Friday, August 24, 2012

I finally got my blue ribbon!

This, my friends, is what excellence looks like. No, but seriously. This babka is totally excellent. So excellent, in fact, that it took first place for yeast breads at the NJ state fair. Mind you that this is my first blue ribbon in the baking competition. The black pepper pound cake, which I think should have taken the top prize, came in #2 for pound cakes (a surprisingly competitive category). Also a collage I made a while back was a blue ribbon winner. Hubs did very well in the open agriculture show too, with several "excellent"/blue ribbon winners. I'm super proud of him and also of myself! I think this is maybe the 4th year I've entered the baking competitions and the first year I've come out on top. I think they just like complicated recipes, and this one's really pretty complicated. Like as in once or twice a year and that's it complicated (much like the pierogi, which are only for Easter. what is it with these Ukranian recipes?).
But in the spirit of sharing, here's my "Blue Ribbon Chocolate Babka" recipe...cuz yeah, that's what I'm calling it now.

Streusel Topping Ingredients:
1 2/3 Cups Confectioners’ Sugar
1 1/3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
14 T. butter at room temperature

Add all ingredients to food processer and pulse until crumbs form.

Egg wash:
1 Tablespoon Heavy Cream
1 whole egg at room temperature

Mix with fork or whisk.

Chocolate Filling Ingredients:
24-30 oz. miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips (depending on preference) or finely chopped chocolate
1 Cup sugar
2 ½ T. ground cinnamon
1 ½ sticks butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces

Place the chocolate, cup of sugar and the cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Cut in 1 ½ sticks of butter until well combined. Set the filling aside.

Babka dough Ingredients:
1 ½ Cups Whole Milk, scalded and cooled slightly
2 T. active dry yeast
¾ Cup Sugar Plus A Pinch
2 Whole Large Eggs at Room Temperature
2 Large Egg Yolks at Room Temperature
6 Cups All-Purpose Flour, Plus Additional Flour For Your Work Surface
1 teaspoon Salt
2 Sticks of Butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces

Babka Instructions:

1. Heat milk in small saucepan on stove just until bubbles form around edges of pan. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Pour warm milk into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and a pinch of sugar over the milk; let it stand until foamy and aromatic, about 5 minutes.
3. In a bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs and the egg yolks. Add the egg mixture to the yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and salt. Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed until all of the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds.

5. Change to the dough hook. Add 2 sticks of butter (cut into small pieces) and beat until the flour mixture and butter are completely incorporated, and a smooth, soft dough that’s slightly sticky when squeezed is formed, about 10 minutes.
6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few turns until smooth. Butter a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, and turn to coat. Cover loosely with a tea towel, and set aside in a warm place for an hour, or until bread has approximately doubled in bulk.
 7. Generously butter three loaf pans. At this time, you can make the egg wash and set it aside, and make the streusel topping and chocolate filling if you haven’t already done so.
8. Punch back the dough and transfer it to a clean surface. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces. Keep 2 pieces covered with your tea towel while rolling out the third piece. On a generously floured surface, roll the dough out into approximately a 16-inch square (or slightly rectangular).
9. Brush the outer edges of the square with egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of the chocolate filling evenly over the dough, leaving a ½ -inch border.
10. Roll the dough up tightly like a jelly roll, starting at the top. Once dough is a long cylinder, twist 5 or 6 turns from each end. Place into prepared loaf pan in a horseshoe shape to that the dough cover the entire bottom of the pan. Brush the top of the roll with egg wash.
11. Repeat this process with the remaining 2 pieces of dough and the remaining filling.
12. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Crumble 1/3 of the streusel topping over each loaf.
13. Loosely cover each pan with a tea towel and let stand in a warm place for 20 minutes.
14. Bake the loaves in the preheated oven until golden, about 55 minutes.
15. Decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees rotate the pans in the oven at this time. Continue to bake at lower temperature until the babkas are a deep golden brown, about 15 to 20 minute. Remove them from the oven and transfer them to wire racks until completely cool, then remove the babkas from the pans and serve.

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