Pecan and Chocolate Babka

This last month was packed with traveling. We spent 2 weeks in Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. I had travelled there 8 years ago and having had the best memories of my time spent there always wanted to go back. It was, again, such a magical and relaxing time that I am still drawing a lot of energy from. But I promise to tell more soon - at the moment I am still rummaging through hundreds of pictures that I took.

Never having been to Paris (I grew up in Brussels, yet never managed to take the 1 hour train ride over to France), I jumped at the chance, when one of my friends decided to run the Paris Marathon. And NO, I didn't run a marathon. I simply went to cheer her on - and to eat a lot of baguette and cheese. And that I did. Very successfully.

After Paris came Tyrol, a part of the alps stretching through Austria and Italy. We went there to spend a weekend with his family. Staying in a little cabin in the middle of the mountains was amazing. I always find it such a fascinating and humbling experience being in the alps, feeling dwarfed by giant snow-capped mountains.   

As it was Easter we had a LOT of food. Family dinner included a big lamb roast with beans and potatoes. We bought some cured ham which is very traditional in that region, plus makes for a very good hiking snack. On Easter Sunday, I decided to bake a babka. In the end it turned out so big, it wouldn't fit into the tin, so it ended up a bit more like a German 'Hefezopf' (braided yeast bun). 


Ingredients

Dough

  • 3 cups white spelt flour
  • 1 + 1/4 cups white wheat flour
  • 1 + 1/2 sachets (10g) dry instant yeast
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter at room temperature
  • optional: pinch of vanilla and nutmeg

Filling

  • 150g (1 + 1/2 bars) quality dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup pecans, roughly chopped or crushed


Recipe

1. Mix the two flours, instant yeast, salt and sugar in a big bowl. You can add a pinch of nutmeg and vanilla if you want.

2. Heat the milk so that it is lukewarm. Add the milk to the flour, as well as the eggs, knead with your hands until the dough comes together. 

3. Transfer dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10minutes until it becomes smooth and flexible. 

4. Now spread the dough with your hands and add 1/3 of the butter. Knead in so the butter is well incorporated. Use more flour to dust if necessary. Continue with the rest of the butter until all is incorporated and you have a smooth and elastic dough. 

5. Place in a clean bowl, cover with a cloth and let rest in a warm place for about 1 hour. The dough should be doubled in size. 

6. In the meantime make the filling: Finely chop or roughly grate the chocolate, mix with the butter and the sugar. Roughly chop the pecans. 

7. Roll the dough out on a floured surface. It should be rolled out into a rectangle, with one longer and one shorter side. Spread on the chocolate filling and sprinkle with the pecans. 

8. Halve the dough lengthwise, roll each half up from the longer side. Attach one end of each roll to the other by just pressing together the ends of the dough. Now halve each roll by cutting about 2-3cm from the just combined end. You will get 4 strands of dough which are attached to each other at the top. 

9. Plaiting the dough: Start by crossing the outer strands over the inner ones. Then cross the inner ones. Keep on doing that until you come to the end, press together the ends of the rolls. In the end it doesn't really matter that you plait them in a regular way, when the dough rises and it is baked you won't notice any irregularities. 

10. Carefully transfer the plaited dough onto a tray lined with baking paper, or into a cake tin. I baked mine without a tin, cause it was too big to fit in. Cover with a cloth and let rise for another 30min. 

11. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C fan. Bake for 20-25min. If it get's too dark too quickly, loosely cover with aluminium foil for the rest of the baking time.


This babka is a great snack to bake for a hiking trip, wrapped in foil it will keep well for 24hours. Filled with dark chocolate and pecans it's not too sweet yet satisfies my sweet-tooth-needs.