Nominated for a 2011 IACP Cookbook Award in the Baking: Savory or Sweet category and a 2011 James Beard award in the Baking and Dessert Baking Category. For a list of all the finalists check out our IACP Finalists' Guide and our James Beard Finalists' Guide.
Recipe from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce and Amy Scattergood ("Stewart, Tabori & Chang", 2010)Makes one 10-inch cake
- Butter and sugar for the pan
- 1 batch Challah (see recipe here ), made with 8 ounces butter instead of 4 ounces
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/4- and 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
This is the ultimate in yeasted coffee cakes. Eastern European in origin, it's made with a yeasted dough enriched with butter and eggs-the same recipe as for Challah, but with double the butter, which makes for a very rich cake.
The dough is left to rise overnight in the refrigerator. The next morning, it's rolled out, slathered with more butter, and dusted with sugar, chocolate, and nuts. The adorned dough is rolled into a log, cut into spirals, and fitted, free-form, into a tube or Bundt pan, where it is left to rise. After baking, those spirals give the babka its delicious nooks and crannies filled with melting chocolate and crunchy nuts, which make for an amazing breakfast cake.
1. Make the Challah dough and allow it to finish its first rise. Then fold the dough into itself, put it into a buttered bowl, cover, and chill overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rub a 10-inch pan with butter, then lightly dust it with sugar. Toast the pecans in the pan until golden, about 15 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, sugar, and salt.
3. Dust a work surface with flour. Remove the challah dough from the refrigerator, flour the top, and scrape the dough onto the work surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour and roll into a rectangle about 10 inches by 16 inches.
4. Rub the softened butter evenly over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle the sugar mix over the butter, then break up the pecans a bit and sprinkle them on top of the sugar. Sprinkle the chocolate last. Starting at the 16-inch length, roll the dough into a tight log. Cut the log into 13 pieces, each about 11/4 inches thick.
5. Place the pieces in the pan in a haphazard way, so that as the dough proofs the odd-shaped spaces are filled in. Here is one way: Create the bottom layer by laying 4 circles at the bottom of the pan with the spirals facing up. Set a circle upright in between each of those circles. For the top layer, set 3 circles in areas that will create empty pockets. Slice the last 2 circles in half and fit them into the gaps that remain. Cover the pan with a towel and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
6. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. The babka should be a beautiful golden-brown on top and have risen to the top or slightly over the top of the pan. Let it cool slightly, about 15 minutes, before placing a rack on top of the pan and turning the pan upside down to get the babka out of its pan and onto the rack to cool. The babka is best eaten the day it's made. It can be stored, wrapped tightly in plastic, for up to 2 days. When you eat the babka after it's been stored, warm it first.