This Chocolate-Tahini Babka Is Perfect for French Toast

published Sep 5, 2021
Recipe Review
Chocolate-Tahini Babka

This decadent loaf features pull-apart layers of sweet bread, dark chocolate, and nutty tahini.

Makes2 loaves

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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner; Logo: Monday Morning Cooking Club

The four Sydney-based women of the Monday Morning Cooking Club have created an international phenomenon simply out of doing something they love: getting together on Mondays to cook and bake together. These meetings evolved into a website with great recipes, four cookbooks, cooking classes, and TV appearances, with the money they earn going to support cancer research, children’s health, special needs, art galleries and museums, community kitchens, Jewish institutions, and more.

Their most recent book, Now for Something Sweet, is all about baking. It’s full of lovely recipes and I’ve enjoyed baking from it — especially their sticky toffee pudding and a cornmeal cheesecake, which is unlike any cheesecake I have ever tasted. I couldn’t wait to give their chocolate babka a try — especially because the filling includes tahini. Read on for my honest review, and grab the recipe at the end of this post.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner; Logo: Monday Morning Cooking Club

How to Make Monday Morning Cooking Club’s Chocolate Babka

Before I started making the recipe, I had to make a few ingredient decisions. I used heavy cream and whole milk (the recipe doesn’t specify percentage), as well as large eggs (the recipe doesn’t specify size). I didn’t have caster sugar, so I pulsed granulated sugar in a food processor to mimic it, as per a Google search.

I began by making the dough. Rather than mixing all the ingredients together, the recipe instructed me to place the dry ingredients into a bowl and make a well in the center to proof the yeast. I then added the other liquids to the well and began mixing with a spoon, slowly incorporating the dry into the wet. Once combined, I used the dough hook attachment of my stand mixer to knead the dough on low speed, scraping down the hook once. I then let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

The filling — a combination of chocolate, butter, brown sugar, cocoa powder, and tahini — is made on the stovetop over a double boiler. I chopped the chocolate into roughly 1/2-inch pieces, although the recipe didn’t specify. The recipe also didn’t say to cut the butter into pieces, but I will next time so that the butter melts at the same time as the chocolate. The filling thickened while the dough was rising, so I had to stir it a bit to get it back to a spreadable consistency.

The soft, stretchy dough rose really nicely and was easy to roll out. I liked how the recipe specified the precise dimensions of the rolled-out dough — down to the 1/2 inch. I keep a ruler in my kitchen to use for this purpose and appreciated the detail. 

The recipe instructions say to cut the log starting 1 inch from the top and then twist the two strips of dough, but don’t say what to do with the uncut end. When I baked the loaf, the untwisted part of the babka wasn’t as pretty on the outside and had no swirls inside. The instructions also didn’t indicate whether the inside of the log should face out — just to twist the two strips around each other and ease the loaf into the pan. Next time, I’ll twist the strips as I usually do, making sure the inside faces out.

I checked the loaf after 40 minutes of baking and it was very brown, so I tented it loosely with foil. The recipe recommends using a skewer to test for doneness, but it never came out clean. I disagree that this is a good method — good babka should have a gooey chocolate inside, so the skewer will always have chocolate on it. I baked the babka for the full 45 minutes as instructed in the recipe, but I wish I had taken it out at 40. I let it cool for 20 minutes before slicing. It was hard to cut because the top was very crunchy and some pieces of it fell off (naturally, I had to eat them).

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of Monday Morning Cooking Club’s Babka

Once baked and cooled, the dough texture was very soft, but the filling was a little gritty. I had to tell everyone who tasted it that the filling had tahini in it, because the taste was very mild. Interestingly, on the second day, the tahini in the filling was more pronounced, but it still tasted like a standard chocolate babka, albeit with a hint of something else. I would have either added more tahini to this recipe, or omitted it altogether. On the plus side, the bottom of the loaf had a really tasty buttery caramel flavor.

As for the look, it was nice and tall when baked, and the part where I had twisted it looked very nice, but the end that wasn’t sliced through was just dough with no chocolate swirl. 

The dough-to-filling ratio was correct, and overall it tasted very nice, but everyone who tried it remarked that it tasted more like challah with chocolate than chocolate babka. If you want a simpler babka with not too much sweet filling, you will certainly enjoy this one. It would also be incredible for a babka French toast.

Credit: Paula Shoyer
MMMC babka

If You’re Making Monday Morning Cooking Club’s Babka, a Few Tips

  1. Mix the dough with your hands. The recipe recommends using a spoon, which works well at first, but it’s not great for getting the dough to come together. I ended up switching to my hands (my favorite kitchen utensil), which made it easy to squeeze the dry ingredients into the dough.
  2. Chill the log before slicing. I love this tip from the recipe. It makes it easier to get a cleaner cut, which translates to a prettier babka. This method also prevents the filling from oozing out when you cut the log before twisting it. 
  3. Cut the parchment to fit the pan. This recipe has you line the loaf pan with parchment for easy unmolding. I pressed my parchment paper in, then sprayed the bottom and sides of the pan so the parchment would stick to it, but that didn’t help much. Next time, I’ll skip the greasing and just cut the parchment into a plus sign so it fits more easily into the pan.

Rating: 6/10

Chocolate-Tahini Babka

This decadent loaf features pull-apart layers of sweet bread, dark chocolate, and nutty tahini.

Makes 2 loaves

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups

    plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra

  • 1/2 cup

    caster (superfine) sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    salt

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons

    active dried yeast

  • 1/2 cup

    warm water

  • 1/3 cup

    + 1 tablespoon pure (35% fat) cream

  • 3 tablespoons

    plus 1 teaspoon milk

  • 2

    eggs

  • 6 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, melted

  • 2 tablespoons

    oil

Chocolate Tahini Filling

  • 5 1/3 ounces

    dark chocolate, chopped

  • 1 stick

    unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup

    firmly packed brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup

    unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder

  • 1/3 cup

    tahini (sesame seed paste)

Syrup

  • 1 cup

    white (granulated) sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    water

Instructions

  1. To make the dough, mix the flour, caster sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if making by hand) and make a well in the centre. Add the yeast and warm water to the well and stir to combine, keeping the liquid in the well. To ensure the yeast is active, allow to stand for 10 minutes or until frothy.

  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, butter and oil. Add this mixture to the liquid in the well and mix together until combined. Using a wooden spoon, gradually incorporate the flour into the mixture in the well. Once combined, use the dough hook attachment of the stand mixer to knead on low–medium speed for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth but slightly sticky. You can also knead it by hand on your benchtop; you will need to add extra flour but add as little as possible to avoid toughening the dough.

  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and wrap snugly in a towel or blanket, and place in a warm place for about 2 hours or until doubled in volume. While the dough is rising, make the filling so it has time to cool.

  4. To make the chocolate tahini filling, bring a small saucepan with 1 inch of water to the boil. Combine the chocolate, butter, brown sugar and cocoa powder in a heatproof bowl that will fit snugly on top of the saucepan without touching the water. Turn the water down to a simmer, place the bowl on top of the saucepan and allow the ingredients to melt, stirring from time to time. Stir in the tahini and allow to cool.

  5. Line 2 loaf (bar) tins. Divide the dough in half.

  6. On a lightly floured benchtop, roll out 1 piece of the dough to form a rectangle (12 1/2 x 8 1/2-inches). Spread half of your chosen filling over the surface, from edge to edge. Roll up the dough from the long edge to form a log. Place the log on a piece of baking paper and refrigerate for 15 minutes – this makes it easier to work with. Place the log lengthways on the benchtop and, with a sharp knife, starting 1 inch from the top, cut in half down the centre all the way to the bottom. Twist the 2 halves around each other and ease the now-twisted log into the prepared tin. You may need to gently compress the ends to fit the tin. Repeat with the other piece of dough.

  7. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until well risen.

  8. Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake for 45 minutes or until golden on top and a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

  9. While the loaves are baking, make the syrup. Combine the white sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.

  10. Remove the loaves from the oven and immediately pour all the syrup over the top of both. These are best eaten the day of baking or reheated to serve the next day.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted with permission from Now For Something Sweet by Monday Morning Cooking Club, 2020. Published by HarperCollins.