Revisited Christmas Pastry: Mark Best’s Recipe for Chocolate Babka | Australian food and drink


Year after year, the same few recipes haunt the Internet like the ghosts of Christmas past. The Nutella / pastry Christmas tree comes to you with the omnipresence of a song from Mariah Carey.

Stemming from the great tradition of cooking on the side of the package, here’s a recipe Ebenezer Scrooge himself may have imagined: a jar of hazelnut spread sandwiched between two layers of frozen puff pastry “notched in the right places” , twisted to form “tree branches,” then – at a time when the camera always eats first – cooked, turned and posted.

Before I’m charged with knocking, let me establish my blue collar credentials and admit making a Yule log out of a packet of ginger nuts, whipped cream and Bundaberg rum. Its redeeming characteristic (other than the rum shots) is that it’s actually delicious. Frozen puff pastry and a jar of cocoa-colored sugar and palm oil is about as happy as needing a slide on the 25th. only one thing I need ”- and it’s not that supermarket candy.

Like many families, our Christmas table has always been prepared for the possibility of war, but there was a certain consensus that at this time of year the table should groan with relative luxury. It was more of the feast, less of the ritual, but it was the day of the year when you would put – at least in the kitchen – the most effort.

Most recipes start with “hydrating” the dried yeast, Best says, but “you don’t have to – just add it to the flour.” Photography: Mark Stuart Best

From Christmas crackers to nerdy daddy’s jokes, the first cherries of the season, big bowls of shrimp in cocktail sauce, a free-range turkey “the size of an emu”, a multitude of cookies and cupcakes, loaded with sugar. , butter and eggs from our own chickens. An endless ham. Sachets of string of “exotic” nuts. Bowls of chocolates and lollipops, caught by handfuls by the children on the way, followed by “you’re going to ruin your lunch!” “.

Inter-family relationships at our Christmas table were always hectic and spiced with loving animosity, but the gift was always the amount of time, thought, and effort that had gone into the offering.

This recipe is for those who love to cook for the people they love.

Chocolate babka

Preperation 20 mins
Rest 3 hours
to cook 45 minutes
Serves 8-10

For the dough
750 g plain flour
75g caster sugar
little spoon of salt
14g dry yeast
9 eggs
450 g unsalted butter

For filling
60 g unsalted butter
80g brown sugar
100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

For the egg wash
1 egg yolk
30 ml of liquid cream
½ teaspoon of salt

Set up your stand mixer with a dough hook. Enriched pasta like this is quite maddening to the hand. Sift in plain four. Add the yeast. You can use fresh yeast if you have access to it, but I find good quality dry yeast to be more than usable. Most recipes start with “hydrating” the dried yeast. It is not mandatory. Just add it to the flour.

Distribute the chocolate evenly over the dough.
Distribute the chocolate evenly over the dough. Photography: Mark Stuart Best

Break your eggs, which should be at room temperature, in a bowl and cut your butter, which should be cold in the refrigerator, into cubes. Turn your blender to medium speed and add the eggs. Mix until the dough begins to form a homogeneous mass. Start adding the butter cubes one by one in fairly quick succession. At this point, you can add salt and sugar, which will help the butter to incorporate. Continue to add the butter. This process should not take more than five minutes. Stop the procedure and scrape all the ingredients in a running race, then put your knees at medium speed until the dough is smooth and silky.

Roll the chocolate dough into a sausage shape.
Then roll everything into a sausage shape. Photography: Mark Stuart Best

Place the dough in a bowl that will allow it to double in size. Cover with cling film and let stand for about 45-60 minutes to reach this state. Knock it over with a good punch in the stomach and place it in the fridge. I prefer to do this overnight to develop the flavor, but two to three hours should make it cool enough to be manageable.

Coarsely chop the chocolate with a thick knife and add it to a small mixing bowl. Add the sugar, cocoa powder and butter cut into cubes. Melt in a pot of simmering water or in the microwave (a much maligned machine that is always excellent for working with chocolate). Let cool.

“Take a strand in each hand and braid them together, hand to hand, twisting them lightly as you go.
“Take a strand in each hand and braid them together, hand to hand, twisting them lightly as you go. “ Photography: Mark Stuart Best

Lightly flour your work surface and roll out your dough into a 500 mm x 400 mm rectangle. Spread the chocolate evenly then roll everything into a sausage. Extend it about 600mm. Cut the sausage lengthwise with a sharp knife, leaving one end intact. Take a strand in each hand and braid them together, hand to hand, twisting them lightly as you go. Bring the ends together and create a kind of loose knot, more for decoration than structural integrity. Carefully place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let rise under a cloth for 40-50 minutes until it has recovered from your manipulation and has risen by 30%.

Preheat the oven to 180 ° C and mix the ingredients for the gilding with a fork. Egg wash the dough and bake for 45 minutes until firm and golden. Cool on a wire rack and decorate more if desired.

Mark Best babka wreath.
Cool on a wire rack and decorate more if desired. Photography: Mark Stuart Best


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