Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Finding Chocolate Babka

*Warning....lots of reading today. If you want to go straight to the recipe, scroll down.*

I consider  myself a pretty fearless baker. Thats why it caught me a little by surprise when Z-Monkey said to me casually one morning, " Mommy, how come you never make Babka? Auntie H. always does..." Ok, first things first. Auntie H. ran a bakery.  That should explain something, right? Ummm, not to a six year old, it doesn't. So, how, pray tell, do I go about explaining to my innocent and honest Z-Monkey that the reason why I never make babka is because it never comes out good! For some reason, I don't think that would be such a great topic in "Life Lessons for Today."  
If at first you don't succeed, just never do it again.
Anyways, his question got me thinking. Why do I never make babka? I make cinnamon buns, onion rolls, sweet dinner rolls, bear claws, challah and the likes? Why should babka be any different? You don't have to have a babka making license, right? So, I came to the conclusion, that its my recipe. That is, the lack of one.  I never really found a recipe that spoke to me. Therefore I undertook this as my mission of the week:
Find babka recipe, make babka and post results on blog regardless of the outcome. 
So we will consider this as a documentary of sorts, documenting my quest for the perfect babka recipe. As always, my starting point is Google. The first thing I found on Google was a surprising fact about babka-there are two completely different kinds of babka, which you will never find on the same table! The first kind originates from Jewish Eastern Europe, and is the one we are most familiar with. This kind of babka can further be narrowed down to two groups- Litvishe Babka and Galitzianer Babka
(I am completely serious.) The second kind of babka originates from Western Russia and Eastern Poland, and is traditionally baked for Easter Sunday. So that kind of babka looks like this. Confused yet? Me too. But one thing is clear, I don't care if my babka is Litvishe, Galitzianer, Chassidish or whatever, I just want it to taste like  like Green's! I have yet to find anyone who can reproduce Green's babka. Except for Auntie H. But I don't think its nice to ask professional bakers for their recipes, so thats out of the question. Back to my babka journey. I was surprised to find lots of food bloggers have made babka. I thought it was a super secret food found only deep in the supermarkets of Brooklyn. 
I guess something yummy  is worth sharing, right? So basically everyone used Martha Stewart's recipe for chocolate babka. But I was still nervous. The image I had in my head was layers upon layers of yeast dough, drenched in chocolate. All the pictures of Martha's recipe look like they have a rather dry filling. Plus, her filling called for almost 3 pounds of chocolate. Can you please stop and think about how much chocolate that is? I scanned lots of blog posts that used her recipe, and came to the conclusion that while her filling is iffy, her dough seems to be a success- rich, slightly flaky and moist. But still, how can Martha Stewart be an expert on Babka??* Just saying that out loud sounds funny! In truth, when you want something good, you gotta go to the source. So the source for babka, in my humble opinion, would have to be a baker with European roots, who got the recipe from her grandmother.
 Still feeling overwhelmed over which recipe to try,
 ( I really, really, really do not want to waste an entire evening baking something that is doomed from the start) I asked my boss what her favorite recipe of babka is. Soooo she has a recipe from a so-called Babka Expert and happily forked over the recipe with the cheery disclaimer : " Who makes homemade babka anyways?! Just go buy Green's! " Encouraging, I know. Still, she says its from a Babka Expert. So it must be good right? 
Now I feel like this:
(Minus the headband)

I cannot give up. I cannot quit before I start. I must be a role model to my children. (*Gulp*)
Ok, that pep talk worked. I am just going to pick one recipe and take a leap of faith.Ok maybe two recipes and combine them.
 Here it goes....

Chocolate Babka
8 ½ - 9 cups of flour 
3 ½ sticks margarine 
3 eggs
2 egg yolks (keep one egg white for later)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 ½ oz fresh yeast, or 2 tablespoons dry yeast
1 cup warm water (divided)
1 cup room temperature grape juice (divided)
1 tbl. vanilla sugar

Mix ½ cup warm water, and ½ cup grape juice in a small bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast, and wait until it gets foamy, about five minutes. ( Since the liquid is purple its actually really cool to watch the yeast explode while it dissolves!) Put rest of ingredients into a separate, large bowl, including the remaining water, grape juice, and yeast mixture. Knead dough for at least five minutes, until the dough is smooth. If it sticks to your hands, add a little more flour, but the dough is a very soft dough. Cover bowl with a towel, and set in a warm place. Allow to rise about 1-2 hours, until the dough doubles in size. 

Divide the dough into five parts. Sprinkle your workspace with a very light sprinkling of flour. If there is too much flour, its harder to roll the dough out thin.(That is the trick to a professional looking babka- roll it as thin as possible) Take a piece of  dough and roll into a large rectangle, about 18 inches by 12 inches. The rectangle should be slighty thicker than a rolled out pizza. Spread chocolate filling   (recipe to follow) over the dough. (Don't do what I did- spread the filling right up to the edge.) It's ok if the dough rips a little bit, when you roll it up, you won't be able to see it. 
Start rolling up the rectangle, starting at the shorter side of the rectangle. Once it is rolled up, pull on both sides gently to lengthen it a little bit.
 Fold the roll in half, making a horseshoe shape, and holding both sides, give it 2 or 3 twists. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray, and set the roll gently in the pan. Repeat with the remaining four pieces of dough. Cover the pans with a towel, and let rise for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400. While the babka is rising, prepare the crumb topping.(Recipe to follow) Brush the rolls gently with the reserved egg whites, and sprinkle on crumb. Bake at 400, for 10 minutes, then lower the oven to 350 and bake for an additional 30 minutes. For an extra touch, drizzle chocolate glaze on top. ( Anytime I make chocolate glaze, I always have a few spoonfuls leftover. It's at times like these that those little spoonfuls come in handy- put the extra glaze into a small ziploc bag, and freeze. When you need it, stick it in the microwave for 20 or so seconds, and then you have instant glaze!)

Chocolate Filling

4 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 stick plus 1 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1 - 8 ounce container of Rich's whip 
2 tablespoons oil
Grind chocolate chips, cinnamon, cocoa, sugar, and butter in a food
 processor to make a loose paste. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and mix
 in the rich's whip and oil. The consistency should be a little bit thinner
 than peanut butter. This recipe made exactly enough filling for five 
babkas. If you want to have plenty of filling, without having to worry, 
add: 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, 1/4 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup sugar, 
3 tablespoons margarine, and 2 tablespoons oil. 

Crumb Topping
1 2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1 1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 sticks margarine 

In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, and butter. Using a fork, stir until fully combined with clumps ranging in size from crumbs to 1 inch.

The Verdict
Ok, now that the dishes are washed, counters are scrubbed and floor is swept, I can sit down and contemplate over a steaming piece of babka- was all this worth it? Oh. My. Heavens. Did that answer your question?  Does it taste like a copycat of Green's? No. But this babka is so rich and soft and delicious in its own right, that it can stand on its own two feet. (Figuratively of course! Just imagine a babka dancing around your kitchen, it will make you smile.)
So, if you were secretly hoping for a Green's babka, please go to the store to buy one. Really. But, if you want to make a delicious,moist yeast cake, that is chocolatey and yummy, 
you've got it right here!

* I want to be clear, I have nothing against Martha Stewart. Goodness knows I am the biggest fan of her Cupcake book. I just find the idea of using a European style recipe from Martha Stewart, humorous.


  1. freakingawesome !!!

  2. yum!!! knew you could do it! u make us proud! u r a nut, and an awesome writer, baker,food photographer...we r cheering you on:)
    auntie h and crew

  3. Aww thanks....*blush* Well, you know who my role model is in the babka dept...NS!! Remember when he used to make those teeny babkas way back when??

  4. I've never had babka before. Maybe that's because I grew up in the southwest. It looks delicious, might have to give it a try.

  5. Hello! I am a good friend of your sister H and we are big fans of her babka. I love your website, it is done so beautifully. Every aspect is so professional. I have to control myself not to bake everything you post. My son D has a reputation for liking babka, but what no one realizes is that he really only likes H's babka. I only realized this after your post. I asked him do you like babka as much as you used to? He said no, the one Savta buys is not so good. And I laughed because I can totally picture him (many years ago) polishing off H's babka. We miss her babka, but we miss her even more, those were the days!
    Well, good luck with this blog, keep up your fantastic work!

  6. Oh, btw, Martha Stewart does have great directions for rolling out a babka. Where after shmearing the chocolate she folds the dough rolls it out and puts more chocolate. Check it out!

  7. Hey- is that the E i think it is? As in ES? Well, a voice from the past! Nice to hear from you :) We love H's too- thats why it took me 6 years to get the courage to try making babka! Anyways, glad you enjoyed!

  8. Looks awesome! It's so gr8 to see a baking blog run by a frum person -- usually there are so many kashrus issues with recipes!

    Two questions on the receipe:
    1) you mean we SHOULD put the chocolate paste to the end of the dough, right? (the wording was a little complicated)
    2)just wanted to point out for some reason the directions for the chocolate filling were cut off after the word "loose" (only when viewed in the website template, if i look on the comment page under "show original post" i can see what was missing).

    thanks again for such an awesome site!

  9. stam[azoid]- thanks for such a nice comment! That is actually one of the reasons I started this blog- I wanted something that would appeal to everyone- whether they just stumbled onto it on google and they live in Nevada, or someone who is looking for a good dessert for shabbos. Trying to accomodate everyone here, and having a great time! To answer your questions- yes, you should go right up to the end. Its not up to the end in the picture, so I didn't want to confuse anyone. I don't know why the words are cut off there! The same thing happened on my bear claws post, and I don't know how to fix it. I assume its a glitch on blogger, but if there are any techies out there, any help would be appreciated. Thanks again and enjoy!

  10. It looks like it has to do with the template design.

    the long line is under 'chocolate filling' starting at the phrase "to make a loose paste..." everything after "loose" is covered by the template.

    here are two options to fix it, easier option first:
    1)you can probably try going into "edit" the post, in "compose" mode (default probably) find the word "loose" that i mentioned, and hit 'enter' a few times after that word to see if it separates on the post.

    if not try:
    2)under edit post click the "Edit HTML" tab (instead of "COMPOSE") and if u can scroll through everything to find the word "loose" and type < br > (without the spaces around the br, it just wont show up if i type it here) that should break up the line 'manually'.

    that applies to any other time it happens as well :)

    good luck!

  11. Cool, thanks! I separated it now by pressing enter, I hope it doesn't happen anymore.

  12. shows up perfectly now :)
    unfortunately, these things happen sometimes with non-blogspot created templates.

  13. It actually is a template from blogspot, but I manually adjusted the post width- but I made it wider, not narrower. Do you have a blog? Would love to see it!

  14. awww, thanks! it's juststam.blogspot.com -- i'm actually posting right now to send people to yours!! :) (already added a link to my 'links' list on the right)

  15. I really like your blog and i really appreciate the excellent quality content you are posting here for free for your online readers. thanks peace claudia.

  16. Appreciation for your revealing your knowledge about this problem.

  17. First of all, thanks for the link. Second of all, I have a post which lists kosher bloggers, and I am adding you. Third, you do beautiful work, and your babka looks great. Okay, that out of the way, I have this to observe: I have been told that my babka tastes like Green's and the secret is to use your favorite challah dough, roll it thinly and fill it with a mixture of cocoa, sugar, and oil. I'm not sure I have posted this, but the filling for the litvish babka is close. Another observation: Martha Stewart seems so WASPY, but she is a Jersey girl whose mom was a traditional Polish baker, so I think she knows a little from Eastern European baked goods.

  18. Laura- first of all, thanks for your info on the different kinds of babkas- it helped put this post together :) Your babka sounds delicious- would love to try it one day!

  19. It looks awesome.
    I (used to) make babka all the time, but could never get past the too doughy underbaked center or alternately overbaked edges - how do you know when it's really ready? The only way around it for me is to make it in a tube pan: either 2 twisted loaves joined around the tube or slice the loaves and stack them in the pan (like mini cinnamon buns) - looks beautiful, like roses.

  20. Just ran into your blog and it is fabulous!!! I used to make this Babka, cuz I wouldn´t eat regular food just coffee and Babka till it was done!!!I usually make it to give out for purim with wine, and everyone waits for it!!!your pictures make my mouth water...going to the next recipe...

  21. I've had cinnamon babka at Noah's bagels (years ago) which looks similar to Green's. Do you have a cinnamon babka recipe rather than chocolate? I never see much in the way of cinnamon babka, only chocolate. While I like chocolate in many desserts, cinnamon babka has to be my favorite! Would King Arthur's cinnamon filling mix or cinnamon chips work as a substitute for chocolate? Your recipe looks absolutely delicious but I'm a cinnamon girl!!!

  22. For cinnamon babka you can use any cinnamon bun filling recipe, or you can brush the dough with oil, and sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon (generously).

  23. hi, I just discovered your blog and am excited to try your recipes. I actually shared your babka reservations for a long time. I found a really delicious and "easy" recipe in the Chef's Confidential cookbook should you ever be interested in trying another recipe.
    Thanks for really great looking blog

  24. sorry, just one more thing. do you need to take challah from this recipe?

  25. It's so funny, I've found myself in the same predicament as yourself (I am always baking and babka is probably my favorite dessert and yet I never make it). It's so involved and just like you said, I don't want to spend all day making something that's not going to turn out GREAT! Your recipe looks and sounds AMAZING!!! I'm planning on making it this weekend for my uncle's birthday, however, they don't sell Rich's Whip in my area and I was just wondering what it is, exactly. Is it whipped cream, or whipping cream, or heavy whipping cream? What can I use as an alternative? Thank you so much for posting such an incredible recipe, I have no doubt (if I following your directions correctly) it will taste just as delicious as it looks : )

  26. Hey Bree- thanks for your nice comments! Good luck with making it, its a lot of work, but definitely worth it! Rich's Whip is a non-dairy alternative to whipping cream, so that fine to replace with whipping cream or heavy cream. Either one is fine- its the liquid part that's important. Enjoy :)

  27. Thank you so much for letting me know! "Project Babka" starts today :-D

  28. Thank you thank you thank you for this INCREDIBLE recipe! "Project Babka" was a great success and my family is now your ultimate fan club! After making this for my Uncle's birthday it's been the same request every week, which is probably really bad (health wise,) but it's so good I cannot stop thinking about it. While I exercise I push myself to work harder so that I can have an extra large slice of what I consider to be the BEST chocolate babka. In my book, calories don't count when babka is involved :-D

  29. Bree- thanks so much- I am so glad it worked out well and everyone liked it. Its nice to hear when things work out yummy :) Enjoy!

  30. Do you have a receipe for the dough that uses oil instead of margarine? I know it's not as good but it is healthier.

    1. Sorry, wish I did! I rarely make babka as it is so I don't have that many recipes....

  31. hi!can this dough be used to make kokosh cake? if not do you have a good recipe for that???

    1. Sara- I am pretty sure babka dough and kokosh dough are the same kind of dough, but I am not %100 sure. I would say its worth giving it a try :) Let me know how it works!


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