Baking on Christmas Morning
I'm writing this article whilst waiting for my dough to rise. It's Christmas morning; however, it feels a bit odd because we didn't get snow this year! It was really strange to wake up this morning without any snow. I remember the first year I moved to the United States—Christmas morning was like a winter wonderland. The snow blanketed both the front and backyard.
Fortunately, the lack of snow did not prevent me from continuing my December baking challenge. This time, I decided to bake chocolate babka. Usually, people use a regular chocolate filling, but I substituted Nutella because I wanted to try something a bit less traditional. In the meantime, I didn't prepare the dough overnight, as usual. I made the dough in the morning and rested it in the fridge for about four hours before starting to roll it out. The resulting babka turned out well.
What Is Babka?
Babka is a sweet, buttery, yeasty Middle Eastern bread. Not quite as sweet as a cake but definitely leaning toward dessert, babka combines my two favorite foods: bread and chocolate. I had never made a babka before, so it was a great baking challenge for me. Although it requires time and can be a bit tedious to prepare, it is very much worth it. I definitely will make it often next year.
I am so excited to share this recipe with you. I hope you and your family will enjoy this delicious bread as much as we do!
Prep Time: 5-6 hours (including resting and proofing time)
Total Time: 7 hours
Makes: 2 loaves
For the yeast mixture:
- 3/4 cup warm whole milk
- 3 teaspoons yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
For the dough:
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
- 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the filling:
- 1/2 cup Nutella (you can add more if you want to)
- 1-2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
For the glaze:
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- In a pitcher or a bowl, combine the warm milk, yeast, and sugar. Let the mixture dissolve and set aside for 5 minutes.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the yeast mixture into the mixing bowl and beat the mixture at a low speed.
- Add the butter into the mixture and continue mixing for 1-2 minutes.
- Slowly add the eggs and vanilla extract into the wet mixture and continue mixing until it is all combined.
- Transfer the mixture onto a baking mat to shape the dough into a ball.
- Transfer the dough into a greased bowl. Cover with cling wrap and keep it in the fridge for 3-4 hours. (Remember you can prep this a day before and keep it in the fridge overnight.)
- Divide the dough into two equal-sized balls.
- Coat two 9x4-inch loaf pans with nonstick baking spray. Set aside.
- Using a rolling pin, roll out each dough ball into a 16-inch square.
- Using a spatula or a knife, spread the Nutella filling in an even layer over the dough square.
- Starting at the long edge, tightly roll up each dough square jelly-roll style into a tight log.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the logs in half crosswise.
- Set the other halves on top in the opposite direction to form a cross. Twist to form spirals and transfer to the prepared pans.
- Cover loaves with a towel and let them stand in a warm place until they double in size (about 2 hours).
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake the loaves in the center of the oven for about 45 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean. Let them cool slightly.
- Brush the warm babka with melted butter and honey, and let them stand until set.
- Cut the babka and enjoy with your favorite cup of coffee or tea.
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© 2018 Liza