Before this fall, my only reference for babka and all of its variations was as a punchline on a sitcom. But then, a friend brought a loaf of cinnamon babka over for a playdate and my life changed. Okay, okay, so maybe babka isn'r really that transformative but it is so good and such the perfect choice for coffee dates and catching up with friends.
Since it's fall, it occurred to me that the only thing that would make babka better (if that's possible!) would be to incorporate a taste of the season - pumpkin babka! I found this recipe on Recitherapy which looks very good indeed but you know me, I can't stop there. In the war of babkas (as if there were such a thing), chocolate babka reigns supreme. And so, Chocolate Pumpkin Babka was born.
Chocolate Pumpkin Babka (adapted from Chocolate Babka found on Epicurious.com)
makes 2 large loaves or 6 mini loaves
3/4 cup warm water (between 105 and 115 degrees F)
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups bread flour (plus some for dusting on work surface)
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk with the egg white reserved
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup canned organic pumpkin pie mix
2 tablespoons vegan buttery spread, softened (you can substitute unsalted butter if you like, this is just what we had on hand)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (for greasing the bowl)
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels (we used nut-free, dairy-free mini morsels)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vegan buttery spread (or unsalted butter)
Whisk together warm water and 2 teaspoons of sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add yeast and whisk to combine. Set aside to proof for about 5 to 7 minutes. If it gets nice and foamy, you're on the right track. If not, it's time to get some new yeast and try again.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixture, combine the rest of the sugar for the dough, the bread flour, and the whole wheat flour by mixing on low for 1 minute. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk with vanilla bean paste and salt. Stop the mixer and add the yeast mixture. Turn mixer on low before adding the egg mixture. Add the pumpkin pie mix and the butter one tablespoon at a time, until it is thoroughly combined with the dough. Increase the mixer speed to medium and allow to mix for 4 minutes. The dough will be very sticky so oil your hands and use a scraper to put into a large bowl greased with vegetable oil. Allow the dough to rise in a warm, dry place for about 1 1/2 hours.
When the dough has risen, make the filling mixture by adding chocolate morsels, sugar and spread (or butter) to a blender or food processor and pulsing several times to make a sand-like mixture. It was a bit tricky getting it out of the blender so I would really recommend using a food processor if it's available.
Turn the babka dough out onto a floured clean work surface. This is a VERY sticky dough so you will use A LOT of flour to keep it from sticking as you roll it out. Roll it out as thin as you can, about 1/4 inch or so, making a long rectangular oval (is that a real shape?).
Whisk the reserved egg white and brush onto the surface of the dough before sprinkling the filling mixture on. Do not go all the way to the edge with the filling!
Once the filling has been applied, roll the dough lenth-wise to make a long, long roll. If you are making mini-loaves, cut the roll to the length of the loaf pans. If you are using large loaf pans, line them with parchment paper first and then cut the roll in half and twist and fold the roll to fit in each. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the loaves to rise for about 1 to 2 hours, until they have risen to the top of your loaf pans. Reserve remaining egg white to use as an egg wash before baking.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush tops of loaves with egg white and place in the oven to bake about 40 minutes (20 minutes for small loaves). The loaves will be dark golden brown on top and have a "hollow" sound when tapped on the bottom when they're done.
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