Why It Works
- Bread flour successfully compensates for the extra butter, eggs, and sugar, ensuring adequate gluten development in this enriched, no-knead dough.
- A long fermentation period allows the yeasted dough to develop complex flavors.
Babka is a delicious yeast-risen coffee cake from Eastern Europe. Pronounced "bahb-ka", the word means "grandmother" in Polish, which is perfectly fitting for this plump and comforting sweet bread. Babka is typically filled with swirls of either cinnamon, nuts, or chocolate (my favorite of course). It's enriched with butter and eggs, giving it a texture similar to a brioche.
As with most recipes for bread, babka dough needs to be kneaded so that it will develop the gluten necessary for the dough to rise to a light and airy height. But kneading is a major pain in the butt if either you don't own a stand mixer, or, like me, you keep it stored in a cabinet in the counter underneath all your other pans and gadgets. I took one look inside that cabinet this week, had a vision of an avalanche, and then shut the door. I had a plan.
This babka was going to be my no-knead babka. I developed this recipe while working on no-knead breads for my book, The Complete Idiots Guide to Easy Artisan Bread. No-knead breads follow simple principles: use more liquid than usual, and give the dough a good, long rest. When these conditions are met, the proteins in the flour are able to connect into stretchy gluten strands on their own, without having to go through any physical manipulation. This takes the process of kneading out of the picture. An extra bonus to letting the dough rest longer is that the yeast in the dough has more time to develop flavor. No mixer and better flavor? Just stir the ingredients together and let it rest? Yup. This is definitely a win-win situation.
While most people may associate no-knead bread with lean, French boule-type breads, this method can also be applied to richer breads like babka. Because the addition of ingredients such as sugar, eggs, and butter can have a tenderizing effect on the dough, I make sure to use bread flour. I've found that the high protein in bread flour boosts the gluten power in an enriched dough, ensuring a nice light loaf. For the filling, a mixture of chocolate, cocoa, and cinnamon is rolled into the rested dough before baking. This is as fuss-free a babka as you can get. And as the aroma of cardamom, yeast, chocolate, and cinnamon fill the kitchen as the babka bakes, it'll feel just like a nice warm hug from grandma herself.
For the Dough:
1 cup whole milk, lukewarm
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (about 17 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
For the Filling:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
1 large egg, beaten
In a medium bowl, whisk together milk and yeast. Whisk in egg yolks, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, salt, and cardamom. Add liquid ingredients to dry and stir to completely combine. Loosely cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature until doubled in size and surface is covered with large bubbles, 2 to 3 hours. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or preferably overnight (the dough's flavor improves significantly).
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Spray a 10-inch tube pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine chocolate, cocoa, and cinnamon.
On a well-floured surface, roll babka dough into a 12- by 16-inch rectangle. Spread softened butter evenly over dough. Sprinkle chocolate mixture evenly over buttered dough.
Starting with the long end, gently roll up babka into a cylinder shape. (If dough sticks while rolling into a cylinder, a bench scraper helps to release dough.) Pinch seam to seal. Place cylinder into prepared pan, seam down and slightly overlapping both ends of cylinder. Brush top with egg and let rest at room temperature about 30 minutes.
Bake until babka is golden brown and set, and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center registers, 195° to 200°F (91° to 93°C). Cool in pan for 45 minutes. Gently run knife around inside edges to loosen babka and remove babka from pan. Cool completely on wire rack, about 2 hours. Serve.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 12 to 14|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 15g||19%|
|Saturated Fat 8g||41%|
|Total Carbohydrate 47g||17%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 20g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|