plate to plate - ottolenghi chocolate krantz cake

When Juliana and I were trying to decide what to bake for this month's Plate 2 Plate post, we both knew we wanted to make something sweet. I'd seen photos of this Chocolate Krantz Cake from Ottolenghi's book, Jerusalem, all over the internet and suggested we give it a try.

Juliana agreed so it was as easy as that. The recipe makes 2 cakes and here are Juliana's photos of the 2 babkas she baked.

Despite having a Polish grandmother, I'd never eaten or made a krantz cake (aka babka) before. Reading through the recipe it looked very similar to a brioche dough, covered with a sinful chocolate spread, topped with toasted pecans then bathed in a sugar syrup. What's not to love? Here's my version of the process. As you can see, I took loads of photos!

Here are some of the ingredients Juliana used to make her babka. That Swiss butter sure beats my local butter hands down.

I'd not made brioche before and decided to make half a batch of the dough. I was a bit disconcerted with how little the dough rose.  I checked the bottom of my tin of yeast only to discover it had expired at the end of 2014. I ran out of time to bake the babka last weekend so put the dough back into the deep freeze and defrosted it Friday night.

I wasn't sure the dough would work out so Saturday morning I made another half batch of dough just in case, changing the technique substantially and it worked a charm. I'll be posting the original recipe with my changes added beneath. You can see that batch of dough in the picture above and that second batch of dough is now resting in the freezer waiting for me to whip it into another babka. I can't wait to see how the second batch of dough compares.

Juliana made the full batch of dough and made a chocolate babka and a cinnamon and walnut version. She baked the cinnamon and walnut babka in a round tin and commented how pretty that looked. I found a photo of a round babka which had dispensed with the tin entirely so I thought I'd give that a try. Here's Juliana hard at work twisting the babka dough and the 2 babkas ready for baking.

Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen suggested freezing the filled babka before halving and twisting the dough. There wasn't enough room in my freezer to do that but I did refrigerate the log for about 20 minutes. The folds fell apart a bit as I was twisting the dough but in the end it didn't seem to make a difference. Once the babka came out of the oven I dowsed it with the sugar syrup, which I'd infused with a cinnamon stick. I did reduce the quantity of sugar in the syrup a little as well. Again I'll write my changes in the notes.

Here it is, fresh from the oven. It's a thing of beauty, isn't it? I cut a piece and I can only say the chocolate babka is one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted.

I had a piece for my morning tea today and it still tasted pretty good. I zapped my piece in the microwave for 5 seconds to warm the chocolate filling and it was a very good decision. I'm taking the leftovers into work and I'll be interested in what my workmates have to say.

Here are the 2 babkas Juliana made. The cinnamon and walnut version in one the right, the chocolate babka on the left. 

Here's the recipe for you. The excerpt is from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

'Making a krantz isn't easy or quick. You need to let the dough rise overnight and then fill and shape it, which is quite an elaborate process. Although this recipe makes two fairly large cakes, there isn't really any risk of anything going to waste. They are just the sort of thing everyone hurls themselves at as soon as they come out of the oven.They will also keep for up to two days at room temperature, wrapped in foil, and up to a couple of weeks when frozen'. Photos below by Juliana. Don't you just want to pour yourself a cup of tea and tuck into a slice or two?

'For a fabulous alternative to the chocolate filling, brush each dough half with 6 tbs/80 g melted unsalted butter and then sprinkle with ½ cup/120 g light muscovado sugar, 1½ tbs ground cinnamon, and scant ½ cup/50 g coarsely chopped walnuts; then roll as described in the chocolate version'. That's what Juliana did, as you can see below. I'm not sure which version she preferred.

Chocolate Krantz Cake from Jerusalem. Makes 2 loaves.

For the dough
4 cups/530 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ cup/100 g caster sugar
2 teaspoons fast-rising active dry yeast
Grated zest of 1 small lemon
3 extra-large free-range eggs
½ cup/120 ml water
Rounded ¼ tsp salt
cup/150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ¾ inch/2 cm cubes
Sunflower oil, for greasing

For the chocolate filling
Scant ½ cup/50 g confectioners’ sugar
cup/30 g best-quality cocoa powder
4 oz/130 g good-quality dark chocolate, melted
½ cup//120 g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup /100 g toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons caster sugar

For the sugar syrup (enough for both cakes)
cup /160 ml water
1¼ cups /260 g caster sugar

For the dough, place the flour, sugar, yeast, and lemon zest in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add the eggs and water and mix on low speed for a few seconds and then increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes, until the dough comes together. Add the salt and then start adding the butter, a few cubes at a time, mixing until it is incorporated into the dough. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed, until the dough is completely smooth, elastic, and shiny. During the mixing, you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times and throw a small amount of flour onto the sides so that all of the dough leaves them.

Place the dough in a large bowl brushed with sunflower oil, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight.

Grease two 2¼ lb/ 1 kg loaf pans (9 by 4 in/23 by 10 cm) with some sunflower oil and line the bottom of each pan with a piece of waxed paper. Divide the dough in half and keep one-half covered in the fridge.

Make the filling by mixing together the icing sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate, and butter. You will get a spreadable paste. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring 15 by 11 inches (38 by 28 cm). Trim the sides to make them even, then position the dough so that a long side is closest to you. Use an offset spatula to spread half the chocolate mixture over the rectangle, leaving a ¾ in/2 cm border all around. Sprinkle half the pecans on top of the chocolate and then sprinkle over half the caster sugar.
 Brush a little bit of water along the long end farthest away from you. Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side that is closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end onto the roulade and then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam.

Trim about ¾ in/2 cm off both ends of the roulade with a serrated knife. Now use the knife to gently cut the roll into half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam. You are essentially dividing the log into two long even halves, with the layers of dough and filling visible along the length of both halves. With the cut sides facing up, gently press together one end of each half, and then lift the right half over the left half. Repeat this process, but this time lift the left half over the right, to create a simple, two-pronged plait. Gently squeeze together the other ends so that you are left with the two halves, intertwined, showing the filling on top. Carefully lift the cake into a loaf pan. Cover the pan with a wet tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1
½ hours. The cake will rise by 10 to 20 percent. Repeat the whole process to make the second cake.

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C, making sure you allow plenty of time for it to heat fully before the cakes have finished rising. Remove the tea towels, place the cakes on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

While the cakes are in the oven, make the syrup. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from the heat and leave to cool down. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush all of the syrup over them. It is important to use up all the syrup. Leave the cakes until they are just warm, then remove them from the pans and let cool completely before serving.

For the second batch of dough as I wasn't sure how active my yeast was, I doubled the quantity of yeast and activated it first with a tsp each of sugar and flour mixed with a tablespoon or two of water to make a paste and left it covered for 15 minutes until it was quite spongy.

I simplified the dough process by using the regular beater on my stand mixer to cream the butter and sugar together before adding the yeast mixture and the eggs. I added about half the flour to make a soft batter before switching over to the dough hook. I added in the remaining flour and sufficient milk/water to make a soft dough then mixed the dough for about 10 minutes. It was so much easier making the dough this way. I left the dough to prove for an hour before covering the dough and placing in the fridge overnight. The dough didn't double but it was probably 50% larger in volume this way.

I used a tsp vanilla extract instead of grated lemon rind in the dough and added ½ tsp ground cinnamon to the toasted pecan mix.

I pinched the 2 ends of the braid to form a circle, which I placed on a parchment lined baking tray. I baked the babka for closer to 40 minutes than 30 minutes.

I reduced the sugar in the syrup to ⅔ cup. Once the sugar had dissolved I simmered the syrup for 5 minutes with a cinnamon stick. I left the cinnamon stick in the syrup while it cooled and used all the syrup on the cake.

Please try this recipe as despite the number of steps, the outcome is so worth it. The cake is no delicate flower though - it's dense, moist, sweet, chocolately and crunchy all at the same time. 

Many thanks to Juliana for being my partner in Plate 2 Plate.

I'm flying to Singapore next Thursday to attend a conference, so if I have time I'll be back next week with some baking. If not, then I'll be posting from the road.

See you all again soon,




    1. I'm confused by the book's instructions for the cinnamon variation. You put 80g of butter on each babka. But then is the "120 g light muscovado sugar, 1½ tbs ground cinnamon, and 50 g coarsely chopped walnuts" for one or two babkas?

      1. Hi Jonathan I don't have the Jerusalem book myself but I think the quantities mentioned would be for a single babka. The dough when rolled out is pretty large ~ 15 x 11 inches so you need a lot to cover it. Juliana mentioned she had trouble rolling the dough as the filling kept falling out. I made my own version which makes a single babka and you can find the recipe here -

        I hope that helps,



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