I am a huge fan of chocolate babka, the sweet and yeasty dough rolled and wrapped around a chocolate-and-cinnamon mixture that, when cooked, delightfully melts in your mouth. I first learned about babka from the show Seinfeld. My second babka experience happened on a trip to New York City: Passing by a bakery, I was awestruck by the rows and rows of muffins, croissants, danishes and breads, but what stood out above everything else was a chocolate babka bun. I became hooked on the challenge of making my own.
Since then, I have made this recipe many times. It never fails to bring a smile to all who participate in devouring it.
FOR THE DOUGH (makes 6)
1 package instant yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
¼ teaspoon plus ¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup 2 percent milk, warmed to 120 degrees Fahrenheit
2 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus additional for dusting
1 large egg
½ teaspoon each: vanilla extract and sea salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and soft, plus
additional for bowls and muffin tins
FOR THE CHOCOLATE FILLING
1 cup semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, softened
FOR THE EGG WASH
2 teaspoons heavy cream or milk
FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING
2 tablespoons each: confectioners’ sugar; all-purpose flour; butter, softened; and toasted hazelnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
MAKE THE DOUGH
In stand mixer, sprinkle yeast and ¼ teaspoon sugar over milk and let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Add ½ cup flour to the yeast mixture and beat at medium speed until combined. Add egg, vanilla, salt and remaining ¼ cup sugar. Beat until combined. Reduce speed to low, and then mix in remaining 1½ cups flour, a half cup at a time. Add butter and mix until incorporated, about five minutes. The dough will be sticky and stringy. Butter a large bowl, place the dough in it, and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise for 45 minutes or until doubled.
MAKE THE FILLING, EGG WASH AND STREUSEL TOPPING
Filling: Place chocolate, cup sugar, cinnamon and softened butter in a bowl. For the egg wash, whisk together until smooth. Mix all ingredients together with a fork to make the topping.
When dough has doubled, turn it out onto a well-floured surface. Roll it out into an approximately 18-by-12-inch rectangle, with the short side nearest you. Sprinkle the filling over the dough that’s along the egg-washed seam to seal. With a sharp knife, gently cut off 2-inch segments. Place each in a prepared muffin cup. Brush the tops with egg wash, and sprinkle topping evenly. Loosely cover the pan with buttered plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes on the middle rack. If you have an instant-read thermometer, it should show 185 to 190 degrees in the center of each bun when they are done. Transfer to a cooling rack. Remove from pans and serve.
For five months a year, LaDonna Gundersen lives aboard a 32-foot fishing boat in Alaska with her commercial-fisherman husband, Ole, preparing meals in the boat’s 4-by-5-foot galley. Find more great galley recipes from her six Alaskan-themed cookbooks at ladonnarose.com
This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue.