Sweet, spiced pumpkin yeast bread meets rich, dark chocolate in this twist on the classic babka. This gorgeous fall pumpkin chocolate babka bread is as delicious to eat as it is fun to make!
My husband, Paul, is a big Seinfeld fan. As in he still turns it on almost every night. After 12 years of marriage, even though I rarely sit to watch with him, I have heard probably every episode at least twice and have most of the more quotable lines memorized.
Especially the Elaine lines because she is hilarious.
Paul always says our personalities are uncannily similar in many ways (probably why I like her character). Like the line from the episode where everybody in New York was in love with the movie “The English Patient” and Elaine is going nuts because she hates that movie. When asked why she doesn’t like it, she replies, “Because…it SUCKS.” with the most disgusted look ever.
Which is so. completely. me. reacting to basically 95% of the movies I watch. I’m probably not the best “dinner and a movie” date because I laugh or snort inappropriately at the parts of movies that are supposed to be tender or romantic or even heartbreaking. It’s because I’m immature and cannot handle anything more serious that PG-rated cartoons.
Anyway, when it came to creating a pumpkin-themed bread, Elaine’s voice popped into my head from Seinfeld Episode 77 (“The Dinner Party) – “You can’t beat a babka!”
Truth be told, I have never had a babka before!
It’s been on my list ever since Elaine and Jerry discussed the merits of the chocolate babka versus the cinnamon babka, but I don’t happen to live in New York where I guess babka (which is sometimes also called a “krantz”) is more prevalent, probably because of a larger Jewish population. Babka is typically associated with Eastern European Jewish heritage, which is another reason why I wanted to try it.
See, a while back, I had DNA testing done for me, Paul, and our girls. And it turns out I have a small percentage of my genetic heritage that is actually Eastern European Jewish.
I had no idea! I have plans to see if I can trace my family history back and figure out which line that DNA comes from (I’m guessing my dad’s side but not sure) because I would love to learn more about it.
But for now, I can connect even in the tiniest of ways with a heritage I never knew I had by learning to cook in the tradition of my biological heritage. Which is one of the purposes of this blog, I suppose, and a reason why I often experiment with foods from other cultures.
Both our girls were adopted and I want to build a sense of cultural connection for them and one of the easiest ways for me to start doing that is by sampling foods from cultures that represent each of our backgrounds. I should (and plan) to write more about this topic in future posts, but for now, let’s move on to the babka!
A babka is a made from a yeast dough, filled with either chocolate or cinnamon filling, then twisted and baked in a loaf pan.
Apparently many babkas are topped with streusel but I didn’t do that here because I really wanted to see the twists or orange and dark brown on top to hint at the flavors of pumpkin and chocolate that are inside.
Babka looks impressive and like it’s difficult to make, when it’s actually no harder (and maybe even easier) than making a batch of cinnamon rolls.
You start with a soft, brioche-like dough which you roll out into a large rectangle before spreading it with a rich, dark layer of chocolate filling. Then you roll the whole thing up in a log, just like you would roll cinnamon rolls, except instead of slicing off rounds, you take a sharp knife or pizza cutter and slice the roll in half, right down the middle lengthwise.
Then you just pinch two of the ends together and twist the two strands around each other, keeping the cut side up so the ribbons of filling and dough are visible on top. It’s not even a three-strand braid so it is super simple.
Once you’ve got your filling and dough twisted into a rope, you tuck the ends under and nestle it into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper, let it rise, and bake it. So easy, right?!
This pumpkin chocolate babka turned out delicious. The bread, which is already a richer, more brioche like yeast bread anyway thanks to the butter and eggs, is moist and subtly spiced from the pumpkin and the addition of pumpkin pie spices.
And the chocolate filling is plentiful, dark, and perfect with the pumpkin flavor. Those two things – pumpkin and chocolate – were just meant for each other.
For years I have made a pumpkin bread studded with chocolate chips each October, but I’ve gotta say, it is nowhere near as impressive as a pumpkin chocolate babka. It was almost painful waiting for the loaf to cool before cutting into it.
After all, it’s like Elaine said, “You can’t beat a babka!”
More Pumpkin Recipes to Try
- Twice Glazed Pumpkin Scones
- Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
- Pumpkin Streusel Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling
- 1/3 cup whole milk, warm
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 5 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Pinch ground ginger
- Pinch ground cloves
- Pinch allspice
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- In a large bowl, preferably one attached to a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine the warm milk, yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1/3 cup of the flour and allow it to sit until foamy.
- Add in the pumpkin, butter, egg, salt, and spices and mix to combine. Add in the remaining flour, bit by bit, until completely incorporated, then knead for 5 minutes at medium-high speed using the dough hook of a stand mixer, until the dough is smooth.
- Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set it in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours to give the dough a chance to rise at a cold temperature, which helps develop the texture and flavor. It will also make this dough easier to roll out.
- When dough is about ready to be formed into a loaf, prepare a 9-inch loaf pan by lining it with a parchment paper sling, which will make it easy to remove the loaf when it is done baking.
- Prepare the chocolate filling by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then stirring in the sugar until almost completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add in the chopped chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth, then add the cocoa powder and stir to combine and form a thick filling.
- Take the risen dough out of the refrigerator and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it into a 12x20-inch rectangle and then spread the chocolate filling evenly across the dough, spreading it all the way to the edges.
- Roll the long edge of the dough into a tight log, just like when making cinnamon rolls, and pinch the edges closed. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to slice the dough in half lengthwise, Then with the cut sides facing up, cross one end over the other and repeat all the way down the length of the dough, keeping the cut sides facing up while wrapping the two lengths of dough around each other to form a rope or twist.
- Gently lift the twisted loaf and squish it into your prepared pan, tucking the ends under. Set in a warm place, covered with a clean towel, to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until almost doubled in size.
- While dough is rising, prepare the syrup by combining the water, sugar, and honey and bringing it to a boil in a small saucepan. Let the syrup boil for 4 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When oven is hot, bake the babka for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out mostly clean (it's hard to miss the chocolate streaks so chances are it won't be perfectly clean. Remove the cooked babka from the oven and drizzle it with the room temperature syrup. I only used about half of the syrup and thought it was perfect but you could easily use more if you want to add more sweetness and have a moister babka.
- Wait until the babka is completely cool before removing it from the pan and slicing to serve.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 345 Saturated Fat: 9g Cholesterol: 47mg Sodium: 230mg Carbohydrates: 47g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 23g Protein: 5g
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