It all started with a bunch of bananas. Ignored and sitting quietly on my kitchen counter, saddened in color by time. I questioned myself on what to do with them. While developing this recipe, I reminded myself of the Asian bread-baking technique called Tangzhong. With Easter around the corner, it brought me to making a babka and using this technique. This Eastern European yeast risen cake is so worth it. Using this method makes a fluffy, light, tender brioche-like cake laden with chocolate, butter, and, of course, the bananas from my counter. I also topped it with a streusel crumb, which complements the banana flavor perfectly. There are many steps to this bread but again, it is so worth it!
Here we go!
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup flour
4-4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
3/4 cup milk (110 degrees)
2 eggs + 1 yolk
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup banana, mashed = 2 bananas
8 oz bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips, coarsely chopped, about 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 stick butter, cut into small pieces, room temp.
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup flour
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
Whisk water and flour together in a small bowl until no lumps remain. Microwave, whisking every 25 seconds, until mixture thickens to stiff, smooth, pudding-like consistency that forms mound when dropped from end of whisk into bowl, 50 to 75 seconds.
Heat milk in microwave (110 degrees) and add a pinch of sugar and yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes until foamy.
In a bowl, mash bananas and cinnamon.
In a stand-up mixer, beat eggs and yolk and gradually add sugar until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add milk, yeast mixture, mashed bananas and flour paste mix until combined.
In a bowl, mix flour and salt. Slowly combine flour into eggs, milk, yeast, and sugar mixture. Beat on low speed until combined.
Switch to dough hook attachment and add butter. Beat until smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 10 minutes.
Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead for a few times until smooth. Cover, and let double in a large greased bowl for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. The dough can be made and refrigerated overnight for a longer rise and a better final flavored bread. I used this overnight step.
TO MAKE AHEAD: Instead of letting the dough rise, the day of, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Let dough sit at room temperature for 1 hour before continuing with the next step.
Meanwhile, while dough is rising, make the filling and the topping: Combine chocolate, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and espresso powder in a bowl. Cut in butter with your fingers until combined. Refrigerate.
Make the topping: Combine confectioner’s sugar and flour. Cut in butter with your fingers until combined. Refrigerate.
Once ready, the dough should be springy, smooth, and elastic. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Deflate the dough gently and cut it in half. Cover and refrigerate the other half until needed. Working on one piece at a time, roll the first half of dough into a rectangle that’s 9″X17″. The dough will be sticky, so dip dough scraper and dust work surface often. Spoon 8 tablespoons of the filling onto the rectangle and spread it all around, leaving an uncovered border of 1/2″ around the edge. Brush egg wash on longer opposite side for sealing.
Beginning with the longest side of the dough, roll the dough up into a log. Seal the long seam tightly by pinching it closed with your fingertips and seal the ends as well. Using your dough scraper, carefully transfer to a cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Now do the exact same thing with the second piece of dough. Place both logs in the freezer to firm up. Don’t worry if your log is not straight, you can fix this after 30 minutes in the freezer to firm up.
Once firm and the seam is on the bottom, straighten out and use a sharp pastry wheel or a chef’s knife to slit each log from top to bottom, length-wise. You may need to return the logs back to the freezer again for 15 minutes before the next step. If filling falls out, after the second freeze, you will be able to fix it.
Now remove one log from freezer. Working with one split log at a time, split log (so you end up with two loaves) and place the two lengths of dough filled-side up, side by side on a piece of parchment paper set over a baking sheet. Keeping the filling side up, twist the two lengths together, working from the top to bottom, using dough scraper if needed to adjust. Pinch the dough and the ends together so they won’t come apart while baking. Return to freezer for 15 minutes and do the same with second log. I know this is a lot of steps, but as I said it’s worth it!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Once dough is slightly frozen, it easier to place in 5″ X 10″ loaf pan, and lined with parchment, leaving 1-inch overhangs. Cover the two loaves loosely with sprayed plastic wrap for final rise for 45 minutes.
Before baking, brush tops with egg wash. Sprinkle topping and reserved filling over cake. Bake, rotating halfway thorough, until golden, about 55 minutes. Internal temperature 195 degrees – 210 degrees. Transfer pan to wire rack. Let cool to enjoy!
Adapted from Martha Stewart
My Sunday’s Best!
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