This past summer I was lucky enough to go on an amazing trip to Israel with Vibe Israel.
I was introduced to Vibe Israel through my friend Sarah from Broma Bakery, who also had the chance to go to Israel with this amazing non-profit once before. Vibe Israel’s entire mission surrounds increasing Israel’s positive standing in the world by bringing influencers on tours around Israel in their respective industry; so for me, I was there on a pastry tour (which was as amazing as it sounds.)
During my time in Israel, I’m almost positive I had some sort of babka every. single. day. For breakfast, for lunch, for a before-dinner snack, for an after-dinner dessert… I think you get the idea. I ate so much babka while I was there, that I knew I needed to develop another babka recipe reminiscent of my stay in Israel.
When I started the process of developing this recipe, I realized that just good babka wasn’t enough. It had to be great babka, foolproof and irresistible with the perfect texture and spot-on flavor. High standards? Maybe. But babka is labor-intensive… so if you’re gonna go through the trouble to make babka, it’d better be amazing. After lots of trial and error– baking is a bit of a science, after all– I incorporated the textures and flavors I loved most from my visit to Israel. The result is the recipe you see here: Dark Chocolate Tahini Babka.
Although it’s unclear where exactly babka originated from (it appears to have originated from Eastern European Jewish communities), today’s most prominent babka maker is Uri Scheft, owner of Lehamim Bakery in Tel Aviv, Israel; Uri is credited for popularizing babka in New York City in 2013.
When I was in Israel back in June, we were lucky enough to not only meet Uri but also take a bread-making workshop with him. He was also kind enough to send us off with a copy of his book which is ALL about bread.
Babka uses an enriched dough, which means there’s eggs, butter, and sugar in it. To make the babka dough, you’ll first need to combine some of the flour, yeast, sugar, and warm milk in the bowl of a standing mixer. Mix until combined and let sit until the yeast is activated (this will take a few minutes). Then, add in the butter, egg, salt, and rest of the flour. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it’s completely smooth and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
The babka dough will need to rest in your fridge for at least 6 hours, but overnight is best. Unlike most bread doughs, babka will not double in size, so don’t panic if your dough doesn’t rise a bunch in the fridge! Remember: you’re making a dense, cake-like loaf of bread here.
This is the easiest bit—yay! To make the gooey dark chocolate tahini filling, you simply have to melt chocolate, butter, and sugar together, and then stir in a little cocoa powder and the tahini. This should form a thick-ish paste that you’ll need to spread over the babka dough once it’s been chilled overnight and rolled out.
This is the part of making homemade babka that intimidates people the most. Stick with me, you’ll be totally fine! To create that iconic babka swirl pattern, you’ll need to first roll the dough out into a rectangle. Spread the dark chocolate tahini filling over the dough, leaving a border around the edge (this will prevent the filling from seeping out). Roll the dough into a long, tight log (similar to the process of making cinnamon rolls) and then seal the babka edges. Afterward, cut it lengthwise—you’ll be left with two long, skinny logs. Lay the skinny logs next to each other with the cut side facing up. You can then twist the logs together to form the babka braid. Once you’ve braided the babka, let it rest in the loaf pan and leave it to rise for another hour or so. Then, just pop it into the oven and bake!
While the babka bakes, you’ll need to make a simple syrup to brush over top of it. To add some flavor to the syrup, I add a tablespoon of honey and a pinch of cardamom before bringing it to a boil. As soon as the babka is taken out of the oven, brush it with the syrup. It adds that glossy sheen on top plus, it adds a little moisture to the dense loaf.
As always… read through the recipe before beginning and keep an eye out for a photo journal blog post of everything else I did on my trip to Israel!
Vibe Israel organized and invited me on an all-expenses-paid trip; I was not compensated in any way for this post. All opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting the companies and brands that make Mike Bakes NYC possible!
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