Chocolate babka: the stuff that dreams are made of. At least my dreams. Even if the last stray slice gets stale after hanging around for too long, it toasts beautifully and morphs into a warm, oozy, slightly crunchy piece of wonder. Babka toasted on a panini may be my favorite way of eating babka. When I first began baking babkas a few years ago, I loved them. But I also sensed that there was room for improvement, and consequently immersed myself in a baking frenzy from which I have only recently drawn back. I’m indebted to all my friends and family who have eaten one or another version on my journey towards this recipe: the babka of my aforementioned dreams.
My main sticking point with babka is that it can run a bit dry. Pouring a simple sugar syrup onto the finished and still hot babka helps eliminate at least some of this dryness. Poking holes in the dough helps distribute the syrup; but because it is a yeast dough, the syrup nonetheless tends to collect in some areas more than others. I love these unexpected moist pockets of sweet goodness, even if they were surrounded by much drier pockets. Still, I was not satisfied with the dry pockets, so I started playing around with a basic brioche dough recipe. I replaced some of the butter with oil, four tablespoons of traditional flour with potato flour, and even went so far as to incorporate tangzhong. During my prior experimentation with tangzhong in the recipes of other baked goods, I’d previously concluded that a shorter knead time improves the final product. But with brioche dough, unfortunately, a long knead is necessary for the full development of the gluten. To make tangzhong work in a brioche dough, I recommend a long knead before adding the tangzhong mixture, followed by a shorter final knead before resting the dough. All of this, you might be wondering, just to eliminate some dryness? For me, it’s worth it. Read more.