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The Basics for Chocolate Babka

The Basics for Chocolate Babka
Written by Lia Grabowski | Photography by Caroline Fontenot

The catalyst for Bādolina Bakery & Cafe was sparked at, of all places, a steakhouse. “We became as famous for our bread as we are for our steak,” Sof Hospitality co-owner Itai Ben Eli says of the group’s Doris Metropolitan, which has locations in Houston, New Orleans, and Costa Rica. Michal Michaeli, who joined the team five years ago, raised the restaurant’s bread program to such impressive heights, the team quickly realized her talent needed a wider audience.

Michaeli of Badolina Bakery and Cafe

“We wanted to showcase all the things she can do, from sweet and savory pastries to her amazing sourdoughs,” Ben Eli says. “That’s how the idea for Bādolina was born. We were just looking for the right opportunity, the right neighborhood for it.”

That opportunity came in the form of a spot in Rice Village, a lively sixteen-block shopping district near downtown Houston. The bakery opened in the summer of 2021.

“I’m amazed by it every day. The fact that we create and bring our passion to life and people embrace it, it’s a dream come true,” says Michaeli, who found her passion for baking some twenty years ago. Most of her recipes, including the chocolate babka she shares here, are inspired by her memories growing up in Israel. “Every Friday, everybody’s getting ready for Shabbat and for the family dinner and we always buy these cakes in various flavors—it’s a part of a tradition.”

When it comes to making the chocolate babka herself, patience, Michaeli says, is key. “Listen to the dough. You can’t rush dough.” That means letting it rest between each round of folding so it reaches the proper flexibility for easy handling. Keeping the butter well-chilled before laminating it into the dough is also a crucial step to getting those perfect layers.

Feel free to flex your creative muscles when it comes to the filling, though. Michaeli is constantly changing it up for Bādolina, cranking out new versions weekly—think ricotta cheese, vanilla cream, or pistachio cherry. Just make sure the filling is the consistency of a thick paste, she recommends, so it’s easy to handle and stays in place when you’re shaping the babka.

unbaked chocolate babka

Make Michaeli’s Chocolate Babka

Ingredients

Makes 1 loaf

For the dough: 

  • 1¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon flour (Michaeli suggests King Arthur’s Sir Galahad flour) 
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon milk 
  • 1 teaspoon dry yeast 
  • cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 2 eggs, divided 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • Zest of ¼ lemon 
  • About 7 tablespoons butter, divided 
  • ¼ cup simple syrup* 

For the filling: 

  • ¾ cup roughly chopped chocolate (Michaeli uses 66 percent dark chocolate) 
  • ½ cup heavy cream 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder 
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar 
  • 1½ cups chocolate chips

*To make simple syrup, combine ¼ cup sugar with ¼ cup water in a small pot and heat until sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool.

Directions

chocolate babka, the dough fold

  1. Make the dough: In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine flour, milk, yeast, sugar, salt, 1 egg, vanilla, and lemon zest. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add about 4 tablespoons of butter; continue to mix on medium-high speed for 10 minutes. Turn out dough and knead by hand into a ball. Place dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, flatten remaining butter into a rectangle and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use. 
  3. On a lightly floured surface, turn out dough and roll into a large rectangle with the long edge facing you. Place butter rectangle longways in the center of dough, then bring both short ends of dough to the center to cover butter. 
  4. From there, roll dough out into a rectangle again and fold short ends inward, overlapping them as though you’re folding a letter. Place dough in fridge to rest for about 30 minutes. 
  5. Repeat step 4 twice more, resting dough in the fridge for about 30 minutes each time. 

How to make Chocolate babka

  1. While the dough is resting, make the filling: In a small pot over low heat, warm the heavy cream until almost simmering. In a mixing bowl, pour hot cream over chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Whisk in salt, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar. Refrigerate filling until it reaches a paste-like consistency. 

How to make chocolate babka

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a loaf pan with parchment paper. To shape the dough: Roll the dough into a rectangle, approximately 10×12 inches. Spread with chocolate filling and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Roll the dough longways to make a log.Chocolate babka braiding

Slice the log longways and separate so the cut sides are facing outwards. Twist one end on top of the other, like a braid, continuing down the length of the dough. Transfer to prepared pan and set aside in a warm, draft-free area to proof until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.

     2. In a small bowl, whisk remaining egg to make an egg wash. Once dough is proofed, brush with egg wash. Bake until dough is a dark golden brown on top, about 30 minutes. Once baked, brush with simple syrup.

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