a black sesame and milk babka and a chocolate chestnut babka

Sending emails is a bit nervewracking. Part of this is because I tend to overthink what I send in emails (I should apply some of that thinking to what I say in blog posts so they don’t all consist solely of: oh, I enjoy blogging + oh, I am a bit tired lately). The other part of this is because somehow what I write seems to get interpreted in all sorts of different ways. Sometimes mildly different from what I intended.When it does I don’t know what to do. Am I making too much of a fuss if I insist and correct them? Well that, it depends, as with more things, on the magnitude of the misunderstanding.

It’s a bit easier with texting–when things get tight or uneasy, pull out an emoji and huzzah! It’s also a bit easier with blogging because I act more freely with the exclamation marks which can ensure that any statement comes across as positive. Additionally, I permit myself to produce plenty of long run-on sentences and a few too many parentheses (I like to assure myself it’s style) which gives me enough room to explain myself in typical longwinded fashion.

When you write emails, you have to convey what you feel without any facial expression or body language (email sarcasm is much too high level for me). It would even help if I could write emails in third person. For example: Please fix this immediately, the email-writer wrote cheerfully and pleasantly. See? No room for misinterpretation.

Oh well, it’s just another sort of writing that requires another sort of skill…and a good eye for catching the connotations of diction and punctuation. 

I’ve been meaning to make some babka for quite a while. I’m glad I finally got around to it.

My favourite was the black sesame babka–mostly due to the milky and and sugary glaze. It was, however, very generously filled, which makes it difficult to slice nicely without each slice crumbling into delicious bits of bread and black sesame.

The chocolate and chestnut babka was alright. It would have been nicer if it had a glaze as well. On it’s own, it was barely sweet and tasted a bit sour (yes indeed, you dear sourdough starter) and so it was a bit disconcerting going in with the expectation of a sweet bread. Alternatively, as a savoury bitter chocolate bread it was fairly nice.

There are also two different rolling methods that I tried. The black sesame method looks a bit pretty from up top, but both work quite nicely.


an enriched dough

Loosely adapted from Food and Wine January 2016. Article by Tina Ujlaki, recipe by Melissa Weller. Makes enough dough for two babka.

150 g 100% hydration sponge (50 g whole wheat flour, 50 g sourdough starter and 50 g water overnight on the counter)

360 g flour (240 ap, 120 whole wheat)

4 g salt

45 g sugar

3-4 g wheat gluten

1 egg

175 mL milk

75 g soft butter

To make the dough, whisk the flour, salt, sugar and wheat gluten together. Add the egg, milk and sponge, mix until a smooth dough is formed. Beat the butter in, one small piece at a time. Cover and let ferment for an 8h first rise, or until doubled (I then left it in fridge overnight). The dough is then ready to use with a filling.

Shaped next morning with 5 hr second rise


chocolate and chestnut filling

Adapted from the chocolate krantz cakes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. In the end I think this babka could have been a bit sweeter–though it did make for a rather nice slightly savoury, soft, and bitter chocolate-swirled sourdough–add some additional sugar or perhaps a glaze. The rolling method itself is borrowed from the Food and Wine January 2016 babka article. Enough filling for 1 babka.

40 g chocolate

40 g butter

15 g cocoa powder

10 g icing sugar

pinch kosher salt

100 g chestnut puree


Melt the chocolate and butter together. Whisk in the cocoa powder, icing sugar and salt.

Line a loaf pan with a parchment sling and butter any uncovered areas.

Roll out half the babka dough into a large square on a floured surface. Spread first with the chestnut puree, then with the chocolate filling (don’t scrape the bowl too well; leave a spoonful or two behind).

Roll snugly. Slice the role in half lengthwise. Place one half crosswise on top of the other. Spread the surface of the top half with the remaining chocolate filling. Twist the two halves together to form a twisted bread, then drop into the pan. Cover and let proof (4-5 h) until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Brush with some beaten egg. Bake until well browned, 30-40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.


black sesame filling

Rolling method borrowed from Yotam Ottolenghi’s krantz cakes in Jerusalem. Enough filling for 1 babka.

50 g butter

45 g ground roasted black sesame

29 g granulated sugar

10 g powdered milk

pinch kosher salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract


black sesame milk glaze

80 g icing sugar

7 g ground roasted black sesame (or less for a less grey-coloured icing)


For the filling, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, sesame, powdered milk, and vanilla.

Line a loaf pan with a parchment sling and butter any uncovered areas.

Roll out half the babka dough into a large thin square. Use an offset spatula to gently spread out the sesame filling. Roll snugly and cut in half lengthwise. Place each half cut-side up, twist the two halves together. Place into the prepared pan. Cover and let proof (4-5 h) until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Drizzle the bread evenly and thinly with some beaten egg (to avoid dislodging the filling). Bake until well browned, 30-40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

For the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar and sesame. Add milk as necessary to achieve the desired consistency. Drizzle over the cake, and let set (20 minutes or so). It makes a generous amount of glaze and I didn’t use it all.


22 thoughts on “a black sesame and milk babka and a chocolate chestnut babka

  1. Wow! Looks so good..I am so glad that you have finally started blogging regularly..I want to try this too, but I can’t find sourdough starter anywhere. I had searched for it when I wanted to make those spinach breads.. I guess I’ll have to try making it at home! I would love to try glazing this with caramel. Chocolate and caramel is like my thing..good recipe once again Laurie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lina! Well, I’ll sort of kind of try to blog regularly… 😀 Sourdough is exciting! And especially when you start it yourself! It took me a few tries–the first times I just mixed flour and water and left it on the counter, it went all mouldy instead of yeasty 🙂 I ended up doing Peter Reinhart’s pineapple juice method though, and that worked better!
      However, everything can also be adapted to storebought yeast–not to mention it’s faster and a bit more convenient 🙂 And wow yes absolutely–caramel glaze is EXACTLY what the chocolate babka needs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Suzanne! There’s this bread that I’ve seen on a few blogs that I’ve been eyeing lately. It is sort of like this, but the sliced roll is twisted into a wreath which makes it look very pretty! I’ll try to tackle that next. This has given me a bit more confidence in terms of shaping the dough, but anything too freeform–sometimes turns into a disaster! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aww this post took me back to when I first made babka this past Christmas; it’s definitely a labor of love, but the results are SO worth it! I’m very intrigued by the combination of the filling ingredients as black sesame is a flavor I’m not familiar with. It sure looks delicious. Well done 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do agree 🙂 The shaping was fun, this way it also ensures the bread is flavourful throughout!
      I’ve been going to town with the black sesame lately. I bought a bag of pre-roasted and ground black sesame… it’s so convenient and also roasted perfectly (when I do it myself half the time it’s burnt–I really can’t tell from the colour–and half the time it’s not toasted enough)! The taste is all toasted and nutty…and while it’s a bit dull and grayscale, the colour can be quite striking! Thanks Jess 🙂


    1. Thank you Rena! I think the chocolate chestnut bread could have used some additional sweetness, but overall I was pretty happy! 🙂 I tried out my crinkled piece of paper and wrinkly piece of white cloth for the photos. Mixed results, but luckily the swirly breads still look interesting enough!


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