Does anyone else remember that Seinfeld episode? The one with the chocolate babka? It’s the one where George, Kramer, Jerry and Elaine are preparing to go to a dinner party and Elaine feels that they need to bring something. So they stop at a bakery to purchase a chocolate babka. Jerry & Elaine forget to take a number when they get there, resulting in another couple, who ironically are headed to the same dinner party, purchasing the last chocolate babka. This left Jerry & Elaine with the only other option which was a cinnamon babka. And we all know that’s the “lesser babka”. Such a classic show and a classic episode.
Have you ever watched something that evoked feelings that just never seemed to dissipate? Like when you watch the movie “Chocolat”…this movie causes even the most adamant chocolate hater (is there such a thing?) to drool at the sight of Vianne taking melted chocolate and turning it into pure beauty. That is what the chocolate babka episode of Seinfeld did to me. That episode is spent almost entirely in the bakery, and by the end of the episode it’s like I can actually smell the intoxicating aroma of fresh bread, bittersweet chocolate, and pecans.
And so I had to try it…
and this is what followed…
Pure bliss! Is there anything better in life? Homemade bread? Absolutely! Chocolate? Always! Pecans? Yes please! My house smelled the way I am certain heaven will smell like.
This Eastern European Jewish bread was pretty much a success from beginning to end. Like most yeast breads, it took thoughtful planning for my day allowing ample time for rising and chilling, but it was well worth the time and wait! One note of advice: When rolling the babka, it’s important to roll it as tight as possible in an effort to keep any air pockets from forming. These air pockets make for a difficult cutting experience when you’re ready to serve the bread. Should you decide to try this one out, it’s perfect for breakfast, brunch, or anytime with tea or coffee. Enjoy!
Makes 2 loaves, about fourteen 1/2-inch slices each
1 1/4 cups milk
5 tsp. (2 envelopes) active dry yeast
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
6 large egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup walnut, or pecan pieces, coarsely chopped
- Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it is just lukewarm, about 110 F. Pour the milk into the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk in the yeast. Whisk in the butter, sugar, salt, egg yolks, and vanilla. Use a large rubber spatula to stir in 1/2 the flour.
- Place the bowl on the mixer and use the paddle attachment to beat the dough on low speed. Add the remaining flour about 1/2 cup at a time, beating to incorporate between additions. When all the flour has been added, beat the dough for 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Beat the dough on low to medium speed for 2 minutes more.
- Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl and turn it over so that the top is buttered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.
- While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the chocolate with the sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon, and pulse to grind finely. Pour the filling into a bowl and set aside.
- After the dough has chilled, scrape it onto a floured work surface and press it out to a rectangle about 10 x 15 inches. Evenly scatter the chocolate filling on the dough. Scatter the chopped walnuts or pecans over the filling. Roll up the dough from one long side jelly-roll style and pinch the ends to seal. Use a knife to cut the roll into 2 equal pieces.
- Invert one of the rolls, seam side down, into one of the prepared pans (buttered loaf pans with the bottoms lined with rectangles of parchment or buttered wax paper cut to fit). Repeat with the second roll. Cover the pans with towels or buttered plastic wrap and let them rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room.
- About 20 minutes before the babkas are completely risen, set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F.
- Bake until the babkas are well risen and deep golden, about 45 minutes. Cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then unmold and cool on their sides to prevent collapsing.