Cashew Babka with Chocolate Chips
It’s hard not to devour bread while it is warm from the oven. Oh, that aroma! And it’s doubly hard when that bread is Cashew Babka with Chocolate Chips.
If you know, you know. But if you don’t then you are probably wondering: what is babka? Eastern European Jews developed this filled yeasted bread over a century ago. They took extra challah dough, spread it with a filling, and baked it at the same time as the weekly challah.
The fillings can be things like almond paste, chopped apples, chocolate, nuts, poppy seeds, or raisins. Sometimes the fillings are savory. Cheese, herbs, and spices are popular options.
What makes babkas instantly recognizable is the exposed filling. Bakers cut the rolled dough down the middle to expose the inside. Then, they twist the two strands together and form them into large S shapes.
The tops are brushed with a simple syrup while the bread is still hot from the oven. This adds moistness and sweetness to the crust. Each slice of the bread reveals the pretty swirly layers of filling nestled between the bread layers.
Babkas were not widely known until Seinfeld.
Were you a fan? I know some super fans of this late-80s and 90s TV sitcom. Because I lived outside the U.S. for some of these years, I was never completely dialed in.
But I do occasionally watch the one-off episode from time to time and enjoy the food moments. One of my favorites? The gang missing out on the last chocolate babka at the bakery and having to bring a cinnamon one instead.
Did this lead to babka suddenly becoming very popular in the 1990s? Maybe. And it is still popular at bakeries today, especially in New York City.
- Looking for a “pop open the can and bake” type of sweet bread? This is not it. Babkas take time to rise, assemble, and bake. And they are 100 percent worth it.
- This is an enriched dough with bookoo butter. That means it takes longer to rise and doesn’t puff up or get as bubbly as other yeasted bread dough. Don’t be dismayed.
- Don’t like chocolate? That’s weird. But you can leave it out for a chocolate-free loaf.
- ¾ cup warm water
- 3 teaspoons instant rapid-rise yeast
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten lightly
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup butter at room temperature
- 2 cups lightly salted roasted cashews
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- ¼ cup water
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- Make the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer by dissolving the yeast in the warm water. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the eggs and vanilla, then stir to combine. Tip in the flour and salt, stirring until just combined.
- With the mixer on low, add the room temperature butter, one tablespoon at a time, to the mixer. Mix in each pat of butter until it is absorbed then add the next tablespoon. This will take a few minutes and the dough will look pretty shaggy. You may need to stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl a few times.
- Once the dough has come together (it takes about 10-ish minutes) and pulls away cleanly from the sides of the bowl, transfer it to a clean, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. You have two options now: let it rise for 3 hours or refrigerate overnight.
- If you let it rise at room temp for 3 hours, place it in the fridge during the final 30 minutes to firm up the dough before rolling. If you refrigerate overnight, you can roll it right away, but it will take longer for the second rise.
- Make the filling by blitzing the cashews in a blender or food processor until just chopped. Add the brown sugar and cardamom and blitz again until just combined. Don’t let it turn into cashew butter! Add the butter and stir to completely incorporate into a spreadable paste.
- Prepare the 9 x 5-inch loaf pans by lining with parchment paper. You may need clips to hold the paper in place. Set the pans aside.
- Divide the dough in half equally. Roll out one half to a 10 x 12-inch rectangle. Divide the filling in half and spread half of it on the dough, leaving a ½-inch border all the way around. Sprinkle on half of the chocolate chips evenly over the filling.
- Roll the dough tightly into a long cylinder. Place the cylinder in the freezer while you roll out the other dough and repeat filling and rolling. Put the second cylinder in the freezer and pull out the first one.
- Cut the first cylinder completely in half lengthwise. With the cut sides up, cross one section over the other repeatedly to form a twist. Gently lift and transfer the twist to the prepared loaf pan. If it is too long, for the twist into an S shape so that it fits the pan. Repeat the cutting and twisting with the second loaf and place in the second pan.
- Cover and let the loaves rise for 90 minutes. They will not be puffy and huge, but they should expand and rise close to the top of the pan’s edge.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center goes in with no resistance and comes out clean.
- Make the syrup by boiling the water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and set it aside.
- Once the loaves come out of the oven, immediately brush the tops with all the simple syrup. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then transfer the loaves to a wire rack to continue to cool before slicing.
Keywords: cashew babka with chocolate chips