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Chocolate Babka with Mascarpone

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Makes 1 babka

  • by from Simply Great Breads

Babka is an Old World Jewish favorite that has become an almost mythical bakery item because it is so difficult to find these days. Daniel Leader's grandmother was a great baker who regularly turned out rugelach, mandelbrot, macaroons, and honey cake. She made a fabulous chocolate babka that he remembers with a mixture of nostalgia and regret, since he enjoyed it so much but never asked her to teach him how to make it. When he finally got around to coming up with his own babka recipe, he tried to make it just as wonderfully chocolatey and crumbly as hers. Babka is often made with cream cheese, but Daniel likes mascarpone for the hint of nutty flavor that it gives to the dough, but you may use regular cream cheese in its place if it’s more convenient.

  • 2⁄3 cup room temperature milk (70°F to 78°F)
  • 2 Tbs. mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1⁄2 tsp. fine sea salt or kosher salt
  • 20 oz. (4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. instant yeast
  • 5 oz. (1-1⁄4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into bits
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. heavy cream
Tip:
Best-quality European chocolate, such as Callebaut, is essential for this babka.

Combine the milk, mascarpone cheese, 1⁄2 cup of the sugar, eggs, 1 of the egg yolks, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Stir with a rubber spatula to combine. Add the flour and yeast and stir a few times until a rough dough forms. Mix on low speed for a few minutes with the dough hook.

With the mixer running, add the butter, 1 piece at a time, until it is all incorporated. Turn the mixer to medium speed and knead until it comes together in a sticky but cohesive mass, 4 to 5 minutes.

With the mixer running, add the butter, 1 piece at a time, until it is all incorporated. Turn the mixer to medium speed and knead until it comes together in a sticky but cohesive mass, 4 to 5 minutes.

Grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan. Combine the chocolate and the remaining 1⁄2 cup sugar in a medium bowl.

Deflate the dough by gently pressing down on it with your palms. Turn it onto a lightly floured countertop and roll it into a rough 16 by 8-inch rectangle, with the long side facing you.

Sprinkle the chocolate and sugar mixture over the dough. Starting with the long side closest to you, roll the dough into a snug log. Pinch the outside edges to seal.

Fold the log in half and twist it once in the center (giving it a shape like an awareness ribbon). Gently place the folded and twisted dough into the prepared pan. Lightly drape with plastic wrap and let rise until increased in volume by 50 percent, 1 to 2 hours (alter-natively, refrigerate the dough overnight and bring to room temperature before letting it rise and baking it).

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly beat the cream and the remaining egg yolk together in a small bowl. Brush the top of the babka with the egg wash. Bake until the top of the babka is deep golden brown and baked through, about 40 minutes. Overturn the loaf onto a wire rack, and re-invert. Let cool completely before slicing and serving. Chocolate Babka will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days. For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 1 month. To defrost, place on the countertop for several hours, and reheat in the oven at 350°F for 10 minutes before serving.

Photo: Ditte Isager

I made quite a few of these loaves to give away this holiday season, and I have gotten great feedback all the way around! Everything about this recipe worked. It does look like they shaped the loaf in the picture differently than the instructions though (you end up with a double swirl by following the instructions) and I think it looks even better than the one pictured. This is definitely a keeper.

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