Saturday, December 22, 2007

Chocolate Cherry Babka

Chocolate Cherry Babka

Chocolate Cherry Babka

Have confidence in your baking this holiday season.

I wanted to make a yeasted pastry and this combination of brioche dough, chocolate, and cherries sounded perfect.

I didn't really know what I was doing. At first, the dough seemed too stiff. Adding more water made it unbelievably sticky, so I added extra flour. After a night in the fridge, the dough was hard, ugly, and more like thick batter.

It rolled out very easily, but it stuck to the counter. Using a dough scraper I managed to roll it up and cut it, but the slices were loose and spilling filling everywhere. I tossed them into the pan and let them rise in a slightly warm, turned off oven. I realized i'd forgotten the cocoa powder.

Despite my errors and questions of judgement, the bread turned out fantastically. I let my brother sample a warm, freshly baked piece and he said, "Lisa, you shouldn't be allowed to cook this well."

This babka is best eaten shortly after it's baked. It'd be good to serve for a holiday breakfast, brunch, or occasion when you have lots of guests.

You can reheat the whole loaf or thick, individual slices in a 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes. I placed slices on a baking sheet, covered them with foil, and flipped them once. They came out lightly toasted and moist with hot melted chocolate (and 100% better than they were while cold.)

Chocolate Cranberry Babka
adapted from Alice Medrich's A Year in Chocolate

3 cups bread flour
20 tbsp (2.5 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1 envelope (1 scant tbsp) active dry yeast
1 tsp + 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
5 eggs, cold
1 1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp instant coffee or espresso powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup dried cranberries or cherries

8-10 cup tube pan, greased

To make the babka, spread the flour in a wide baking pan. Freeze at least 30 minutes, or until needed.

Using the paddle attachment of a heavy-duty mixer, beat the cold butter only until creamy, smooth, and free of lumps when pinched between your fingers. Scrape the butter into a mound on wax paper and refrigerate. Proceed with the recipe right away; a long delay will harden the butter.

Dissolve the yeast and 1 tsp of sugar in the warm water. Pour the dissolved yeast in the mixer bowl. Attach the dough hook. Add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, eggs, salt, and the flour, and mix until blended. Knead the dough on medium speed for 5 minutes. After the kneading period the dough will be very soft, sticky, and elastic. It will all be wrapped around the dough hook. Add the cold creamed butter in several pieces, pushing it into the dough, and beat with the hook until thoroughly incorporated. Stop several times to scrape the dough from the bowl and hook. Scrape the dough into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Mix the filling ingredients and cover.

Up to 24 hours later, scrape the cold dough out onto a floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle about 18x12.5 inches. Scatter the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1 inch margin on one long edge. Moisten the margin with water. Beginning at the long edge opposite the margin, roll the dough up like a jelly roll. Press firmly to seal the roll. With the seam facing down, cut 18 slices, each about 1 inch thick. Toss the slices gently into the pan, without particularly arranging them. If you lay them flat in the pan, they will not stick together properly. Adjust the slices to reach the same level in the pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Bake until the top is deeply browned and the bottom of the pan sounds hollow when tapped or until an instant read thermometer registers 200 degrees when inserted in the center of the bread, 50-60 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack.

1 comment:

cookworm said...

That looks beautiful. I've always wanted to make a babka. Chocolate and cherry is one of my fave combinations, too.