The traditional babka, meaning “Little Grandmother” is an Eastern European bread that is dense, rich and light all at the same time. Swirled with chocolate, nuts and cinnamon – this was only a version that seemed to develop mid-century by the American Jews.
Babka was originally a large cake with a fluted base that some say resembled a pleated skirt. There are a multitude of theories on the origins of this bread. Some say it is a Ukrainian invention, others say that it was developed from an Italian pannetone that was brought by Queen Bona Sforza of Poland to the region.
In all my naiveness and possibly growing up in Australia, I first heard the words “Babka” when watching Seinfeld… possibly one of my favourite episodes. But I digress.
Babka is not the easiest bread to make or the most difficult. It takes a bit of time and patience, a lot of love but the benefits and joys of munching down on this nutty, dense, chocolatey bread is worth it.
120g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp cinnamon
80g brown sugar
Pinch of salt
80g semi sweet chocolate, roughly chopped or chocolate chips
80g toasted pecans, roughly chopped
50g maple syrup
Makes 1 medium loaf
Preparation: overnight proofing
Baking Time: 30-40 minutes
280g plain flour
60g white sugar
7g instant yeast
150mls milk, room temperature
Zest of 1 orange
½ tsp vanilla essence
2 x medium eggs
¼ tsp salt
140g butter, cubed
Oil (for greasing)
Mix milk with vanilla, salt and eggs
Place the sugar, yeast, zest and flour in a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment
Add milk mixture to flour until combined
Switch to dough hook and then start adding the butter, bit by bit until all is incorporated.
Mix for about 5-8 minutes until the dough is nice and smooth
Place in a well oiled bowl and cover with cling film and allow the dough to rise and double in size then place in the refrigerator overnight so it can work its magic
The next day, turn the dough out on to well floured surface and roll out into a rectangle 25cm width x 40cm length
For the chocolate filling, mix cinnamon, sugar, cocoa and butter together until combined
Have on stand by for when the dough is ready to be rolled
Spread the chocolate mixture over the surface of the dough, leaving about a 1.5cm edge all around
Roll the dough length wise to form a 25cm cylinder. Place in the fridge for about 10-15minutes to firm up (you will thank me for this later)
Take out the dough and with a sharp knife, cut it in half so you have long strips
Braid the two pieces of dough over each other so they are nicely twisted firmly together
Place into a grease and lined loaf tin (about 20cm in length), cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise for 30-40 minutes. For the maple glaze, heat the ingredients on a low temperature until the butter is just melted.
Preheat the oven to 190’C and bake the babka for 30-40 minutes until well risen and golden.
Allow the bread to cool slightly before turning out and brush the babka while still warm with the maple glaze