I just love this time of year and baking with seasonal favorites like pumpkin, apples, and spices galore. I haven’t gotten my fill of pumpkin bread yet so when I found out we were making Spice Breads for the Twelve Loaves baking challenge, I knew I wanted to make something with pumpkin and spice.
In another virtual room, the Artisan Bread Bakers have been making Chocolate Babka. I’ve made Chocolate Cinnamon Babka previously so I thought about skipping the BOM this month. However, I was on call this past weekend for a project implementation and I was craving something sweet to keep me motivated. I usually try to take a little time to bake even when I’m working on the weekend, if possible. I decided that treating myself to some Babka sounded like the perfect incentive to get through the system deployment.
Since I had already made chocolate cinnamon babka before and I wanted to make something with pumpkin, the logical transition was to combine the flavors.
I looked for inspiration for pumpkin babka on Pinterest. I found a few references but none of them really grabbed my attention so I decided to create my own bread.
I started with the Chocolate Cinnamon Babka recipe from Peter Reinhart’s book Artisan Breads Every Day. This recipe makes one very large freeform loaf and I wanted two loaves that could be baked in loaf pans so I converted the recipe to baker’s percentages, added some pumpkin and spices, then increased the amounts of the other ingredients accordingly. It was a fun and tasty project.
Pumpkin ‘n Spice Chocolate Babka
Makes: Two Medium Loaves
- 2 T instant yeast
- 130 g (~2/3 cup) lukewarm milk (any kind; at about 95 degrees F.)
- 105 g (7 T) unsalted butter, melted or at room temperature
- 105 g (7 T) sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 100 g (scant 1/2 cup) pumpkin puree
- 525 g (~4 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour, more for dusting
- 8 g (1 1/2 tsp) sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 255 g (1 1/2 cups) semisweet and dark chocolate chunks
- 56.5 g (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter
- 1 large egg white, whisked with a little sugar until frothy
- raw sugar for sprinkling on top
1) Mixing and Kneading the Dough:
Whisk together the yeast and lukewarm milk until dissolved, then let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cream the butter and sugar until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes at medium speed on the mixture, using the paddle attachment.
Add the vanilla to the egg yolks and whisk them gently. Add the yolk mixture to the creamed butter and sugar mixture and mix until fluffy, about 2 minutes at medium speed. Add the pumpkin puree. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing cycle.
Stop the mixer and combine the dry ingredients: flour, salt, and spices and add to the mixer bowl. Pour in the milk/yeast mixture. Begin mixing again at low speed, using the dough hook, and mix for 2 to 3 minutes to make a soft, supple, tacky dough.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead it by hand for about 2 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to make the dough pliable. The dough will be a beautiful golden color and will feel soft and supple.
2) Bulk Fermentation
Form the dough into a round ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment for 2 to 3 hours.
3) Prepare the Filling:
While the dough is rising, grind the chocolate in a food processor until nearly powdered. Cut the butter into small chunks, add to the food processor, and pulse until the butter is evenly dispersed into the chocolate mixture.
4) Divide and Roll out the Dough
When the dough has risen, divide it into two equal balls using a sharp knife or pastry scraper.
Roll each piece into a 15 by 15-inch square on a lightly floured surface. You may need to lift the dough frequently (using the metal pastry scraper) and add more flour underneath to prevent it from sticking to the counter.
Sprinkle the chocolate/butter mixture over each rolled out piece of dough and break up any large clumps. Cover the surface of the dough, leaving a border.
5) Shape the Loaves
Roll each piece of dough up jelly-roll style and place seam down on the counter. Rock the log it back and forth to extend the length to about 18 to 24 inches long. I forgot to do the lengthening part.
Grease two 8 1/2” x 4” loaf pans. Carefully twist the log from both ends being careful not to tear it. Twist it just enough to accentuate the spiral. Coil the twisted log into a circular snail shape.
Stand the coil on its end. It should be perpendicular to the counter and not laying flat. Press down on the coil to compress it and place it in the prepared loaf loaf pan. Repeat with the other loaf.
6) Proof the Loaves
Cover the loaf pans loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise for 2 to 3 hours at a warm room temperature.
I placed mine in a 70 degrees proofing box. During this time, the babka should fill the pan and increase by about 1 1/2 times its original size.
7) Bake the Loaves
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a toothpick, poke a few holes in the top of the loaves. This will help eliminate potential air pockets between the layers of the chocolate and the dough. It definitely helped, but I think I missed a few places when I was poking with the toothpick because I still ended up with a pocket.
While the oven is preheating, prepare the egg wash. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake the loaves for 20 to 30 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake until the tops are a deep rich dark brown. The sides should be a rich golden brown in color and the bottom should sound hollow when tapped lightly on the bottom. The total baking time will be around 50 to 60 minutes.
You may need to tent the loaves if the top starts browning too much due to the egg wash. I thought my loaves were burning so I tented them. Even the darkest places weren’t burnt. The bread will be crispy on the outside when you remove it from the oven, but it will soften as it cools.
Cool the loaves for at least 90 minutes before slicing and serving. This bread tastes best once the chocolate has had time to set. I waited until the next day to try mine. It was divine.
I’m glad I made this bread on Saturday. I was busy with the deployment Sunday afternoon and it sure was nice to enjoy a slice of this bread after I was finished.
I enjoyed one loaf, but gave the other one to a friend in exchange for some work he did for me. I didn’t want to keep all of this yumminess to myself. Bread is an excellent bartering tool. If you haven’t tried it, you should.
I’m sharing these loaves with:
I especially enjoy baking bread on the weekends and allowing the dough to slow ferment to bring out the flavor and nutritional properties of the bread.
Over the years, I've become enamored with grains.So you'll find me experimenting using different types of heritage and ancients grains.Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't, but it's all part of the experience.I invite you to join me on this bread-baking journey.
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