Chocolate & Cardamom Babka
I had wanted to make one of these for quite some time having tried many a free sample of one of these loaves in a nearby shopping centre (and always failing to actually buy one). I immediately began drafting up ways I could make this at home, and this is the result.
This dough is SO WONDERFUL to work with, and this is such a satisfying recipe to make. However, I would like to mention that you should invest in an electric hand mixer as there is a lot of mixing to do (they cost around £20 but will help you with every baking venture you embark on so not so bad!)
What a babka is, is a bread dough enriched with butter, sugar, milk and eggs, (which makes for a gorgeously soft, tender crumb), filled with a chocolatey or cinnamon-y filling). Either way is delicious!
FOR THE DOUGH
400g plain flour
75g caster sugar (+1tsp for proofing the yeast)
1x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
1tbsp vanilla extract
110g butter, cubed and softened at room temperature
FOR THE FILLING
40g icing sugar
20g cocoa powder
100g dark chocolate (+90g chocolate chunks/chips/chopped chocolate)
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
4 cardamom pods (1/2tsp ground cardamom should also suffice, though for some reason I find this hard to find!)
FOR THE SUGAR SYRUP
YOU WILL ALSO NEED
3lb loaf tin
Warm the milk until lukewarm (you should be able to put your finger in the milk and not feel a major temperature difference in the milk).
I like to do this using a sugar themometer and a small pan, and warm the milk over a low heat to 110°F. Stir in 1tsp of sugar, then sprinkle over the yeast. Leave to stand for five minutes or so (you will get a signature bakery-smell and it will begin to look foamy once it is ready).
Whisk in the eggs and vanilla, and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt.
I now like to grab my hand mixer with a dough hook attachment and mix on medium to high as I stream in the yeast-egg mixture I prepared earlier.
Once you have a homogenous dough, with no pieces of dry flour, add in the butter, cube by cube whilst still mixing, You want to add the next cube once the previous cube incorporates. Once all the butter has been added, keep mixing to knead the dough for another 10 minutes. The dough will become very smooth and soft.
Now grab a large piece of clingfilm and scrape the dough on top (it will be rather wet and sticky - do not worry!) and tease into a rough rectangular shape. Wrap it up in the clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
5 (the next day)
Now prepare the filling.
If using cardamom pods, crush them with the side of a knife or back of a spoon. Empty the seeds and bash them in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder. Add to a medium-sized saucepan along with the icing sugar, cocoa powder, 100g of the dark chocolate, butter, ground cinnamon and salt.
Set over a very low heat, and stir until everything is melted and combined. You don't want this to be super hot so feel free to remove it from the heat early and let the residual heat melt everything together.
Remove your dough from the fridge, Flour your surface and a rolling pin, and roll out your dough to a 9inch x 20inch rectangle (23cm x 50cm). Trim any jagged edges with a pizza cutter or knife.
Spread your filling across the dough in an even layer, then scatter over the 90g of chocolate chunks.
Tightly roll away from you (from the widest side) so you have a log, and trim the ends (as these have less filling - though you can still bake these).
Cut the log of dough in half, and lay one half horizontally on top of the other (essentially making a "+" shape). Now imagine your dough as two "^" shapes. Twist each "^" a couple of times over each other so you have a twisted dough.
Place into a 3lb loaf tin which has been greased and lined with baking parchment. Leave to rise for 2 hours at room temperature.
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Bake your babka for 30-35 minutes. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped at the bottom.
7Finally, prepare your sugar syrup. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Bubble away for 1-2 minutes. It won't change much in terms of consistency, so do not worry too much about this.
When your babka is out of the oven, leave it in the tin and poke lots of holes in it using a skewer, knife, or any other appropriate utensil. Spoon over the sugar syrup whilst the babka is still hot - this will help to keep it moist.
Leave to cool completely in its tin before serving!
This bread is best on the same day. However, should you want to keep it longer, it will last for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temperature. I recommend you toast slices the next day in the toaster, spread with butter - gorgeous!