Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Chocolate Cinnamon Babka: BBD #26

This month's Bread Baking Day is hosted by Jamie at Life's a Feast and we're baking special breads for her birthday party.  I decided that Chocolate Cinnamon Babka would be the perfect bread to bring to her virtual birthday party.  It's a festive and delicious bread filled with chocolate and cinnamon.

I thought I had gotten enriched breads out of my system during the Holidays, but when I saw this babka on another blog (sorry, I don't remember which one), it reminded me that I hadn't made any breads yet from Peter Reinhart's new book Artisan Breads Every Day.

So you know what that meant ... I had to make this bread and this was the perfect occasion.

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Babka is a rich, yeasted cross between bread and coffee cake.  The name is derived from the Russian baba, which means grandmother.  The American version is usually formed as a twisted loaf, but I decided to try the Israeli version, known as kranz cake, because I thought it looked really cool.


Chocolate Cinnamon Babka (Kranz style)

Makes: 1 Large (make that huge) loaf

This bread is from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day.



  • 2 T (19g) instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup (170g) lukewarm milk (any kind; at about 95 degrees F.)
  • 6 T (85g) unsalted butter, melted or at room temperature
  • 6 T (85g) sugar
  • 1 tsp (7g) vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks (85g)
  • 3 1/3 cups (425g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp (7g) salt, or 1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt


  • 1 1/2 cups (255g) frozen semisweet dark chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1 tsp (7g) ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (56.5g) cold unsalted butter



Whisk together the yeast and lukewarm milk until dissolved, then set it aside for about 5 minutes before mixing it into the dough. Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth.

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Add the vanilla to the egg yolks and whisk lightly to break up the yolks. I used homemade vanilla extract made with vanilla beans and rum. The mixture needed to sit in a dark cabinet for a couple of months before it was ready to use. It wasn't quite ready in time for Holiday baking but now I'll have a never ending supply of vanilla extract.  I'll just need to add more rum as the supply diminishes and a new vanilla bean every once in a while. I got the idea from The Hungry Mouse.

Then add the yolks and mix until the mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Stop mixing and add the flour and salt

Then pour in the milk/yeast mixture.  Begin mixing again at low speed, for 2 to 3 minutes to make a soft, supple, tacky dough.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead it by hand for about 2 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to make the dough pliable.  I had to add a good bit more flour.  The dough will be a beautiful golden color and will feel soft and supple.  Like butter.  Yummy!

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Form the dough into a ball.  Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl

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Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for about 2 1/2 hours. It will rise somewhat but won't double in size.

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling.  Grind frozen chocolate morsels in a food processor until nearly powdered. Then add cinnamon and pulse a couple of times to incorporate.  I just got a bunch of cinnamon sticks at a very good price from the farmer's market so I added a cinnamon stick instead of cinnamon powder.

Cut the butter into 8 to 10 pieces, add it to the food processor, and pulse until the butter is evenly dispersed into the chocolate mixture.

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Once the dough has risen, roll it into a 15 by 15-inch square on a lightly floured surface.  You may need to lift the dough frequently (using a metal pastry scraper) and add more flour underneath to prevent it from sticking to the counter. 

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Sprinkle the chocolate mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border.

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Roll up the dough like a jelly roll and place it seam side down on the counter. 

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With gentle but firm hands, rock the log back and forth to extend its length to about 18 to 24 inches long.

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To make the Kranz shape, use a metal pastry blade to cut the log down the middle lengthwise.

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Cross one piece over the other, then continue to criss-cross the pieces in both directions to form a braid.

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Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  The loaf was so big, it barely fit on the baking sheet.  Cover the loaf loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, until it has increased to about 1 1/2 times its original size.

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the loaf for 20 to 25 minutes, then rotate the pan for even baking.  Bake until the top is a rich dark brown, the sides are a rich golden brown, and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.  Total baking time is about 50 to 60 minutes.

Cool for at least 90 minutes before serving.  It is best served at room temperature once the chocolate has had time to set.

The loaf was too big to fit on my cooling rack so I had to put it on the Dining room table across two racks. 

I hope Jamie enjoys this virtual Chocolate Cinnamon Babka.  My family (well mostly me) has been enjoying the real version.  It’s delicious!  I started going to the track again so maybe that will offset the extra calories.

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I baked this bread for Bread Baking Day #26.  Check out all of the fabulous breads in the BBD #26 Roundup.

Learn more about BBD #26


This Chocolate Cinnamon Babka has also been Yeastspotted!  Go on over to Wild Yeast to view all of the lovely breads in the roundup. You’ll be glad you did.


Happy Baking!

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