A babka for me is another way to eat brioche, my favorite sweet bread. The combination of rich soft brioche and chocolate can only be described as heavenly. I have made this a few times before for get-together, tea parties and pot lucks. Those were made with commercial or instant yeast.
With my obsession with sourdough, lately, I have tried to replace instant yeast with natural yeast. It has been successful in almost all the cases. I guess once you get the hang of it, everything just falls in to places. Once you know your starter, you can predict it’s activity and how much rise you can get with what quantity and in how many hours and so forth. And after-all for me it’s a game of all senses. I clock my process and keep track of time, but at the same time, I touch and feel my dough and eye-ball too. This is what makes baking so much enjoyable and engaging.
So back to the babka. The brioche dough I’m using is comparatively less richer than a normal brioche or a traditional babka. Reason begin, I wanted to fill it with a much richer chocolate spread that would be oozing with butter and cocoa. So I thought, to take some of the richness off of the brioche would balance out the flavor and the consistency. Also I am using natural yeast, so less microbes than instant.
A lot of recipes use some sort of nuts sprinkled over the chocolate spread. I am going with toasted almonds. I love almonds and the crunch they add. But you can use other nuts too or even a mix. Make sure to toast the nuts and chop them coarsely.
Some recipes call for a crumble instead of nuts or alongside the nuts. I have come across various recipes, that use different crumbs. This crumb gives a chewy texture and is a great addition. This can take an average babka to a whole new level of indulgence. In my case, I am using cookie crumbs. This makes it easier. I used some store bought brownie cookies. You can use any cookie, like chocolate chip, double chocolate, fudge etc. If you don’t like the crumb, omit this step completely. The babka will still be ohhh so good!!
And that brings us to the most important thing, the chocolate. Use a good quality 70% dark chocolate. This elevates the cocoa flavor and it will prevent the spread from becoming super sweet. Recipe use both chocolate and cocoa powder. This is to reduce sweetness while lifting the deep chocolate flavor. Use unsweetened, dutch processed cocoa powder, again, make sure it is of good quality.
Those are my tips for nailing a great sourdough babka. Take these tips home and make it your own. Play with the recipe, use different ingredients and create something fun, share and enjoy!
- 100 g fed active starter
- 300 g all purpose flour
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- 40 g butter
- 20 g oil (use olive/vegetable/canola)
- 100 ml milk (+/-)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 80 g butter melted
- 50 g castor sugar
- 50 g brown sugar
- 1/2 cup 70% dark chocolate chopped
- 5 tbsp of cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- hand full of toasted nut of choice (coarsely chopped)
- brownie or chocolate cookie crumbs (optional)
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 egg white to egg wash
- To make the dough, mix everything except milk in a bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a hook attachment.
- Start mixing on low and slowly add milk, to bring the dough together
- If necessary add extra milk or a little water (tablespoon at a time). The dough should be soft but not runny
- Once the dough start to form, increase the speed to medium and mix for about 5 to 8 minutes, until dough becomes smooth
- Take the dough off on to a floured surface, and knead by hand to form a ball
- Place in a covered bowl and leave in a warm place for about 5 hours
- The dough will be risen considerably (almost double) if not leave for another hour or two
- Then pat down the dough and form in to a ball again, place in the same container and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. (I left it overnight and a whole day and it still turned out good)
- When you are ready to make the babka, take the dough out and let it soften (not too much, its easier to handle when cold)
- Prepare a loaf tin lined with a parchment paper
- Make the chocolate spread
- Melt butter and pour over the chopped chocolate
- Stir the chocolate and add the sugar
- Then add the cocoa powder and mix to a smooth paste. It’s okay to have undissolved chocolate pieces and sugar
- Add the salt
- Leave aside to cool (as it cools it will become spreadable)
- Take the dough on to a floured surface and roll out to a rectangle
- About 45 cm by 35 cm( the dough thickness should be no more than 1/2 cm)
- Once done, spread the chocolate mixture evenly
- Sprinkle the nuts and the cookie crumbs
- starting from one end roll the dough tightly length-wise
- Using a sharp knife cut the rolled cylinder in half along the length
- Now twist the two strands (look at the photos in the post)
- Twisting will make it shorter and would fit in the loaf tin
- Make sure to have cut sides exposed.
- Some nuts and crumbs may fall off, but its okay, you can toss them back in the pan
- Once twisted, pack the dough in the loaf tin
- Tuck the end bits underneath
- Make sure the dough is as evenly as possible spread across the tin
- Leave covered in a warm place for about two – three hours for the final rise
- The loaf will expand and fill the tin and will look fuller and softer
- Preheat the oven to 200 C
- Brush the top with egg white and bake in the center rack for 30 minutes
- Top should be golden brown
- Once done let this cool completely before cutting in as chocolate need setting
- Slice with a serrated knife