It's common to see babka split and plaited prettily to reveal the swirls of chocolate within. I used to do this, but was dismayed when the heat of the oven dried out the exposed chocolate. When I was testing this recipe and found all my loaf pans were in use, I decided to bake the unsliced coil in a bundt tin: the exterior turned out crisp and buttery, and the chocolate filling within remained smooth and luscious. The babka also kept well for a few days.
250g white bread flour
1 tbsp castor sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp dried yeast
3 eggs, lightly beaten
40ml lukewarm milk
160g soft, unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra 20g for greasing
For the filling
60g dark chocolate
50g unsalted butter
40g light brown sugar
20g cocoa powder
1 tbsp brandy
⅛ tsp salt
For the syrup
50g light brown sugar
1. Place the flour, castor sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a cake mixer fitted with the hook attachment. Mix for a few seconds to combine, then gradually add the eggs, then the milk. Mix on medium speed for about 3 minutes, then add the butter, one piece at a time. Mix for another 3 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl every now and then. The dough will be very soft and sticky, but do not add more flour. Cover the bowl with cling film (or beeswax food wrap) and set aside to rise for about 2 hours.
2. When the dough has doubled in size, flour your hands and punch the dough down. Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and place in the fridge overnight.
3. The next day, place all the filling ingredients except the halva into a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir gently until smooth and combined – it should have the consistency of a spreadable paste – then set aside.
4. Brush the inside of a 23-centimetre bundt tin liberally with the 20g soft butter and place in the fridge.
5. Lightly dust your kitchen bench with flour, then roll out the refrigerated dough, shaping it into a square, roughly 35 centimetres. Spread the filling across the dough, leaving a 1-centimetre border, then crumble the halva all over it.
6. Carefully roll up the babka, starting with the end closest to you, until you have a long sausage-shape bundle. Gently lower the bundle into the prepared bundt tin, seam side up, and coil it around the central funnel. Pinch the ends together to form a closed circle. Cover with cling film and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size – about 1.5 hours.
7. Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan-forced). When the dough has risen, place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with just a few crumbs.
8. While the babka is cooking, prepare the syrup by combining the water and brown sugar in a small saucepan placed over a medium heat. Simmer for 3 minutes until slightly syrupy.
9. When the babka is out of the oven, place on a cake rack for 5 minutes to cool, then invert onto a serving plate. Brush the syrup all over and allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.
Note: Don't be put off by the overnight proofing; the fridge does all the work and it makes the dough a cinch to roll out the next day.