Granola babka with brown sugar and walnut butter

Granola babka with brown sugar and walnut butter

I don’t eat a lot of bread, but when I do, it tends to be the focus of the meal. Enter this granola babka, the perfect breakfast treat. I was lucky to be gifted some Oatbox granola over the holidays. Inspired by their recipe for cinnamon rolls, I decided to use the granola in a same-same-but-different form, babka. Who can’t get on board with sweet, swirled bread dough?

Now the kicker here is that this dough isn’t swirled with just anything. Babka is typically filled with chocolate, but this one rather has layers of walnut butter, brown sugar, and granola. The granola is key because it adds a much-needed element of crispy, crunchy texture. As I mentioned, said granola comes from a Montreal-based company called Oatbox. They are basically a “granola of the month” club. Monthly subscriptions cost $20 and get you two bags of granola. Flavours change from month to month. I used their banana molasses variety in this granola babka. The two flavours for January are buckwheat, almond, and honey, and matcha, coconut, and mulberries. An Oatbox subscription is a great idea for the New Year to help ensure you always have some healthy breakfast (and baking!) options on hand.

As for this granola babka, it’s surprisingly good for you despite its apparent decadence. Walnut butter replaces the butter you’d find in traditional cinnamon rolls. Given the sweetness in the nut butter and the granola, there’s not a ton of extra brown sugar. Otherwise, it’s just a basic white bread dough. You could totally use whole wheat flour instead or throw some bran in if you’re looking for the extra fibre. Pureed dates would also make a great substitution for the brown sugar in the filling.

Whether you need to feed a crowd of people for a holiday gathering, or just want to treat yourself on a cold winter morning, this granola babka will warm you up from the inside out!

*Oatbox supplied the granola for this post but the words and recipe here are my own.

Granola babka with brown sugar and walnut butter
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
It's easiest to prep this recipe the night before you want to eat the babka. It's a great breakfast treat for the holidays!
Author:
Serves: 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • ½ package dry active yeast (just over 1 tsp. or about 4 grams)
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. fine salt
  • 2 tbsp. oil (neutral-flavoured)
  • ⅓ cup walnut butter (or other nut butter of your choice)
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup banana molasses Oatbox granola
Instructions
  1. Bloom the yeast with ¼ cup of warm water and 1 tbsp. of brown sugar.
  2. Once it has activated, add in the remaining ¼ cup of water, flour, salt, and oil.
  3. Mix in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment or by hand, kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes depending on what method you use.
  4. Let the dough rest for about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Roll it out into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick.
  6. Smear the walnut butter evenly over the rolled dough and sprinkle on layers of both brown sugar and granola.
  7. Roll the dough up tightly into a log, as if you were making cinnamon buns.
  8. Slice the roll longitudinally right down the middle, dividing it into two even halves.
  9. Twist these halves together, forming a spiralled loaf.
  10. Place the babka into a well-oiled loaf pan, cover, and rest it in the fridge overnight. Alternately, if you want to move ahead with baking it right away, leave it at room temperature and let it rise until doubled.
  11. Once the loaf has risen (whether that was in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for about an hour) bake at 350F for about 30 minutes. It should be golden and slightly crusty.
  12. Cool slightly and enjoy. Fresh bread is always best eaten warm!

Izard Chocolate

Izard Chocolate

San Francisco, Brooklyn, and Portland are all places that come to mind when I start thinking about makers of bean to bar chocolate. Little Rock, Arkansa though? I can’t say it even crossed my radar, until I found Izard Chocolate, that is.

Nathaniel Izard founded Izard Chocolate in 2014. At the time it was the first chocolate company, of any sort, ever, in Little Rock. He’s set the bar high for anyone who wants to follow. His lineup of single origin and flavoured bars are stellar, and I was fortunate enough to get to review a selection of them right before Christmas of all festive times.

I tried bars from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Belize, as well as a flavoured Icelandic Sea Salt bar.

Forget leaving the best for last, let’s start with it right off the bat. Now that’s not to say that all of the bars weren’t amazing, but the Dominican one was just so unique I fell in love with it immediately. Imagine a blueberry pie-flavoured chocolate bar and that’s what you get with this one. Vanilla bean is one of the ingredients and it does wonders to accentuate the characteristics of the dark berry flavoured Dominican cacao. You wind up with notes of baked goods and actually have to remind yourself that you’re eating dark chocolate. Two thumbs up.

The tasting notes on the Haitian bar describe it as, “tasting like you’re eating a brownie without actually eating a brownie.” It’s a pretty apt descriptor. This bar is pure cocoa and fudge. As it lingers in your mouth, it is nostalgically reminiscent of Tootsie Rolls. Very low acidity and not a much fruitiness with this one. It’s pure chocolate chocolate.

I’ve tried quite a few Maya Mountain cacao bars from Belize and this one is definitely up there. It was super smooth and melted gorgeously on the palate. Notes of raisin and dried cherries came through on the forefront, with a pleasant acidity on the back end. The Icelandic Sea Salt bar tasted quite similar (I neglected to snap a pic because I was too eager to get it into my mouth given my affinity for salted chocolate).

If any lessons were learned from my Izard Chocolate tasting, it’s that you don’t always have to go for the big guns if you’re looking for incredible chocolate. Some of the best bars are being made in places you’d never expect. Be thorough in your searching and you never know what you’ll find.

*As always the opinions here are my own and I thank Izard chocolate for graciously supplying the chocolate for tasting.

Cultura Chocolate

Cultura Chocolate

Cultura Chocolate

Need some stocking stuffers for the chocoholic in your life? Look no further than Cultura Chocolate‘s small single origin bars. At only 23g a pop, they pack a punch. They are small but mighty, some might say.

Cultura is a company out of Denver, Colorado, producing bean-to-bar chocolate with cacao sourced from Belize, Guatemala, and Haiti.

Cultura Chocolate 5

The 75% Belize bar is figgy and rich, with hints of smoky tobacco. It’s definitely best suited for that dark, mysterious friend who you never know what to buy for.

Cultura Chocolate 4

Cultura offers two Haitian bars, one at 70% and the other at 85%. Both have nostalgic notes of malt that evoke memories of childhood chocolate consumption. Such qualities make them ideal for anyone you know who’s a kid at heart (go for the 85% if they’re an especially mature kid with a well developed palette).

Cultura Chocolate 3

Last but not least, the 70% Guatemala is probably the fruitiest of the bunch, with notes of raisin and citrus. For lovers of the acidity of Madagascar cacao, this is definitely a bar to broaden their horizons. It’s for that person in your life who can be a bit sour at times, but is really a sweetie deep down.

Cultura Chocolate 2

Cultura has single origin bars for the entire spectrum of chocolate loving people in your life, but let’s face it, the best gift is getting to taste-test all of them.

*Cultura graciously provided the chocolate for this review but the opinions here are my own.

Cello Chocolate

Cello Chocolate

cello-chocolate-1

Even within the realm of handcrafted, bean-to-bar chocolate, there’s quite a lot of variation when it comes to the size of different operations. The more commercial they get, the more I start to question the legitimacy of what they are doing (yes I’m talking about you Mast Brothers). Rather I love finding the hidden gems of the bean-to-bar world. The brands you may have never heard of before, but definitely deserve the recognition.

Cello Chocolate is just that. They only make about 15 pounds of chocolate a day, but they are using beans from origins I’m pretty sure I’ve never tasted before. And if this site is any indication, I’ve tasted a lot of chocolate.

Ned and Debi Russell own Cello (they named it as such because Ned actually plays the Cello and draws similarities between the way good music and good chocolate can resonate with a person), and are producing their chocolate out of Nevada City, California. With Ned’s background in chocolate product development and Debi’s background in sales, they’ve brought their experiences together to bring bean-to-bar chocolate to the world. Having taken several trips to Belize, Trinidad, Ecuador, and the Dominican, they’ve spent time hand-picking the beans they want to use, and learning traditional, local methods of chocolate production to bring back to the US.

cello-chocolate-2

Cello makes 6 different bars that I was fortunately enough to get to taste test recently. They were all unique, but one of the especially standout ones was their Trinidad bourbon barrel aged bar. They actually brought bourbon barrels back to California with them from Kentucky in order to make these chocolate. You very much get honey and sweet corn notes from the aging process in the bourbon barrels. I can’t say I’ve ever tasted chocolate like it.

cello-chocolate-3

Another one of my favourites was the Ghana with sea salt. My love for salted chocolate is definitely not unknown, and combining this with an origin I had never tried before made for a win win. It had a richly chocolate flavour but also a fruitiness to it, which was brought out even more so by the salt.

The Costa Rica bar was also notable, largely due to its smoothness, and the nutty, coffee-like notes it offered. But honestly, if you’re looking to try any origins that are lesser known than your typical Madagascar or Dominican Republic bars, Cello has you covered.

cello-chocolate-4

If you want to try the bars for yourself, you can order them online here. The set would also make a great gift for the chocolate aficionado in your life!

*The chocolate for this article was graciously provided by Cello, however the opinions here are my own.

Starchild Chocolate

Starchild Chocolate

Starchild 2

I’m typically a purist when it comes to chocolate, but sometimes you stumble upon a product that has managed to find a balance between letting the chocolate itself shine through, while adding additional ingredients that elevate the characteristics and nuances that are already present. Enter Starchild chocolate, a company producing single origin and fine flavoured bars out of Willits, California. Their chocolate contains a minimal number of ingredients, namely cacao and cacao butter, with the kicker being that it is all sweetened by coconut sugar. As founder of Starchild chocolate, Ash Maki, puts it, “the most noticeable difference that I taste anyways is that when you bite into a piece of chocolate made with regular sugar you taste the sweetness first for ten or so seconds then the chocolate flavors develop. When biting into a piece of ours you taste the chocolate first thing and the sweetness is very even through the entire flavor development process.” While you don’t necessary notice the flavour of the coconut sugar itself, it’s an excellent complement to the chocolate, which it lets shine through more so than normal sugar does.

Starchild 3

I was fortunate to get to try 4 of Starchild‘s bars: Ecuador Wild and Raw, Tanzania Kokoa Kamili, Rio Tuma Nicaragua, and Salted Caramel Almond. All are 70% bars but tasting them side by side, the spectrum of flavour profiles is quite astounding. The Ecuador Wild and Raw is made from unroasted cacao beans, so it really is just the fermentation process that contributes to the flavour profile. In contrast, the Rio Tuma Nicaragua bar is richly chocolatey, with alkaline flavours of cocoa powder coming through, very reminiscent of a homestyle chocolate cake, or batch of brownies, without that excessive sweetness. Then there’s the Tanzanian bar, which recently took home bronze in the Americas category and silver in the USA category at the International Chocolate Awards. For me, the standout aspect of this bar is its texture. It’s lusciously smooth and creamy, so much so that it could easily trick you into thinking it’s milk chocolate. The flavour is soft, subtle, slightly fruity, and not surprisingly, very easy to eat. Last but not least, the Salted Caramel Almond is made from Ecuadorian cacao, sprinkled with chopped salted caramel almonds. Salt and chocolate with the additional of crunchy almonds? This one is especially munchable!

Want to try some for yourself? Check out Starchild’s online store and order yourself some coconut-sugar sweetened chocolate today!

*The chocolate for this review was kindly supplied by Starchild, however the opinions here are my own.

Starchild 7

Starchild 1 Starchild 4 Starchild 5 Starchild 6 Starchild 7