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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chocolate Babka

When we lived in France, I learned that every dish you create, prepare and serve must tell a story.  This way, when you offer something to someone, you share with them a little piece of who you are and a little bit of your own life story.   The meals and dishes you choose to create always reflect happy, enjoyable moments and this, in turn, infuses the dish with love.   This is very important to me and is what inspires me when I cook.  I think if you cook this way, it will be hard to create a bad meal.

The story of Chocolate Babka!

When we were first married Mike and I lived in the United States.  I had the great opportunity of working in Manhattan and discovering this wonderful city became a part of our after work and weekend routine.  Like in every adventure we have had along the way, we met some wonderful people who shared some of their favourite places with us.

One of these great discoveries was Zabars on Broadway at 80th Street (New York City addresses - very cool).  If you love food, this place is a must see and quite an experience.  It is loud, crowded, full of energy, wonderful smells, food storytellers and the greatest selection of products ever!  On our first visit, the chocolate babka grabbed our attention and we have been going back for it ever since.  

We had the chance to go to New York just a few weeks ago and I made Zabars the last stop of the day because I knew I would have to carry six loaves of Babka back to the hotel! The whole family is now also hooked on these so we get one for Sarah and Kevin, one for Kat, one for us, one for my mom and dad, one for my brother's family and one for my sister's family.  It is worth it just to see the look on their faces when I tell them''we have babka!''

We don't get to New York as often as we would like so real Zabars babka tastings are few and far between.  I have however, been successful at making my own for special occasions and although Zabars' is the best, this one is also very good.

You will need:  for one babka loaf (it will go quickly!)
Level of difficulty:  It has a number of steps but is well worth the effort - you can do it!

  • 1/3 cup (80ml) of warm milk (110°F - 40°C)
  • 1 pinch of sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp of active dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (50g) of sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups (240g) of white flour
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 5 tbsp (70g) of butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 (200g) cups of dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used 64% or you can use chocolate chips)
  • 2 tbsp of cold butter (30g), cut in pieces
  • 1 generous tbsp of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (15g) of toasted almonds (optional)
  • 1 egg + 1 tbsp of milk for the egg wash
For the streusel topping:
  • 1 tbsp (15g) of butter
  • 2 tbsp (15g) of white flour
  • 1 tbsp (12g) of brown sugar

  1. Heat oven to 200°F (100°C) for 5 minutes - this is just to create a warm space for the dough to rise;
  2. Put the warm milk (1/3 cup - 80ml) in a bowl or cup and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar and yeast (1 1/2 tsps).  Let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to be proofed and start bubbling;
  3. Turn off the oven;
  4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, put the flour (1 3/4 cups - 240g), and salt.  Mix to combine;
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs (2 large), sugar (1/4 cup - 50g) and vanilla extract (1 tsp);
  6. Add the egg mixture to the milk/yeast mixture and stir to combine;
  7. Put the liquid ingredients into the mixer bowl with the flour and start to mix until dough forms (this is a sticky dough);
  8. You can use your dough hook if you have one here.  Add the pieces of room temperature butter (5 tbsp - 70g) and mix to combine well into the dough.
  9. Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead a few times (adding flour if it is too sticky) until smooth;
  10. Place your dough in an oiled bowl (to prevent sticking) and cover with plastic wrap;
  11. Place in the warm oven (now turned off) and allow to rise for 1 hour;

After one hour
While the dough is rising, prepare the filling and streusel topping:
  1. The easiest way to do this is to place the chocolate pieces (1 1/4 cup - 200g ) in the food processor;
  2. Add the cinnamon (1 generous tbsp) and almonds if using (1/4 cup - 15g)) and pulse until the chocolate and almonds are ground.  Add the pieces of cold butter (2tbsp - 30g) and pulse to combine - this will create a coarse paste that will be easy to spread on the dough. Set aside.

  1. For the streusel topping - put the flour (2tbsp - 15g), brown sugar (1tbsp- 12g) and cold butter (1tbsp - 15g) in a bowl and combine by using a pastry cutter or you fingers to blend the butter in - it will resemble coarse bread crumbs.  Set aside.
Back to the dough:
  1. Remove the risen dough from the bowl (it should have doubled in size) and place it on a generously floured surface;
  2. Roll the dough to measure the width of your pan by about 2.5 times that in length (mine was 8'' X 20'' or 20cm X 50cm);
  3. Spread the chocolate mixture evenly on the dough;
  4. Start rolling up the dough (narrow section) tightly and place in an oiled bread pan, pressing down to create a flat surface;
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 45 minutes in a warm place;
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C);
  7. Prepare egg wash by whisking egg (1) and milk (1tbsp);
  8. Brush the surface with egg wash and sprinkle evenly with the streusel topping;
  9. Bake in the centre part of your oven for about 40 minutes until golden;
  10. Allow to cool for a few minutes.  Gently remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.
  11. Best served warm - Enjoy!


  1. What a treat! Love this version as much as the real deal !


    1. It's true - I have a little trouble limiting myself on this one!

  2. Mmmm, Josée, this looks sooo good!! I'd like to say I will try it but not sure I can pull it off! (So is Zabars the same place Seinfeld would get his chocolate babkas??!!!!)

    1. Yes I think it is! They really do have the best babka! You should so try this - I'm sure you can do it.


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