Pumpkin, Rye + Chocolate Babka with Salted Maple Sugar Streusel
This babka recipe features a golden challah-like dough kissed with rye flour and kabocha squash puree filled with a swirl of spiced chocolate, all topped with a salted maple sugar and rye flour streusel.
1/4cupunrefined muscobado sugar (I use Eco Goods brand; maple sugar or brown sugar are fine, too), (1.5 ounces / 40 grams)
1/4cupcold butter, sliced, (2 ounces / 55 grams)
For finishing the babka:
1egg, beaten well
coarse or flaky salt (such as J.Dickinson or Maldon)
Make the dough:
Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it's just warmer than body temperature, around 100ºF (no hotter, or it could kill the yeast). Pour into a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the top, and let sit to dissolve the yeast, 10 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin puree, egg, butter, sugar, salt, and rye flour. Stir in the bread flour in quarter-cup increments until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and becomes difficult to stir. Scrape it out onto a floured surface and, with clean, dry hands, knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is smoother and springy, adding as little flour as possible as you work to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the work surface. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth, plastic wrap, or a large plate. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Make the streusel:
In the bowl of a food processor (or in a medium bowl), combine the rye flour, maple sugar, salt and cold butter. Pulse (or ruthe butter into the dough until the butter is incorporated and the streusel forms hazelnut-sized clumps. Cover and keep at cool room temperature until needed.
Make the filling:
In a food processor, combine the chocolate, cinnamon, salt, and muscobado sugar. Pulse until the chocolate is ground to the size of peas. Add the cold butter and process until it clumps into a coarse paste.
Shape the babka:
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a large rectangle that measures roughly 14 x 20 inches and about 1/8" thick, turning and flipping the dough, dusting with more flour, as needed to prevent sticking. Smear the chocolate goo as best you can all over the dough, trying to get it as even as possible and taking care not to tear the dough. The more evenly you spread it, the more defined your babka's layers will be.
Starting on a long side, roll up the dough into a fairly tight log. Pinch the bottom seam closed and roll the log along your work surface to elongate it. Fold the dough in half, twisting the two ends over each other three times. Place the babka in a 9x5" or 10x5" loaf pan that has been lined on all sides with parchment paper. Slide the whole thing into a clean, plastic garbage bag, inflate the bag, and tie or clamp it shut.
Let the babka rise 30 minutes, until it fills the bottom of the pan. Remove the bag and brush the top with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the streusel all over the top, and sprinkle with a few pinches of flaky salt. Let the babka rise until it reaches the top of the pan and is spongy to the touch, another 15 -30 minutes.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.
Bake the babka:
Remove the babka from the bag, slip in the oven, and bake until the top is deeply bronzed, the bread sounds hollow when rapped, and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 180ºF, 50-60 minutes. (Decrease the oven temperature to 325 or 300º if the top is browning too quickly within the first half hour.)
Let the babka cool completely, 2 hours; it is still cooking from residual heat.
Slice with a large, serrated knife and serve. The babka is best the day of baking, but leftover slices can be gently toasted.
I like to use maple sugar in the dough and topping to keep them light in color, and unrefined muscobado sugar in the filling for some molasses-y richness, but you can use granulated sugar in place of the maple and light or (preferably) dark brown sugar in the filling if it's what you have on hand.Feel free to trade the rye flour for another gluten-containing whole-grain flour if you like, such as whole wheat, spelt, kamut, or barley.I've made this recipe with both fine sea salt and with a semi-coarse variety from J. Q. Dickinson Salt Works. I love the texture that the J.Q.D. salt adds, but you can also use a fine sea salt in the babka components and top the babka with a flaky salt such as Maldon. (Just don't use iodized table salt as it has a harsh flavor and will produce an overly-salty babka.)Do ahead: You can make the dough a day or two ahead and let it rise in the fridge. Let it come to room temperature before shaping it. The streusel can be made up to a few days ahead and stored airtight in the fridge. The filling can be made a day or two ahead and stored airtight at room temperature. The filled + shaped babka can probably be refrigerated overnight, allowed to finish rising at room temperature, then egg washed, streuseled and baked the next morning.All ounce measurements here are by weight.Ps. As you make the dough, you will think that the ratios won't make a proper dough. But don't worry, they will. Nutritional values are based on one of ten servings.