posted by luvcookin 10-28-100 11:50 AM
by Mollie Katzen
A babka is an East European-style coffeecake, usually made with yeast dough and a semisweet filling. It can be considered cake bread or a bride cake, depending upon your mood at the time. This babka is straightforward to make and very festive to serve. The combination of rich bread dough with a moist dark chocolate filling is like a working person's version of the classic petit pain au chocolate.
The babka keeps will. You can freeze chunks or individually wrapped slices, then defrost and heat them until the chocolate melts slightly.
Note: The babka can be assembled one to two days prior to baking. Wrap it well, and store in the refrigerator.
1 cup milk
5 tablespoons butter or margarine, plus extra for greasing the pan and bowl
1/4 cup lukewarm water (wrist temperature)
1 pkg. Active dry yeast
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 to 6 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped
Place the milk in a small saucepan and heat it just to the point where it is about to boil. Remove from heat, and add 5 tablespoons butter or margarine. Set aside to cool. You can speed up this process by putting it in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.
Generously grease the bottom, middle, and sides of a standard-sized tube or bundt pan. Set aside.
Place the water in a large bowl, and sprinkle in the yeast.
When the milk mixture has cooled to wrist temperature (be sure it is no warmer then this!), add it to the yeast, along with sugar and salt.
Begin adding the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition with a wooden spoon. (At some point you will have to graduate from a spoon to using your hand.)
When all the flour is mixed in, turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes. Add small amounts of flour as necessary, to keep the dough from getting too sticky to handle.
Clean the bowl, and grease it well with butter or margarine. Add the kneaded dough, and oil or butter the top surface. Place it in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk. This will take approximately 2 hours.
Place the chocolate chips in a food processor fitted with the steel blade or a blender, and grind them until they resemble course meal. Transfer to a small bowl, and combine with the unsweetened cocoa. Take about 1/3 cup of this mixture and sprinkle it into the bottom of the greased pan, distributing it as evenly as possible. Sprinkle in the chopped nuts.
When the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down and return it to the floured surface. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes.
Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a large oval, about 9 to 10 inches wide at the middle and 16 to 17 inches long. (You'll have to keep pressing down the dough while you roll it, as yeast dough has a life of its own.)
Sprinkle the remaining chocolate filling as evenly as possible over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch rim around the outer edge. Roll it up tightly along the long edge, pinching the edges to seal them. Carefully life the babka and ease it into the pan, making as even a circle as possible. Pat it firmly into place, and seal the two ends together with a little water and a good pinch.
If you want to bake the babka the same day, let it rise at room temperature for about 45 minutes more. To store it for baking a day or two later, wrap airtight in a large plastic bag, and refrigerate until baking time. (It will rise in there, but much more slowly. It can go directly into a hot over from the refrigerator.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until it gives off a hollow sound when thumped.
Remove the babka from the pan and invert onto a plate, so the chocolate-nut coating ends up on top. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
Preparation time: 4 hours from start to finish (much of which is either rising or baking time).
Yield: 1 large coffeecake ring.
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