Last weekend, weary after a long, pre-holiday week at work, I wanted nothing more than to put my feet up and binge-watch the new season of Penny Dreadful. Unfortunately, my kiddo had other plans and we hosted one of her friends for a sleepover. Cue – late evening panicking over breakfast options to suit the whole family + 1 guest, a breakfast that also says ‘this sleepover was so awesome, I can’t wait to come back!” Competitive? Who, me? Nah. Well, maybe just a little.
The crisis was over when I spotted a brand new, shiny in the shadows of the evening jar of Nutella, packed into our self-catering break provisions. And with choirs of Hallelujahs ringing in my sleep-deprived brain (hello, 10pm on a Saturday!), I googled Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Better Chocolate Babka, praying that Nutella would be a half decent substitution for the filling Deb uses.
Luckily, it works. It soooooo works. The dough is pillowy sweet, and the Nutella spread oozes out in sexy drips as you cut into it. Kiddos were happy, I was happy (so happy, in fact I finished up the rest of the loaf myself, after vowing I’d save it for the road trip…), all was good with the world for that Sunday morning.
For the dough, you’ll need:
550g plain white flour
100g caster sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 large eggs, at room temperature + 1 egg for egg wash
125ml water, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt
140g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
Sunflower oil, for greasing loaf pan
Grated zest of 1 lemon / half an orange
For the filling, you’ll need:
200g Nutella spread (yes, a whole jar, thanks for pointing that out)
To make the dough, start the evening prior to your bake.
Mix the flour, sugar, yeast and lemon zest in the bowl of your stand mixer.
Add the water and the eggs.
Mix using the dough hook until the ingredients come together in a tacky mass, about 2 – 3 mins.
Sprinkle the salt on top.
With mixer on low speed, add one cube of butter at a time, waiting until fully incorporated, before adding next cube.
Once all butter has been added, allow for another 8 – 10 mins of mixing, which will yield a smooth dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Add another spoonful of flour to help it along if your dough hasn’t reached the pull away from bowl sides stage.
Remove dough from bowl. Oil the mixer bowl and place dough back inside it. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put in fridge overnight.
Next morning, prepare loaf pan by coating with sunflower oil (substitute for other neutral oils if you like), then line bottom with parchment paper.
Separately, cover a baking sheet or large plate with parchment.
To assemble the loaf, roll the dough on the counter into a rectangle of approx 10″ width.
Pour out the Nutella into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for approx 20 secs. to soften.
Use a spatula to spread the Nutella over the dough, leaving an edge of about 1″ chocolate-free.
Roll the dough into a log as tightly as you can.
Place dough log on the prepped baking sheet and place in fridge for 10 mins. This makes handling the dough a lot easier later.
Remove from fridge and, while still on baking sheet, carefully cut the dough log into two halves, using a serrated / bread knife. I usually leave 2″ at the top of the log uncut, which keeps the loaf together and helps with braiding.
Twist the two halves around each other. This will be messy. Don’t worry, it will be worth it.
Tuck ends of loaf underneath and place into loaf pan.
Cover with tea towel and leave to rise for another 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
To bake, preheat the oven at 190C.
Brush the loaf with egg wash.
Place loaf pan in oven on middle rack.
Bake for 30 mins.
And basically fight everyone else off the loaf. I would say wait until it completely cools down – if you can do this, power to you. I was weak. But on a Nutella high.
PS – My loaf pan is a large 30cm Le Creuset one, which can take approx 3lb of dough. You can easily half the dough if your pan is smaller, then simply divide the Nutella in 2 batches.