Chocolate Matcha Babka A.K.A. Cake for Breakfast

Chocolate Matcha BabkaI was inspired to bake babka because of the Seinfeld episode, The Dinner Party. In the episode, the gang is going to a dinner party, and Jerry and Elaine are attempting to purchase a chocolate babka to bring.  When the bakery runs out of chocolate, they are forced to purchase cinnamon, which, according to Elaine, is the lesser babka.  Jerry disagrees, stating that “cinnamon takes a backseat to no babka.”

So, being tempted by this debate, I had to have a taste-off.  But first, I had to find out what the heck babka is.

Babka is, in fact, a sweet bread of sorts with Eastern European origins.  The Jewish version is a sweet yeast cake with a chocolate or cinnamon swirl.  The cake part reminds me a bit of King’s Hawaiian sweet bread but moister and a bit more tender. So, delicious.  Adding that swirl just sends it over the top!  The best part is, it’s a legit dessert that is also convincingly appropriate for breakfast.

When I figured out was babka was, I set out to learn how to make it.  After much research, I decided to use this recipe for the dough and the chocolate filling.  I used this recipe for the cinnamon filling.  Both cakes came out beautifully, and I served them up to my family to see if chocolate really was the better babka. Turns out, more people thought it was the lesser babka because cinnamon actually won 3 to 2.  It was not easy to make that call, though.  Both flavors are worth trying.

Since our taste-off, I have made babka a few more times.  I usually feel like I have to have a specific reason to make it because it is quite a process. Thankfully, I found an excuse when the idea for using a matcha filling popped into my head.

This inexpensive matcha is perfect for culinary use.

Matcha, otherwise known as powdered green tea, is made of ground green tea leaves. Preparing, serving, and drinking matcha is the focus of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Over time, its use has been extended to flavoring and coloring many foods, and I grew up surrounded by green tea mochi and green tea ice cream. Vividly green, earthy matcha, I thought, would be a great match for the soft, sweet dough of a babka.

Not wanting to waste ingredients, I did a bit of research to make sure my idea wasn’t completely off target. Luckily, Serious Eats backed up my thoughts by confirming that matcha is great with buttery desserts and dark chocolate.  Apparently, it is similar to cinnamon in its versatility. Based on this, I decided I would make a chocolate matcha babka.

I’ve used this chocolate babka recipe from Pretty.Simple.Sweet. for the dough of all of my babkas so far. The recipe calls for instant yeast, which I don’t keep on hand, so I modified the process in order to use active dry yeast.  Even if you prefer to use instant yeast, I suggest reading through my directions because I detail a lot of what to expect when making this fussy dough.

For the chocolate matcha babka, my plan was to use this dough and modify the regular filling recipe. I didn’t want to just blend matcha into the original chocolate filling because I didn’t want to lose the vivid green color, so I decided I would make one chocolate side and one matcha side then twist it together.  I used half a recipe of the regular filling for the dark chocolate side. For the matcha side, I halved the recipe again, but I also replaced the cocoa powder with matcha, and I used white chocolate rather than dark chocolate to preserve the color.

(Top) Matcha Filling: white chocolate melted with butter, powdered sugar, matcha powder (Bottom) dark chocolate melted with butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder

(Top) Matcha Filling: white chocolate melted with butter, powdered sugar, matcha powder
(Bottom) Chocolate Filling: dark chocolate melted with butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder

I have to admit I was afraid that the matcha flavor was going to be disgusting.  It is a unique taste that can be bitter if you use too much. I obsessively tasted the filling as I continuously added in small amounts of matcha. When it tasted really nice and balanced, I stopped.

The results were fabulous!  John and I both agree that we actually liked the matcha part better than the chocolate, so next time, it will be all matcha!

Part of this balanced breakfast.

Part of this balanced breakfast.

A note before you begin:

I’m not going to lie and tell you that making babka is easy.  It is not.  You are working with yeast (which is not actually that scary, but some people shy away from it). You also have to plan ahead of time because the dough has to rise overnight.

On top of that, making the dough gets a little dicey.  You need a standing mixer for sure.  The mixer will have to run the whole time it takes for you to make your dough, a good ten minutes. And as you follow the directions and add in each ingredient, the dough looks miserable.  I always have to stop every minute or so and flatten the dough back down because it creeps up the dough hook and tries to escape the bowl. It’s going to look wrong for so long that you will think you’ve messed up terribly. Then, all of sudden, it just looks so right!

Wake up your yeast! lukewarm water + yeast + 5 minutes = frothy, active yeast friends

Wake up your yeast! lukewarm water + yeast + 5 minutes = frothy, active yeast

When it finally comes together, transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

When it finally comes together, transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic.

Dough after at least 8 hours of rising time in the fridge. It has more than doubled in size.

Dough after at least 8 hours of rising time in the fridge. It has more than doubled in size.

Once you finally get the dough worked out, you have to shape it.  This isn’t hard, but it is a process that you won’t want to undertake if you are looking for a quick sugar fix. Here are pictures and directions for how to shape the babka dough.

If you are ready to take on the babka challenge, try my recipe for chocolate matcha babka!

Chocolate Matcha Babka

CHOCOLATE MATCHA BABKA
A.K.A. Cake for Breakfast
(Makes 2 standard loaves or 5 mini loaves)

Special Equipment Required

  • Standing mixer
  • Loaf pans (standard or mini)
  • basting brush

Ingredients

Dough
½ c. water
1 tbs. active dry yeast
3 ¾ c. all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
½ c. granulated sugar
¾ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. grated lemon or orange zest (optional)
2/3 c. unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
3 large eggs at room temperature

Chocolate Filling
2 oz. dark chocolate chips
¼ c. unsalted butter
¼ c. powdered sugar
2 tbs. + 2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

Matcha Filling
2 oz. white chocolate chips
¼ c. unsalted butter
¼ c. powdered sugar
1 tbs. + 1 tsp. unsweetened matcha powder

Simple Syrup (for glazing)
½ c. water
½ c. granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Measure out your water in a liquid measuring cup. Heat it briefly in the microwave until it is lukewarm. It should feel just slightly warmer than room temperature.
  2. Add the yeast to the water and stir. Wait for it to activate, 3-5 minutes. When it is frothy and bubbling, the yeast is ready.
  3. While you wait for the yeast, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and zest (if using) in the bowl of your mixer. Use the dough hook attachment and mix on low until combined.
  4. Add the water and yeast mixture and the eggs and mix on medium speed until the liquid is incorporated into the dry ingredients, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Now, add a few cubes of butter at time, mixing until all the butter is incorporated into the dough. Then, let it mix for another 10 minutes or so until the dough becomes very smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl into a ball.(This is about where the dough gets scary. It’s going to take a long time and you will definitely have to scrape down the sides of the bowl. You will probably also have to stop your mixer to pull down the dough that creeps up the dough hook. It’s going to look like it’s going all wrong, but there will be a magic moment when it just smoothes into a beautiful dough. Don’t be scared!)
  6. Brush a large bowl with oil and place the dough inside. Then, cover it with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.
  7. Once the dough has rested and chilled, prepare the filling:

    Chocolate: melt the dark chocolate and butter over a double boiler (or in the microwave for 20-second intervals) and whisk in the powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder.

    Matcha: melt the white chocolate and butter over a double boiler (or in the microwave for 20-second intervals) and whisk in the powdered sugar and matcha powder.

  8. Now, follow these detailed directions for preparing pans and dividing and shaping the dough.
  9. After shaping the dough, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and allow the loaves to rise for about an hour on the warm oven.
  10. Remove the towel/plastic wrap and place the loaves in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. Start testing to see if your loaf is baked through at about 30 minutes. Use a long, bamboo skewer and test it in a lot of places because the areas near the filling take a lot longer to bake. It is ready when the skewer comes out with no dough attached.
  11. While the babka bakes, make the simple syrup by heating the water and stirring in the sugar until it dissolves. Once the babka comes out of the oven, brush all of the syrup over the tops of the babka.
  12. Let the cakes cool until warm and serve.

Babka is best eaten fresh and warm, but it will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days, tops. If you know you aren’t going to eat it that fast, wrap it up in plastic, then foil, then in a zip bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge or for 2-3 hours on the counter. It can also stand baking again at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes to heat through if you want it warm.

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3 thoughts on “Chocolate Matcha Babka A.K.A. Cake for Breakfast

  1. Pingback: 5 Classic Holiday Desserts With a Tea Twist - Tea, Tea Accessories & Recipes - The Tea Kitchen

  2. Awesome! What kind of GF flour do you use?

    I tried this recipe with raspberry jam instead of chocolate to get the red and green going for Christmas, but it was too sweet for my taste and the jam was hard to work with. I think the green is Christmas-y enough.

    Like

  3. Thanks for the recipe. Great way to use Matcha green tea. You inspired me to experiment with it for Christmas baking, to give it a green look and also healthy. I am going to try this recipe using my gluten-free flour, and I think it should be okay. I found a great GF flour that works as well as wheat flour.

    Like

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