Recipe from: Fast Breads – 50 Recipes for Easy, Delicious Bread, “A Chocolate-Hazelnut Babka & A Cinnamon Babka”
The first time I saw a picture of a chocolate babka was in Daniel Leader’s Simply Great Bread. The picture looked absolutely beautiful and so tempting, but the direction looked too hard for a newbie like me. I thought I’d like to try it in the distant future.
Then my sister-in-law’s birthday was approaching. I thought, maybe I could bake a loaf of special bread for her. However, I did not know what type of bread she liked. Then suddenly this recipe, in Fast Breads, came to my mind (ironically it’s not a “fast” recipe by all means!). Who wouldn’t like chocolate? So I decided to try making the babkas. If I were able to bake them successfully the first time, then I’d bake another batch for my sister-in-law as a gift.
While I was reading the ingredients on the chocolate hazelnut filling and telling my husband what I had to buy, he said, why not use Nutella? Afterall, Nutella is chocolate hazelnut flavored. And we had two jars at home (Sam’s Club deal). Cool. That’ll save me some time and money.
Anyway, I went shopping for other ingredients and started working on the recipe. It’s the hardest and longest recipe I had tried so far. Even this blog post took several days (a lot of time on editing pictures).
Who knew that bread making would also involve training in knife skill? Thanks to my mother-in-law for the Pampered Chef knife last Christmas, my poor knife skill was getting better. I was still slow though. It took 4 slices of lemon rind, finely chopped, to fill 1 teaspoon.
I usually took out ingredients as I went down the steps of recipes. However I just read a great blogger who said having everything out in advance would prevent forgetting ingredients–I had done that before! So I tried to set up as much as I could.
This dough had so much going into it. In additional to the regular flour/salt/yeast, there were also milk, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, eggs, egg yolks, lemon, etc. Just done mixing everything in the bowl and this would sit for 20 minutes. (** I used sponge mixing method, or autolyse, which was different from the electric mixer steps in the original recipe.)
The dough expanded a lot after 20 minutes! (Sorry my camera skill couldn’t really show the difference properly.) I was going to use the same bowl for bulk fermitation, but after seeing the size of the dough I switched to a cooking pot.
The dough was easy to knead. I was worried that it’d be extra sticky, but I was able to knead with lightly floured hands. It became really smooth and I was happy to see it passing the gluten window test. I also tried the jelly-roll kneading technique I read from a blog and it worked.
Setting up for the big day.
Bubbly dough from the refrigerator.
Cut in half by another beautiful Pampered Chef knife (also a Chritmas gift).
Melted butter on the rolled dough (BTW, the new non-stick rolling pin I bought for this recipe worked well), before being applied all over.
About 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of Nutella.
Roll the dough and seal. Then shape into figure of eight…
Twisting the two ends of the figure eight in opposite direction… like this? I still felt lost even after re-reading the directions several times.
Sprinkle crumbs over the dough, letting them splill down all sides according to the recipe.
The dough with cinnamon (and sugar and butter) filling:
Another attempt at the twisted figure eight.
Even though the cinnamon dough did not look as pretty, I felt the twist was better than the nutella one, because it’s flatter. More crumbs could be applied on the top.
Finally, baked babkas right from the oven! The aroma in the air was great too.
Even though the recipe said to apply powdered sugar right before serving, I just wanted to get it done. So I sprinkled the powdered sugar while they were still in the loaf pans. However, I was not very happy with how they looked. I need to learn how to sprinkle powdered sugar. I also added the chocolate drizzle on top. I only used 1 oz of the baking chocolate because the one chip looked big, only to found out that I should have used 2 oz when I had a hard time squeazing the melted chocolate from a sandwich bag.
I only used half of the prepared crumb, and the crumbs were thick! The babkas in the recipe book looked like they had even less crumbs than mine. Not sure how the babkas would look if I had used all the crumbs.
After 30 minutes cooling in the loaf pans, I tried to take the babkas out. But they were firmly stuck in the pans! I had to use a sharp knife as directed by the recipe. Some parts of the cinnamon babka still sticked to the pan. And I left knife marks on the pans! : (
The nutella babka from different angles:
The cinnamon babka:
Cutting/slicing the babkas was no easy task. I wasn’t sure if the crusts were supposed to be this soft, but it’s very hard to cut without destroying the shape of the slice. Or maybe I didn’t shape the dough good enough. Then the top crumbs fell everywhere. It’s messy.
The first two slices did not look that great. After several slices I finally saw the babka swirl! The nutella one seemed better than the cinnamon one.
I liked the cinnamon babka better. It’s like bread version of cinnamon sugar rolls. I felt the Nutella babka didn’t have as strong chocolate flavor as I expected (probably because I didn’t add enough Nutella). My husband preferred the Nutella babka though. The interior crumb was dryer than I expected but it had good flavors.
Knowing how much butter and sugar were in these coffee cakes, I sliced the babkas and stored most of them in freezer zip-lock bags. Then I only need to take out 1~2 slices at a time. They heat up well in microwave or regular toaster.
I asked my husband if I should bake another batch as a birthday gift. He gave me the green light. So here is a link for my second try a few days later.
P.S. My husband told me to figure out how to add apples into the cinnamon babka recipe in the future. One of his favorite items from a local bakery was Cinnamon Apple Coffee Cake. Actually it’s one of my favorites from that bakery too. But that coffee cake was traditional rectangular shaped with some type of liquid filling. Well, I’ll research on it when I feel confident enough.
P.S.S. I am going to try submitting this to YeastSpotting.