Chocolate Cherry Babka
Babka has always fascinated me as it’s just so beautiful to look at – just look at the swirls and patterns in the bake!
- 150g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 150g plain flour
- 25g caster sugar
- 7g dried yeast
- 75g chilled unsalted butter, cubed
- 125ml full-fat milk
- 1 egg
- For the filling
- 40g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 40g soft light brown sugar
- 75g dark chocolate, chopped
- 25g cocoa powder
- 200g pitted cherries, halved
- For the glaze
- 50g caster sugar
- 50ml water
Sift both flours into a large bowl, add the caster sugar and dried yeast and mix together. Rub the butter into the mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. Gently heat the milk in a small pan until warm but not piping hot – it should just be starting to steam. Mix the warm milk and egg into the dry ingredients.
Knead the dough together for 7 minutes; it will be sticky at first, but it will soon come together. Once kneaded, it should be springy to touch, and not sticky. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the top of the bowl with clingfilm and let the dough rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Heat the butter and soft light brown sugar in a pan and stir until melted. Reduce the heat to low and add the chopped dark chocolate and cocoa powder. Stir until the chocolate has melted and mixture is combined – it might look grainy, but that is fine. Once the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured work surface, and roll out to a rectangle about 40 x 30cm. Gently brush the surface with the chocolate filling, then sprinkle over the cherries.
Roll the dough up quite tightly from long side to long side until it is a long sausage shape. Carefully cut the dough lengthways down the middle. Twist the two halves around each other until fully twisted into a sort of two-strand plait. Place the twisted dough into a lightly buttered 900g loaf tin, making sure the dough is level and not sticking up at the sides. Cover the tin loosely with clingfilm and leave the babka to rise for another 30 minutes or so. Towards the end of this second prove, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
Bake for 50–60 minutes until golden brown. Cool the babka in the tin for at least 10 minutes, and then carefully remove and cool fully on a wire rack while you make the glaze. Heat the caster sugar and water in a small pan until the sugar has dissolved. Leave the mixture to cool slightly and brush over the babka.
CUSTOMISE: The cherries can be left out for a chocolate babka – or you can flavour the filling with the zest of 1 large orange, 1 tsp peppermint extract or 1 tsp coffee extract. You can also flavour the dough with the flavourings above. If you want an extra kick, you can swap the fresh cherries for cherries soaked in kirsch out of a jar!
Extracted from Jane’s Patisserie by Jane Dunn (Ebury Press, £20) Photography by Ellis Parrinder