When asked about her inspiration for this monkey bread babka, James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Sherry Yard explained, "I'm a Brooklyn gal. I grew up with babka." But this isn't any old babka recipe. Served at the Tuck Room Tavern in Los Angeles, California, "Our dish brings babka it to a whole new level, topped with a cinnamon streusel, and we pour mocha hazelnut sauce over the top," Yard said. The dish is designed to be shared, as is everything on the brunch menu at Tuck Room. "I created the menu with shared dishes to start your brunch with, from the bite size smoked salmon popovers to the latke fries and, of course, our monkey bread."
Babka, a sweet pastry made by twisting together pieces of dough, can be a notoriously challenging for home cooks to make. And this recipe for monkey bread babka isn't for beginners. (You'll definitely need a stand mixer, for starters.) But that shouldn't deter an adventurous home baker from trying their hand at this sharable pastry for a weekend brunch. Yard has some tips for folks wanting to make this dish at home for a crowd. "Keep the filling 1 inch from the border," she noted, and emphasized the importance of scattering the filling evenly. "When rolling keep in small turns and keep it tight," Yard added.
Even if your monkey bread babka doesn't come out looking gorgeous, it'll still be delicious. Oh, and be sure to drizzle on the hazelnut chocolate sauce right at the end, ideally in front of your guests for maximum chocolatey impact.
Monkey Bread Babka with Nutella Glaze
First, make the brioche dough.
Once the dough is ready and done proofing, it's time to make the cocoa-sugar dust, streusel topping, and prep the chocolate filling. (All you have to do is put these ingredients in bowls, mix them up until combined, and set aside until you need them.)
Now make the Nutella glaze.
You're almost there! It's time to put it all together.
For the sponge
¾ ounce (1 cake) fresh yeast or 2 ½ teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
½ cup bread flour (or all-purpose)
For the brioche dough
3 cups bread flour (or all-purpose)
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ pound Land O Lakes Unsalted Butter, softened, but still cool
Make the sponge. In a mixer, whisk together yeast and milk. Add bread flour and whisk to combine. Cover with remaining bread flour and all-purpose flour, then sugar. Sponge—which means letting the yeast sit, rise, and ferment a bit—in 70°F for 20 to 30 minutes. The flour will crack on top.
Place the water and milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Dust work surface with all-purpose flour and roll half of brioche dough to 16-inch x 16-inch rectangle. Egg wash the entire surface.