Mrs Maskall's Chocolate Babka
A babka is a sweet braided bread or cake which originated in the Jewish communities of Poland and Ukraine. It is popular in Israel (often referred to as simply a yeast cake) and in the Jewish diaspora.
70g nuts of your choice
100g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
80g dark chocolate chopped up (higher percentage of cocoa, the better!)
40g cocoa powder
Some people like to add shredded coconut, or cinnamon in to this mixture - you can totally make it your own.
275g plain flour
5g fast-action dried yeast
25g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs beaten
80g unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
100g caster sugar
Loaf tin - grease and lined (make sure you have longer bits overhanging the short ends)
Proving time is 2 hours - baking time approx 45 minutes
1. Heat oven to 200c/180 fan/Gas Mark 6 (This is just for toasting your nuts)
2. Toast your nuts in the oven for 5 minutes in the bottom of the oven. Keep an eye on them and shake them occasionally. When they are done let them cool and then roughly chop them in to various sizes.
3. Put the butter, sugar and chocolate for the filling in a saucepan and melt slowly over a low heat, stirring until combined and no lumps are left. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder (and cinnamon if you're using it). Pour in to a bowl and leave to cool.
4. For the dough, put the flour into a bowl (you can use a stand mixer if you have one) and add the yeast to one side of the bowl, and the sugar and salt on the other side. Make a well in the centre and pour in the eggs and milk, then mix until firm. You can use your hands and start kneading when it starts to come together.
5. Then add the butter a bit at a time while kneading - making sure that you are incorporating the butter fully each time.
6. Once you've used all the butter, keep kneading (you'll have strong arms by the end!) until the dough appears shiny.
7. Flour a surface and roll your dough out to 40x30cm rectangle, having the long edge close to you.
8. Spread the chocolate mixture you made earlier over the dough, leaving about 1cm around the edges. Then sprinkle the toasted nuts all over. If you're using coconut sprinkle this over too.
9. This is the fun part. Starting from the long edge closest to you, roll up the dough into a tight spiral, and make sure the seam is underneath when you're finished.
10. Trim about 2cm off each end to neaten it up, then turn the roll so the short end is now closest to you. Using a large knife or a pizza cutter, slice through the middle of the dough cutting it in to 2 long pieces.
11. Face the cut sides upwards (you'll be able to see all the lovely layers!), and press the two top ends together to seal it. Then lift the right half over the left half, followed by the left half over the right half - and keep twisting until you run out. Press the ends together to seal.
12. Carefully lift the loaf in to the lined tin and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave at room temperature for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.
13. Fifteen minutes before the end of proving time, heat the oven to 190c/170 fan/Gas 5.
14. Once the proving time is up, bake it for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 170c/150 fan/Gas 3 and cook for a further 15-30 minutes, until a skewer or knife inserted in to the centre comes out clean.
15. While the babka is baking you can make the syrup. Put the sugar and 100ml water in to a small saucepan. Bring this to the boil over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer, without stirring, for 5 minutes until it turns in to a syrup. Then leave to cool.
16. When the babka is done, transfer it in the tin to a wire rack. Brush the syrup over the hot babka, then leave it in the tin until it's warm enough to handle. Turn it out on to a wire rack and serve warm or room temperature.
You can use any manner of filling that you'd like - I know lots of people who use nutella, or make a cinnamon bun style filling. It doesn't need to be neat so don't worry too much about the twisting!