So it snowed today. Not a lot, in keeping with this winter’s trend of negligible snowfall (global warming, anyone?) but enough to make the world look like a black and white photograph. It’s quite beautiful, really. Perfect for taking a little stroll through the neighborhood. And you know—weather like this is the perfect antidote for head colds and partying-all-night lag (no time to explain, but let’s just say we all rolled into bed about two o’clock this morning). And so I walked a little bit and brought my camera and did not take any pictures, believing that there were no spots “good enough” for a photo, but did spend the entire time thinking about life and shit, because that is what a somber and beautiful winter landscape will do to you.
And now the year is ending. I’m getting older (January baby here). There’s still that bad taste in my mouth, the remnant of undesirable emotions and general unhappiness, but it’s fading. I wonder if this will be the year I get my shit together.
And then I find myself walking back into the house where it is warm and there is actually a bit of color and, no longer alone with my thoughts, I can actually live in the present for a while.
You know? Funny how that works.
Inside there is the Christmas tree and happy little decorations and, most importantly, my family. There, historical analysis of the self can wait.
It’s also funny, I think, that the first time I made chocolate babka was a year ago, for a brunch we were hosting. That loaf was rich and golden-brown and absolutely laden with chocolate, to the point of bursting, and we all agreed that it was less “bread” than “pound cake by another name”. This variation, we all agree, is much better.
|Oh shit, we're talking about food now? *wipes away tears*|
The recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen, that blogger who clearly traded her soul with the devil for the ability to find perfect recipes. The filling, for one, is much more spread-like than the other recipe I tried (which seemed to call for a few pounds of dark chocolate and shit), and as such is very easy to keep inside the dough when rolling. She also mentions freezing the dough before slicing those layers of chocolaty goodness open and twisting them together. And thank god she did. It works like a charm.
Like most loaves of bread, this is a labor of love, but worth every moment spent waiting for the dough to rise and bake and cool. There’s just nothing like it.
Oh, and the soaking syrup at the end of the recipe? Totally necessary. Just trust me on that one.
|Just look at it. LOOK AT IT!|
Vegan chocolate babka
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes one loaf
265 grams • all-purpose flour • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons
50 grams • granulated sugar • ¼ cup
4 gram • active dry yeast • 1 teaspoon
Zest of half a lemon
10 grams • ground flaxseed • 1 ½ tablespoons
90 grams • water • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons
3 grams • salt • ½ teaspoon
75 grams • solid coconut oil, softened • 1/3 cup
65 grams • dark chocolate, finely chopped • 2 ¼ ounces
60 grams • coconut oil • ¼ cup
25 grams • powdered sugar • scant ¼ cup
15 grams • cocoa powder • 2 ½ tablespoons
37 grams • water • 2 ½ tablespoons
38 grams • granulated sugar • 3 tablespoons
To make the dough, start by combining flour, sugar, yeast, and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add flaxseed and water and mix with dough hook until it comes together; this may take a couple minutes. With mixer on low, add salt and coconut oil, a tablespoon at a time, and mix until fully incorporated.
Knead dough on medium speed for 10 minutes or until dough is completely smooth; be sure to scrape down the bowl a few times. If the dough is not pulling away from the sides of the mixer after this time, add a spoonful of extra flour and mix a bit more.
Turn dough out into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight—it should at least increase in size by half, if not double.
To make the filling, start by melting oil and chocolate together in a small saucepan only low heat. Stir until smooth. Add powdered sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon.
Grease one 9 x 4 inch loaf pan and line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment paper. Remove the dough from fridge and roll out on a well-floured surface to a rectangle about 10 x 12 inches. Spread the chocolate mixture in an even layer over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border on all sides. Brush the end farthest away from you (the slightly longer one) with water. Roll dough up carefully and tightly; seal the dampened end. Place on a baking tray and stick it in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove dough from freezer. Trim the last ½ inch off each end of the log. Carefully cut the dough in half lengthwise (exposing the layers) and place on the counter. Pinch each end together gently. Lift one side over the next, making a nice sort of twist, and seal together the other ends. Transfer dough to the loaf pan and nestle the ½-inch ends on the edges.
Cover dough with a damp tea towel and let rise for another 1 to 1 ½ hours in a warm place. In the meantime, make the syrup. In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Once the babka has risen, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the loaf for 30 minutes. It should be golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center should go through cleanly with little resistance. Brush the syrup over the loaf—yes, all of it. Let cool for about half an hour in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely I mean yes you can eat it warm. Go ahead.
|Dem chocolate swirls.|
This winter I haven’t baked nearly enough bread, but after this I think I will have to get back on that baking wagon. Especially with Christmas vacation. Homework shall obstruct my desire to bake bread no longer!
And before you leave, I have two items—firstly, I’m sorry for the overly emotional navel-gazing post, but it really helped and I hope you don’t hate me for that; and secondly, some more bread recipes! Yay!
Pulla (Finnish braided bread with cardamom). Cardamom: a most underappreciated spice that is totally necessary for this bread.
Chocolate peanut butter swirl bread. Much easier than it looks! I swear!
Cinnamon swirl bread. Screw the store-bought kind—homemade is where it’s at.