Not the Lesser Babka


I’m a bit of a Seinfeld nerd and my only experience with babka, is from the famous Dinner Party episode. All the clever repartee made me yearn for a chocolate babka which I assumed was only available in New York bakeries, so had placed it on my New York vacation to-do list right after Katz’s Delicatessen. Even a cinnamon babka would be adequate despite Elaine dubbing it the “lesser babka.”

Imagine my delight at stumbling over a wonderful little recipe for chocolate swirl buns made in the style of the original namesake. After reading the witty commentary, I determined that the buns are far superior to the loaf for oh so many reasons. But I had to try it. And try it I did. I offer to you your weekend project: Mini Babkas – Chocolate, of course.

Deb Perelman is an exquisite cook. She has done a scientific redux on queen Martha Stewart’s recipe for babka and turned it into these wonderfully portable buns. Last Saturday I started my project with Sunday brunch on my mind; so here are my findings & recommendations:

  • Make this a day prior, using her Do Ahead instructions. Pop in the fridge and bake off when ready to eat…who has the time or energy to do all this work and wait in the morning when you want to eat these little delights? They worked splendidly Saturday afternoon and baked off to perfection on Sunday morning.
  • I did use the full packet of yeast according to her notes that some people had trouble with the rise with the smaller amount of yeast. Besides, I didn’t want to portion out the yeast and then have to figure out what to do with that little smidgen later. All worked out.
  • I’ve tried brioche buns before and failed fairly miserably. These, on the other hand cooperated swimmingly, thanks to no constant beating and adding of butter nibs.
  • Don’t bother with the dough hook. I will say a standing mixer is required because of the 10-minute beating session; but the regular paddle worked very well indeed. I found this small batch of dough just ignored the puny dough hook; once I re-installed the paddle, set it to slow spin and walked away for 8 or 10 minutes my return was rewarded with a nicely beat dough all clinging in a ball to the paddle.
  • You know how I feel about cinnamon plus chocolate; never the twain shall meet in my kitchen. I like chocolate. I like cinnamon. Just not at the same time. So mine was just chocolate; and it was spectacular. Cinnamon is optional and if you like it, knock yourself out. My Babka Buns, however, will forever be cinnamon free.
  • Plan for hot and cold. These are delicious both ways, so don’t cheat yourself out of timing your bake to be able to eat them both hot from the oven or completely cooled.
  • Get some twine! I think cutting soft dough with a knife for buns/rolls is insane. It just smashes them into squatty little worms and makes the filling spill out. Get out a hank of twine or string, place under the log, cross over the top and pull in opposite directions to cut the log into sections.

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