chocolate pomegranate babka

chocolate pomegranate babka

Whenever I mention my husband Simon on instagram, a few people are naturally curious whether he’s Assyrian like me. I mean, it’s true that he’s eaten more prakhe’t soma than most people, and while my mom and I have totally insisted on giving him an honorary Assyrian name (Shimun Keepa’t Dawa, ICYWW), he is in fact Jewish-American, with ancestral roots in Poland and Russia.

We love celebrating each other’s holidays, and Rosh Hashanah has always been one of my favorites to cook for. Sometimes it’s a big gathering with all our friends (I have particularly fond memories of one time in grad school when we pushed two giant tables together and fed twenty people in our small one-bedroom apartment), and other times it’s just the two of us.

Right now, we’re in the middle of another international move (🤭 more on that soon…), so this year it was just the two of us celebrating way too early, because we’re currently on vacation in Korea, avoiding our empty apartment and waiting to fly to our new home to find a new place. But back before I packed up my entire kitchen and stand mixer, I baked a babka with a few of my favorite ingredients. Pomegranate seeds are an essential part of the Jewish new year, so a chocolate pomegranate loaf felt like the perfect way to celebrate. It’s chocolatey, tangy, and a little sweet, and it’s braided round-challah-style, which looks super complicated, but is actually a lot easier than it seems. I’ve even put together step-by-step braiding photos to make it super straightforward to learn how.

I also want to wish a happy Rosh Hashanah to my Jewish-Assyrian friends and family in particular. Eastern Orthodoxy (an early denomination of Christianity) is an important and beautiful part of Assyrian identity. But it’s also important to remember that some of us come from families with multiple religions and ethnicities under one roof, and many of us embody multiple identities.

So here’s to twice the traditions, twice the celebrations, and all the love!

An early shanah tovah to all, and eidukhen howie breekhah ❤️

chocolate pomegranate babka
chocolate pomegranate babka
chocolate pomegranate babka
chocolate pomegranate babka

chocolate pomegranate babka

yield: 8 to 10 servings
active time: 1 hour 15 minutes
total time: about 4 1/2 hours
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dough

  • 175g whole milk (3/4 cup)

  • 6g dry active yeast (2 teaspoons)

  • 100g sugar (1/2 cup)

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature (160g total)

  • 600g all purpose flour (4 2/3 cups), divided into 500g and 100g

  • 7g salt (1 1/4 teaspoons)

  • 115g softened butter (1 stick)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°F (80°C). Once it preheats, turn it off and open the door open a crack before you start making the dough.

  2. Microwave the milk until it’s about 115°F (45°C). Add the yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer (fitted with the hook attachment), stir in the warm milk, and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

  3. Add the sugar, eggs, 500g of the flour, and salt to the stand mixer. Let the mixer run at low speed with the hook attachment, just until everything is incorporated into a very shaggy dough. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time with the mixer running at low speed, allowing each tablespoon to disappear completely before adding more.

  4. Once all the butter has been added, gradually add the last 100g of flour 1 tablespoon of the time with the mixer still running on low. Once the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, stop adding flour (I add exactly 100g, but you might need more or less if you don’t measure precisely with grams). It’s ok if the dough pools at the very bottom of the bowl.

  5. Increase speed to medium, and knead the dough for about 7 minutes, until it’s smooth and elastic.

  6. Lightly oil a mixing bowl and your hands. Scrape the dough into the bowl, and use your hands to shape it into a ball (tuck itself under its bottom to smooth out the surface). Leave it in the bowl with the seam-side facing down.

  7. Cover the bowl of dough with plastic wrap, place it in the oven (again, make sure the oven heat is off and that it has cooled down for at least 10 minutes), leave the door open a crack, and let it proof for about 1 hour. The dough is done rising once it's noticeably larger, and has approximately doubled in size. While it’s rising, make the filling.

filling

  • 40g butter (3 tablespoons)

  • 130g dark chocolate chips (at least 60 % cacao) / 3/4 cup

  • 75g pomegranate molasses (about 3 tablespoons)

  • 1 pinch salt (about ⅛ teaspoon)

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it almost completely melts (and no longer), remove from heat, add the dark chocolate, and start stirring it together.

  2. Once the chocolate has melted, add the pomegranate molasses and salt, and give it another stir. Let it cool to room temperature before using it (it should be spreadable like room temperature frosting).

rolling and splitting the logs into 4 strips

  1. On an unfloured smooth surface, divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Shape each into a smooth ball. Roll out the first ball into a 12x19-inch rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick (let the dough rest to relax if it fights you, and make sure you roll it out all the way or you won’t be able to use all the filling). To get a rectangular shape, pull the corners out between rollings.

  2. Once the first dough is rolled out, evenly spread half the filling over its surface, leaving a border of 1/2-inch on one of the longer sides and 1/8 inch on all the other sides, and brush a tiny bit of water on the side with the large border. Tightly roll it up from the chocolatey long side to the bare long side. Pinch it closed, and then pinch the ends closed too. Repeat with the other half of the dough and filling.

  3. Let the 2 logs rest for 5 minutes, and then use scissors to slice each log open lengthwise, leaving 4 strips of dough (2 from each log). Line a sheet pan with parchment.

chocolate pomegranate babka
chocolate pomegranate babka
chocolate pomegranate babka
chocolate pomegranate babka

braiding the loaf

All strips should be facing cut-side-up at all times. Think of them as always having 4 sets of parallel partners—when you twist them, each strip should join up with a new partner. If a strip is coming from under another one, it should get folded over its partner. If a strip is coming from over another one, it should be folded under its partner. If this makes no sense to you, just follow the images and directions below, and you’ll be just fine.

Place the first strip horizontally on a parchment-lined pan.

Place the first strip horizontally on a parchment-lined pan.

Place a second strip perpendicular to make a big plus sign.

Place a second strip perpendicular to make a big plus sign.

Place a third strip horizontally and below the first strip.

Place a third strip horizontally and below the first strip.

Momentarily fold back the right side of the first strip.

Momentarily fold back the right side of the first strip.

Place a fourth strip vertically next to the second one.

Place a fourth strip vertically next to the second one.

Lay the first strip back over the fourth one to make an interlocking # sign.

Lay the first strip back over the fourth one to make an interlocking # sign.

Take the top 2 strips, and cross the right one over the left one; allow the 2 strips to criss cross away from each other at an approximate right angle.

Take the top 2 strips, and cross the right one over the left one; allow the 2 strips to criss cross away from each other at an approximate right angle.

Continue with the other 3 pairs, being sure to cross in the same direction every time (always cross the top one over in a counter-clockwise direction).

Continue with the other 3 pairs, being sure to cross in the same direction every time (always cross the top one over in a counter-clockwise direction).

I’m working clockwise while crossing over in a counter-clockwise direction (doesn’t matter which direction you work, just which direction you cross)

I’m working clockwise while crossing over in a counter-clockwise direction (doesn’t matter which direction you work, just which direction you cross)

Once you’ve made all 4 criss-crosses, each strip will have met up with a new parallel partner.

Once you’ve made all 4 criss-crosses, each strip will have met up with a new parallel partner.

If you’re having trouble seeing the new pairs, turn the sheet pan 45°. The new pairs are now pointing toward 12, 3, 6, and 9:00, like when you started.

If you’re having trouble seeing the new pairs, turn the sheet pan 45°. The new pairs are now pointing toward 12, 3, 6, and 9:00, like when you started.

Cross the ones on top, but this time going left over right.

Cross the ones on top, but this time going left over right.

Continue with the other 3 pairs, being sure to cross in the same direction every time (always cross the top one over in a  clockwise  direction this time).

Continue with the other 3 pairs, being sure to cross in the same direction every time (always cross the top one over in a clockwise direction this time).

Here we go, moving from one to the next clockwise again, but this time also  crossing over  in a  clockwise  direction.

Here we go, moving from one to the next clockwise again, but this time also crossing over in a clockwise direction.

After this second pass, you should end up with a bunch of little stubs (if they’re super long, you can do 1 more round of twisting—these are not long).

After this second pass, you should end up with a bunch of little stubs (if they’re super long, you can do 1 more round of twisting—these are not long).

Tuck these stubs under the loaf to make a neat round/square loaf.

Tuck these stubs under the loaf to make a neat round/square loaf.

rising and baking the loaf

  1. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let it rise for about 45 minutes at room temperature, until it’s puffed up slightly (it will take less time if your room is warmer than 70°F. It shouldn’t double in size, just about 1.25 to 1.5x its original size).

  2. Once you’re almost ready to bake preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

  3. Bake for 35 minutes uncovered.

  4. Loosely tent with aluminum foil and continue to bake for another 30 to 45 minutes, until its internal temperature reads 200°F (93°C). If you want the top to brown more, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes. While it’s baking, make the syrup.

syrup and topping

  • 50g sugar (1/4 cup)

  • 45g water (3 tablespoons)

  • (optional) pomegranate arils for sprinkling (about 2 tablespoons)

  1. Place the sugar in a small saucepan and cover with the water. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 1 minute until the sugar dissolves (no longer, or it’ll turn into candy). Let it cool down as the babka bakes.

  2. As soon as the babka comes out of the oven, brush with the cooled syrup, and then top immediately with pomegranate arils. Let it cool to room temperature (or at least 40 minutes) before slicing and serving.

Storage: Promise me you will not put this bread in the refrigerator. It has a lot of butter and flour, so it will start to stale almost immediately in the fridge. Without the pomegranate arils, it will last at room temperature for several days. The pomegranate arils will shorten its room temperature shelf life to just 1 or 2 days. But it keeps wonderfully in the freezer for 3 months, either frozen as an entire loaf of cut into individual pieces (wrapped tightly, in either case).

chocolate pomegranate babka

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pomegranate chocolate cream pie

pomegranate chocolate cream pie

Ok well, it’s August 29, and this my official last pie of summer. I mean, don’t worry—I totally have one in the works for Thanksgiving, but fall and summer desserts have a very different vibe. The days of bright red strawberry pies and cherry galettes will yield to persimmons and apples, and we’ll all finally lose the patience to let them cool on the windowsill, because on a chilly November day, a disastrously runny yet warm slice of apple pie sounds a million times better than a perfectly set room temperature one.

But here between seasons, this pomegranate chocolate cream pie is the perfect thing for easing into the fall. It’s chilled, so you don’t have to leave your oven on for over an hour waiting for the center to get bubbly on a warm August day. But it’s also got a little preview of the fall flavors ahead. If pomegranates aren’t yet available where you are, feel free to skip the topping of fresh arils. The real flavor comes from pomegranate molasses, an ingredient that’s more traditionally used in savory dishes, but also works wonderfully with some sweets, and is conveniently available year-round.

Pomegranate molasses is one of those funny cases where store-bought is actually better than homemade, because manufacturers add a bit of extra acidity that’s hard to replicate when you reduce down pomegranate juice at home. That sweet tanginess works perfectly with chocolate, as anyone who’s ever had one of those addictive “chocolate covered pomegranate-açaí-blueberry (but actually just candy)” thingies can confirm. This is basically the chocolate cream pie version of one of those.

I tried a couple different formulas while developing this recipe, and at the end of the day, the chocolate filling is best sweetened entirely with pomegranate molasses and dark chocolate. Any added sugar and it’s too cloyingly sweet, but any less pomegranate molasses and its flavors and acidity are lost.

Hope you enjoy a slice during this last little bit of warm weather!

pomegranate chocolate cream pie
pomegranate chocolate cream pie
pomegranate chocolate cream pie
pomegranate chocolate cream pie

pomegranate chocolate cream pie

serves 8
active time: 35 minutes
total time: 4 1/2 hours
download a
PDF to print

for the crust

  • 200g all purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 3.5g salt (1/2 teaspoon)

  • 130g cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks (9 tablespoons)

  • 60g cold yogurt (1/4 cup)

  • 15g cold water (1 tablespoon)

for the filling

  • 30g cornstarch (3 tablespoons)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 165g pomegranate molasses (1/2 cup)

  • 2 large eggs (110g)  

  • 590g whole milk (2 1/2 cups)

  • 60g heavy whipping cream (1/4 cup)

  • 30g unsalted butter (2 tablespoons)

  • 200g chopped dark chocolate (at least 72% cacao) (1 1/3 cups)

for the topping

  • 20g sugar (1 1/2 tablespoons)

  • 230 cold heavy whipping cream (1 cup)

  • pinch of salt

  • Chocolate shavings (for decorating)***

  • Pomegranate arils (for decorating)****

The crust:

  1. Place the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse several times, until the butter blends into the flour, and there aren’t any lumps bigger than a tic tac. Add the yogurt, and pulse 2 or 3 times to distribute. Drizzle in the water.* Pulse a few times until it can be squeezed together into a pliable and smooth dough (don’t over-process). Shape the dough into a ball, flatten the ball into a disc, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough out to between 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick; it should be wider than the pie pan (about 13-13.5 inches). Rotate occasionally as you work, but try not to handle the dough too much.

  3. Once it’s rolled out, gently wrap it around your rolling pin to transfer it to the pie pan. Unroll it onto a 9-inch pie pan and gently press the dough into place so it’s in contact with the entire pan. Use scissors to trim some of the excess off, but leave about 3/4-inch of dough hanging past the edge of the pan. Go back and fold the edge under itself so it still overhangs by just about 1/8-inch (you shouldn’t be able to see the pan from above). Crimp, let it sit at cool room temperature for 10 minutes, then refrigerate for 90 minutes.

  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) convection once the dough is almost done chilling.

  5. Once the pie shell is ready to bake, dock it all over with a fork, and bake for about 20 minutes total, until golden brown. About 5 minutes into baking, check on it to see if it’s sliding or puffing too much on the bottom. Take it out and dock it again with a fork to make it collapse, and nudge it back into place if it’s shrinking/sliding. Put it back in the oven, and check on it again after another 5 to 10 minutes, repeating if it’s puffing up again. Or feel free to use pie weights instead if you’re not super experienced with pie dough (see note). **

The filling and toppings:

  1. Combine the cornstarch, salt, pomegranate molasses, and eggs (off the heat) in a medium saucepan. Whisk together until there are no more lumps. Stir in the whole milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream, and whisk together until completely combined. Set over medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer while stirring constantly.

  2. Once bubbles start to break the surface, cook for 1 minute (keep stirring), and then remove from heat. Immediately add the butter and chocolate, and stir until both the butter and chocolate have melted completely and incorporated into the filling.

  3. Immediately pour it into the baked pie shell, and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before continuing.

  4. While you’re waiting on the pie to chill, place the sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer (or a stainless steel bowl), and place it along with the whisk attachment (or a regular whisk) in the refrigerator to chill.

  5. When the pie is ready to come out of the refrigerator, whip the cream: add the 1 cup heavy whipping cream and a pinch of salt to the sugar, and beat at medium-high speed, until it reaches soft- to medium-peaks (don’t beat it all the way to stiff peaks unless you plan to pipe it).

  6. Top the pie with the whipped cream, not quite spreading it all the way out to the edges, and making little swooshes on the surface with a small offset spatula or knife.

  7. Top with chocolate shavings and pomegranate arils, and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve it. It keeps very well in the refrigerator for a few days, although the whipped cream may start weeping after the first 24 hours (don’t make it more than 12 hours ahead of time for special guests, but enjoy the leftovers for days).

* If you measured precisely in grams, you can add the water all at once. If you’re using volume, you should add the water in 2 installments, and you might even need to add a bit more to get it to hold together (volume is less precise).
** To prevent shrinking and puffing in the first place, you can use pie weights. If you go the pie weight route, you don’t need to do the whole thing with the folded-under crust, and you don’t need to let it rest in the refrigerator for so long. I hate pie weights, and always use this method to avoid them, but some might find this technique more trouble than it’s worth, and it’s totally a matter of preference. If you use pie weights, your pastry won’t be as flaky and puffy, and you’ll need to bake it for a few minutes without the weights to make sure the bottom browns. If you’re new to baking, you might want to try using weights, because it’s a little easier and failproof.
*** For big, bold shavings, make sure your bar of chocolate isn’t too cold. I like to microwave mine for about 10-20 seconds, not to melt it, but just to help it soften very slightly and take the room temperature chill off. A slightly warmed bar of chocolate will let you shave off bigger pieces, and those pieces will look velvety rather than chalky. Simply drag your knife across the surface at a 45 degree angle (carefully, away from yourself), or use a veggie peeler.
**** The easiest way to seed a pomegranate is under water.

pomegranate chocolate cream pie

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