Monday, April 17, 2017

Chocolate Babka - King Arthur Flour's April Bakealong Challenge

When I was a youngster I landed a job in a bakery in the Long Island seaside town I grew up in. It was there I got up close and personal with New York baked good staples such as rugelach, danish and babka. 

I would get up scary early in the morning for a teenager and my mother would drive me to work. Hair pinned back and wearing a large white apron I would box up those delights as well as butter cookies, crumb cakes, crullers, pies and large black and white cookies to customers who included some of my teachers and friends parents. 

The woman who owned the bakery was a colossal bitch and several times cheated me out of my pay, even though I was an excellent, tireless worker and became popular with the customers. Unfortunately for her, she never met a tigress like my mother. After a few choice words from mama bear, I received all my back pay but eventually stopped working for that horrible woman.

I somewhat remember the bitch and vaguely what she looked like. I can't even remember her name. What I do recall most is the luscious smell of baked goods at dawn. Even though my Eastern European grandmother used to bring home babka on a regular basis, it was there I noticed the chocolate variety when customers asked for it. We always sold out of it first. By the way, “babka” means “little grandmother” in Ukrainian, Russian, and Eastern European Yiddish. You can read a short fascinating history of this babka here. 

I did try my hand at making babka years ago for this blog, Using another blogger's recipe, I substituted several of my favorite flavors in it and came up with a white chocolate butterscotch version with caramel streusel

I always meant to circle back to babka making. so I was delighted when I say King Arthur Flour's April Bakealong Challenge was chocolate babka

The recipe makes two large babkas. Their step by step walkthrough instructions provides two ways to style the babka. I shaped one in each style. The instructions also provide some great tips you can use in general for other recipes, like using the light in your oven to provide a warm place for the dough to rise and letting the dough rest for an additional 10 minutes if it fights back when you're are trying to roll it out. 

For the filling, I used a black cocoa powder, variety gifted to me by my friend Jackie Gordon. I also mixed the chocolate chips, half minis, half regular sized. Toasting the pecans before adding them to the filling adds a great flavor boost. 

This is a perfect babka recipe. However, it easily leaves room for improvisation when it comes to the filling. I'm still thinking of the possibilities. 

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