over the surface of the dough, leaving a border of about 3cm around the edge.

Now, here comes the really fun part. Roll the dough up to a long sausage, pressing along the seam and squashing together each end to seal. Take a sharp knife and make an incision lengthways, making sure you don't go quite to each sealed end, then fold the dough end to end and twist together three or four times. What will happen is the dough will bulge and the chocolate will seep from where you made the incision. This is exactly what you want as it will then start to cover the outside of the dough as you twist. Place the chocolately monstrosity onto a clean greased surface, cover with a damp tea towel and leave for 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease a large flat baking tray. Carefully transfer the dough to the tray and bake in the centre of the oven for around 25 minutes, until the bread is a dark chocolatey brown, then remove from the oven and place onto a wire rack or large chopping board. To finish brush over some golden syrup that has been warmed through in the microwave for 20 seconds and it's finished. There's a few processes involved, but this loaf is tremendous fun. What I really love about it though is you can get it started the night before or even in the morning, then go off to work and it's ready to finish off when you get home. Simple, spectacular and scrumptious, it's a classic in the making.

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