Steam-Proofing Chocolate Babka

second rise


This is the prettiest thing that I’ve made, hands down. The recipe is once again from Smitten Kitchen, but I did read a few other recipes from Epicurious and Martha Stewart as well. Martha Stewart claims that you can freeze the loaves the step before the last rise and then let them defrost for five hours before baking, which doesn’t seem that convenient at all.

I have had my eye on this recipe for a long time, but it’s not conducive to a regular working week. Who has time to prep, rise, and bake before work? But then again, what am I going to do with two loaves of chocolate babka on a weekend? I need to make more friends…if only to offload baked goods. I had a cleaning crew in college — a few guys I’d call up if I had baked something– and they’d usually show up within an hour and help me out.

pretty babka

After reading so many varying rising times, I decided to take a leap of faith and let the dough rise initially for 24 hours before continuing with the recipe. I’ve never had chocolate babka before so I’m not sure that I got the correct texture, but it was chocolate-y, dense, and delicious. Don’t believe me? One of my coworkers admitted to eating four slices! Four!

Alas, when I went to type up this blog post this morning, I realized I made a grave error. I used active dry yeast, instead of instant yeast. What’s the difference? Until just now, I didn’t know. Active dry yeast needs to be dissolved before it’s introduced while instant yeast can be added directly to dry ingredients. According to the Internet, instant yeast not only has 25% more yeast organisms per teaspoon than active dry yeast, but also rises more quickly. This may explain why I got away with such a long rise time. So while I won’t be posting a recipe today — gotta work out some kinks — I will post a whole lotta photos and talk about proofing dough.dough

My mother warms up water in a double boiler for Chinese Steamed Bread or mantou all the time, and it works like magic. Doesn’t the chocolate babka look so comfy in its own personal sauna?

proofing basket

What you do is to heat some water into a double steamer until it’s nice and steamy, but not too hot. I usually heat it up until its warm, but I can still comfortably rest my palm on the tray where the bread will sit. You want to wrap the bread securely in plastic wrap so the condesation doesn’t wet the dough. You can even periodically turn on the stove to warm the water, thirty seconds at a time. The first two photos show what a difference just thirty minutes can make! I’m looking forward to trying this recipe again with even better results!

chocolate babka


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