Babkallah – When Babka and Challah Got Married

Challah filled with Chocolate

Blame it on Bon Appetit. I’m still not caught up with my myriad magazine subscriptions that I got behind on after moving. While the rest of the world is peeking at new recipes for Christmas; I’m still reading about fall dishes. So call it prophetic that the other day I grabbed the latest issue for a quick moment with morning coffee. Maybe it was the cover photo of some iced shortbread cookies? Although what caught my eye were the rose petals scattered on top of those cookies; that cover looked decidedly more springlike than Christmasy and maybe I thought I had missed it a while back.

By choice I always go to the RSVP section of the magazine first; I have made so many dishes from this section of reader requested restaurant recipes and they’ve never failed me but on this day, before I could even start, the magazine opened to page 100 and there was a photo of a most decadent looking slice of French toast I’ve ever seen. A swirl of chocolate is clearly evident in the bread that has been topped with both syrup and a light dusting of powdered sugar. Developed in BA’s test kitchen by Claire Saffitz; they have suggested that this marriage of the eggy and beautiful Challah with a chocolate threaded Babka will be ‘The Cronut’ for this year. It certainly looked amazing and now that I’ve made it I could get behind that. It’s gorgeous both in it’s finished form and even more so sliced when the surprise of chocolate meets your already salivating senses.

Challah filled with Chocolate

I’ve made one Challah loaf in my years of baking. It tasted great but I was disappointed that a couple of my strands broke apart (I probably wove it too tightly). Despite learning the error of my ways I’ve just never done it again so this was a leap of faith. I’ve never made Babka and I’m not sure the traditional recipe that is filled with candied fruit, raisins and sometimes nuts would have seen me mentally ticking off ingredients, matching those listed with my cupboard stores and deciding, yes I can do this!

An additional inspiration in a very roundabout way might have been my friend Jamie who blogs at Lifes a Feast. Jamie is an expatriate living in the small and beautiful town of Nantes in that mythical country you might know as France. Originally from Florida she is most definitely a hybrid, having lived in Europe her entire adult life. Married to a Frenchman and mother to two grown and also thoroughly French boys she is a passionate baker and makes delicacy after delicacy that I would never endeavor. While I do give away a lot of the sweets that come from my kitchen, I dare say I would have a more difficult time doing that after a half day spent kneading and rising and rolling and more rising and finally baking and CROSSING MY FINGERS it would come out.

Challah filled with Chocolate

So I watch and read and enjoy and am reminded of the days when bread baking was a weekly event (and wondering if I still had it in me). While this bread would be a challenge, Jamie may have also been the final push in another way. When asked to list Christmas delicacies, my sweet Jewish friend had far more Christmas type treats in her repertoire than I did…how could that be? Combine in one day that question with the presentation of this gorgeous marriage of two Jewish favorites and I was helpless to fight the feeling. Unexpectedly it wouldn’t be more Christmas treats but bread baking combined with Challah making all for Christmas day breakfast thrown in for good measure and I was inspired and at work in the kitchen the next day.

If you’ve made Challah, this is easy. If you’ve made Babka, this is easy. If you’ve seldom done either and are combining them together? Well, it’s not hard but I had a couple of moments of indecision. Is the yeast proofed enough? I gave away a bread machine when I moved and haven’t had to worry about milk temp or proofing for a long while; my VERY OLD probe thermometer took this day of baking to die so the temperature of my milk was questionable at best but I trusted my knuckle and seems it worked just fine.

Challah filled with Chocolate

Next, do I roll each braid out to the specs in the main recipe or those given on a separate page on filling them and braiding them (I still don’t know that answer; but it is a BA mistake and I went with the smaller dimension). The biggest concern though was in proofing time. The range in the recipe is a full one hour for both proofs. When the first proof had gone an hour and a half with such a slight change that it had me questioning whether it was working, I worried if I was wasting my time. Still I knew my yeast had not only just been opened but had months of shelf life left so I carried on and viola…checking after 2½ hours saw the result I was looking for. For me, this conservator of energy fiend, I found that turning on the oven for a minute only and putting the covered bread into the warmed oven was key as I think my house might have been too cold. Please don’t tell my daughter, I can hear it now. ‘This house is so cold not even bread can rise!’

Last but not least, and I know this might be sacrilege to say, I wanted my loaf to look prettier than the one in the BA photo. It was too dark in my book; almost on the verge of looking burned. Since baking this bread long enough to have it sound hollow when testing it was critical, I simply covered it lightly with foil once I thought it looked a beautiful golden brown. Much better. The golden hue combined with the sparkle of the sugar it is topped with made for such an elegant result and the best was still hidden inside, waiting for someone to discover the sweetest surprise. Chocolate. Speaking of which? I’ve hoarded a bar of Valrhona Chocolate that I had picked up on a trip months ago to Whole Foods. This was it; the time when I had a recipe deserving of really good chocolate. It was perfect I must admit and while it’s a bit pricey, this was for Christmas morning so deserving of a splurge. Still, it is not a requirement but I do think using a good chocolate is important; after hours of proofing and kneading and tending and watching and kneading some more, you’ll want your end result to be fantastic too.

Challah filled with Chocolate

ashiya

I am wrapping this tightly and storing it in the freezer for Christmas morning when I might or might not make French toast with it but on that day of baking I offered one small slice to myself and one to my friend Parul who lives next door. She saved half of her slice to take home and share with her family and for that I was the lucky recipient of this adorable photo minutes later; seems someone else loved it too.

It was truly a labor of love and I was taken back to another time and place, when my children were small and bread baking was a weekly ritual that I did love. If I were to wonder how it fell out of favor I’m can only imagine that becoming a single parent when my children were 2 and 6 might have seen a lot of traditions that I loved change as my time to devote to them disappeared. I think it is time for another change. This was a most rewarding effort and I’m both inspired and encouraged by the success of this one simple loaf of bread to find more challenges and create a new tradition just for myself; I enjoyed this far too much to ignore the sense of satisfaction. What shall I do next? Seriously; give me some ideas!
[mpprecipe-recipe:5021]
 

Similar Posts

20 Comments

  1. I usually make 4 loaves of this bread but a different recipe when I bake because I love giving away pretty bread. I see that you have had the same trouble as me with the bread getting too dark when baking. I don’t know where I found this online but I don’t have to use foil anymore and think this would help anyone reading your blog. I heat the oven to 375 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. I then lower the temperature to 325 and bake for 30 minutes. Then I lower the temperature to 275 degrees and bake for 10 more minutes and it’s absolutely perfect. I wrote down the reasoning of the changing of the temperatures when I found it: Babkas are baked at a high temperature at first so the dough will puff up and form a firm crust and then the temperature is lowered so the dough doesn’t scorch before it is done baking. I hope this helps someone because I was forever using foil to cover during the baking process so not to burn but now it’s bye bye foil. Those who are fortunate to receive a loaf of my babka/challah are very happy to receive such a blessing of real baked bread.

  2. Oh my my!!! It looks so good. My stomach is rumbling. Lol. I’m an amateur baker. I’m worried it won’t turn out well but your instructions are detailed. Thanks. I will give it a try. I hope it comes out as pretty as yours (fingers and toes crossed) 🙂 do you have a recipe for a sweet poppyseed roll? I forgot the name for it. Happy holidays!!!

  3. Beautiful! Challah makes the best french toast and with the added babka you are in for a delicious Christmas morning breakfast treat.

    I hope you do get back into making fresh bread in the New Year. It’s so satisfying and so relaxing. Hand kneading is the only way to go!

  4. Beautiful! Challah makes the best french toast and with the added babka your are in for a delicious Christmas morning breakfast treat.

    I hope you do get back into making fresh bread in the New Year. It’s so satisfying and so relaxing. Hand kneading is the only way to go!

  5. I blame Bon Appétit and all the other food magazines for a lot of things that I probably don’t need to be making and eating all by myself 😉
    I’m glad you gave the challah-babka combination a go (even though your first challah didn’t work out the way you had hoped)! Looks fantastic!

    1. Hehe…isn’t that the truth? This was such a winner…I will be making it a regular for our Christmas morning breakfast! Whew huh? 🙂

    1. Make it; even without chocolate swirls and with a broken braid my first time out, it was a big feeling of accomplishment and it sure tasted good!

  6. Gorgeous! I printed that recipe a few weeks ago and have wanted to bake it. It’s moved to the top of my list now. Appreciate all of your tips/tricks, too. Hope you have a wonderful holiday!

    1. I saw that photo and simply could not help myself. Everyone has just loved it. The chocolate sure helps. Between you and I? The swirls in the photos make me think they must have rolled their dough out to the larger size because the chocolate layers are thinner and more numerous. I might try that next time as long as the dough didn’t seen to be getting too thin.

  7. That’s beautiful. I think the world of Jamie too. Who wouldn’t want a French husband who cooks like JP ?

    I’ve never made fancy bread like this. I did make a Bulgarian bread once that was slathered with melted butter and slid all over the table but it was delicious.

    1. There was nothing difficult about this really; for me it’s all about the timing. I’m so busy that attending to the stages does mean a long period at home and if nothing else, good timers to remind me to check everything periodically when I’m in the front of the house in my office. I can do that…and you could do this; I know it!

  8. Definitely a labor of love! This creation had so much thought and care put into making it and I am so happy it turned out beautifully! I have the same trouble with bread rising and wonder if it is our altitude or the temp of my kitchen. I’ve had good luck when I turn my oven light on while the dough rises inside the otherwise turned-off oven. Just the right amount of heat it seems. Enjoy it on Christmas morning!

    1. Once I tried putting it into the oven it seems I was on to something. Even if just on for one minute, it kept enough heat in the box to stay warm throughout the rise. I don’t usually have an issue but yes, I keep my house a bit on the chill side so winter baking will require this method…as I delve into more and more breads.

  9. Stollen is always fun at this time of the year, since you’re looking for ideas. 😉 This is one beautiful bread. There seems to be a trend at the moment for baking bread until it’s almost burnt. I dig the flavor, but sometimes it just seems wrong. This looks perfect as it — I wouldn’t want it any darker.

    1. I was thinking of Stollen John! My dad used to buy one stollen and one gooey butter cake every Sunday morning after church. We are German so it’s perfect AND I can finally make one with as much cream cheese as I would like. And another AND. Make one like I always wished I could buy one. Cherries AND cheese. 🙂

  10. I made a loaf of bread very similar to this last night, though yours is much richer. Mine was a basic cinnamon bread recipe using chocolate spread and diced dried cherries as the filling. Hard to not devour breads like these!

    1. I know…I keep taking little bites saying to myself, I’ll wrap it a bit later. Later it will be all gone. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.