Written by Rae
Yesterday I set out to make a krantz cake. It’s basically a brioche with dark chocolate swirls which are made by twisting the dough. I first heard about it while watching the French TV show “Le Meilleur Patissier,” on M6. It’s like the French version of The Great British Bake Off. Each episode, the contestants are given a creative challenge and a technical challenge. The krantz cake was part of their technical challege – though I’m not exactly sure what they were testing . . . pate a brioche, perhaps? Anyway, I learned that krantz cake is a traditional Jewish cake. Surprisingly I had never heard of it, depsite going to a Jewish preschool and being involved with the Jewish Community Center for a large part of my childhood. We never once had a babka. Sometimes (more like every day) we had challah with jam, or on holidays we had apples, honey and raisins or hamentashen, but never a babka.
Damn I feel cheated after making this. It’s the best thing ever! In fact, I think it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever made – no exaggeration. It’s light and fluffy, and only slightly sweet. The chocolate swirls have a deep chocolate flavor, but again, it doesn’t overpower you with sugar. I think for me this rivals the chocolate croissant . . . so if you are a chocolate croissant lover like me, you will definitely love you some krantz cake.
I thought this would be more a challenge to make, but it’s actually pretty easy. The only thing I noticed which was a bit unusual was that the brioche batter seemed more sticky than the ones I had made before from any French recipes. The recipe I followed was the one posted on Mercotte’s blog – think French Martha Stewart or British Marry Berry – a sweet old lady loved by all, who also happens to be a pastry queen. She is the co-host of “Le Meilleur Patissier” along with Cyril Lignac. The reipe is in French, but I’ll translate it below. The only things I altered was that I added orange extract to the brioche dough instead of orange zest (didn’t have any) and I used instant dehydrated yeast instead of fresh yeast. I also added about 15 grams less sugar to the chocolate mix and did not soak the whole cake with syrup. I did let the cake cool a little, and when it was cool enough to handle unmolded it, took some pictures and promptly shared it. I think it’s best eaten warm from the oven . . . although I am munching on some now the next day.
Here’s the recipe I translated from Mercotte’s blog. You can also find step by step pictures on her blog, too.
For a loaf pan 28 – 30 cm long
The brioche (dough): 280 grams flour, 50 grams sugar, 13 grams fresh yeast (I used 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast), 5 grams orange zest (I added 1 teaspoon orange extract), 63 grams water, 5 grams of salt, 80 grams of softened butter.
Mix the flour, sugar, yeast, and zest in a bowl. Add the eggs one by one and then the water little by little, mixing until you have something homogeneous. If the dough isn’t homogeneous, add a little bit of water. Add the salt and the butter little by little at a low speed until it’s completely incorporated. Work the dough for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth and shiny (in my experience it never became completely smooth like other brioche doughs because it looked a little wet). Remember to scrap the sides of the bowl so everything is incorporated. Once it’s shiney and smooth, put the dough in a lightly floured bowl and let it rise in an oven heated to 30 degrees celcius for 20 or so minutes (I put the bowl in the oven with a cup of boiling water and let it rise this way – mine took around 40 minutes because it’s cold here now), until it’s doubled in volume. Once it’s double in volume, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in your fridge until it’s cooled off (I let mine there for an afternoon but you can leave it for 1 night if you wish).
For the chocolate swirl: 100 grams of dark chocolate (I used 64%), 55 grams of softened butter, 40 grams of sugar (I only added 25 grams), 20 grams of powdered cocoa.
Melt the chocolate in a double broiler and then add the butter. Mix until it’s shiny and smooth. Then, incorporate the sugar and cocoa powder. The mixture will be a thick consistency like a spread for toast (think nutella).
For the syrup: 75 grams sugar, 120 grams water.
Bring the sugar and water to a boil and then let cool down.
To assemble the cake: grease your cake mold. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a 40 cm x 30 cm rectangle. I rolled mine out on a lightly floured silpat because it was too sticky. After, spread the chocolate mixture on the dough, leaving a 3 cm border at each edge (I left less and I think honestly 1 cm would be okay). Then, put a little water along the edge of one of the 40 cm sides, and start rolling the dough from the other side until it makes a long roll, like cinnamon rolls. After you have your roll, Mercotte says to put it in the fridge for a little to make it easier to cut, but my dough was still cold, so I took a sharp knife and buttered it up, and then cut down the center of the roll, so I had two halfs. Put the chocolate stripes facing up, and then pinch on end together. Braid the two halfs and pinch together at the end. Put it in the mold and let rise again in the oven (as before). After it’s risen, cook it in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 180 degrees celcius, or until a knife comes out with no brioche batter.
Take the finished cake out of the over, and brush syrup on the top of the cake when it’s still hot. Let it cool and then unmold it.