• Tal Chaimi. Photo courtesy of the family
    Tal Chaimi. Photo courtesy of the family
  • Chocolate Babka. Photo: Adi Shilon.
    Chocolate Babka. Photo: Adi Shilon.
  • Chocolate Babka. Photo: Adi Shilon
    Chocolate Babka. Photo: Adi Shilon
Recipe

Tal Chaimi’s Chocolate Babka

Their favorite dish: Tal Chaimi likes to build and fix and bake. His favorite, to eat and make, is chocolate babka, Adi Shilon makes one just the way Tal likes it.

Tal always has a Leatherman in his pocket. He is an incredibly technical person, who likes to fix things and be ready for any scenario. He is just waiting for one of his three children to ask to build something with him. He loves to do projects with his kids, but also relishes any moment with them, even those when they’re just doing everyday things. In his eyes, the greatest happiness lies in doing homework or cooking dinner, together.

Tal is married to Ella and together with their children, Einav, Nir and Udi, they live in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak. Tal is the third generation of his family on the kibbutz, a descendent of one of the founders, and is a pillar of the community. With his characteristic quietness, he solves any challenge and rushes to help and assist at every opportunity. Tal likes trips, the outdoors and, in recent years, also baking. It all started with a bread baker, which he purchased as a new adventure and from there his love for dough grew. He got the recipe for this yeast cake from his mother-in-law and soon it became his favorite cake to eat and to make.

Tal Chaimi fought bravely to protect the kibbutz he loves so much on October 7th and was kidnapped by Hamas and taken to Gaza. After 68 days it was found that Tal Chaimi had been murdered on October 7th.

Ingredients for Chocolate Babka

For the dough:

  • 1 cup (260 grams) milk
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) Sugar
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) butter
  • 5 cups (700 grams) flour High gluten (I should have added another 100 grams, it depends on many factors. Don't be afraid to add more as needed)
  • 1 rounded tablespoon (12 grams) Dry yeast
  • 3 eggs M
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional, but worth it)

To brush:

  • egg beaten

For the simple syrup:

  • 1/3 cup (80 grams) water
  • heaping 1/3 cup (80 grams) Sugar

For the chocolate filling:

  • 1/4 cup (65 grams) water
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Cocoa Powder good quality
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract good quality
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
  • 4 oz (115 grams) dark chocolate
  • 2/3 cup (140 grams) butter cold, cut into cubes

Instructions

  • 1. Bring the milk just to a boil, remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and the cold butter.

  • 2. Mix the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment and add the milk mixture. Add the eggs and salt and knead for about fifteen minutes on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth, flexible and not sticky. Don't be afraid to add some flour if needed. Put it in the fridge for about an hour.  

  • 3. Roll out the dough into a thin rectangle, spread with the chocolate spread of your choice (or use the recipe for my spread) and roll into a long log. Cut the into two width-wise, and then cut each half lengthwise and twist the two strips together.

  • 4. Place the two twists in separate loaf pans or in one large pan, either way, the pans should be greased and lined with parchment paper. Cover and set aside to rise for about another hour.

  • 5. Preheat the oven to 340F (170C) degrees. Brush gently with the beaten egg and bake for about 30 minutes until beautifully browned.

  • 6. Bring the water and sugar to a boil, lower the heat and cook for another five minutes. Remove from the heat and brush the cake with the syrup as soon as it comes out of the oven.

For the chocolate spread:

  • 7. Bring the water, sugar, cocoa powder and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the rest of the ingredients and mix until everything is melted and you have a uniform, runny spread. Transfer to a jar, place plastic wrap right on top of the spread and close the lid. Place in the refrigerator until set.

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This recipe is part of Adi Shilon’s “Their Favorite Dish” project, which tells the story of 60 abductees through the recreation of their favorite recipe for a pastry or dessert. For all the details and additional recipes in the project.

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