This spongy yeast cake is traditionally baked for Easter Sunday in Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Belarus, Ukraine and Western Russia. Yes, I know I’m a little late for Easter but I found this recipe in last month’s Australian Gourmet Traveller and I just had to give it a go.
Combine milk, yeast and 1 tbsp sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, set aside in a warm place until foamy (5 – 7 minutes). Add 75gm flour, mix to combine, then add eggs, yolk, remaining sugar and a pinch of salt, mix to combine.
While mixing on low speed, gradually add remaining flour until combined, then add 150gm butter, a little at a time, beat until dough is shiny and elastic (about 5 minutes, dough will be quite soft).
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size (1 – 1 ½ hours).
Preheat oven to 180°C. Place hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast until golden, cool slightly, then rub with a tea towel to remove skins and cool completely.
Process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form, combine with remaining softened butter to form a paste and set aside at room temperature.
Knock back dough and divide into two.
Roll dough on a slightly floured surface into a 20 x 32cm rectangle.
With longest side facing you, spread over half the hazelnut paste, leaving a 4cm border, then scatter over half the chocolate.
Roll away from you to form a cylinder, brush ends with a little egg wash, then join ends to make a loop, twist into a figure of eight and place in a 9cm x 19cm loaf tin lined with baking paper. Proof bread for an hour.
Brush babkas with egg wash, scatter with Demerara sugar and bake in oven for 35 – 40 minutes until golden and cooked through.
Cool in tins for 10 minutes then turn out, cool on wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature.
Babkas will keep, stored in airtight container for 3 days and are best served warm or in toasted slices.
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