This braided yeast cake with chocolate and halva is a favourite in the Jewish repertoire.
I add halva crumbs, a popular Middle Eastern sweet, to give it a little added texture and flavour.
Makes 2 loaves
Preparation: 30 mins plus approx 45 mins rising
Cooking: 20 – 25 mins
For the dough:
560 g all-purpose flour
1 tbsp dry yeast
100 g sugar
100 g butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the filling:
1 egg, lightly beaten
Put all the dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl and knead by hand or in a stand mixer until a smooth and flexible dough forms. Make sure the salt doesn’t touch the yeast directly.
Cover loosely with a dishtowel and allow to rise until doubled in volume.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle about 1½cm (½ inch) thick.
Cover the dough with the chocolate spread and sprinkle generously with halva crumbs.
Roll up lengthwise into a tight log and press down slightly to seal. Cut the log in half.
Slice one of the log halves in half lengthwise down the middle and loosely twist together to form a braid. Repeat with the remaining dough log.
Transfer each braid to a parchment-lined loaf pan and brush with egg. Set aside and allow to rise for another 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170°C.
Bake the babka for about 20-25 minutes until golden. Allow to cool slightly before slicing.
Leave the dough in the refrigerator overnight to rise.
For a richer flavour, make a syrup of 175g sugar, 240ml water and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Pour over the babka and serve.