A babka’s swirls make this chocolate bread a spectacular treat

2014-03-26T00:00:00Z A babka’s swirls make this chocolate bread a spectacular treatBy Kim Ode Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Arizona Daily Star
March 26, 2014 12:00 am  • 

In an old “Seinfeld” episode, Jerry and Elaine stop at a bakery on their way to a dinner party, intending to buy a chocolate babka as a hostess gift. But they’re thwarted by the couple ahead of them, who buy the last babka — and are headed to the same party. What to do?

The bakery’s other options — carrot cake, Black Forest cake, a Napoleon — are rejected with Seinfeldian logic. (You don’t make carrots into a cake. I’m sorry.) Finally, Jerry states the unavoidable truth: “You can’t beat a babka.”

Babka generally is known as a Jewish or Eastern-European bread, rich with egg yolks and butter and enclosing various fillings, the best of which is chocolate enhanced with cinnamon.

Variations abound. There are cinnamon-sugar fillings, and fillings further embellished with dried fruit (think cherries or raisins), or nuts (think chopped almonds or pecans).  Some babkas come topped with a crumbly streusel, and there are always a few bakers who dust theirs with powdered sugar.

But honestly, you can’t beat cinnamon and chocolate.

Even better, a babka is one of those wonders of the kitchen that deliver bang-up results through deceptively simple techniques. The supple, buttery dough is a joy to knead, not the sticky glob that makes people fear dealing with yeast. Melted chocolate is spread over the dough, which then is rolled up like a jelly roll.

You can quickly twist and double this strand before placing it in a loaf pan, or use a Bundt pan for a circular bread.

The most spectacular babka is the ingenious Kranz cake variation, in which the strand is split down the middle, opened to reveal the chocolate, then crisscrossed to make a braid.



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