Or, alternately titled, “That One Time I Used an Entire Jar of Nutella in a Bread Recipe.” Oh yes.
(And oh no, says bikini season, but that’s not for a while, right? Right.)
Call me a crazy, but I rarely buy Nutella. It’s not because I don’t like the way it tastes — it’s that I do. And when I know there is a jar of it lurking in my pantry, I can’t stop thinking about it. Suddenly, I’m in the kitchen, in front of said pantry. And just as suddenly after that, I’m spoon-and-or-fist-deep in the jar, like Winnie the Pooh with his honey. Only much less cute.
So what I’m saying is, I just HAD to put the entire jar of Nutella into the bread recipe, lest I devour the rest of it in an obscenely short amount of time. Instead, it is now safely tucked inside swirl upon swirl in a streusel-topped Nutella babka… which, come to think of it, only makes it less safe. Um, yes. Did not think through the logic on that one too well.
Before I get too distracted thinking about the loaf that I currently have stored in my kitchen, let’s talk about how we do this babka thing. You see, while babka may look like a fancy, swirly bread of goodness, it’s also a very easy, fancy, swirly bread of goodness. There are practically a million different variations of the loaf on the interwebs, with different fillings and toppings and shaping techniques. No one of them is necessarily better than the other, but I will say that in my babka experiences, this variation takes the lead. It renders a soft, fluffy, very tall loaf with near-perfect chocolate hazelnut swirl distribution. Using Red Star Yeast helps make the process even more pleasant, so I suggest picking up a package of their active dry yeast for this recipe.
Just imagine soft, warm, fresh slices of Nutella-swirled brioche or using this bread to make the best French toast you’ll ever have in your life, and let’s float along on those cloud nines on our how-to journey:
First things first: Make the dough. It’s a simple process — you activate/proof the yeast in a bit of warm milk, combine the eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla in a separate bowl, then add the flour, salt and activated yeast mixture. Stir everything together until it forms a dough, then knead it in a stand mixer or on a lightly floured surface until a smooth, soft, elastic and only slightly sticky dough forms. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly oiled bowl (give it one turn to coat the surface of the dough with oil), then cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place (I put mine in the microwave because it acts as an incubator of sorts) and let the dough rise for about an hour to an hour and a half until doubled.
Punch down the dough, then roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a rough 18-by-18-inch square (it’s totally cool if it’s not perfect). Now is when we add ALL THE NUTELLA. But seriously. Use a spatula to spread an entire 13 oz jar of Nutella onto the surface. You will not regret this decision.
Roll up the dough tightly like a jelly roll, then use your palms to gently roll out the log to about 2 feet (24 inches) long (sorry I don’t have any pictures of this, as my hands were busy shaping the dough/licking extra Nutella off my fingers). Shape the log into a figure 8 shape, then twist into another figure 8, pinching the seams as well as you can to seal. Place it in a well-greased loaf pan.
It should look like this in the pan once you’ve shaped it.
Cover the loaf with plastic wrap and let it rise again until nearly doubled, so that the top of the loaf just begins to peek out over the top of the pan. You don’t want it to rise much more than this otherwise it will overflow in the pan (as I sadly learned firsthand on my first go of this).
Meanwhile, make the streusel topping: Combine flour, brown sugar, and fine-chopped hazelnuts in a bowl, then cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Place the streusel in the fridge until your dough is ready to be baked.
Heat the oven, then brush the risen loaf with an egg wash. Sprinkle/pat on as much streusel topping as you can fit on the loaf. Remember that it’s full of sugary, buttery, nutty deliciousness so you don’t want to be skimpy.
Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet (to catch any streusel that falls off as the bread bakes), and place the sheet in the center of the heated oven. Bake the loaf until it’s golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the bread from the pan, and — painful as this may be — let it cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing. I KNOW.
Whew! Finally, we can slice that bread right up. The drooling was getting kind of ridiculous for a minute there.
Like I said — swirly goodness.
I dare you not to eat a slice immediately. And then go back for another. And another. Ahem.
- ¾ cup warm milk (about 115 degrees F)
- 2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) Red Star active dry yeast
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 egg yolks
- 3¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and shaping
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), for topping
- 1 (13 oz) jar Nutella, or your favorite chocolate hazelnut spread
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts
- ¼ cup (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
- In a small bowl, combine warm milk and yeast; stir to dissolve yeast. Let sit 10 minutes until yeast is foamy.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium speed 1 to 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time, beating well and scraping down sides of bowl after each addition.
- Add flour, salt and yeast mixture to bowl; stir just until a dough forms. Using the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, knead dough on medium speed 4 to 5 minutes, adding a few more tablespoons of flour if needed until a smooth, soft, elastic and only slightly sticky dough forms; OR, turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead by hand 10 minutes, adding a few more tablespoons of flour if needed until a smooth, soft, elastic and only slightly sticky dough forms.
- Shape dough into a ball and place in a large, lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place 1 hour to 1½ hours until doubled.
- Punch down risen dough. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll dough into roughly an 18-by-18-inch square. Use a spatula to spread Nutella evenly on top of dough.
- Roll up dough tightly like a jelly roll. Use palms to gently roll into a 24-inch (2-foot) long log. Twist log into a figure 8, then twist into a figure 8 one more time, pinching seams to seal. Place dough in a well-greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise in a warm place 40 to 45 minutes until the loaf just begins to peek over the top of the pan and is nearly doubled.
- Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients for the streusel except the butter. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Place bowl in refrigerator until loaf is ready to bake.
- Brush the top of the loaf lightly with egg wash. Sprinkle and gently pat as much streusel as you can on top of loaf. Place loaf pan on a baking sheet (to catch any streusel drips), then place baking sheet on center rack of oven. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove loaf from pan; transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before slicing.
Disclosure: I received compensation from Red Star Yeast for recipe development purposes. All opinions are my own.