Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Chocolate and Hazelnut Babka

I do not bake much with yeast. This does not reflect a culinary preference on my part, but has more to do more with my impatient nature. Even reading about all those rising and resting periods is enough to steer me away from an otherwise appealing recipe. Our Patisserie's yeast deficiency became apparent while I was working on an archive for my Turkish blog, and as a remedy I took the time to bake this delicious bread. The original recipe (from California Culinary Academy's Bread cookbook) had walnuts, but I substituted hazelnuts with great success. If you'd like to intensify the chocolate flavor, you can mix in some miniature chocolate chips or grated chocolate to the cocoa filling.
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 c warm water
  • 1/6 c sugar
  • 1/3 c warm milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tbs softened butter
  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 c flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tbs melted butter
  • 1/2 c coarsely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/6 c cocoa
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 tbs softened butter
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/6 c sugar
  • 1/8 c flour
Combine yeast, 1 teaspoon (of the 1/6 c) sugar and warm water in your mixer's bowl. Let stand until the mixture is frothy.

Add the remaining sugar, milk, salt, vanilla and softened butter. Stir to mix. Add about 1 to 1 1/4 c of flour. First mix at low speed, then increase speed to medium and beat until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Separate one of the eggs, reserve the white for glazing. Add the yolk to the mixer bowl, beat to combine. Add the second egg and beat again. Stir in about 3/4 to 1 c of flour to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured table. Knead for about 10 minutes or until very smooth and elastic. While you do so, you can add flour in small quantities to prevent the dough from becoming sticky. Place it into a greased bowl; cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled in bulk (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). Meanwhile prepare the filling by simply mixing the ingredients. Make the topping by beating the streusel ingredients until crumbly. Set both aside. Grease a 8"x4" loaf pan generously and preheat the oven to 350F.

Punch the dough down; knead briefly in the bowl. Turn it onto the table, cover with the inverted bowl and let rest for another 10 minutes. At the end of the resting period, roll the dough to a 10"x20" rectangle. Brush the rolled dough with the melted butter to within 1/2" of the sides. Sprinkle it evenly with the cocoa filling and the chopped hazelnuts. Starting with the long side, roll the dough into a tight roll and pinch edges.

Zigzag the roll to fit into the loaf pan. Let rise for another 35 to 45 minutes (Arghh!) until doubled. Beat the reserved egg white with 1 tbs water and brush over the loaf. Sprinkle the loaf with the streusel. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until well browned. Cool a little bit, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.