Chocolate Babka

      Chocolate Babka From The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home
      Makes 2 loaves

      Picture how sweet and delicious a well-made cinnamon roll can be, then imagine an entire swirly cinnamon loaf with the filling supplemented by dark, oozy, bittersweet chocolate. That is chocolate babka, looselytranslated from Yiddish as "grandmother's cake." Quality ingredients are essential for babka to brag about.

      It begins with freshly made challah dough, enhanced with a little extra brown sugar. For the filling, werecommend Ceylon true cinnamon (as compared to cassia, which is commonly substituted for the real stuff ongrocery store shelves), with its subtle flavor and distinctive citrus note (see Sources and Resources, page 239).

      The chocolate should be top-notch, too. Avoid standard bagged chocolate chips, in which the natural cocoabutter is often replaced by hydrogenated oil. Instead, use a premium brand of chips or buttons (also calledcoins or, in French, pistoles) for best flavor and texture.

      1 recipe Sweet Challah Dough (page 199)
      1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and hot,plus more for greasing the pans
      1 cup granulated sugar
      1/2 cup cocoa powder
      1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
      All-purpose flour, for dusting
      1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips or buttons
      1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or water

      When the Sweet Challah Dough is just about fullyrisen, lightly grease two 9-inch loaf pans with butter.

      Set aside.

      In a medium microwave-safe bowl, whisk togetherthe sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.

      Turn the fully risen dough out onto a lightly flouredwork surface. Pat the dough to expel excess gas.

      Divide it in half. Return half of the dough to thebowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Set it aside whileyou work with the other half.

      Dust a rolling pin and the top of the dough withflour and roll it out to a 9 by 18-inch rectangleabout 8 inch thick. Cut the dough in half crosswiseto create two 9-inch squares of dough.

      Add the hot melted butter to the cocoa mixtureand stir to form a thick paste. Use an offset frostingknife or rubber spatula to spread about one-quarterof the paste on each square of dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle about 2tablespoons of the chocolate chips over each squareof dough. Brush the edges with some of the eggwash. Working quickly so the egg wash doesn't dryout, roll up each square of dough into a tight log,beginning with the edge closest to you and rollingaway from you. Pinch the seams and ends togetherto prevent the logs from falling apart. Twist the logstogether, placing one over the other alternately, 3times, then gently press together the ends of thetwo logs to secure. Transfer the twist to one of theprepared pans, tucking the ends under as neededto fit it into the pan. Cover the pan with plasticwrap and set aside. Repeat this process with theother half of the dough and the remaining fillingingredients to make the second loaf. (If the cocoapaste is too firm to spread, it can be warmed in themicrowave for 5 to 10 seconds on high power tosoften it up.) Reserve the remaining egg wash.

      Place both the covered pans in a warm place to riseuntil they are puffy and, when you gently press afinger into the dough, the impression remains, 30 to45 minutes. (After the dough rises, the babkas canbe refrigerated overnight and baked the followingday. Allow them to come to room temperature in awarm spot for about 1 hour before baking.)

      While the babkas are rising, preheat the oven to350F.

      When the loaves are fully risen, uncover them andbrush the top of each liberally with the remainingegg wash. Bake the babkas until they are deeplybrowned and glossy, 50 minutes to 1 hour, rotatingthe pans in the oven halfway through the bakingtime. To check the babkas for doneness, insert aninstant-read thermometer into the seam formed byone of the twists at the thickest part of the loaf. Thetemperature should be about 190F.

      After removing the fully baked loaves from the oven,run a table knife around the edges of the pans tofree the loaves, then transfer them to a cooling rack.

      Allow them to cool for at least 30 minutes beforeslicing so that the loaves have set up, but are stillslightly warm to the touch.

      The babka will keep, covered at room temperature,for 2 days, or refrigerated for up to 4 days. Once thebabka becomes a little stale, it can be used to makeexceptional French toast (page 100).

      From The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home by Nick Zukin and Michael Zusman, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC