chocolate babka morning buns

September 19, 2018 Lille, France


Hello from France! I am currently here with one of my sponsors and all-time favorite cookware companies, Staub, to spend the next few days celebrating their new cookbook and touring their factory in Lille to learn all about how their beautiful castiron is made. So far it has been a whirlwind of unseasonably warm weather, pink sunrises over the Paris skyline, and an obscene amount of croissants and pastries.

We spent our first night in the fancy Park Hyatt hotel in the ritzy 1st arrondissement of Paris, just a stone's throw away from the Place Vendôme, Tuileries Garden, and the Louvre. After an epic wine and cheese pairing class from Le Foodist, I got up early the next day to do a HIIT workout in my massive hotel room and a quick jog down the Seine and promptly inhaled three croissants, a mini beignet, the best pain perdu I've ever had, and a cheese and salami plate at the hotel's breakfast buffet (I know, I'm so gross). Then, Alana, Amanda, Jenn, and I did a mini pastry crawl and ate a chocolate and pistachio escargot at Du Pain Et Des Idees and eclair shopping at L'eclair de Genie at Galerie Lafayette Gourmet.


Today, we are in Lille staying in a chateau and heading out to do our tour of the Staub factory! I am beyond excited — I first started working with Staub in 2015, and have and use almost their entire collection of cookware in my kitchen. It's incredibly beautiful, but also functional and durable: you can use their pots and pans on the stovetop AND the oven, and their signature dark surface doesn't stain and instead seasons really well over time. Plus, their pots and pans are dishwasherable. I die.


Staub recently came out with a cookbook that features a ton of great recipes by the talented Amanda Fredrickson, as well as contributor recipes from chefs, bloggers, and more. My contribution were these chocolate babka morning rolls, which is basically the answer to the question of what happens when two of my favorite breakfast pastries, the babka and the cinnamon roll, get together and have a bun in the oven (ha! see what I did there?). The chocolate filling has a slight crispy, crunchy texture from chocolate and sugar filling, and the buns are drenched in a sticky simple syrup to give them extra softness — it's a study of different textures and one of my all-time favorite recipes I've ever developed.

As a special treat for my followers, I'm giving away a copy of The Staub Cookbook and a set of Staub cookware (think: a cocotte, a petite cocotte, and a frying pan) in my current favorite color, La Mer, which is exclusive to Williams-Sonoma and is inspired by the ever-changing colors of the sea. To enter the giveaway, be sure to follow me on Instagram and watch for this babka post on my feed for more details on how to win!


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Some baker's notes:
  • Because this recipe requires multiple components, you can break it up over the course of several days. First, proof the dough overnight in the fridge as opposed to letting it rise at room temperature. Second, you can make the syrup and filling up to 1 week in advance of the dough itself — simply store both in an airtight container until ready to use. 

  • When working with yeast, it's important to remember that yeast is a living thing and you can easily kill it by mixing it in a liquid that's too hot — you want the temperature to be similar to that of a warm bath and no more. Instant yeast, which is used in this recipe, also requires a higher activation temperature than active dry yeast since you don't directly mix the yeast into a liquid. Be sure to use an egg that's at room temperature rather than straight from the fridge; an egg straight from the fridge will be too cold and lower the temperature of the overall mixture, risking dropping it to a point where the yeast won't activate properly. 

  • The recipe instructs you to roll out the dough into a fairly long 10 by 20-inch rectangle. It'll seem overkill, but I promise that long rectangles are the secret to the most attractive spirals in your cinnamon rolls and morning buns. 


Chocolate Babka Morning Buns
(adapted from my recipe in The Staub Cookbook)

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Ingredients

Special Equipment:

For the Dough:
(makes around 10 buns)
  • 3 1/2 cups (15.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk, warmed to 120 (F) - 130 (F)
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) canola oil
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature

For the Chocolate Cinnamon Filling:
  • 8 ounces dark (at least 70%-cacao) chocolate
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • a "tightly packed" 1/4 cup (1.85 ounces) dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of kosher salt

For the Simple Syrup Glaze:
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) water
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar

For Serving:
  • roughly chopped walnuts
  • confectioners' sugar 

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Recipe

For the Chocolate Babka Morning Buns:
  1. First, make the dough: in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon instant yeast, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix on low for 10 or so seconds until combined.

  2. In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together 1 cup buttermilk, 1/4 cup canola oil, and 1 large egg. Add to the dry ingredients all at once and mix just until the mixture becomes sticky and comes together. Swap the paddle attachment out for the dough hook and mix on low speed for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. 

  3. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and keep in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

  4. As the dough is rising, prepare the chocolate filling: in the bowl of a food processor, pulse 8 ounces dark chocolate until it is very finely chopped and partially powdery. Add 1/4 cup butter and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar, 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and a pinch of kosher salt and process until evenly distributed — the final product should resemble clumps of cookie crumbs. Set aside until the dough is ready.

  5. Once the dough has doubled in size, tip the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 10 by 20-inch rectangle — 20-inches will seem really long, but I promise that it's the secret to really attractive rolls. Sprinkle the chocolate filling evenly over the surface of the rectangle, making sure to go right up to the edges of the dough.

  6. Coat a 10 or 12-inch cast iron frying pan generously with cooking spray. Working widthwise, roll the dough rectangle into a log, pinching the edges to seal. Use a serrated knife to slice the log into 10 rolls, each about 1 1/4-inches wide. Place the cut-side down on the prepared frying pan in a circle, with one bun in the middle for a 10-inch pan or three in the middle for a 12-inch pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the edges of each roll are rounded and touching each other, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

  7. As the buns are rising, center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F) and make the simple syrup. Combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

  8. Once the buns have finished their second rise, transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the edges of the buns are golden in color. If the tops of the rolls start to brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil and continue baking until a skewer inserted into one of the center buns comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, before using a pastry brush to brush each roll with a generous amount of simple syrup while the buns are still warm. It may seem like there is too much syrup for the buns, but be patient — let the syrup soak in before brushing again. Garnish with walnuts and confectioners' sugar and serve warm.
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