This is a glorious bake, a simple brioche dough that can be made the night before, left in the fridge overnight to slowly prove and prepared in the morning for an indulgent morning breakfast, or saved later for an afternoon treat with a frothy coffee. The layers although look tricky are actually simple once you know how, If you're more of a 'learn by seeing' kind of person, check out this video for a simple step-by-step guide to shaping the babka.
INGREDIENTS (Makes x2 500g tin loaves)
20g fresh yeast (or 2 tsp dried yeast)
330g strong white bread flour
40g caster sugar
a pinch of table salt
1 whole egg
90g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g unsalted butter
190g caster sugar
80g 70% dark chocolate
40g dark cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
60g roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped - or you can use toasted chopped almonds
egg wash (1 egg beaten with a pinch of table salt)
100ml water heated and stirred with 100ml caster sugar and 1 tbsp glucose or honey, to make base sugar syrup
To make the dough, crumble the yeast into the flour, sugar and salt in a mixer bowl and combine thoroughly (If you are using dried yeast, dissolve it in the milk before adding to the flour.)
Add the egg, milk and butter and combine to form a dough that comes together in a ball. Knead for 10-15 minutes until the dough is elastic. Cover the bowl and chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Melt the butter for the filling in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat. Remove from the heat, tip the sugar in and stir to dissolve. Add the chocolate, cocoa and cinnamon and mix to combine. Set aside to cool a little at room temperature (don’t place it in the fridge, as it will set solid).
Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle of about 50cm x 30cm. Spread the filling over the dough, reaching right to the corners, then sprinkle with the hazelnuts. Roll up tightly from one of the longer sides, so that you end up with a 50cm-long log.
If the dough has softened too much for you to handle it, place on a tray and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up. While you are waiting, butter a 1kg loaf tin and line the base and long sides with baking parchment, making sure that there is an overhang so that you will be able to lift the baked loaf out easily.
Use a pastry cutter or sharp knife to cut the log in half along its length to expose the layers. Place the halves with the cut sides facing upwards.
Lift one halved log over the other so that they form a cross at their midpoints, with the filling layers still pointing upwards. Continue to twist the strands over each other until the dough looks like a lovely twisted plait. Watch this video if you feel confused.
Place in the lined baking tin and leave to prove in a warm place until the dough is fluffy, soft and doubled in size. This will take about 11⁄2 hours in a warm kitchen, or up to 2 hours if it is chilly.
Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 7. If you are using the egg wash, brush all over the surface. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the tin around for an even bake and leave for another 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 190C/170C fan/gas mark 5 and bake for a further 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and immediately pour the sugar syrup all over the hot cake. You must let this cool in the tin or it will fall apart.