Master the chocolate babka.
Introduction by Dr Yvette Alt Miller
For millions around the world, the quintessential Jewish babka was introduced into American consciousness by Jerry Seinfeld. In his 1994 episode “The Dinner Party”, Jerry and Elaine are invited to a dinner party and plan to buy a chocolate babka on the way. While waiting in a bakery, another couple buys the last one. Jerry and Elaine sympathize that no other cake tastes so good: “You can’t beat a babka!” The pair end up snooping another cinnamon-stuffed babka. Calling it the “little babka”, they reluctantly buy the cake.
Babka is indeed a fantastic pastry: light and airy, with a fluffy yeast dough containing swirls of sweet filling inside. Popular toppings include nuts and cinnamon, marzipan, jam, and chocolate. Although babka-like cakes exist throughout Eastern Europe, babka is indelibly linked to Jewish cuisine today. Sliced and served with a cup of tea or coffee, babka is the perfect dessert.
Historians are not entirely sure of the origin of the babka. The name babka evolved from Baba, which means grandmother in several Eastern European languages, including Yiddish. Babka is a diminutive of baba, meaning “little grandmother”.
When Jewish families began migrating from Eastern Europe to North America and elsewhere in the late 1800s, they brought with them their taste for babka. Many Jewish housewives began adding the now affordable chocolate to their traditional babkas, and the famous chocolate babka was born.
Food4Thought: Did you know that Kabbalah says that eating is a powerful spiritual act? He teaches that mindful eating helps elevate the entire food chain. Get more thoughts on Jewish food here.
Yield: Makes 4 loaves
- 7 cups all-purpose flour plus 1 additional cup if needed, divided
- 6 packets (1/4 ounce) or 41/2 tablespoons
- instant or rapid yeast
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla sugar
- 11/2 cups margarine, melted
- 13/4 cups lukewarm water
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- Breadcrumb filling:
- 4 tablespoons margarine, at room temperature
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
Chocolate Babka Filling
- 1 cup margarine, melted
- 1 box (4.1 ounces) instant chocolate pudding
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup of water
- 2 cups of sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- To make the babka: Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, vanilla sugar, margarine, water, eggs, egg yolks and salt in a large bowl. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for 5 minutes, adding up to 1 cup of flour if the dough is sticky. Leave to rise in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap for 1½ hours.
- For the breadcrumb filling: Crumble the margarine with the flour and sugar in a small bowl, using your fingertips.
- Prepare the filling: in a small bowl, combine the margarine, chocolate pudding, egg, water, sugar and cocoa. Use an eighth of this recipe for each section of dough.
- Spray 4 (10 inch) loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece into a rectangle 1/2 inch thick, the length of the loaf pan. Spread the filling over each rectangle, within 1 inch of the edges. Roll on the long side, like a jellyroll. Wrap 2 rolls around each other and place one in each mold. Using all the breadcrumbs, sprinkle a quarter of the breadcrumbs over each babka. Let rise 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes in the pan, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.