Is cinnamon babka really the ‘lesser babka’?

It’s a stormy rainy day and I’m in the mood for baking! There’s nothing quite like kneading beautiful silken yeast raised dough on a wintery day while wearing your pajamas. I obviously love the simple things in life!! Babka is a wonderful sweet bread filled with swirls of chocolate or cinnamon. It’s similar to brioche and my father’s chocolate kugelhopf…seriously yummy with loads of butter.

Baking babka always reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Elaine gets very upset she can only purchase a cinnamon babka ‘the lesser babka’, instead of a chocolate babka to take to a dinner party. Hilarious…but seriously; is cinnamon babka really the lesser babka?? That’s why today I decided to make two babka’s; chocolate AND cinnamon.

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Dough (for two loaves)

  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 2 tspn caster sugar
  • 2 x dry yeast sachets (7g each)
  • 3 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200 g unsalted butter, softened

Egg wash

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp milk

Chocolate filling

  • 50 g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter, soft
  • 60 g dark chocolate (but don’t use anything higher than 70%)
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar

Cinnamon filling

  • 50 g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter, soft
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar

First things first, activate the yeast to make the dough. Warm the milk in the microwave for 40 seconds and pour it into a small bowl. Stir through 2 teaspoons of caster sugar and sprinkle over the dry yeast sachets. Leave it to stand for 5 minutes until the yeast begins to foam. If it doesn’t foam your yeast hasn’t activated and you’ll have to start over.

Activated yeast
Activated yeast

In a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment (you can hand knead this dough, but the mixer makes things a lot quicker), add the yeast mix with 1/2 cup of the flour and mix until combined. Add in the whole eggs, egg yolk, salt, sugar and vanilla paste. Beat until it is mixed well.

Add in the remaining 2 3/4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup at a time. You might need to scrape down the side of the bowl with a spatula. Mix until the dough is silky and very sticky; it takes around 5 minutes. Cover with cling wrap and leave it to double in size. This can take from 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Prepare the fillings, by chopping up the chocolate into small pieces and adding the caster sugar. Set aside in a small bowl. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar and set aside in another small bowl. Prepare the egg wash by mixing together the egg yolk and milk.

Once the dough has risen, sprinkle flour on a countertop and roll out the dough. Knead it for around 5 minutes and add extra flour if it is still too sticky. Separate into two loaves.

Knead for 5 minutes and separate into 2 loaves

Re flour the counter and roll out half the dough into approximately a 30 x 20 cm rectangle with a rolling pin. You don’t have to be exact. Bush the egg wash along the edges. Smear over the butter (using my fingers was the easiest method). Sprinkle over the chocolate and sugar mix.

Making chocolate babka
Roll out the dough and add the filling

Fold over the top and keep rolling and folding until you have a long roll. Turn it into a circle and then the figure eight. Keep twisting the dough.

To make the second babka, repeat the above steps but use the cinnamon and sugar filling instead.

You can bake them in two loaf tins, but as I only have one loaf tin, I decided to make freeform loaves on a baking tray. Set the loaves aside to rise for another 30 minutes. Brush over the loaves with the remaining egg wash.

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or when the top of the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when you tap them.

So is cinnamon babka really the ‘lesser babka’? I’m a bit torn really. I love chocolate with a passion, but cinnamon is such a beautiful spice. What do you think?

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