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-togethers, 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 place.
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 this will need more time for bulking and proofing.
Make sure your starter(100%) is refreshed and ready to be used!
Mix everything until it all comes together into a soft sticky dough
Keep mixing on medium speed ( 2 on KitchenAid) for about 3-4 minutes. Stop and crap down the sides while mixing and use a dusting of flour on the mixer wall, to encourage dough to release from the sides. Once the dough feels developed ( there won’t be any window pane as such) stop mixing/kneading
Bring the slightly sticky dough out onto a floured surface and do a few slap and folds to bring the dough together. It will become smoother. Now round up the dough to a tight ball. Place in a greased bowl, cover and leave in a warm place to bulk
4-5 hours roughly around 32°C
Once the dough has bulked ( it will expand to almost 1.5 times the original size) bring it on to a floured surface and round up to a tight ball again.
Place the bulked dough in a container, close tightly and refrigerate for the long slow proof/fermentation. Anywhere from 12- 18 hours is fine
Same day bake:
You can also shape and bake this on the same day. In that case place in the fridge for 2 hours just to harden the dough and continue to shape and proof
If you retard the dough in the fridge, first take it out and let it sit on the counter for about an hour. Just until it is soft enough to roll out. Do not let it thaw completely
In the meantime, make the chocolate spread and let it cool completely.
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.
You can add any essence or other flavors you like;
Once the dough is soft ( but still very cold) roll it out to about 1/2 cm thickness.
Spread the chocolate mixture and sprinkle with cookie crumbs and nuts or leave it plain if you like
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.
Now roll the dough length-wise in to a log ( just like when you are making cinnamon rolls) Split the log using a sharp knife. Turn the cut sides upwards (so that the interior is exposed), pinch from one end and twist
what this video to get an idea on how to cut and twist.
When you twist, the strands will get shorter. You can slightly press from the sides so that it will be compacted and fit the baking pan. If the dough becomes too soft, you can place it in the fridge for 15 minutes, so you can handle it without an issue
Place the twist in the pan (9″ by 5″) cover loosely and leave in a warm place to proof
Roughly for about 3-4 hours at round 32°C
Once proofed, egg wash lightly and bake. Once fully baked, leave on a wire rack to cool down. take the babka out and let it cool completely before slicing
Those are my tips for nailing a great sourdough babka. Take these tips home and make it your own. This babka has no sour flavor( or it is not noticeable) and I have shared this with friends and family and they don’t even realize that it is sourdough unless I let them know.
Feel free top play with the recipe, use different fillings and create something fun, share and enjoy!