Chocolate kranz cake may look complicated but it is surprisingly easy to make – provided you have an electric mixer
Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee
When I visited Israel last year, I was impressed by the pastries and breads being sold in shops and by market vendors. One item I saw everywhere in Jerusalem (I don’t remember seeing it in Tel Aviv) was an attractive loaf of sweet bread layered with chocolate. I didn’t have the opportunity to taste it, so as soon as I was home I searched through my cookbooks, and found what I was looking for in Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The chocolate kranz cake looks complicated, but it’s not: it’s basically a dough that’s similar to brioche, with plenty of eggs and flour, so it’s easy to work with. I’ve adapted the recipe and expanded on a few points where the details in the book were sparse. You’ll want an electric mixer – preferably a heavy-duty one, because it takes a long time to knead the dough. If you mix it by hand, you’ll get a good workout.
Chocolate kranz cake (pictured)
530 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
100 grams granulated sugar
2 tsp instant yeast
½ tsp fine sea salt
Grated zest of half a large orange
3 large eggs, at room temperature
120ml tepid water (30 degrees Celsius)
150 grams unsalted butter, slightly softened, then cut into 1cm chunks
Oil or pan coating, for greasing the bowl
For the filling and glaze:
120 grams unsalted butter
130 grams bittersweet chocolate (I use Valrhona with a cacao content of about 85 per cent), chopped
50 grams icing sugar, sieved
30 grams cocoa powder, sieved
100 grams nuts (Jerusalem recommends roughly chopped pecans, but unsalted pistachios are even better), lightly toasted
260 grams sugar
2 tsp orange flower water
Put the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and orange zest in the bowl of an electric mixer and use the dough hook attachment to mix thoroughly. Whisk the eggs with the water then pour them into the bowl while the mixer is on low speed. Turn the mixer speed to medium and start adding the butter a chunk at a time. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the dough hook and mixing bowl so the ingredients are well mixed, then continue to beat. The dough will be glossy, soft and moist, but there’s no need to add more flour. As you mix it, the dough will become firmer and stretchier, and will eventually start to form a ball around the dough hook – this takes 10 to 15 minutes (or longer) if you’re using a heavy-duty mixer. Check if the dough is ready by using the windowpane test: pull off a small chunk and roll it into a smooth ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball and stretch it into a rectangle. It’s ready when the dough stretches into a very thin sheet without breaking; if necessary, continue to mix, checking occasionally. Very lightly grease a large bowl with oil or pan coating. Put the ball of dough into the bowl, cover it with cling-film and leave at room temperature until it has almost doubled in size. Deflate the dough by punching it with your fist, turn it over in the bowl, cover with cling-film and refrigerate for eight to 12 hours.
Make the filling. Put the butter in a medium-size bowl and microwave for 45 seconds. Add the chocolate and microwave for 30 seconds more, then stir. Continue to microwave, stirring about every 15 seconds, until the chocolate is 80 per cent melted. Stir until the chocolate is smooth and thoroughly combined with the butter. Stir in the icing sugar and cocoa powder. Leave for about 15 minutes to firm up.
Spray loaf tins with pan coating. Cut a sheet of parchment paper that’s as long as the loaf tins. Press it into the pan so it lines the bottom and two long sides, with some overhang. Cut the chilled dough in half. Working with one piece of dough at a time (keep the remainder in the fridge), roll it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll it into a rectangle that’s 28cm wide, about 5mm thick, and as long as possible, trying to keep the edges and corners even. Spread half the filling over the rectangle, leaving a 1.5cm border on one wide end. Very lightly brush some water on that end. Scatter half the nuts over the filling. Roll the dough tightly, working towards the end that has been brushed with water. After rolling the dough, position it so it’s seam-side down, and run your hands along the roll to stretch it slightly so it’s evenly thick. Use a large pizza cutter to trim off about 2cm of both ends, then cut the roll lengthwise into two long, even pieces. (The pizza cutter won’t disturb the layering as much as a knife would, but if you don’t have one just make straight up and down cuts with a large, sharp knife – don’t pull the blade through the roll.) Gently press together the two far sides of the dough pieces then very quickly twist the two pieces together, trying to keep the cut sides up so the layering shows. Check that the dough will fit the length of the loaf tin; if it doesn’t, cut it into a size that does. Put the dough twist into the pan. Repeat the process with the second piece of dough. Leave at room temperature until the dough has risen sufficiently: when you touch it with your fingertips, it will feel puffy.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (170 degrees if using a convection oven). Bake the loaves until they’re fragrant and medium brown: when you touch the surface (test in several places) it will feel firm.
While the loaves are baking, make the syrup: stir the sugar with the water and heat until boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange flower water, then cool. As soon as the loaves are baked, brush the syrup over the surface, let it absorb, then brush again. Repeat until most of the syrup has been used up, then leave the loaves until cool. Take them from the pans and slice with a serrated knife.