Welcome to April’s Bakealong Challenge, the Chocolate Babka!
Perhaps I should start off by saying that I had no idea what a babka was before I started this challenge. Yeah, how sad is that. But the fact of the matter is, I was no bread eater and the bakeries back home didn’t make babkas when I was growing up. So the long and short of it is, this month’s Bakealong certainly posed a challenge for me. I was a bit out of sorts so I forgot a number of things during my first attempt to make a chocolate babka.
First, when I was measuring the ingredients, I discovered that I ran out of yeast. While I was contently rolling out the dough a few hours later, it suddenly occured to me that I had forgotten to make the filling. I then had to drop what I was doing in order to attend to the filling. And if those weren’t enough, I failed to rest the shaped dough in order to make it puffy. It also completely slipped my mind to remove the loaves from the oven in order to cover them with a foil. So really, I had quite a list of mishaps on my first attempt. There was a lot of room for improvement and I was determined to redeem myself.
The first batch of babkas weren’t that awful actually. On the contrary, they were actually quite good. One of my co-workers even commented that the babka tasted similar to the ones that are sold in fancy bakeries here in Singapore.
I wanted my second attempt to be completely foolproof. I replenished my supply of yeast and flour. The recipe called for a lot of flour and a few tablespoons of yeast. I bought 2 big packets of instant yeast. The first one was just the “normal” type of yeast, while the other was a special one called “osmotolerant” yeast. The latter kind is used in making doughs that have a high sugar content. The King Arthur Flour recipe recommends using the special yeast (branded Gold label in their case). They also have an enlightening article that talks about yeast here.
I changed how the filling is made because just like what one commenter had said in the Bakealong forum, the filling was hard to spread once the butter has cooled down. So instead of just melting the butter and mixing the sugar and cocoa powder in, I opted to melt the butter, chocolate chips and sugar first before whisking the cocoa powder in. It made for a smoother and more spreadable filling in my opinion.
The next thing I changed was the chocolate used in the filling. I found it too sweet since it used semisweet chocolate. (Although I guess skipping the espresso powder played a part as well.) So for the second attempt, I used bittersweet chocolate chips and a few drops of coffee extract.
The third thing that I changed was how the loaves were shaped. I wanted more obvious chocolate stripes. I found this really cool method on Google. One trick I learned was to roll out the dough thinly to get more layers.
Finally, I had to let go of the streusel. Nothing personal, I actually loved the crunchy texture but it completely distracted from the beautiful striations. If you do want to make the streusel, go ahead, it’s quite simple.
I put this challenge as a high medium. Don’t get me wrong, it was quite enjoyable and doing the spade work definitely paid dividends.
Shaping the Chocolate Babka takes practice but don’t worry if the filling is messy or the nuts fall off. Even the messiest shaped dough will churn out the tastiest babka.Print