For anyone who’s taken a trip to Boston—or, for that matter, resides there—Flour Bakery stands as the proverbial bakery destination. James Beard Award-winning baker Joanne Chang boasts the kind of pastry temple you could seemingly spend the rest of your life in, teeming with rounds of dark sticky buns crowned with pecans, wedges of sour cream coffee cake, and tart lemon pies finished off with towering swoops of meringue.
So it should come as no surprise that Joanne’s newest book, “Pastry Love,” is filled with pages of delightful concoctions, a wonderfully intimate baking journal. You’ll find the likes of maple-blueberry scones, delicate palmiers, and rum butterscotch pudding parfaits—comforting recipes for skilled and novice bakers. Many of the recipes peppered throughout the cookbook are treats she could never serve at Flour: desserts that are meant to be prepped à la minute (a dish prepared and served immediately), ones that desire a final pillow of fresh whipped cream, or are best enjoyed straight out of the oven.
Pastry Love: A Baker's Journal of Favorite Recipes, $36 on Amazon
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The book is also filled with detailed master lessons. Joanne provides easy-to-follow instructions for bakers who want to up their baking projects to the next level: Flip to the back of the book to discover recipes for puff pastry dough, lemon curd, and frangipane, among many more.
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Joanne’s recipe for housemade Nutella babka is excerpted below. The dense loaf is swirled with homemade Nutella (though easily swapped for the store-bought variety, too) sliced and braided into one thick log, then drenched in a nutty, hazelnut syrup. It’s the kind of thing you want to wake up to in the morning or serve during a Hanukkah feast (or really almost any Jewish festivity). Once you slice into the wonderfully chocolatey mess, you’ll be thanking Joanne for crafting an unbelievably flawless recipe.
Housemade Nutella Babka is excerpted from “Pastry Love: A Baker’s Journal of Favorite Recipes” © 2019 by Joanne Chang. Photography © 2019 by Kristin Teig. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Housemade Nutella Babka Recipe
As Flour has grown, one of our biggest challenges has been to keep our menu consistent with all our—and your—favorites while also offering enough new items to entice our guests and keep our bakers engaged. We have many exceptional bakers on our team and we wanted a way for them to showcase their skills—hence Pastry of the Month, or POM. Every bakery is encouraged to come up with a POM, and every now and then a POM is so good we decide to offer it as a holiday special. This babka was created by one of our longtime bakers, Matt, who worked for months to make buttery, chocolatey, tender babka that blew us all away. I had never made babka before and loved learning all the tricks from him. The slicing and twisting and shaping of the babka is really fun, and serves to help the filling bake evenly into the dough so you minimize air pockets and have gorgeous swirls in the final product.
This isn’t a difficult recipe but you do need to plan ahead because the brioche dough needs time to rest to be the most flavorful. Toast all the hazelnuts for the different parts of the recipe together to save some time.
Homemade Nutella Babka
- 1 recipe Master Brioche Dough (see below)
- ¼ cup/40 grams blanched hazelnuts Homemade Nutella (see below)
- 1 ½ ounces/40 grams bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)
- Hazelnut Syrup (see below)
- Mix the brioche dough and let proof for 6 hours or up to overnight in the fridge as directed.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 6 to 8 minutes, until light golden brown and fragrant; break a few open to check. Remove from the oven (turn off the oven), let the nuts cool, then rough-chop them. Line two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans with parchment paper or butter them generously, and set them aside. Make the Nutella.
- Generously flick flour over the work surface. Divide the brioche dough in half and roll out one half into a rectangle about 20 inches wide from side to side and 12 inches long from top to bottom. Brush off any loose flour from the surface of the dough. Mix the Nutella vigorously with a spoon to soften and loosen it. Using an offset spatula, spread half the Nutella evenly over the dough. Sprinkle half the chopped nuts and half the chocolate evenly over the Nutella. Roll the dough tightly, starting from the top and rolling downward in a spiral like a jelly roll. Repeat with the other half of the brioche dough. Place the dough rolls on a flat plate or baking sheet in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. (This will make twisting them together a bit easier to handle, and they’ll be less likely to fall apart.)
- Remove the dough rolls from the freezer. Cut one of the dough rolls lengthwise straight down the middle completely in half, exposing the layers. Place one cut half across the center of the other cut half, making an X shape. Twist the dough on either side of the center around each other, keeping the exposed cut sides of the dough visible, so that you have a long twisted braid of dough. Fold the dough braid in half like a horseshoe, give it a twist so the Nutella is now hidden inside, and place in a prepared loaf pan, tucking in any overhanging or loose dough. Repeat with the second dough roll. Cover both babkas with plastic wrap or lint-free towels and place in a warm area in the kitchen. Let the babkas proof and grow for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until they are billowing and soft and full.
- Make the hazelnut syrup.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Remove the plastic wrap or towels and bake the babkas for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans and switching their positions midway through the baking time, until the babkas are medium golden brown and sound hollow when you thump them on the bottom.
- Remove the babkas from the oven and while warm, brush them with the hazelnut syrup. Let cool in the pans on a wire rack.
- Babka can be stored in a paper bag at room temperature for 1 day. You can also freeze it, well wrapped in plastic, for up to 2 weeks. Refresh in a 300°F oven for about 10 minutes before serving.
Master Brioche Dough
- 1 ¾ cups/245 grams all-purpose flour
- 2 cups/300 grams high-gluten bread flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons/7 grams/ 1 (¼-ounce) packet active dry yeast
- ⅓ cup/65 grams sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 large eggs (about 200 grams), at room temperature
- 18 tablespoons/2 ¼ sticks/255 grams unsalted butter, cut into 10 to 12 pieces, at room temperature
- In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, ½ cup/120 grams cold water, and the eggs. Mix on low speed until the ingredients have come together, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the bowl as necessary to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Mix on low for another 3 to 4 minutes once the dough has come together. It will be very stiff.
- Add the butter to the dough piece by piece and continue mixing on low for about 10 minutes. The butter needs to mix completely into the dough, so stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl and break up the dough with your hands if necessary to help the butter mix in.
- Once the butter is completely incorporated into the dough, mix on medium for another 15 minutes, until the dough becomes sticky and soft and somewhat shiny. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix for about 1 minute — you should hear a slap-slap-slap sound as the dough hits the sides of the bowl. Test the dough by pulling at it — it should stretch a bit and have a little give. If it seems wet and loose and more like a batter than a dough, add a few tablespoons of either all-purpose or bread flour and mix until it comes together. If it breaks off into pieces when you pull at it, continue to mix it on medium for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it develops more strength and stretches when you grab it. When it’s ready you should be able to gather it all together and pick it up all as one piece.
- Place the dough in a large bowl or plastic container and cover the top with plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface of the dough to prevent a skin from forming. Let the dough proof in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. The dough is now ready to use.
- ½ cup/75 grams blanched hazelnuts
- 1 cup/240 grams heavy cream
- 6 ounces/170 grams milk chocolate, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 3 ounces/85 grams bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are light golden brown and fragrant; break a few open to check. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- In a small saucepan, combine the cream and hazelnuts. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Place the milk and dark chocolates in a medium metal or heatproof glass bowl. Pour the hot cream and nuts over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolates are melted. Add the salt. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl or storage container and let cool to room temperature. It will thicken and become spreadable.
- Nutella can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Bring the Nutella to room temperature before using.
- ½ cup/75 grams blanched hazelnuts
- ½ cup/100 grams sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Place the hazel-nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, until light golden brown and fragrant; break a few open to check. Remove from the oven.
- In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and hazelnuts with 1/2 cup/120 grams water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the hazelnuts have softened. Remove from the heat and let sit for 30 minutes.
- Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until the nuts are completely ground into tiny pieces. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the solids.
- The syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.
Header image courtesy of Kristin Teig.