Turn this dark chocolate babka knot into a decadent french toast for brunch

Buy or make this sea salt-enhanced babka, and then transform it into a special occasion treat for a loved one

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published May 9, 2020 5:30PM (EDT)

Dark chocolate and sea salt babka knot (Ashlie Stevens)
Dark chocolate and sea salt babka knot (Ashlie Stevens)

We're all going to be brunching at home for the foreseeable future — including this Mother's Day and the following big holidays — but that doesn't mean you can't create dishes that impress, like this dark chocolate and sea salt babka knot. If you're making brunch for your family, consider turning leftovers into an easy, overnight french toast bake. 

All you have to do the next morning is turn on the oven, slice some strawberries and pour yourself a cup of coffee (speaking of, here's our guide to making a better cup at home). 

Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Babka Knot 

If you're planning on just buying a loaf of babka, feel free to skip this step and head down to instructions to make the french toast bake — but if (like me) you like a project recipe, let's get started. In a medium bowl, pour ¼ cup of warmed whole milk, ¼ cup of warmed half and half, 2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) of yeast and a sprinkle of granulated sugar. 

Gently stir to combine and then allow the mixture to stand until the yeast begins to froth, about five minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of all purpose flour, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. Make a small well in the center of the dry ingredients and add 1 egg and 2 egg yolks. Pour the yeast mixture into the well, mix until just combined, and then add 6 tablespoons of room-temperature butter, which has been cut into pieces. 

Using the dough hook on a kitchen mixer, beat on medium-low speed until the dough looks fully combined, glossy, and smooth — about 6 minutes (if you're kneading by hand, probably about 10 to 12 minutes). It will still be a little sticky to the touch, but should be malleable. Form the dough into a loose ball and place it into a medium bowl that has been lightly greased with butter. 

Cover the bowl — plastic wrap or a dish towel will work just fine — and allow the dough to rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size. This will take about 2 hours. 

Once risen, the dough needs to chill. Place the covered bowl into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 

While the dough is chilling, time to make the dark chocolate filling. 

To a small saucepan, add 3 ounces of dark chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons of unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder (Ghirardelli and Hershey's both have great options available at most supermarkets), 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, chopped into pieces. 

Melt over very low heat, stirring consistently until the butter and chocolate are melted and the mixture is completely combined. Move the mixture from off the heat, and then remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface.

Roll out into a thin rectangle — about a foot wide and 20 inches long — then turn to make sure the long side is facing you. Spread the chocolate filling onto the dough, stopping about ½ inch from each edge. Dust the chocolate filling with 1 tablespoon of sea salt, then roll the dough away from you (like you were rolling fillings into a tortilla). You may need to pull on the edges as you go along to maintain the length of the roll.

Cut the roll in half horizontally, then using a sharp knife, cut the two halved rolls down the center vertically, revealing the chocolate filling. At this point, you have a couple different options for shaping your loaf. King Arthur Flour has a pretty stellar tutorial on braiding methods — my favorite is a babka knot. 

Once braided, allow your loaf in (or on, in the case of the knot) its pan to rise, covered, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325 degrees and prepare an egg wash made with 1 tablespoon of milk or cream and 1 beaten egg. Once your loaf has risen, brush it with the egg wash. You can sprinkle it with an additional 2 teaspoons of sea salt, if you like. Allow it to bake for 50 to 60 minutes, rotating halfway through, until golden brown. 

Remove from the oven and allow the loaf to cool completely. This babka is a gorgeous brunch dish as is, but if you want to make use of extra (maybe nearly-stale?) babka, the french toast bake below is for you. 

Babka French Toast Bake 

Tear your leftover babka — loaf or knot — into rough cubes. You'll want between 6 and 8 cups. Set these aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, whip 4 large eggs, ½ cup of heavy cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, place the babka cubes into the dish, then cover with the egg mixture. Stir gently to ensure the cubes have been evenly coated, then cover the pan with plastic wrap and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This is a great make-ahead brunch dish because it can be easily refrigerated overnight. 

Bake the babka french toast mixture at 325 degrees for 50 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and slice. 

Serve with sliced strawberries and whipped cream. 


By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's food editor. She is also an award-winning radio producer, editor and features writer — with a special emphasis on food, culture and subculture. Her writing has appeared in and on The Atlantic, National Geographic’s “The Plate,” Eater, VICE, Slate, Salon, The Bitter Southerner and Chicago Magazine, while her audio work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, as well as APM’s Marketplace. She is based in Chicago.

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