Whether you’re a miserly Costanza or an eager-to-impress Benes, you can be sure that things aren’t going to go according to plan if you’re on Seinfeld. Skip the hairy bakery and try making babka all your own — cinnamon or chocolate, they’re sure to outshine Barbara Benedict’s store bought swill.
1/2 cup whole milk
1 packet instant yeast
2 1/2 ounces sugar plus a pinch
18 ounces flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Grated nutmeg, to taste
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, plus more for greasing
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
FOR CHOCOLATE BABKA:
1/2 cup butter
9 ounces chocolate
2 teaspoons espresso powder
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
FOR CINNAMON BABKA:
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
Makes 2 large loaves
Heat milk to 110F. Add yeast and a pinch of sugar to milk, and allow to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, or until foaming. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Affix dough hook, and add yeast mixture, mix for 1 minute or until barely combined. Add eggs, and mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the bowl of the mixer, and forms a cohesive ball. Add half the butter, and beat on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, until incorporated. Repeat with remaining butter, adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time if the dough is too sticky. Form the dough into a ball, place in a large buttered bowl, and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Place in an off oven and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Remove dough, punch down, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (or at a minimum of 4 hours).
To make simple syrup, combine sugar and water, and simmer until syrupy, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
If making chocolate babka, melt butter and chocolate together on medium power in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until completely smooth. Whisk in espresso powder, cocoa powder, and confectioner’s sugar until a spreadable paste forms.
If making cinnamon babka, combine cinnamon, sugar, and melted butter, combining thoroughly until a spreadable paste forms.
Remove dough from the refrigerator, divide in half, and roll out to a 24 x 18” rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread evenly with desired filling, leaving a 1” gap around all sides. Roll into log lengthwise, and place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes, or until firm. Repeat with other half of dough.
Remove dough roll from the freezer, and using a bread knife, cut down the middle lengthwise, exposing all the chocolate/cinnamon layers. Hold the two halves of dough against each other so the cut sides are facing out, and twist into a decorative loaf. Place in buttered, parchment-lined loaf pans, cover with a damp towel, and allow to rise in the off oven for 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375F and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the thickest part of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven, place on wire racks, and immediately brush down with simple syrup. Allow to cool for at least an hour before slicing and serving.