Updated: Jan 12, 2020
One of the first things I ever baked with my wife was a babka. One day, about 10 years ago, we flipped open a book and saw a pretty straight forward process to it. It was yeasted, quick, and pretty delicious to be honest.
Since then, I've learned that babka can be even more delicious if it is naturally leavened. It's been a long time coming to make one with sourdough only. I love enriched bread made with the delicious flavor of a sourdough levain. Of course the fact that it's loaded with chocolate doesn't hurt either.
I mixed this recipe pretty easily with my hands, so I'd like to recommend you do the same! It's fun to get familiar with the feeling of dough mixing with your hands, even if there is a bit of butter that you need to incorporate. It isn't as challenging as, say, mixing brioche by hand. If you desire to use your machine to mix, you can go ahead and do that as well.
Note: I usually don't use a sweet levain for my enriched bread, and this case is no different.
I find that you get the most out of the sourdough flavor profile if you let it be, and the dough will be enriched anyway. There's a ton of chocolate and sugar for there to be a harmonious flavor profile. That being said, I always do the final proof at room temperature as a cold proof would take quite a while and your bread may indeed become too sour.
What You'll Need (for levain build):
100 grams Mature Sourdough Starter
50 grams King Arthur Organic Whole Wheat Flour
150 grams King Arthur Organic Bread Flour
180 grams Warm Water
The levain is 50% inoculated, which means that I'm adding half the amount of flour in mature starter. In a relatively warm spot, if your starter is active and healthy, the levain build should be ready in 3-4 hours.
What You'll Need (Dough Mix)
500 grams King Arthur Organic Bread Flour
215 grams Levain
225 grams Warm Milk
113 grams Unsalted Butter, room temp
100 grams Sugar
4 grams salt
4 grams Honey
1 gram Vanilla Extract
What You'll Need (Filling)
50 grams Unsalted Butter
100 grams Semisweet or Bittersweet Chocolate
32 grams Brown Sugar
4 grams Honey
16 grams Cocoa Powder
What You'll Need (Streusel de Coco)
50 grams AP Flour
20 grams Coconut Flakes
4 grams Cinnamon
Pinch of Salt
30 grams butter
Here's What You Need
Grab two bowls. In one of the bowls, combine the milk, levain, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and honey (use the amounts above in the Dough Mix section). Beat this mixture together with a fork.
Combine the flour and salt in the other bowl, and mix with your hands.
Slowly add the four mixture into the bowl with the levain mixture, one cup full at a time, and mix with your hands. Continue until the flour mixture has been slowly incorporated.
Add the 113 grams of softened butter. Squeeze with your fingers into the dough. Once it begins to get incorporated, turn out onto a floured countertop and begin kneading with your palm. It will be a bit sticky, so use your dough scraper to scrape the dough that sticks to the countertop back into the mass.
You can use the "slap and fold" technique as well. What you need to do is grab your dough with both hands, lift it off of the counter, and slap the bottom half back onto the counter. Then, throw the top half over it so that it forms a ball again. Repeat this processes, with kneading, until you get a smooth-ish dough. It won't be perfect, but you'll know when it's done.
Place the dough into a bowl for the initial rise period of 5-6 hours. My house is usually somewhere between 72-75 degrees per the thermostat and that does the trick. What you're looking for is an increase in volume and a slight weblike structure at the bottom of the dough.
After your initial fermentation is done, place the bowl (covered) in the fridge for up to 12 hours. You can push it for much longer depending on your schedule and fridge temp.
Now it's time to prepare the filling. Add the ingredients from the filling section int a bowl and microwave for a minute until the chocolate is melted and stir.
Let the filling cool while you dump your cold dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Roll with your rolling in out into a rectangle, about 2 feet long.
Spread the filling all over your flattened out dough (add extra chunks of chocolate if desired) and then roll it into a tight log. Cut the log in half, so that you have two shorter logs (see pictures above)
Now, cut each of these logs in half vertically (see pictures above). You'll see the layers of the filling and the dough now. You want the layers (the cut side) to be the top. You'll end up with 4 pieces.
Take 3 of these pieces and connect them together at the base so that you can make a braided loaf. With the other piece, you can cut it in half and make a smaller two braid loaf, or make knots.
Now, place your braided loaf into an oiled tin. Cover with a bag, and let it proof for 3-4 hours.
Now you can make the streusel de coco. Combine the ingredients from the Streusel de Coco section above in a bowl and mix. You'll end up with a slightly wet but lumpy mixture. Crumbled the streusel onto the loaf before proofing.
When the loaf is done proofing, you'll know it is ready because it will have increased significantly in volume. Brush over the top of the streusel lightly with an egg/milk wash.
Preheat your oven to 375. Bake the loaf for 30 minutes, and then turn down the heat to 350 and bake for another 10-15. Depending on your oven, you may not have to bake it for so long. Keep an eye on the color during the bake.
Once the bake is done, turn out of the pans and let cool for 5-10 minutes. But, as usual, it's best warm out of the oven! Enjoy.