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    Chocolate and hazelnut babka

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    Chocolate and hazelnut babka

    The yielding brown-sugar dough is filled with a nutty chocolate spread before twisting and baking

    • Preparation time: 1 hour plus proving and cooling
    • Cooking time: 1 hours
    • Total time: 2 hours plus proving and cooling

    Serves: 10

    Ingredients

    330g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
    7g sachet easy bake yeast
    ½ tsp fine salt
    100g dark brown soft sugar
    90ml whole milk
    2 eggs, beaten
    100g unsalted butter, softened and cubed
    Vegetable oil, for greasing

    For the chocolate nut spread:
    150g blanched hazelnuts
    150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), finely chopped
    50g milk chocolate, finely chopped
    100ml whole milk
    2 tbsp cocoa powder
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    2 tbsp clear honey

    Method

    1. Mix the flour, yeast, salt and 50g sugar in a large bowl, then make a well in the centre. Heat the milk until lukewarm. Pour into the well, followed by the eggs; mix into a smooth, stiff dough. Dust the worktop with flour; tip the dough onto it. Knead in the butter a few cubes at a time, ensuring it’s incorporated before adding more – the dough will be quite sticky but will get easier to work with as you go, so don’t add more flour. (Alternatively, use a freestanding mixer with a dough hook: add the butter while mixing on medium until smooth – around 6-8 minutes.)

    2. Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a clean damp tea towel. Boil a kettle. Half-fill a roasting tin with just-boiled water; sit it in the base of the oven. Put the bowl of dough on the shelf above and close the door to create a steamy environment. It should take 1-2 hours to double in size. 

    3. Meanwhile, for the chocolate nut spread, toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan for about 2 minutes, until fragrant; leave to cool. Tip 110g toasted hazelnuts, 80g dark chocolate and the remaining ingredients into a food processor; whizz into a smooth paste. Roughly chop the remaining nuts. Grease a 900g loaf tin with a little oil. 

    4. Dust the work surface with flour. Knock back the dough, then tip onto the work surface and roll out to a 40cm x 30cm rectangle. Use a palette knife or rubber spatula to spread the chocolate paste over the dough (add a splash of milk to loosen it first if it’s stiffened up), then scatter with the reserved nuts and chocolate. Roll up tightly like a Swiss roll, starting from one of the shorter sides. 

    5. Use a floured knife to halve the dough lengthways. Lay the pieces next to each other with the cut sides facing up. Pinch the tops together, then tightly twist the 2 strips around each other so you can see the vertical filling stripes. 

    6. Tuck the ends under; lower into the greased tin. Cover with a clean damp tea towel; leave to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes-1 hour, until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.

    7. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the base sounds hollow when tapped. Turn out onto a rack. Put the remaining 50g sugar in a small pan with 3 tbsp water; boil for 2 minutes, until syrupy. Brush ½ the syrup over the top, leave for 15 minutes, then repeat with the remaining syrup. It’s best on the day but will last up to 3 days in an airtight container.

    MIX IT UP
    It’s easy to adapt the filling to suit your mood. Try one of the ideas below, or invent your own.

    Chocolate orange
    Make the chocolate and hazelnut paste following the recipe but add the zest of 1 scrubbed orange before whizzing together. Sprinkle 40g Cooks’ Ingredients Mixed Peel over the dough with the nuts and chocolate.

    White chocolate, pistachio and raspberry
    Replace the dark and milk chocolate with white chocolate, and use pistachio kernels in place of the hazelnuts. Omit the cocoa powder and only use 80ml milk in the spread. Sprinkle 10g freeze-dried raspberries over the dough with the nuts and chocolate. 

    Nut-free
    Omit the nuts from the spread mixture and increase the cocoa powder to 4 tbsp for pure chocolate bliss. Add a little extra warmth by increasing the cinnamon to 1 tbsp. 

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