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Salted Chocolate and Pumpkin Babka

yield: 2 (9 by 5-inch) loaf pans
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Ingredients

For the Babka Brioche Dough

  • 4 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup warm water, between 80 to 90 degrees (F) — see baker's notes
  • a generous 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • sunflower oil, for greasing

For the Chocolate Filling

  • 2.25 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon natural cocoa powder

For the Pumpkin Filling

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Grade B maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Simple Syrup Glaze and Sea Salt Topping

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • flaky sea salt, for finishing

Instructions

For the Babka Brioche Dough

  • In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 4 1/4 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons active dry yeast. Mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add 3 large eggs and 1/2 cup warm water and continue mixing on low speed for a few seconds, then increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes until the dough comes together.
  • When the dough is starting to come together (it should start to ball up around the dough hook), add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Continue mixing on medium speed and start adding 2/3 cup cubed, unsalted butter, a few cubes at a time, mixing until it is incorporated into the dough. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed, until the dough is completely smooth, elastic and shiny. During the mixing, you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times to make sure the entirety of the dough is kneaded. After around 10 minutes, the dough should start pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Coat a large bowl evenly with sunflower oil, and transfer the dough to the greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

For the Chocolate Filling

  • In a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl on top of a saucepan filled with water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water) over medium heat, combine 2.25 ounces coarsely chopped dark chocolate and 1/4 cup unsalted butter. Melt, stirring occasionally to fully combine the two together. Once both the butter and chocolate is fully melted, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  • Once the chocolate has cooled slightly, whisk in 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar and 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon natural cocoa powder into the melted chocolate and butter. Set aside to cool slightly as you make the pumpkin filling. As it cools, you will get a spreadable paste.

For the Pumpkin Filling

  • In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar, 3 tablespoons pure pumpkin puree, 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat on medium-high speed until a pale and fluffy orange paste.

Building the Babka

  • Prepare two 9 by 5-inch loaf pans by spraying generously with cooking spray and lining the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper and sprinkle each pan with a light dusting of flour, tapping out any excess flour over the sink. Set aside.
  • Divide the refrigerated dough in half and keep one half covered in plastic wrap in the fridge. Roll out one half of the dough on a lightly flour surface into a rectangle approximately measuring 15 by 10 inches.
  • Use an offset spatula to alternately spread half the chocolate mixture and half the pumpkin mixture in alternating stripes across the rolled out dough — it should look like a bumblebee made from chocolate and pumpkin:
  • Use both hands to roll the long side of the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side that is closest to you and ending at the other long end:
  • Trim about 3/4-inch off both ends of the roulade with a serrated bread knife or sharp bench scraper. Now use the knife to gently cut the roll into half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam — you're essentially dividing the log into two long even halves, with the layers of dough and filling visible along the length of both halves:
  • Shift the halves so that the cut sides with the exposed filling are facing up. Bring the sides together, and start braiding the sides by lifting the right half over the left half, then the left half over the right half, repeating until the two are fully intertwined:
  • Gently squeeze together the ends.
  • Carefully lift the braid into a prepared loaf pan:
  • Cover the pan with a wet flour cloth (but not terrycloth!) and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The cake will rise by 10 to 20 percent.
  • Repeat the whole process to make the second cake.

To Bake and Finish the Babkas

  • Preheat the oven to 375 (F), making sure you allow plenty of time for the oven to preheat fully before the cakes have finished rising — I would turn the oven on 45 minutes into the babkas' rising.
  • Once the oven is preheated and the babkas have risen by about 10 to 20 percent, remove the flour cloths and bake the babkas on the middle rack of the oven for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. A skewer inserted into an underbaked babka will feel /rubbery inside and may come back with dough on it. When fully baked, you’ll feel almost no resistance. If you babka needs more time, put it back in the oven for 5 minutes at a time before re-testing. If it browns too quickly, you can cover it with foil.
  • When the babkas are in the oven, make the syrup. Combine 1/3 cup water, 6 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. When the babkas come out of the oven, brush the syrup immediately over the babkas. It will seem like too much syrup, but it's important to use all of it — the babkas aren't very sweet without the syrup. Sprinkle immediately with flaky sea salt. Allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack until they are just warm, before turning out from the pan and serving.

Notes

Inspired by Jerusalem