Babke, is Polish for grandmother. Which is odd because these tasty yeast cakes bear no resemblance to little old peasant women. Rather, it resembles brioche, the bread with the butter baked in and a dough so rich you cannot really make it by hand. Babka are part of the shared culinary legacy of both Jewish and Catholic communities in Eastern Europe. Among the Poles, a babka was prepared for Easter using fruit or rum. The Jewish version however leans towards chocolate. This preference is immortalized by Elaine in Seinfeld season 5 with the line “(the cinnamon babka is) a lesser babka” (this is after they see the last chocolate one get snapped up).
While all of this is terribly interesting, it does not explain why I had to ransack several Jewish and non-Jewish cookbooks to find a recipe for this dessert. One thing I can tell you is that in many cookbooks the first entry in the B’s is bacon (including the ’31 edition of the Settlement Cookbook, written mostly by Jewish housewives). After a fair bit of digging I was able to find a few recipes to work from. The one that provided the most help oddly was the new Gourmet Today published just on the eve of that fabled magazine’s demise.
Recipe after the jump
Chocolate Pecan Babka
Adapted from Gourmet Today
for the dough:
1/3 cup warm milk
1/4 + 1 tsp sugar
2 tsp yeast
1 1.2 cups + 1 tb flour
1 egg + 1 yolk (reserve the white for an egg wash)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
5 tb soft butter
for the filling:
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 tb butter
Mix milk, yeast and a teaspoon of the sugar in a warm bowl, let stand a few minutes until it starts to foam. Then add the eggs, vanilla, salt and remaining sugar. Mix in a stand mixer with the paddle and then start to add the flour a bit at a time until a rough dough forms. Then slow the mixer to low and add the butter one tablespoon at a time. The dough will be sticky and pretty wet. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
Take a loaf pan a fit it for a parchment liner (see photo).
When the dough is doubled turn it out onto a well floured board (and I mean well floured) and form a rough rectangle. Spread the nuts, chocolate and butter across the dough. Roll the dough towards you and then onto the parchment paper with the seam on the bottom. Lift and place in the loaf pan, cover and allow to rise again for at least an hour.
Using the egg wash (white with a small amount of water mixed in) cover the loaf and then place in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. When the loaf is brown on top and hollow sounding on the bottom (you will have to lift it out of the pan for this) take it out and put it on a cooling rack. Allow it to cool to room temperature before eating (yes, I know that will be hard).
3 responses to “Chocolate Pecan Babka”
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Is itr really 11.2 cups of flour? I love babka and so excited to make one at home.