Are we sick of sweet baked goods and holiday treats yet?
No? Good. Same here.
And thank goodness for that because I did a thing. A thing involving a super intimidating (at least to me) baked good. And loads of chocolate. And pistachios.
I give you: salted chocolate pistachio babka!
And in all seriousness, it might be the absolute BEST thing I have ever baked at home. I know I say that a lot, but this one is something SUPER special. I had high expectations, despite my trepidation of taking on babka at home, and the outcome far exceeded anything I could imagine.
This babka is INSANE. Just insane. In all the best ways, of course.
Babka, in general, has always been a sort of elusive baked good to me. It’s one of the pastries that I would only buy, never attempting to make it at home. It just seemed complicated!
Side note: if you’ve never had babka, I cannot stress enough the need for you to run out to your nearest bakery to buy some. It is so freaking delish. I always associate it with the holidays, which is super odd because we never grew up eating it. It just feels special to me! And special definitely correlates with the holidays, right?
This babka is traditional in the way of the dough. Layers of flaky, fluffy, slightly sweet bread get wrapped around a chocolatey filling that is my newest favorite thing. I took some liberties with the filling and the topping, but I think it all worked out for the best.
The filling involves lots of melted chocolate, crushed chocolate cookies, pistachios, cinnamon, and flaky sea salt. It took a ton of my will power to stop scooping this straight from the bowl and into my face. It’s SO GOOD.
The babka dough takes a long time to make/rise, and if you’re like me, recipes likes this can be frustrating for that fact alone. But I PROMISE you, this one is so worth the extra planning and time. I make the dough the night before I want to assemble and bake the babka. The slow overnight rise in the fridge allows for the perfect fluffy texture to develop, and it also makes the dough easier to work with when it’s chilled the next morning.
The actual effort required here is no more than any other baked good, in my opinion. It’s just the downtime you need to account for. This is a recipe that takes two days to make. As long as you read through the recipe and what it actually requires ahead of time and plan accordingly, you’ll be all good.
Once the dough is ready, you roll it out and fill it with the aforementioned chocolate-pistchio party and roll it up like you would cinnamon rolls.
The rolls get halved lengthwise and then braided to form the classic babka look/effect. Then they rise again (I know, I know) for a couple hours and then get baked off.
To take things really over the top and to drive home just how special this babka feels, we then pour a rich chocolate, ganache-like glaze over top of the baked babkas. A sprinkling of chopped pistachios and flaky sea salt really are the perfect ending touches.
The result is pure decadence.
I am a huge fan of anything salty-sweet, and this bread delivers on that front, among many others. Deeply rich and chocolatey, fluffy and soft, crunchy and salty from the nuts and salt flakes, and perfectly sweet. It has something for everyone.
Dan, in all his feverish, pneumonia-ridden glory last week, took one bite and said “Wow. Just wow.” It was all he could muster in the moment, but given that this isn’t something he would normally go nuts over, I took it as a big thumbs up.
Like I said, it’s the best baked good I’ve made in a long time, maybe ever. And it BELONGS in your holiday plans!
Happy babka baking!
For the Dough:
- 1 cup whole milk, warmed
- 1 packet dry active yeast
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
- Nonstick cooking spray
For the Filling:
- 6 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter, cubed
- 1½ cups ground chocolate wafer cookies
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped (use roasted/unsalted if you can)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
For the Glaze:
- 8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- ½ cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped (use roasted/unsalted if you can)
- Flaky sea salt, optional
For the Dough:
The night before you want to bake:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm milk with the yeast and let it sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt in another bowl and set aside.
- To the yeast mixture, add the egg and egg yolk and begin mixing at low speed.
- Stop the mixer and add the dry ingredients to the bowl. Mix again on low speed for 3-5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Mix until everything is incorporated and a smooth dough has formed.
- With the mixer running on low, add the cubed butter and mix for another 2-3 minutes or until a smooth but tacky dough forms.
- Cover the bowl and let the dough rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
- After the dough has risen, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it generously with nonstick cooking spray.
- Coax the dough onto the parchment paper and divide the dough in half. Form each dough half into a square.
- Cover the entire baking sheet with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
On baking day:
- Remove the baking sheet from the fridge and coat two 9 x 4-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line each pan with parchment paper, leaving enough to overhang the edges of the pans.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough square out to form a 16-inch square. Prepare the filling next.
For the Filling:
- Place the two chocolates and the butter in a heat-proof bowl and microwave in 20-second increments, stirring after each session, until the butter and chocolate are melted, smooth, and glossy.
- Stir in the chocolate wafer cookies, honey, pistachios, cinnamon, and flaky sea salt.
- Set aside ½ cup of the filling mixture.
- Divide the remaining filling between the two dough squares, spreading it out in even layers and leaving a ½-inch border around each piece of dough.
- Starting at the long edge of the dough squares, tightly roll up each square to form a tight log (as if you were making a jelly roll or cinnamon rolls).
- Using a sharp knife, cut the rolls in half lengthwise so you have two long strips per dough roll.
- Gently twist the halves around each other (there are tons of YouTube videos on how to do this – that’s how I figured it out!). Don’t worry if some of the filling escapes – the mess won’t matter in the end. Tuck the ends and pinch slightly to hold together.
- Gently lift each formed babka loaf and place in the prepared loaf pans.
- Spread the remaining filling mixture over the surface of the formed babkas. I used my fingers to spread/tuck it in all the remaining crevices. The idea is coat almost the entire dough surface with the chocolate mixture.
- Cover the pans with a towel and allow to proof until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Uncover the loaves and bake for 45 minutes, or until puffed and well browned on top.
- Cool slightly in the pans and then lift the babka loaves out of the pans using the overhanging parchment paper. Place the loaves on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet.
- Place the chocolate and the butter in a heat-proof bowl and microwave in 20-second increments, stirring after each session, until the butter and chocolate are melted, smooth, and glossy.
- Stir in the corn syrup and then spread the glaze over the warm babkas.
- Sprinkle the tops with the chopped pistachios and sprinkling of flaked salt. Allow the bread to continue cooling until the glaze is set, about 30 minutes.
- Slice and enjoy!
Adapted from here.