GBBO week 3 – bread week

One of my most dreaded weeks (also looking at you, pastry week) as I’m not overly confident with yeasted dough. What to make then other than something that’s both yeasted and enriched!

I know that babka was one of the recipes from 2017 bread week, and it was quite a memorable one. It’s all about the swirl, it seems, and the proving time is a bit cranky. The recipe I chose for this is a chocolate babka, which seems to make it a little controversial in some corners and apparently turns it from a Polish bake into a Czech one. I’m definitely not qualified to weigh in on that one, but mythology states that it originated in the Jewish communities of Poland and Ukraine, and is in the same family as challah. Please do correct me if I’m wrong though. What I do know is that it’s really popular in the U.S. in areas like NYC, and that chocolate is a favourite.

Yeast in warm milk with a pinch of sugar to feed it – this starts everything.

The yeast is added to sugar and flour, then in with eggs and a hellava lot of butter.

Eventually a nice smooth dough like substance is created. It gets to sit for 2 hours, after which time it hasn’t risen much at all. It’s incredibly soft and sticks to bloomin’ everything, and has to be almost poured out of the bowl. The recipe uses the term “well greased” repeatedly when it comes to this stuff making contact with any solid surface.

This recipe makes two babka, and I didn’t want to reduce it in case some sort of plaiting voodoo needed the full whack of dough. (Note from future me: you will regret that a little). Once the dough has had it’s time in the bowl, it’s divided/poured into two and formed into rough squares. I went with rectangles, as I wasn’t going to give two shelves of my fridge over to proving dough for a night.

Next phase is preparing filling. Dark and milk chocolate combined with butter and melted. “Chocolate wafer cookies” don’t really exist here, and I was in no mood to buy two packs of oreos and sit in front of the tv, scraping the filling out of them for this. Instead I went with some very finely chopped hazelnuts, which is why this photo looks like melted Rocher chocolates. Can’t knock a classic!

The dough is extracted from the fridge and in a moment of utter gratefulness for my big granite counter, I managed to roll this very cranky dough into a 16 inch square. Despite the cold countertop and the fact that it literally just came from the fridge, this dough liked to tear at any slight provocation – even spreading melted chocolate on.

Got there eventually, and then the rolling up, which was also fun as the dough also liked to rip if a bit of hazelnut hadn’t been pounded into teeny enough shards.

Cut in half, spread remaining chocolate, and “plait”.

Into two tins for a good 2 hour rise, then into the oven. I’ve only one loaf tin, so improvised. Worked a treat.

These brown quite dramatically due to the sugar and the dark chocolate blend. Was really concerned that they’d caught, but they’re just on the right side.

Glaze. More dark and milk chocolate, and golden syrup instead of corn syrup. I only made half, as the recipe seemed like it was more than enough for at least 4/6 of these beasties, and I very much wanted it to be glazed babka, not glaze with babka.

Loaves cooled in tin. I tried to take them out as per the recipe, but given the massive amounts of butter involved they were leaky and at risk of just flattening out. That was definitely the right decision as it turned out.

This is slightly barm-bracky in texture, and would be great for people who don’t like the fruity version for halloween. It would probably make a good bread pudding too, though you might need a defibrillator if you slice this up and add more butter and then cream.

It’s nice, and perfect with a cup of tea. Much nicer when left to room temperature – warm isn’t awesome, IMHO.

Not sure how regularly I’ll make this as it’s such a faff, but at least the results are tasty, and I’ve a hint of a swirl in the round tin loaf. The second loaf went to my sister in law, where it got scoffed with no camera present.

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