For the past few years, my sister has taken it upon herself to request an unconventional birthday treat. A regular birthday cake is never good enough for her. She's requested homemade Chocolate-Glazed Yeast Doughnuts, a sky high New York Style Cheesecake, and last year, she wanted an entire week dedicated to breakfast treats. This year, however, I beat my sister to the punch. I thought "birthday babka" had a nice ring to it, and she immediately agreed. I'd been wanting to make a babka for years, but I was never brave enough to go through with it. The yeast, and the folding, and the swirls! It all seemed like too much. I had already opened my mouth though, and she was set on her birthday babka, with lots of chocolate swirls. There was no turning back now.
I went straight to Smitten Kitchen, because I knew Deb had simplified Yotam Ottolenghi's chocolate krantz cake recipe into one that was foolproof. If I've learned anything from working closely with Clarkson Potter over the past few months, it's that Ottolenghi is a brilliant, brilliant man. I figured that if Deb had worked her magic on an Ottolenghi recipe to improve it, the final result had to be spectacular. Her recipe seemed completely doable, and as I was reading it through, I wondered why I hadn't ever given myself chance to actually make a babka. It didn't seem that hard.