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The Best Chocolate Babka Recipe

July 19, 2022 | by Elizabeth Kurtz

Master the chocolate babka.

Intro by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

For millions of people around the world, the quintessential Jewish babka was introduced into the American consciousness by Jerry Seinfeld. In his 1994 episode “The Dinner Party”, Jerry and Elaine are invited to a dinner party and plan to buy a chocolate babka on the way. While they’re waiting in a bakery another couple buys the last one. Jerry and Elaine commiserate that no other cake is as tasty: “You can’t beat a babka!” The pair eventually spy another babka stuffed with cinnamon. Calling it the “lesser babka” they reluctantly buy the cake.

Babka is indeed a fantastic pastry: light and airy, with a yeasty fluffy dough containing swirls of sweet stuffing inside. Popular fillings include nuts and cinnamon, marzipan, jam and chocolate. While there are babka like cakes found throughout Eastern Europe, babka today is indelibly tied to Jewish cuisine. Sliced and served with a cup of tea or coffee, babka is the ideal dessert.

Historians aren’t entirely sure where babka originated. The name babka evolved from Baba, which means Grandma in several Eastern European languages, including Yiddish. Babka is a diminutive of baba, meaning “little grandma”.

When Jewish families began emigrating from Eastern Europe to North America and elsewhere in the late 1800s, they brought their taste for babka with them. Many Jewish housewives began adding chocolate, now affordable, to their traditional babkas, and the famous chocolate babka was born.

Did you know that the Kabbalah says that eating is a powerful spiritual act? It teaches that mindful eating helps to elevate the entire food chain. Get more Jewish food thoughts here.

Active time: 1 hour

Total time: 4 hours

Yield: Makes 4 loaves

INGREDIENTS

Babka:

  • 7 cups all-purpose flour plus 1 additional cup, as needed, divided
  • 6 (1/4-ounce) packages or 4 1/2 tablespoons instant or rapid rise yeast
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups buter or vegan butter, melted
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Crumb Topping:

  • 4 tablespoons butter or vegan butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Chocolate Babka Filling

  • 1 cup butter or vegan butter, melted
  • 1 (4.1-ounce) box instant chocolate pudding
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

PREPARATION

  1. To make the babka: Combine flour, yeast, sugar, vanilla sugar, butter, water, eggs, egg yolks, and salt in a large bowl. Turn out on floured board and knead 5 minutes, adding up to 1 cup of flour if the dough is sticky. Allow to rise in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap for 1 1/2 hours.
  2. For the crumb topping: Crumble butter with flour and sugar in a small bowl, using fingertips.
  3. Make the filling: In a small bowl, combine butter, chocolate pudding, egg, water, sugar, and cocoa. Use an eighth of this recipe for each section of dough.
  4. Spray 4 (10-inch) loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Divide dough into 8 pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle, the length of the loaf pan. Spread filling onto each rectangle, within 1 inch of borders. Roll from long side, like a jellyroll. Twist 2 rolls around each other and place a twist in each pan. Using all the crumbs, sprinkle a quarter of crumb topping on each babka. Let rise for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes in pan, then remove and cool completely on wire rack.



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