Introduction: Babka Basics
Babka is an Eastern European semi-sweet bread. Popularly babka is most well known from the Seinfeld episode where Jerry pursues the last chocolate babka from a bakery... 'cinnamon takes a back seat to no babka!'
The Goal. To learn to make a babka that rivals the delicious Trader Joe's Brooklyn Babka. Ideally without needing to reference a recipe.
Variations. Know that there are many.... Most popular are the three C's -- chocolate, cinnamon and cheese. This version is a spiced 'mexican' chocolate with coconut!
Step 1: Ingredients
- Oil - 1/4 cup (optional to add butter)
- Water - (optional to add milk. traditionally babka is dairy free)
- Flour - bread flour is idea... requires less kneading to build up the gluton
- Sugar - 1 cup
- Eggs - 2-3 eggs
- Salt - 1/4 tsp
- Yeast - 1-2 tsp ----easiest way to get started baking is to pickup a pack of freeze dried yeast (Saf Yeast)
For any regular mixing bowl use roughly the amounts posted for all ingredients above... for water and flour add water first and keep adding flour until the dough is the 'right' consistency... see next step.
- Chocolate - any chocolate works. I have some baker's chocolate but it's easy to throw in chocolate chips or candy bars... add some oil to smooth it out if too dry
- Butter - (and/or oil)
- Spices - Cinnamon, Cayenne, Salt
- Coconut - a couple times a year I find shredded coconut super cheap at the grocery.. somewhere around $1/pack.
Step 2: Mixing
Hand v. Stand Mixer
Certainly it's nice to use a stand mixer... in no way is it necessary... it simply takes about 5 more minutes without one to incorporate ingredients. I do find that the stand mixer helps me to bake more frequently. Mainly because having done it by hand for so long it feels effortless with the kitchenaid.
Step by Step Guide:
- Oil - 1/4 cup
- Milk/Water - I use a 50/50 mix. first pouring in some milk (about 2 cups) than adding nearly boiled water from the kettle to make a total of 4 cups
- Sugar - 1 cup
- Eggs - 2 eggs (our ladies lay large eggs! @kutzkycoops)
- Salt - 1/4 tsp
- Flour - add the first half... roughly the amount that you've added for milk/water
- Yeast - 1-2 tsp... the more yeast the faster the rise. I use the sprinkle in method. I add it half way through adding the flour so that the water mixture is cool enough... you can proof your yeast if you like. it took my 5 years to realize the yeast is always active when kept cool and dry!
- Flour - keep adding flour. I add it with a 1/3 cup measuring cup until it is dry enough to gather around the spoon/mixing paddle. Then I pour out the mixture onto a surface and work in more flour as needed.
Step 3: Kneading Dough
Knead the slightly wet (sometimes overly wet) dough on a large cutting board or counter. See in the photos how the folds become more sturdy as flour is incorporated and the glutton strength is built up through the process.
Step 4: Proofing
Allow the dough to set for around 3 hours. It should double in size.
I simply put it in the mixing bowl let the cutting board cover it. For me, using a damp towel is never worth the hassle.
Step 5: Forming Dough
I use a dough scraper and a rolling pin to form a large sheet of dough. It's a little under 2 feet long and a little over 1 foot wide.
Step 6: Filling
Using a double boiler (a pan within a pan). Melt chocolate and add butter/oil over medium heat. It takes about 5 minutes to melt. I add a few spices to kick up the flavor.
Step 7: Spread Filling
The chocolate mixture and the coconut are spread across the dough.
The chocolate cools fast if it doesn't have much oil... add more oil or transfer small amounts at a time.
Step 8: Roll It
Simply roll from the center. Shape doesn't really mater... the goal is to get the layers formed.
The dough can stick to the work surface. Best to keep the surface well floured.
Step 9: Cut and Wrap
My cut starts a few inches from one end. After I complete the wrap I finish the cut and wrap that starting side.
The whole wrap is then laid into the greased baking pan (next step)
Step 10: Final Proof to Bake
Once in the baking pan allow for a final proof.
- Final Proof is typically 20-30 minutes. Anything over 40 min is likely too long.
- Cover with a lid, plastic wrap or another baking tin.
- To Oven - I start my bake covered.
- High to Start - starting at 420F
- Temp Drop - after 10-15 min drop the temp to 370F
Temperature can really vary quite a bit. For regular bread it's best to have a consistent high temp. For sweet breads with more fat it's better to drop the temp. ---one thing to remember... never preheat for bread
--doesn't hurt to spray the bread with cooking oil a couple times through the process... helps keep it from burning on the top.
Step 11: Enjoy!
This babka came out delicious! Spicy and not too sweet.
Hope you enjoy and feel more confident baking!
Thank you! Jeff
Consider following for more @jprussack
Here are a few other recent baking instructables to help you bake confidently without a recipe:
- Art of Breadmaking - simple approach to making great bread without a recipe
- Bread Pudding - never let scrap rolls go to waste
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