It’s impossible to do Christmas without bread, and while classics like panettone and stollen can come across as intimidating and yield bread that’s a touch too sweet/ relatively underwhelming, Babka is a fun project to take on. I’m not going to lie, the idea for this babka was inspired by a midnight craving for Nutella on toast. Usually, I can’t stand the synthetic choc-hazelnut spread by itself, but when showered with sea salt and rolled up with chunky brownie bits for heft, this babka is a revelation. I can’t think of a better ad campaign for a jar of Nutella than a close-up of these lovely swirls that the babka encases. But feel free to swap out the Nutella for a good quality buttery ganache if you have the time, which I never do. You can also add nuts to your babka, more choc pieces, fruit cake or plum cake in place of brownie bits or marshmallows for a s’mores version. Pull up your sleeves and get kneading!
P.S: There was a single slice left the morning after this Babka was made, and we turned it into French toast.
Yields 2 babkas. You will need two loaf tins.
Milk 1/2 cup
Dry Active Yeast 7g
Caster sugar 60g
All-purpose flour 4 1/2 cups
Sea Salt 1 1/2 tsp
Vanilla extract/essence 1 tsp
Lemon zest 1 tsp
Nutmeg 1/2 tsp, grated
Eggs 4, at room temperature, lightly beaten
Butter 140g, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
Nutella 1/2 a regular sized jar, or more if you like
Sea Salt for sprinkling
Brownie bits from 3-4 brownies (this can be shop-bought, but make sure you don’t buy the really sweet ones. Head straight for the dark chocolate brownies)
THE COFFEE SYRUP
Water 1/2 cup
Brown Sugar 1/2 cup
Instant Coffee 1 tsp or more
Begin by warming the milk till lukewarm, but not hot. Dissolve the yeast with a pinch of sugar and set it aside for 10-15 minutes.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, lemon zest and nutmeg. Add to this the yeast mixture, the lightly beaten eggs, the vanilla essence and stir using your hands in a claw motion till it comes together to form a soft dough. If the dough is too sticky to move around, add a tablespoon of flour at a time.
To this dough, add half the butter first and begin kneading till smooth and stretchy for 3-5 minutes, then fold in the rest of the butter and continue kneading, for 5-7 mintes approximately. Add a tablespoon or more of flour if too sticky at this stage.
Butter the insides of another bowl, shape the babka dough into a ball, then move it around the greased bowl so all sides are buttered. Leave this dough to rise for an hour or two, then press it down again and leave it to refrigerate overnight.
To make the syrup, in a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, water and coffee. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
Butter two loaf tins and line with parchment paper, leaving at least an inch or two of overhang on either side.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into half. Roll out one of them into a long rectangle. Spread half the nutella filling, top with the sea salt and brownie bits, then starting from the long side, roll it inwards gently to form a roll. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Transfer these roll to the freezer for 10 minutes, then fish it out.
Lengthwise, slice the centre of each roll and turn the filling side-up to face you. Then, braid the two coils of each roll together and fold it gently into half so that it fits snugly into their prepared tins. Cover again for an hour to an hour and a half till it has risen a wee bit, it won’t double in size this time round.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, then transfer the babka pans to the oven and let it bake for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. It will have chocolate bits on it, which is okay. The bottoms should sound hollow when done. When the cakes come out, pierce them everywhere and brush over the coffee syrup. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before slicing into it.