Bourbon Chocolate Pistachio Babka

How to win friends and influence people:

No, seriously. I’m not sure whether it’s the visibly oozing chocolate, the perfectly spongy dough, or the aroma of all the dessert fantasies you’ve ever imagined rolled into one loaf, but this babka is a surefire way to get back into anyone’s good graces. Trying to show your mother you’re not a total waste of life after forgetting her birthday? Babka. Seeking to get your boyfriend or girlfriend back?  Babka. Attempting to get back on your boss’s good side after showing up late carrying a Starbucks cup? Yes. Babka.

Burrito Lover and I had a lot of fun making (and shooting) this yeasted bread over the weekend. When it’s pouring rain, I can’t think of a more enjoyable activity than rolling up my sleeves, dusting my cutting board with flour, and folding up a loaf of chocolate and bourbon infused babka. Although the origins of babka seem to be cloudy (one quick search on the internet will leave your head spinning), one thing is for sure: if you’re looking for the tastiest, chewiest, most decadent bread around, look no further, baby.

As for life lately, it’s been surprisingly good. You know, I used to place so much emphasis on the new year; setting up expectations, making resolutions, blah blah….le blah. After my Dad passed, Trump became president elect, and the countless other not-so-wonderful pieces of news I’ve had to swallow, for the first time ever I sort of gave up on getting psyched about the new year. It felt like just another day.

Well, in my utter apathy, something sort of incredible happened. Completely unbeknownst to me, a “reset” button was pressed and for some reason, it undoubtedly refreshed and revived me. In truth, the new year really is just a new set of days, but I really felt like I needed them.

I’m not going to parade around any fancy resolutions. Instead I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, like really enjoying braiding babka dough when the rain falls and thinking about how proud my Pops might be if he could see me savor life in light of everything that’s happened, is happening, and will continue to happen around me. Wish you could have a slice of this babka, Pops, I know you’d devour the whole thing if I left it on the counter too long 😉 Miss you every moment.

Bourbon Chocolate Pistachio Babka

Makes: 2 loaves

For the dough:

  • 1 cup whole milk, heated to 110 degrees F
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast (1 packet)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + more if necessary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

For the bourbon chocolate pistachio filling:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/4 cup shelled, crushed pistachios

For the glaze:

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

For the topping:

  • 3/4 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup shelled, crushed pistachios
  1. Begin with that yeasty mixture for the dough; mix together warm milk (use a thermometer to ensure you have the right temp, around 110 F, so you don’t kill the yeast!) yeast, and sugar in a small bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and let sit for about 5 minutes, until you see a foamy layer on top.
  2. While the foamy milk and yeast mixture is sitting, combine flour, salt, lemon zest, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Then switch to a dough hook and mix in the foamy milk and yeast mixture along with the eggs until combined.
  3. Beat in half of the butter (5 tablespoons) for about 5 minutes. If the dough is sticking to the bowl, add more flour (1 tablespoon at a time). Add in the remaining butter and beat for another 7 minutes. Again, if the dough is sticking to the bowl, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until a smooth elastic dough ball forms. Brush a clean bowl with some butter, drop the dough ball in it, then cover and let sit in a warm place free from any draft for 1-2 hours until dough rises. I use my oven turned off but with the light on.
  4. After 1-2 hours when the dough has risen like jesus, remove and punch down the dough. Feel free to get angry; this is YOUR babka; make it your bitch. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
  5. When done chillin’ remove it from fridge, divide the dough ball in half, and set on a lightly floured surface.
  6. Next, make the bourbon chocolate pistachio filling: in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add in brown sugar, heavy whipping cream, and salt and stir until sugar melts. Add in butter, chocolate, and bourbon. Simmer gently for 5-7 minutes, until it thickens a bit. Then remove from heat and stick in the fridge to cool for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Go back to the dough: roll one dough ball out into a large rectangle (about 9″ x 17″) and spread half the bourbon chocolate pistachio filling onto it. Sprinkle with some of the crushed pistachios. Check out this video for how to roll up babka: This boss lady shows you how to roll up each dough half into the puuuuuurfect babka shape. If it helps, once you’ve got it rolled up (before cutting it in half lengthwise) you can stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up before braiding. Repeat until each half is spread with filling and braided, then stick into two buttered and parchment paper lined loaf pans. Place in a warm place free of any draft for 1 hour until dough puffs up slightly (again, I use my oven turned off with the light on). When done, remove, preheat oven to 350, and stick those bad boys in to bake for 35-50 minutes. Mine were done in 35, but my oven is a piece of crap, so check after 35 to be sure.
  8. Meanwhile, make the glaze: combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, stir frequently for about 2 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.
  9. Your babka is done when you insert a toothpick and feel no type of rubber-like resistance. When it’s ready, remove both pans from oven and using a sharp knife, poke holes all over the tops of each loaf and pour the glaze over them. Immediately sprinkle the topping of the chocolate chips and crushed pistachios on top of them, then let cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving. Bon appe-babka.


One Comment

  1. Lisa L Nixon

    Beautiful bread — and beautiful words……(Don’t worry, though — I would never let you forget my birthday….!!!) xoxo

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