There is only one way to start this post: It’s babka, bitch.
Yes, that was meant to be a Britney Spears reference- like my puns, I don’t care if my jokes/old cultural references are lame. Also, I don’t even know if kids are part of this site’s readership, let alone whether or not they would recognize that reference. Regardless, I am a child of the 90’s so that’s my wheelhouse, and apparently the fashion of that decade is cool again so either way I’m set. Onto to main show: BABKA. If you don’t know what that is yet, a) I’m so sorry you’ve gone this long in life without it, and b) it’s an Eastern European dessert of sweet yeasted bread/loaf filled with cinnamon-chocolate magic. Real talk: I looked it up on Wikipedia to see if there was a specific country/area in Europe known for it [Hey, I try to make the stuff in between my rants useful and/or informative!] but mostly I got “Eastern Europe”, so let’s leave it at that. It’s traditionally made as a loaf, where it’s assembled similarly to these buns (but thicker, shorter, and with way more filling), halved, twisted/braided, and baked in a bread/loaf pan. It’s amazing, but far more of an endeavor to make, especially since nearly all babka recipes yield at least two full-sized loaves. After seeing no one other than Deb (of Smitten Kitchen fame) do this , I decided to bun-ify my recipe. Essentially, it’s the same amazing flavor, just with far less work. It’s definitely ideal for just indulging a craving, or maybe to make for a small get-together. The pro/con is that it is still a bit of work (as is any recipe that has more than one rise in it) and time, but conversely takes far less in terms of ingredient quantity. I mean, if you’re cool with regularly stocking several pounds of butter in the fridge, by all means, but I’ve gotten the impression most people don’t.
- As mentioned below, you can definitely just use this recipe to make one full-sized loaf; I didn’t have photos to share of assembling it, but a quick google search will take care of that
- I usually proof the yeast in a measuring cup, which makes it both easier to pour, and clean (fewer dishes!)
- I’ve used 1% milk in a pinch, as I don’t normally drink whole, and while I don’t recommend doing it regularly, it’ll be fine if you have to
Makes one 9″ x 5″ loaf or 16 buns
3/4 cup whole milk, warmed to ~110 degrees
2 1/4 teaspoons (or one 1/4 ounce package) active dry yeast
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (75g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
3 cups (360g) all-purpose flour [plus extra for rolling/work surface]
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons/1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick/8 tablespoons/ 113g) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon [optional, but highly recommended]
Make the dough:
- Heat the milk and a large pinch of sugar, either in a microwave or in a small saucepan over low heat, to between 110 to 116°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, you’re looking for it to be warm but not hot to the touch; best to err on the cool side (it’ll just take a bit longer).
- Sprinkle yeast over milk and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes (if unsure, give it an extra minute or two).
- In a small bowl, whisk together egg and remaining 1/4 cup sugar, then slowly whisk in yeast mixture.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt.
- With the mixer running on low speed (i.e. #2 on a KitchenAid), add egg mixture, mixing until combined.
- Add butter and mix until incorporated.
- Switch mixer to dough hook and let it knead the dough for 10 minutes on low speed. At 10 minutes, it should be sticky and stringy and probably worrisome, but will firm up a bit after it rises.
- Butter a large bowl and place dough in it. Cover loosely with a lint-free towel or plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.
Make the filling:
- Place the chopped chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl, and heat in 20-30 second bursts, stirring as it softens, until melted and combined.
- Whisk in sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon until smooth.
- Set aside while rolling out the dough- make sure it’s not too hot when you use it, as that’ll make the dough harder to work with.
Assemble the buns:
- Grease a standard muffin tin/whatever bakeware using.
- Place the dough onto a well-floured surface and gently press (i.e. deflate) it with floured hands (the dough will still be sticky). Let it rest for another 5 minutes.
- Once rested, roll dough into a large, large rectangle. The short sides should be a scant 11 to 12 inches. The other side can be as long as possible. The longer you can roll it out, the more swirly and pretty it’ll be. I got mine to about 18″-20″
- Spread the filling evenly over the dough’s surface, using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, leaving a 1/2: border around all edges. If the filling is not spreading well, pop it back in the microwave for a few seconds, but be sure not to overdo it, as stated above.
- Tightly roll the dough back over the filling from one short end to the other, forming a 12 to 13-inch log. Pinch the ends so that chocolate doesn’t leak out onto everything.
- With a bench scraper or serrated knife, gently cut into 1″ rounds and place each in a muffin cup.
- Loosely cover buns with plastic wrap or a lint-free towel and let them rise for another 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 350, and bake the buns for 15-25 minutes – the time frame is wide because it depends on how tightly the buns were rolled, the thickness of each piece, and your oven. Start checking at 15, and take them out as soon as they start turning golden-brown. Trust me, it goes quickly from light brown to overdone, and you do not want the latter.