How to Make Whole-wheat Chocolate Babka With Flaky Sea Salt

I don't usually get excited about sweets, but this babka (a rich brioche-cake hybrid with chocolate and cinnamon) is an exception. Every time I make it, people beg me for the recipe. Well, ListApp lovers, here it is. I've made it with all-white flour (delicious) and with GF flour (cakier, but really good). It's an involved recipe, but so worth it.
  1. 1.
    Gently whisk a packet of yeast into 2/3 cup warmed milk or half-and-half and let sit for 5-10 minutes, until foamy on top (this means the yeast has activated).
    Make sure the milk or half-and-half is warm but not hot. Hot milk/half-and-half will kill the yeast.
  2. 2.
    Meanwhile, cream 7 tablespoons unsalted butter with 3 tablespoons brown sugar.
  3. 3.
    To the butter mixture, add 4 egg yolks and beat well to combine.
    Save one egg white to use in an egg wash later on.
  4. 4.
    Stir in the proofed yeast-milk mixture.
  5. 5.
    Add 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir well to form a soft dough.
  6. 6.
    Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on a floured board a few times.
    Just a few times to get it smooth. No need to knead it too much.
  7. 7.
    Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise for 1 hour.
    Alternately, you may let the dough rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight, just make sure to let it come to room temperature before going on to the next step).
  8. 8.
    While the dough is rising, make the chocolate filling by using your hands to mush together 2 cups finely chopped dark chocolate, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, and 1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes.
    This may also be done by pulsing the ingredients in a food processor). It should have a chunky texture. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  9. 9.
    Make a streusel by combining the 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour (either whole wheat or white), and 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter (cut into cubes) in a bowl, and using your hands to mush together until combined.
    This may also be done by pulsing the ingredients in a food processor). It should be very crumbly. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  10. 10.
    Roll the risen dough out on a floured surface into a 14-inch x 18-inch rectangle.
  11. 11.
    Sprinkle the prepared chocolate filling all over the surface of the dough, all the way out to the edges.
  12. 12.
    Starting at the long side, roll the rectangle up tightly so you have an 18-inch tube.
  13. 13.
    Roll the log back and forth several times, gently spreading it out until the length of the log is about 20 inches.
  14. 14.
    Twist the dough into a figure-eight and pinch the ends together, tucking them under the twist.
  15. 15.
    Line a 9x5 loaf pan with parchment paper (or spray well with non-stick cooking spray).
  16. 16.
    Nestle the twisted dough into the loaf pan.
  17. 17.
    Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, or until the dough twist fills the loaf pan completely.
  18. 18.
    While the dough rises, whisk together the reserved egg white with 2 tablespoons milk, half-and-half, or water. Set aside.
  19. 19.
    Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  20. 20.
    Use a fork or the pointy end of a skewer to poke holes all over the top of the dough (this ensures no air bubbles form during baking).
  21. 21.
    Brush the top of the dough with the egg wash, and gently press the prepared streusel all over (some of it will fall off—this is OK).
  22. 22.
    Top the streusel with a few flakes of salt.
  23. 23.
    Bake the loaf for 25 minutes.
  24. 24.
    Turn the loaf 180 degrees, and bake for another 25 minutes. The babka should be golden brown, and should sound hollow when tapped.
  25. 25.
    Let the babka cool for at least 10 minutes, then carefully slide it out, slice with a serrated knife, and serve with coffee or tea.
    Sit back, relax, and let the praise come rolling in.