Cooking With Confidence
Chocolate Babka
Breads, Breakfast/Brunch, Desserts, Stuffing Stuff

Chocolate Babka

by Nick

I’ve decided that a good babka is like a good movie… it’s got to have a lot of different parts to it. You want a movie (babka) that’s kind of sweet, but not too sweet. It should be filling, but leave you wanting another piece. It should get you excited for the sequel (more babka).

Ok. I’ll stop. But seriously, the thing about babka, especially a chocolate variety, is that it hits all the major pastry chords. It’s got kind of a crunch on the outside, but is light and fluffy on the inside. It’s an enriched dough, but laced with melted chocolate and cinnamon. In short, babka is freakin’ delicious.

I don’t know why, but babka actually isn’t very common in the states. At least I haven’t seen it around very much. In fact, my spell-check doesn’t even recognize it as a word! Damn you spell check! Recognize my new favorite pastry!

Sorry… I got carried away. We have some work to do to make this lovely loaf so let’s get to it.

Yield
2 8.5 by 4.5 loafs
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Chocolate Babka

Ingredients

  • For Dough:
  • 3/4 Cup warm milk (105-115 degrees F.)
  • 1/2 Cup plus 2 Teaspoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 10 Tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp
  • For Filling:
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao), finely chopped
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon cinnamon (my addition)
  • Egg Wash:
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon cream
  • Simple Brown Sugar Crumb Topping:
  • 1/2 Cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, room temp

Helpful Equipment

  • Loaf Pans
  • Stand Mixer (This recipe would be a bit hard without one, but I think you could do it. There was babka before there was stand mixers.)

Directions

1) Add warm milk, 2 Teaspoons of sugar, and yeast in a stand mixer bowl.
2) Wait 5 minutes until it’s foamy then add 1/2 Cup flour and mix until it’s combined (use the paddle attachment or a wooden spoon).
3) Add your eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, and remaining sugar. Mix in the remaining flour about 1/2 Cup at a time.
4) Once all the flour is combined, beat in your butter.
5) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover it with a towel.
6) Let it rise for about 2 hours (until it doubles in size) in a warm place.
7) Split your large ball of dough into two equal sizes.
8) On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough until it is about 10 inches by 18 inches.
9) Take about 3 Tablespoons of butter and lightly spread it over the surface of the dough leaving about 1/2 inch border around the edges.
10) Pour your filling ingredients over the buttered portion of the dough.
11) Add chocolate in even layers.
12) Mix your egg wash ingredients together with a fork.
13) Lightly brush the bottom side of the dough with the egg wash then roll the dough up toward you and seal off the edge.
14) Place remaining egg wash mixture in the fridge for future use.
15) Get your pan ready by cutting out a rectangle of parchment paper and placing it in the bottom of your loaf pan. Spray the pan lightly with non-stick spray.
16) Take your rope of dough and form a circle by pulling the two ends together. Then hold one side of the circle down and twist the other side a few times to form a rope effect. Lay this into your prepared pan.
17) Cover this with a moist towel and let it rise in a warm spot for two more hours.
18) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare your crumb topping. Brush the top of your loaf with some of your egg wash from earlier and then sprinkle on your topping right before sticking it in the oven.
19) Bake for about 40 minutes until the top is nice and browned.
20)Transfer the loaf to a rack to cool. 10 or 15 minutes later carefully remove it from the pan and then let it cool to room temperature.
21) Slice it up!

Making the Dough

I’ll be the first to admit this recipe isn’t for the faint of heart. It has a fair amount of butter in it and other seemingly unhealthy things and takes… oh… about 5-6 hours to make start to finish. Although most of that time is just watching dough rise.

Anyway, to start, you’ll need this stuff.

Ingredients

Basics for Babka

Start out by adding your warm milk, 2 Teaspoons of sugar, and yeast in a bowl (use the bowl of your mixer if you have a stand mixer). Wait 5 minutes until it’s foamy then add 1/2 Cup flour and mix until it’s combined (use the paddle attachment or a wooden spoon). Then add your eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, and remaining sugar. Then mix in the remaining flour about 1/2 Cup at a time.

Once all the flour is combined, beat in your butter. This would be pretty hard to do with out a stand mixer, but I would say that you would just have to knead in the butter with your hands or a wooden spoon. It would take awhile by hand (and about 4 minutes with a mixer), but eventually you’ll have a very soft and sticky dough. If you have a stand mixer it’ll be looking something like this!

Making the dough

I love my mixer so much.

Next place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover it with a towel. Let it rise for about 2 hours in a warm place. It should more than double in size. This was my bowl after two hours.

After rise

After 2 hours…

Because of the eggs, milk, sugar, and butter, this dough is really interesting. It reminded me of a challah bread or of this celebration bread I made… except richer. Heck. It reminded me of a beignet dough… except richer.

Anyway, once it has at least doubled in size, you’re ready for the fun part.

Rolling with your dough

If you’ve made cinnamon rolls before, this will seem very familiar. Split your large ball of dough into two equal sizes (remember this recipe is for two loafs of babka). Then on a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough until it is about 10 inches by 18 inches. Ideally, it would be a perfect rectangle, but don’t freak out about it.

Then take about 3 Tablespoons of butter and lightly spread it over the surface of the dough leaving about 1/2 inch border around the edges. Then pile on your filling ingredients over the buttered portion of the dough!

Should look something like this:

Filling added

Kind of like a cinnamon roll!

Now, let’s talk chocolate for a second. There are some recipes that have literally pounds of chocolate in their babka. This is fine if you are a chocoholic. I’m actually not. I like a more subtle chocolate flavor. If you desire more chocolate, feel free to PACK IT IN. Just make sure it’s in an even layer.

Next, mix your egg wash ingredients together with a fork and then lightly brush the bottom side of the dough with the egg wash. This will be the side closest to you. Then, working slowly, roll the dough up toward you and seal off the edge. The egg wash will make the dough stick together nicely on that end, sealing up the roll.

Don’t throw away your egg wash mixture! Stick it in the fridge… you’ll need it later.

Try to get it as even as possible.

Rolled up.

Still… like a cinnamon roll.

Another rising

Get your pan ready by cutting out a rectangle of parchment paper and placing it in the bottom of your loaf pan. This will make it a lot easier to get the babka out after it’s done baking. Spray the pan lightly with non-stick spray.

To make the traditional babka knot effect, take your rope of dough and form a circle by pulling the two ends together. Then hold one side of the circle down and twist the other side a few times to form kind of a rope effect. Be gentle with it so it doesn’t rip! Then lay this into your prepared pan.

Fancy design

The twisting is somewhat optional

Cover this with a moist towel and let it rise in a warm spot for two more hours. This second rise creates lots of air in the dough. It gives the final product a laminated feel – almost like a croissant. After two hours it will be puffed and beautiful. It should just reach the edge of the top of your loaf pan.

Rise again

Hello pretty thing!

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare your crumb topping. Brush the top of your loaf with some of your egg wash from earlier and then sprinkle on your topping right before sticking it in the oven.

crumb added

Eggwash + Crumb.

Bake this for about 40 minutes until the top is nice and browned. Then transfer the loaf to a rack to cool. Keep the loaf in the pan! After 10 or 15 minutes you can carefully remove it from the pan and then let it cool to room temperature.

Then slice it up!

babka sliced

Surprisingly light.

If you don’t want to make two loafs at the same time, you can freeze the dough and then just let the dough thaw in the fridge and then let it rise again at room temperature. Then roll it out and continue with the recipe.

I kept my baked loaf in the fridge for a week and it was very tasty reheated slightly in the microwave (just 10 seconds) or in the toaster.

So in my opinion, this is one of the most interesting pastries out there. I just wish I knew a good Jewish bakery around DC that I could fine some! Until then I guess I’ll just have to make them myself!

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21 comments on “Chocolate Babka

  1. Bread & Co. in Nashville Tn has a terrific cinammon one. Sells for nearly $13 so you can't get it often. Makes great french toast.

  2. I have been wanting to attempt babka for a while, but wow, that looks labor-intensive. Props to you for going the distance. If you're ever in NYC, the 2nd Ave Deli in Manhattan serves a killer chocolate babka…probably at least triple the chocolate of this version.

  3. After getting my KitchenAid stand mixer this Christmas, chocolate babka was one of the first things I made. It is so much more than a loaf of bread. Definitely worth the effort, in my opinion!

  4. the crumb shot looks awesome but… I don't see the whole finished loaf in all its twisted glory. oh well, nice post!

  5. Nick, your babka looks really lovely – when I was growing up in NYC many, many years ago, I was fortunate enough to have a mother who was a first-class, grade AAA baker who made yeast cake, but only once a year because it was so labor intensive. And her filling for these multiple cakes was nuts, cinnamon, sugar and dots of butter. I've made a few babkas in my time with the same filling and it is a wonderful treat. It's been a while, but I guess it's again babka baking time, especially with my husband peering over my shoulder and salivating.

  6. I was gonna make a Seinfeld joke but it looks like Dan beat me to it days ago.

    This looks great, I haven't had babka in so long, must make some soon. Especially since I am quite sure there aren't any good Jewish bakeries in this area. I am going to look into that though.

  7. Nick, to freeze the dough. DO you think that you would need to freeze just the plain dough from the beginning, or do you think it would work to freeze it in the loaf pan, and just let it thaw and rise longer before baking it. Want to bring this to a family reunion…and make/freeze it at home so I only need to bake it when I get there. What are your thoughts??

    Thanks!

    1. Oh I think you could definitely freeze it in the loaf pan. I would guess that it would need to rise for probably 4 hours or so to dethaw, but I don't see why it wouldn't work fine to do it that way.

      Let me know how it goes if you try it!

  8. Great Harvest Bread Company has chocolate babka!

    Address: 12266 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852
    Phone:(301) 770-8544
    Hours:

    Thursday 7:00 am – 7:00 pm

  9. Loved your recipe for babka, only I have not lol Mixers will be that if I do the hand will stay soft and fluffy that way ..

    1. Hey Silva, it would be tough to do by hand, but not impossible. You have to knead in the softened butter slowly. You will probably need to knead it for 10-12 minutes and you’ll have to just knead it in the bowl because the dough is too soft and sticky to knead on a surface. Should work though. There was babka before there was mixers! Good luck.

  10. Hello Macheesmo, I am dying to bake this chocolate babka. Can you tell me the size your loaf pan, please? :-) Thank you! Happy baking.

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