1 Apt. 2B Baking Co.: Chocolate Almond Babka and a Trip to the Beach

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chocolate Almond Babka and a Trip to the Beach

When Autumn wrote so eloquently about how hard it is to make friends as an adult I nodded my head in agreement and when she quietly questioned the value of blogging and what it has brought to her life I shook it even harder. It's easy to sit back and read other people's words and comment and admire them from afar, but at what point can you consider them friends?


I am someone who likes to have a lot of time to myself. The reason I stayed at my last job long after I should have was that it offered me hours and hours of alone time every afternoon, but now that I've been away from that job for a few months, I find myself with more time than I know what to do with. It's not that I don't enjoy it, but as I've gotten a bit older I've assigned more value to making meaningful connections with other folks. 


You may have seen Ariele's beautiful wood work or Amélie's clever letterpress baseball cards around the internet. I'll try not to sound like a gushing fan girl here, but when I saw their work for the first time I was so surprised and delighted. Yes, I know that sounds terribly cheesy, but I can't think of any other words to describe how happy I was to see two talented gals busting ass to make their living as artists.


After a few months of internet friendship and lots of commenting back and forth, it was decided that a meeting of the minds was in order, a blind friendship date if you will. We chose a time and I promised to bring the snacks. When I saw a swirled chocolate babka by way of Eating for England I knew I had found the perfect tea time treat. I consulted my bread guy (Peter Reinhart) for his recipe and ended up with this delicately sweet and super chocolatey bread. I packed it up in a tea towel to contain all of the delicious streusel crumbs and made my way to Ariele's incredible studio/apartment. We chatted and drank tea and when I got to see their work in the flesh, it did not disappoint.


We spent the afternoon talking about about all sorts of things and when someone mentioned Dead Horse Bay my ears (probably my whole face too) perked right up. I had heard of the place, but had never been. We decided that the next day's spring-like weather demanded a trip!


This isn't a beach for sunbathing and frisbee tossing. It's the kind of beach that requires sturdy shoes and gloves. You see, Dead Horse Bay is the former site of a horse rendering plant, turned 19th century landfill, turned playground for "junk" loving treasure hunters. The beach is littered with piles and piles of beautiful glass bottles, bits of tiles and Amélie even found an old rusted gun and a toy cowboy boot in close proximity to one another. I came home with some glass bottles to add to my collection and some porcelain light sockets that I repurposed into candle sticks.


As we walked along the beach picking up and kicking up treasures, yelling to each other when we found something exceptionally cool, I felt like I was anywhere but New York. The smell of the sea air was comforting, the sun was shining bright and warm and I was spending time with two awesome ladies I knew from the internet and had only met in person the day before.

I knew immediately that I wanted to go back. I've already planned another trip.

Chocolate Almond Babka
adapted from Peter Reinhart

For the Dough

2T instant yeast
6oz lukewarm milk
3oz room temperature butter
3oz sugar
1oz vegetable oil
1t vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
15oz all purpose flour
.25oz salt
1 egg + 1T water for egg wash

For the Filling

9oz finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
4oz sliced almonds
1t cinnamon
2oz cold butter

For the Topping (optional, but advised)
The original recipe called for 2x this amount of topping, but I could only get about half of it to stick to the bread so if you really want to go for it with the crumbs feel free to double these amounts

1oz butter
.75 oz all purpose flour
.5 oz almond meal
2oz brown sugar
pinch cinnamon
pinch salt

For the Bread

1. Whisk the yeast and milk together. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. I made this entire recipe by hand with a wooden spoon, but you could use a hand or stand mixer instead.
3. Add in the oil and vanilla, then add the egg yolks in one at a time, mixing until each yolk is thoroughly incorporated. Mix for 2 min or until the eggs are light and fluffy.
4. Stop mixing, then add the flour and salt, followed by the milk and yeast mixture. Mix slowly until the dough comes together, if you are mixing by hand, your hands are the best tool for this job.
5. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 2 min. The dough should be soft, supple and golden in color. Place the dough in a well oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 1/2hrs or until the dough almost doubles in size. At this point you can finish the bread or let the dough rest in the refrigerator over night. I let mine rest.

For the Filling

Combine the chopped chocolate, almonds and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix with your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles streusel.

To Assemble the Loaf

1. Grease a 9''x5'' or 10''x5'' loaf pan and line with parchment paper so it hangs over the two long sides. Once the dough has risen, roll it into a 15''x15'' square on a lightly floured surface. The dough should be about 1/4'' thick. Sprinkle the chocolate and almond filling over the dough, leaving a 1/2'' border around the edges.
2. Roll the dough like a jelly roll and place it seam side down on your work surface. Gently roll the dough back and forth until it is about 20'' long.
3. Fold the dough in half to form a "U" shape. Twist the arms of the dough two or three times around each other to form the loaf, then pinch the seams together. This post has a photo of a formed loaf. Place the dough into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room until the babka fills the pan, 1-2 hours.

While the loaf is rising

Preheat oven to 350º

Prepare the Streusel and Finish the Loaf

1. Combine all of the streusel ingredients with your hands until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
2. When the loaf has risen completely, brush with egg wash made from 1 egg +1T water and sprinkle the streusel mixture over the top. Use a toothpick to poke a few holes in the top of the loaf which will release any air pockets trapped between the folds of the dough and filling.
3. Place the loaf pan onto a baking sheet and slide into the oven. Bake for 20-25min, then rotate and bake for 20-30 more minutes. The loaf will be deep golden brown on top and sound hollow when the bottom is tapped when finished. You can also use a thermometer to check the internal temperature which will be 185º when the loaf is finished.

Cool the loaf to room temperature before slicing.

p.s. I recently listened to a TED talk by Susan Cain about the power of introverts, about how our society is built for extroverts to succeed and receive praise. While I don't agree with everything she has to say, I think it is worth a listen.


  1. I concur. Meeting blogger friends in real life is the best. And so is this bread! Yum.

  2. I'm so glad that I found your blog recently. This recipe looks great, I'm now itching to visit a place I've never been, and the ladies you linked to do amazin' work too! Looking forward to seeing what you post next.

    1. Thanks so much! Even short adventures can be exhilarating, I highly recommend it.

  3. Yossy! I'm so happy we finally got together, thank you so much for suggesting it!

    It was super fun and natural, and so nice to meet a kindred spirit. I'm in absolute awe of your baking and photography, you have such talent for capturing the little details that matter and turning them into works of art, whether it's cakes or photographs.

    The babka was incredible and now that I know how you made it I'm even more impressed. You are one hell of a baker.

    The internet can sometimes be a weird and intimidating place, but at the same time it does make it easier to find and connect with awesome people who have similar interests, inspire each other and share a mutual admiration. I find it really uplifting, especially when online friendship turns into real life hanging out! Let's do it again soon!

    1. I will just copy/paste everything she said! These photographs turned out incredible and I'm SO happy we got to hang out, the three of us. This is seriously one of the most beautiful, moving posts I've read in a long, long time {maybe ever?}. Beautifully written. You're good, girl. You are really, really good. Bravo for new friends!

    2. Ah, you guys, thank you so much. We will meet again soon!

  4. I'm so glad that babka inspired you - it looks gorgeous! And hurrah for turning internet friends into real life friends - I've done that with one or two people here in Minneapolis (through a larger connection to a MN food bloggers group) and I've found it so invigorating. Making friends as an adult IS hard!

  5. This post is so nice that I almost cried, seriously.

  6. aw, this was a beautiful post. such an interesting question you pose above - at what point does the internet friendship path cross over into real life and how does that go about happening? i still feel so strange whenever i come across someone in real life whose work i've greatly admired for a long time and introduce myself...i know so much about them but they probably know little if at all of me. it makes me hugely self conscious. plus, there's just something strange about saying the actual words 'i've been following your blog for years' - meant in the best, most complimentary way possible, but creepy much?

    1. also, i really need to look up dead horse bay. i'd only ever heard about it as well but i've been dying to go. this place looks like a perfect way to spend a weekend morning/afternoon.

    2. Yes to this! I felt totally awkward suggesting that we meet in person, but I am SO, SO glad that I did and Dead Horse Bay is amazing! Look up the tide schedule before you go so you can make sure to have lots of time to treasure hunt.

    3. we actually went this past sunday! it was so much better than i had anticipated, i'd definitely love to go back again. out of all the things i did look up, one thing i didn't was the tide schedule, but we went super early sunday morning and lucked out with the tide - it was super low. also an amazing time to go, there wasn't anyone else on the beach for most of the time we were there, and by the time we got back to the parking lot a good dozen or so were heading out to the beach.

    4. Oh yay! It's so fun, isn't it? I can't wait to go back!

  7. Oh woah. I love dead horse bay and ariele's work. can we all be friends too? ;)

  8. Hey Yossy. I have only recently found your blog but it has quickly become my favourite and a complete inspiration. I have made your granola, brownies and Irish cream candies and they have all been beautiful, and there are many more I want to try. Thank you for your always beautiful recipes and photography!

    1. Thank you so much. It is always nice to hear that people are making the recipes, and even nicer to hear that they like them!

  9. Beautiful post! I love babka, treasure hunting on a good beach and I love the idea of friendships that can stem from the blogging world. Just getting ready to launch my own blog and this is one of my greatest hopes - that I will meet new friends with shared connections and who also expand my world in new directions. I watched the Susan Cain Ted Talk and felt inspired and validated - being more of an introvert myself. Perfect example of how one person's post can open up a whole new world. Thanks!

    1. Thank you Mary. I hope you enjoy writing your new blog as much as I enjoy writing here.

  10. This is my favorite post of yours so far! Such beautiful photographs and words! For me the internet world is the same as the real world, and I am amazed by some of the wonderful connections/friendships made. I think the saying, "You get what you give," really holds true, no matter where you are.

    1. Thanks Jess, I am really proud of these photos. Especially because I took them with a camera with a non-functioning light meter...

  11. Hi from Tokyo,
    I love all the photos and babka and your story...really feel your pleasure in a same sense. Recently I've met a friend like you, from Twitter in my case. She is art history proffesor and fabulous person, she found yarn beauty and knitting through me and we now knit togather, me tutoring her step by step. It is really precious to have a matured friend after we grown up, I agree. And internet now can help us to find this kind of serendipity.
    I will make your version's babka soon. Looks so nice. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Yay, I love the idea of an internet inspired knitting circle. Thank you so much.

  12. it makes me happy to think of you three girls supporting each other in your artisanal vocation and also beachcombing. great post.

    here's a link to a wonderful blog called spitalfields life, about the east end of london. there are people there called mudlarks who trawl the thames river at low tide and find a whole universe and time line of things. he has several posts about the mudlarks discovering the history of their city. amazing stuff.


  13. Word up, sister! I remember reading some frightening stats on how difficult is is to make friends over the age of 30. Kudos to you for making that date. I speak from experience when I say that, especially as creative people (I'm a furniture designer), putting ourselves out there socially and making that first friend date can make us feel as vulnerable as it gets. But you couldn't have picked a more interesting gal to reach out to. Ariele's work is awesome. I, too, am a fan. You guys make me miss NYC.


    1. Thanks Sarah, I just popped over to your blog and WOW! Your furniture is beautiful. It's chicks like you and Ariele that make me want to strap on a tool belt and build things!!

  14. Raising my luke-warm afternoon coffee to you and the friendships made through blogs, dear one! Trotted over here via Brooklyn to West (I concur that Ariele is a DREAM BOAT) and so glad I did. Next time you're up for a Dead Horse Bay adventure, count this Brooklynite IN.


    1. Hi Lily! Thanks so much, you and your paintings are the bee's knees. I can't wait for our next Dead Horse Bay adventure!

  15. Wow, that cake looks delicious, and making friends on the internet is the only reason I've kept on blogging. I've met the best people in the world that I would otherwise not know. But what really caught my eye in this post, is that you went to Dead Horse Bay. I used to spend days there a long time ago, and forgot all about it. And when I used to walk it's shimmery sands that were made for magpies like us, I was scared it would soon disappear. I'm so glad it's not! Thanks for reminding me of a special place.

  16. Your baking and photography skills are amazing!
    I admire your courage to reach out across the blogosphere and start an actual connection and friendship, so inspirational!
    I have been a long-time admirer of Ariele's work and have discovered Amelie's creations through her. You three would make a great group of talented, artistic ladies!

  17. Hi Yossy-I discovered your blog today via Houzz. Your photography, writing, and that Rhubarb Pie sucked me right in, and so I continued reading. This post was the clincher. I'm subscribing. Yay you, girl. Great work.

    1. Hey Cristy - Thank you so much for your sweet and thoughtful comment. I hope you stick around!


Thank you for stopping by!