Chocolate babka muffins
This dessert may be famous as a cake, but it also tastes scrumptious in bite-sized form.
I was in New Jersey for a wedding a few years ago, and stopped by for a quick visit to see an old friend from high school. This mother of nine young kids (most of them present and accounted for when we visited) pulled a hot babka loaf from the oven, sliced it, and shoved it at me as we were flying out the door late for the next item on our itinerary.
Can I tell you my kids and I devoured that hot slice of deliciousness – every sweet, gooey, crumb – faster than you can say, “What’s babka?” The question of how this super-busy mother had time for baking fresh yeast cakes is beyond me, but I went on a year-long quest to make a babka that was equally rich, decadent and authentic – and the end result is presented below.
The famous babka is a sweet, twisted yeast cake filled with chocolate or cinnamon, prepared by only the most talented (or brave) bakers out there. This is not a fast and easy recipe – get ready to roll up your sleeves, get messy and have a lot of fun. But trust me when I tell you it’s worth every step. Just make sure you’ve got hungry friends lined up ready to taste this delicacy, or you’ll eat way too much of it yourself!
- 7-8 cup flour
- 6 packets or 4 1/2 tablespoon yeast
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 cup oil or melted butter
- 2 eggs
- 2 yolks
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup oil or melted Earth Balance
- 6 ounces box instant chocolate pudding
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup (one stick) Earth Balance
- 2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
- 2-3 tablespoon hot water
For the dough
For the chocolate filling
For the crumb topping
For the mocha drizzle (optional)
Mix yeast, sugar and warm water.
Add remaining dough ingredients and mix well. Dough should have a smooth, springy consistency. If sticky, add more flour and knead until smooth. Cover with a clean plastic shopping bag or saran wrap and let rise for one hour.
To prepare chocolate filling, combine all the ingredients and mix with a fork or whisk until smooth. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, use forks or your fingers to combine crumb topping ingredients. Set aside.
Line two muffin tins with 10 muffin liners each, and coat with non-stick spray. If making loaf pans with half the dough, coat two loaf pans with non-stick spray.
Punch down dough and divide into 4 equal pieces. Sprinkle a bit of flour on your counter or work surface, and on your rolling pin. Working with one piece at a time, roll into a large rectangle, working the dough until it’s very thin.
Spread 1/4 of the filling thinly over the dough, to about 1/2 inch from edge. Roll up lengthwise, fold in half, and then cut through at the fold to get two evenly sized ropes. Turn one rope around so that you have a thin end matched up with a thicker end of the rope. Pull gently to elongate.
Twist both ropes together until they start cracking. (At this point you can make the babka into a loaf shape by simply placing it into a loaf pan to rise, or continue on with muffin instructions.)
To form muffins, pull gently on the twisted rope again to make it as long as possible, since you will be slicing 10 pieces out of it. Cut rope in half, and then cut each half into five even slices. They will be very messy and gooey at this point, but you can just drop them into the muffin liners and not worry about neat placement.
Repeat process with remaining three chunks of dough and remaining filling.
Pre-heat oven to 350º F (175º C). Sprinkle muffins with crumb topping and allow to rise for 20 minutes. Bake 15 minutes or until muffins are set. (Babka loaves should bake approximately 30-40 minutes.)
Check bottoms for doneness, as this is a heavy dough and tops can look finished before inside is set.
To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar, cocoa, instant coffee granules and hot water. Add more water or more sugar as needed until glaze consistency is achieved. Drizzle over babka muffins and allow to harden before handling or freezing.
Babka is best served warm and fresh. Yeast cakes tend to get stale quickly, so freeze as soon as they are cool if they will not be eaten within 24 hours. Re-warm in microwave or oven to bring back that fresh-baked taste.