Monday, February 10, 2020

Chocolate Babka with Caramelized Oranges

I'm proud to say that I've made my first babka!  This babka recipe is seriously Valentine worthy should you be so inclined to treat the loves in your life!

I'm a little late to the babka party but I had never tasted one until recently.  There is a wonderful bakery where I buy the best bread in town when I entertain.  I follow them on Instagram @rocketbabybakery and noticed that they were selling individual-sized chocolate and orange babkas so I ordered one the last time I needed bread for company.  It was love at first bite!  Theirs was filled with candied orange peel and chocolate chips, a delicious combination.

I tried in vain to find good candied orange peel.  The huge bags sold on Amazon didn't appeal (pun attended).  Then, in my online search, I found a great YouTube video (click on link) on how to make caramelized orange slices at home.  I must say they turned out great and I was able to use organic oranges and felt better about eating orange peel without any residual pesticides.

The only minor mishap with the babka recipe was the melted chocolate filling.  It was so runny that when I tried rolling up the dough after adding the filling, much of the filling pooled at the end of the roll, making distribution of the filling uneven.  Next time, I would let the filling cool enough to thicken but still remain spreadable so it stays in place better, or just use chocolate pieces as the bakery did.

This recipe makes two large loaves and one mini loaf, using the scraps of dough.  If you don't have a mini loaf pan, you could use another other small baking vessel, or use muffin cups.

Babka, or Kranz cake, is originally from Poland and a traditional filling is made with cinnamon sugar and raisins, as well as chocolate, which became very popular in New York bakeries. The name babka means Grandmother in Polish. If you are my age, you probably remember the Seinfeld television comedy series episode where Jerry and Elaine go to the local New York bakery to buy a chocolate babka to give as a gift at party they were going to,,,but the person in line ahead of them buys the very last babka.  So funny. Even saying the name babka makes me smile.

Speaking of loves, my two daughters are great skiers.  The first one loves Jackson Hole, Wyoming and the second loves teaching her sons how to ski at the local ski hill.  We just received a lot more snow to keep the family fun going!

I hope this recipe makes you smile!  Happy Valentine's Day!

Chocolate Babka with Caramelized Oranges

Printable Recipe

My Notes:

I made the dough through the first rise in my bread machine.  If you don't have one, just use the instructions below.

To make the lukewarm milk/water mixture, place milk, 1/4 cup cold water in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup boiling water.

It's best to make the babka dough, fill it and roll it the day before and refrigerate overnight, if possible.  If not, freeze the rolled logs for 15 minutes before cutting.

5 cups all-purpose flour (divided)
1 package (2¼ teaspoons) instant yeast
1/2 cup cold milk
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¼ cup honey
½ cup avocado oil or other neutral oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Note:  I suggest letting the chocolate mixture cool until it is thicker and therefore stay in place inside the dough better when rolling.

¾ cup (130 grams) dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
½ cup (1 stick | 120 grams) unsalted butter
½ cup (50 grams) powdered sugar
⅓ cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
1/3 cup diced caramelized oranges (See recipe below) or dehydrated orange peel


⅓ fresh-squeezed orange juice
6 tablespoons sugar

First make the lukewarm milk/water mixture by placing 1/2 cup cold milk and 1/4 cup cold water in a large bowl such as an 8 cup pyrex bowl .  Add 1/4 cup boiling water to make lukewarm mixture.

Whisk one cup (128 g) of the flour with the yeast and stir in the lukewarm milk/water mixture until combined. Cover with plastic wrap or dish towel and let rise about 30-45 minutes or until it looks bubbly.

Add the yeast mixture and the rest of the dough ingredients to your bread machine and set to dough cycle (about 1-1/2 hours).  If you're not using a bread machine, proceed as follows:

Directly into the yeast mixture bowl, add the salt, honey (or sugar), oil, eggs, zest and vanilla. Stir with a spatula or spoon until well mixed, then add the remaining four cups (486 g) of flour. Stir with a spoon until dough forms a sticky mass. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface and knead for just a few minutes, until dough becomes smooth. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with dish towel or plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, one to two hours or longer depending on the temperature of your kitchen. (To create a warm place to rise, see notes above.)

Make the filling: Melt butter and chocolate together until smooth.  I prefer using a microwave, stirring after 30 second intervals until chocolate is melted, this should only take 1 minute, 30 seconds.  Stir in powdered sugar and cocoa until smooth. Cool until thickened slightly.

Punch down the dough and divide it in two equal parts.  Using a rolling pin, roll one half into a rectangle about 10- to 11-inches in width by 14- to 16-inches in length. Spread half of filling over top leaving ½-inch border all the way around. Starting from the short end, roll into a tight coil. To help keep coil bound, I wrap it in parchment paper and transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. At this point, I place the logs in a glass baking dish and cover loosely with plastic wrap as the dough will continue to expand.  Chill overnight.   If you don't have time to refrigerate, place loaves in the freezer for 15 minutes .  Rub two 9-by-4-inch loaf pans and one small vessel such as a mini loaf tin, with butter.  Place parchment paper in each pan from side to side with a slight hangover, so make removing baked bread easier.

Place chilled logs on a cutting surface. Trim last inch (or less) off each log and reserve. Cut the logs in half lengthwise and lay them next to each other cut sides up. Lift one half over the other and twist each around the other.  Here is a great video on how to fill, cut and braid the logs. You can also see the proper way to place the parchment in the pans from the video. Transfer the twist into the prepared loaf pan. Don't worry if they're not perfect, just tuck under the ends. Repeat with remaining two halves. Place trimmed ends next to each other into the mini loaf or other small baking dish. Cover pans with plastic wrap and let rise 1 to 1½ hours at room temperature or until dough has risen and is filling the pan.  If your kitchen is cool, just start your oven for 1 minute, turn off, and place the loaves inside until time to bake. Remove plastic wrap.

Heat oven to 375°F and place a large sheet pan on the center rack. Place loaf pans on the sheet pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes. The mini loaf will only take about 20 minutes.  Cover the loaves with foil if they are browning too quickly.

Make the syrup while the babkas are baking.  Mix orange juice, water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a low boil to dissolve sugar, stirring occasional. Remove from heat and reserve. Remove babkas from oven, and evenly brush the syrup over the loaves.  Let loaves cool completely in loaf pan.  They will be easier to slice if refrigerated for 15 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden a bit.

Recipe adapted from Alexandra Cooks, Epicurious and inspired by Rocket Baby Bakery.

Caramelized Oranges

Adapted from an Instru ctional Video on YouTube

2 oranges (organic preferred to avoid pesticides)
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup (150 ml) water

Bring a saucepan of water to boil.  Cut oranges into slices about 1/4 inch thick place them in a bowl. Pour the boiling water over them and let the slices sit in the hot water for 2-3 minutes.

Remove slices from the water and arrange orange slices on a paper towel and pat dry. Place slices into a large saucepan or frying pan large enough to fit the orange slices.

Add the sugar, vanilla extract and water to a small saucepan and cook until the sugar dissolves. Pour the syrup into the saucepan with the orange slices and cook on medium heat until the white part of the orange peel is transparent and much of the syrup evaporates.

Preheat oven to 210°F/100°ะก.  Remove orange slices and spread them out a baking sheet lined with foil, parchment paper or silicone liner.

Dry the orange slices in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

After slices are cool, place them in a container in single layers separated by wax paper or parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.