[You can find a very, very close version to this recipe on Martha's website right here. It is not the exact version that appears in the MSBH, but it's almost exact. Here is why I don't include recipes in my posts.]
These took a while – they are not too labor-intensive, but they do require rising and proofing and whatnot. And forming. And there are more than a couple ingredient prep tasks. But they seem to be worth it! I say “seem to be” because I’m off of gluten and sugar for the month of March. But I had some enthusiastic tasters who all agreed that these babkas are the bomb.
You start with yeast dissolved into warm milk and eggs and egg yolks whisked with some sugar.
You mix these wet ingredients together and then that mixture is combined with all-purpose flour and salt in your mixer’s bowl.
The paddle attachment brings the dough together and then the dough hook is substituted to do the heavy lifting. Lots of butter is added during the dough hook stage.
After about 10 minutes of kneading with the dough hook, all the butter is worked in and the dough is completely smooth. I am always amazed when making doughs like this – I always think there is just no way that much butter can be worked in without ruining the dough, but it always works out beautifully in the end.
This soft, silky dough is kneaded by hand into a smooth ball and allowed to proof in a buttered bowl until doubled in size.
I used my oven’s bread proofing function and it took about an hour to double. There is a lot of air in there! From here, the dough is punched down and allowed to rest on the countertop (I covered it so it wouldn’t dry out).
While the dough was resting I made the chocolate filling. The recipe calls for two pounds of semi-sweet chocolate cut into fine chunks. I did not want to do this, for various reasons, so I opted to use King Arthur Flour Company’s chocolate chunks. This is not ideal for a few reasons I can think of, but my hand and wrist joints simply will not allow me to chop that much chocolate, so this was my solution. While not ideal, I am absolutely happy with the results and I would use this stuff in any recipe calling for chocolate chunks. But yes, I do know taking a large brick of chocolate and chopping it by hand is always preferable.
The chocolate chunks, cinnamon, and sugar are combined together in a bowl.
And then butter is cut in. I was perplexed here – even if I had chopped the chocolate into much smaller pieces by hand I think this step would be problematic. In the end I used both the pastry cutter and my hands. My mixture did not resemble the much smoother and paste-like mixture in the MSBH photos, but I think it worked out fine in the end.
The dough is portioned into thirds and each portion is rolled out flat into a square.
And egg wash made from egg and cream is brushed around the edges to help the seam the loaf once it’s rolled up.
Filling is spread out evenly over the dough, much like filling in the Sticky Bun recipe.
Then the dough is rolled tightly. I recalled my mistake with the Cinnamon Raisin Bread, where I didn’t roll the loaves tightly enough. I made every effort to roll these tightly, pulling the dough taught after every half-roll. I think this helped a great deal in achieving a more marbled effect in my final loaves. The dough held together remarkably well, even when my stretching thinned it out considerably.
The roll is then seamed and ready for further manipulation.
The roll is twisted five or six times, kind of like wringing out a wet rag.
And then it is bent like a horseshoe, brushed on top with egg wash, and topped with more of the chocolate filling. From here, one side is brought over the other and the ends pinched together to form a figure-8.
And then the loaf is twisted a few more times. I was so impressed with how well the dough stood up to all my man-handling. Some of the chocolate falls off and there were a few tears here and there, but not many.
The formed loaf then goes into a buttered and parchment-lined loaf pan. Don’t skimp on the butter. It definitely keeps the loaves from sticking but it also ensures that the crust bakes up flaky and delicious.
You brush the loaves with more egg wash and top with Streudel Topping, wish is just a mixture of powdered sugar and flour with butter cut in. The loaves then proof until until “puffy” which for me was about an hour in a cool room. (I could not use my oven’s bread proofer because the butter in the filling and topping would have liquified.)
The recipe says you can opt to freeze the loaves at this point, in the pan, and I did so with one of them. I simply wrapped the entire pan with several layers of plastic wrap and then put the whole thing in a large freezer bag. When I go to bake it I will, according to the recipe, need to allow it to stand at room temp for 5 hours.
Two of the loaves went into the oven and I found I needed about 25 more minutes than what the recipe called for. The loaves baked up beautifully. The parchment really helps you lift them out of the pan to cool. They are very, very heavy!
They have the most wonderful, deep chocolate smell when the come out of the oven.
We sliced into them when they were still somewhat warm, which squashed the top of the loaf a bit. I would suggest waiting until they cool completely, if you can stand it.
So, here’s what my friends – ages 39, 38, and 12, if that matters – thought:
Opinion #1 – “Delicious, like a French bakery item. The crust tastes like a croissant, one of those you buy at good bakeries that are crisp on the outside. The chocolate is so good, you can tell it’s good quality. I like the sugary topping whatever it is. You would think chocolate and bread would be weird but this is like eating a very good chocolate croissant. It is more like a pastry than bread or cake. Yum!”
Opinion #2 – “You should make this for the next potluck, it’s like a dessert. I would eat this for dessert. I like the dark chocolate flavor and how creamy the chocolate is. I don’t notice the bread so much except for the crunchy crust part, which is really buttery and good. This is probably not good for me. I could eat the whole thing. It’s kind of like a cinnamon roll except with chocolate instead of cinnamon-sugar and in the shape of a loaf.”
Opinion #3 – “This tastes like a chocolate pop-tart except softer and messier.”
A big hit all around, I think!