Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gooey Crispy Chocolate Braid

People often ask me why I bake more than I cook. (Though volume-wise, that might not be true, I do have more of an excitement for the pastry arts). There are many reasons, but part of it is the element of aesthetics: Though savory food can be beautiful, there's something about desserts and pastries and all things baking that has even more visual appeal. The oohs and aahs over something that looks like it took hours are always fun sounds to hear. So this recipe - that looks super fancy but is really effortless and simple - is the perfect one to keep in your back pocket. And with Valentine's Day coming up, another chocolate recipe is never a bad idea. 

I take the cheater's way out with store-bought puff pastry, which makes things really quick and easy. Just make sure to defrost your puff pastry well in advance - stick it in the fridge the night before you want to use it, or leave it for several hours on the counter. Don't be like me, and end up aiming a hair dryer at the still-frozen log as time slips away!

For the filling, I went with my classic chocolate babka filling, which I know can stand up to the cooking process and is very tasty. If you wanted to make things even quicker and easier, you could use a jar of Nutella in place of the filling, and nobody would turn down a slice. 

Because the filling gets hot and bubbly in the oven, it has a tendency to seep out the sides, which is why I instructed you to fold up part of the edge along with the strips to try to hold things in place. Regardless, a little oozing is expected and built in to the recipe, so no worries.

The shape of things looks complicated, but it really isn't too hard to come together. For step by step instructions, this video is great to see how things are done. Trust me, you can do it! Your loved ones will be wowed, and I won't tell them how easy it really is. Plus, the recipe makes two braids, so you can give one as a gift and keep one for yourself! 

Recipe: Makes two braids
1/2 cup (1 stick/100g) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup (100g) sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 package puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg
demerara sugar

Mix together the butter, sugar and cocoa powder until smooth - don't worry if it appears granulated. Set aside.
Working with one sheet of puff pastry at a time, lay it out on a piece of parchment paper, and use a rolling pin to roll it out slightly.
Spread half of the filling down the center third (while it is vertical) of the dough. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, slice the dough on either side of the filling into angled strips, about 1/2" each. Starting at the top, fold strips of dough - alternating from each side - over the center filling, overlapping each other. If the dough gets too bulky, you may want to trim spare trips from the side. As you fold, also slightly fold up a small strip of the uncut dough, to keep the filling inside while it cooks. When you reach the bottom, trip away excess dough and fold a flap up to hold the rest of the filling inside.
Beat the egg and use a pastry brush to coat the dough with the beaten egg. Generously sprinkle demerara or any other coarse sugar over the braid.
Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and remaining filling.
Bake on 400 F for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown.


  1. Thanks for this recipe! Would it work if I substituted cinnamon for the cocoa powder?

    1. Hi - I don't think the amounts would work out to simply swap the cocoa for cinnamon, but if you look for a cinnamon babka or cinnamon rugelach recipe those fillings should work here. Best of luck!

  2. Thank you for sharing nice awesome pictures and the recipe as well - Your baking skills are on another level, i guess because you bake more and cook less.