Call me basic, I don’t care. This stuff is delicious.
In the midst of moving, holidays, and entrepreneurship, this has been a busy autumn season for me. But fear not! Nothing can hold me back from baking pumpkin-everything, and bringing the results of the best to you. This babka isn’t just a pretty treat. It’s crisp and soft and sweet and honestly tastes like fall heaven. And also looks awesome. And since it’s leavened with yeast instead of baking powder, it’s not cake… in the American sense. And that means you can eat it for breakfast.
It is a multiple-step process, but the parts where you’re actually doing any labor are minimal. The other great thing about this recipe is that the dough is endlessly forgiving. Getting late and want to go to bed? Need to get out the door and don’t have time to finish? You can pop the dough for these babies into the fridge at pretty much every stage of the process, and just bring it back up to room temperature when you’re ready to work it again.
When I made the ones in these photos, I did it over three days because things kept coming up and I had to press pause. And look, they’re beautiful!
Also, please don’t be intimidated by the fact that you have to melt some chocolate for this recipe. I know so many people won’t even bother making something if the recipe mentions double-boiling…. but I’m here to tell you, you can’t mess this up. Why? Because you’re going to be adding granulated sugar to your chocolate AFTER you’ve melted it. That silky, shiny, smoothness isn’t even on the table here, so if you get a little water in your chocolate while you’re melting it, or maybe overheat it… that grainy texture isn’t going to make any difference. Don’t sweat it.
99% of the time, I will recommend that you heat up any pastry before eating it… and while this one is LOVELY warm, I think I may have actually preferred it cold, dunked in a mug of hot Chai. Heresy, I know. But I’m a heathen by nature, and I have no regrets.
When you do make this recipe, because it’s fall and you must, I should warn you that the shaping of these buns can feel like a bit of mental yoga. It’s a totally positive thing, but I felt I should warn you regardless because it’s very easy to get lost in the zen of it all. The same goes for when you’re enjoying these treats with a spot of tea or coffee or whiskey and eggnog or whatever your poison. Ultimate culinary zen. Be prepared, and definitely enjoy it.
Also, in these photos featuring yours truly, I’m wearing a pair of new earrings going into my etsy shop. As soon as they’re posted, I’ll link them below:
Pumpkin Spice And Chocolate Babka Buns
For the dough:
1 c. warm milk
1 T dry yeast
1/3 c. soft or melted butter
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. + 2 T pumpkin puree
4 c. all purpose flour (or, preferably, 3 c. all purpose, 1 c. bread flour)
1 t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/4 t. fresh ground nutmeg
flour for dusting
For the chocolate filling:
6 oz dark or semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. butter or coconut oil
1 t vanilla extract
In a large bowl, add warm (not hot) milk and yeast, let stand 10 minutes or until bloomed. Add butter, egg, sugar, and pumpkin, and whisk until smooth. Add flour, salt, and all spices. Knead until smooth and elastic. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky. Return dough to bowl and cover tightly. Place the dough in the fridge to rise at least two hours or overnight.
In the morning, bring your dough to room temperature (can take 40 minutes-2 hours, depending on the temperature of your house). While the dough warms up, pour about an inch of water into a saucepan and place on the stove at medium/low heat. Place a medium sized glass or heavy ceramic bowl on top of the saucepan and add chocolate. Slowly heat the chocolate, stirring every five minutes, until melted. Add butter, and stir until melted. Add sugar and vanilla. If the chocolate is too runny to spread at this point, add a few spoonfuls of cocoa powder to thicken. Set aside.
Divide dough into four equal portions. Take one portion and roll on a lightly floured surface into a very thin rectangle, about 6×12 inches. Spread a few tablespoons of the chocolate mixture onto the dough rectangle. The thinner this layer of chocolate is, the easier it will be to shape.
Place the dough so that the short sides of the rectangle are to your right and left, and the long sides run horizontally. Starting at the end farthest from you, tightly roll the dough towards you, so that you end up with a long, skinny “rope”, very akin to a small cinnamon roll before it is cut. Now divide this rope in half, so that you have two shorter ropes, and then slice each one lengthwise in half, to expose stripes of chocolate within.
Gather two halves of one rope and twist them into a knot, pinching together at the ends. Repeat with other rope “slices”. Repeat with the other three portions of dough. Cover the knots and let rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours, or until almost doubled in size. Preheat oven to 365 F. When oven is heated, use pastry brush to coat each bun in egg wash, and then bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through.
Enjoy immediately, or save for the next morning.. or both!