Chocolate Babka

By Shiran

Made of a rich brioche dough and a chocolate filling, this babka always feels homey, warm, and comforting. An all-time favorite in our home!

Make sure you read this as well.

Chocolate Babka | prettysimplesweet.com

Thanks to my Jewish heritage, I was introduced to babka as soon as my first teeth came in. You may be asking yourself what babka is. Well, it’s a traditional cake my mom makes for special occasions – always in bulk and with a variety of different fillings. It’s made of a rich brioche dough with a cinnamon or chocolate filling. Sometimes they’re topped with streusel. In Israel, there are so many variations of this cake, and they’re always so scrumptious and rich. I know one recipe that uses croissant dough instead of brioche, and another that’s loaded with so much white, milk, and dark chocolate that after just one piece, you feel like passing out. Except for me. I’ll take another piece, please.

Chocolate Babka | prettysimplesweet.com

When it comes to babka, I’ve mainly used 2 recipes my entire life (i.e., the last 5 years); one is rich, and the other is richer. If you know me by now, you can guess which one I’ve been making more. 😉 But I decided it’s time to try a few more, just to make sure you’re getting the best.

Chocolate Babka | prettysimplesweet.com

After comparing a ridiculous amount of recipes, first by ingredients and quantities, and then by actually baking a few, my heart was set on one. The funny thing is, it’s almost identical to the one I usually make.

Chocolate Babka | prettysimplesweet.com

This wonderful recipe is taken from the cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. If you’d like to treat yourself to a new unique cookbook, I would highly recommend this one. It’s filled with amazing recipes and heartfelt stories that take you on a diverse culinary journey.

Chocolate Babka | prettysimplesweet.com

Usually, when I want to follow a recipe, I end up making so many changes that it turns into a completely different recipe than the original. This time though, I had a good feeling about it, so I decided to follow the recipe as-is. The result? Perfection.

Some notes:

  • Although it’s possible to leave the dough at room temperature for the first rise, it’s highly recommended to place it in the fridge for at least 8 hours so it sets properly and is easy to work with. Mine rolled out so smoothly and beautifully after refrigeration that I wanted to keep playing with it forever!
  • After you roll the dough and spread the chocolate over it, it’s time to shape it into a traditional babka. Here are a few of my shooting attempts of the process to help you understand how it’s done.
  • Sometimes, to make things simple, I will use a chocolate spread such as Nutella instead of making the filling myself. You can do the same if you prefer.
  • The sugar syrup not only makes the cake shiny and beautiful, but also keeps it fresh for longer.
  • Speaking of freshness, as with bread, this cake will start drying out after 24 hours, but the good news is that it freezes well.
  • Instead of water, you can use milk or a combination of water and milk.
  • You can add a bit of cinnamon, 1/4 to 1 teaspoon, to the chocolate filling.
  • While some like babka because of the dough, to me it’s all about the filling, so the more chocolate, the better. That’s why I added a combination of chocolate chips and chunks on top of the filling for extra flavor and texture. Omit it if you prefer a subtler, not-too-sweet cake.
  • If the chocolate filling becomes firm, warm it up a bit in the microwave or over low heat. Don’t use it hot, though, since it can warm the dough and cause it to melt.

4.5 from 4 reviews

Chocolate Babka
Yields: 2 loaves
 

Made of a rich brioche dough and a chocolate filling, this babka always feels homey, warm, and comforting. An all-time favorite in our home!
Ingredients
For the dough:
  • 3¾ cups (530 g/18.7 oz) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ½ cup (100 g/3.5 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (10g) instant yeast
  • Grated zest of 1 small lemon (optional)
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup (120 ml) water
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ⅔ cup (150 g/5.3 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
  • Neutral oil (sunflower, canola) for greasing
For the chocolate filling:
  • ½ cup (50 g/1.7 oz) powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup (30 g/1 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 130g (4 oz) dark chocolate, melted*
  • ½ cup (120 g/4 oz) unsalted butter, melted
  • ⅔ cup (120 g/4 oz) chocolate chips or chunks OR 1 cup (100g/3.5 oz) pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)
For the sugar syrup:
  • ½ cup (120 ml) water
  • ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar

Instructions
  1. Making the dough: Place flour, sugar, yeast, and lemon zest in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on low speed until combined. Add eggs and water, and mix on medium speed until dough comes together, 2-3 minutes. Add salt, then butter, adding a few cubes at a time, mixing until incorporated. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed, until dough is completely smooth, elastic, shiny, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. During mixing, you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  2. Place dough in a large bowl brushed with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge for at least half a day or overnight.
  3. Grease two 2¼-lb/1kg loaf pans (9×4 inch/23×10 cm) with oil and line the bottom of each pan with waxed paper. Divide dough in half and keep one half covered in the fridge.
  4. Making the filling: Whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate, and butter until you have a spreadable paste.
  5. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and shape into a rectangle measuring 15×11 inches (38×28 cm). Position dough so that a long side is closest to you. Using an offset spatula, spread half of the chocolate mixture over the rectangle, leaving a ¾ inch/2 cm border all around. Sprinkle half of the pecans or chocolate chips on top of the chocolate.
  6. Shaping the dough (photos here): Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end onto the roulade, then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam.
  7. Trim about ¾ inch/2 cm off both ends of the roulade with a serrated knife. Then use the knife to gently cut the roll in half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam, essentially dividing the log into two long even halves, with the layers of dough and filling visible along the length of both halves. With the cut sides facing up, gently press together one end of each half, then lift the right half over the left half. Repeat this process, but this time lifting the left half over the right, to create a simple two-pronged plait. Gently squeeze together the other ends so that you are left with the two halves, intertwined, showing the filling on top. Carefully lift the cake into a loaf pan. Don’t worry if there are gaps in the pan since the cake will rise and will eventually look fine, even if you feel like it’s messy at this point. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a wet tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours. Repeat to make the second cake.
  8. Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C, making sure to allow plenty of time for it to heat fully before the cakes have finished rising. Remove plastic wrap or tea towels, place cakes on middle rack of oven, and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean with no dough attached.
  9. While the cakes are in the oven, make the syrup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring water and sugar to a boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from heat and set aside to cool. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush the syrup over them. Use all of the syrup, even if it looks a lot. Let cakes cool until they are warm, then remove from pans and let cool completely before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  10. Babka will stay fresh for 24 hours in an airtight container at room temperature. Don’t place in the fridge.
  11. Babka freezes well for up to 2 months. To thaw, leave on counter or overnight in the fridge.

Notes
* To melt butter and chocolate, place them in a heat-proof bowl, and heat in the microwave in 20 second-intervals, stirring in between each interval, until melted and smooth (or alternatively, set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally).

Recipe adapted from: Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

31 Comments on Chocolate Babka

  1. Elisa @ Insalata di Sillabe
    October 28, 2014 at 7:42 am (2 years ago)

    This looks amazing but I’d love the recipe for the croissant dough, since I love that flaky buttery kind of dough!

    xo, Elisa

    Reply
    • Shiran
      October 28, 2014 at 7:15 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you Elisa 🙂 The one with the croissant dough that I’ve mentioned is from a local bakery, I don’t make it myself at home, but you can use any dough recipe for this!

      Reply
  2. Jess @ whatjessicabakednext
    October 28, 2014 at 9:53 am (2 years ago)

    This babka looks amazing, Shiran! Love recipes like this, perfect delicious warming bread! 😀

    Reply
    • Shiran
      October 28, 2014 at 7:15 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks Jess!

      Reply
  3. Karen
    March 22, 2015 at 4:25 pm (2 years ago)

    I rarely write reviews on recipes, because everyone’s tastes vary so much. But I HAD to let you know this was incredibly good!! I also always change recipes, but I took your advice and made it as is. I ended up needing to add a little more flour, and I forgot to put the chocolate chunks in one of the loaves, but they both tasted amazing! I’m excited to experiment with different fillings 🙂

    Thanks for the great recipe!

    FYI: If anyone is wondering about using dry active yeast instead of instant, it works great without proofing because of the high sugar content of the dough 🙂 I made it this way, and it turned out beautifully!

    Reply
    • Shiran
      March 26, 2015 at 4:18 am (2 years ago)

      Thank you so much Karen! One of my family’s favorite fillings is butterscotch and shredded coconut if you like to try it!

      Reply
  4. Steph
    June 19, 2015 at 7:49 pm (2 years ago)

    Hey if I’m wanting to freeze this, what stage of the process should I do it? Thanks

    Reply
    • Shiran
      June 21, 2015 at 5:00 am (2 years ago)

      Hi Steph! After you bake the babka, let it cool completely to room temperature, then wrap it well and freeze.

      Reply
  5. Kara
    June 21, 2015 at 6:24 pm (2 years ago)

    Just made this, cut it into it asap and it came out amazing-so delicious. I didn’t use the simple syrup on the top and it came out great, just a little more rustic looking!

    Next time I think I’ll add more chocolate though, or play around with the braiding as I was looking for a little more chocolate incorporated throughout the loaf.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Shiran
      June 22, 2015 at 12:07 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you for sharing, Kara! To be honest, I also prefer it with more chocolate, but it’s just a matter of preference 🙂 And by the way, the syrup keeps the bread juicy. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  6. Leslie
    October 8, 2015 at 3:10 pm (1 year ago)

    Do you have a French toast casserole recipe using chocolate babka?

    Reply
    • Shiran
      October 11, 2015 at 11:21 am (1 year ago)

      Here’s my recipe for bread pudding and you can use it as an inspiration. You can omit the pecans and skip caramelizing the top. You may also want to reduce the amount of sugar if the babka is very sweet.

      Reply
  7. paul
    January 29, 2016 at 1:45 am (1 year ago)

    Do you have a recipe for a Cinnamon Babka?

    Reply
    • Shiran
      January 29, 2016 at 5:16 pm (1 year ago)

      Hi Paul, I do, but not yet on the blog. It’s on my list though! 🙂

      Reply
  8. Karen
    February 14, 2016 at 3:09 pm (1 year ago)

    How many hours does the dough need to be in the fridge before it is ready to use. It says a 1/2 day. Is that 12 hrs?

    Reply
    • Shiran
      February 15, 2016 at 5:57 am (1 year ago)

      Hi Karen, ‘overnight’ usually means about 8 hours, but 12 hours is fine 🙂

      Reply
  9. Haley
    February 28, 2016 at 4:12 pm (1 year ago)

    Is there a first rise for the dough missing from the recipe?

    Reply
    • Shiran
      February 29, 2016 at 4:24 am (1 year ago)

      There is a first rise for the dough, and it’s in the recipe at step (2). The dough is placed in the fridge to rise, or you can leave it at room temperature if you prefer, until it doubles in size. The dough would be easier to work with after refrigeration.

      Reply
      • Barbara
        April 10, 2016 at 6:20 pm (12 months ago)

        That’s exactly what I thought. First recipe I tried never mentioned refrigeration and I was unhappy with the dough consistency there. This all makes sense. Will try your recipe next.

        Reply
  10. Evelyn
    May 26, 2016 at 1:54 pm (10 months ago)

    I should have commented on this post a long time ago! I adore this recipe!!! I have probably made 30-something Babkas since discovering your post. The dough is perfect and the step-by-step instructions make it so simple to understand the proper way to slice and braid the dough. I’ve done both chocolate and cinnamon fillings and gotten rave reviews. No matter what filling I try, this will always be my base recipe for the dough! It makes the most perfect gift. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!!!

    Reply
    • Shiran
      May 30, 2016 at 6:46 am (10 months ago)

      I’m so glad to hear it, Evelyn! Thank you so much for your sweet comment 🙂

      Reply
  11. paula
    May 29, 2016 at 2:19 pm (10 months ago)

    Just made this without making any adjustments and it is AMAZING! Thank you for sharing the recipe. 🙂

    Reply
    • Shiran
      May 30, 2016 at 6:47 am (10 months ago)

      Thank you, Paula! 🙂

      Reply
  12. paul
    June 3, 2016 at 2:05 am (10 months ago)

    So…. have you developed the cinnamon version of babka yet? We cinnaholics are anxiously awaiting its arrival.

    Reply
    • Shiran
      June 5, 2016 at 6:05 am (10 months ago)

      Hi Paul! I do have a recipe for a perfect cinnamon babka! I’m adding it to my list of future posts 🙂

      Reply
  13. Pavana
    August 23, 2016 at 1:17 pm (7 months ago)

    Hi shiran,
    This chocolate babka looks amazing !!
    What can be the subsitute for eggs in this recipe ??

    Reply
    • Shiran
      August 25, 2016 at 4:42 am (7 months ago)

      Thank you, Pavana. Unfortunately, the eggs are necessary for this recipe.

      Reply
  14. Sarah
    October 26, 2016 at 10:00 pm (5 months ago)

    Hi, I was so pleased with your babka recipe. I baked 2 cakes, 1 exactly like yours ,pictured with the reciepe. the other I made into pinwheel s and baked it in a tube pan. They were delicious and looked so professional. it really enhanced our Sukkot holiday. Thank you. Sarah K.

    Reply
    • Shiran
      October 30, 2016 at 5:10 am (5 months ago)

      That’s so wonderful to hear Sarah, thank you so much, and I hope you had a great holiday!

      Reply
  15. Esther
    December 7, 2016 at 9:44 pm (4 months ago)

    Can i subsitite margarine for butter?

    Reply
    • Shiran
      December 11, 2016 at 5:31 am (4 months ago)

      Hi Esther, are you looking for a dairy free recipe? In that case, I prefer using oil than margarine, but the recipe I use is slightly different than this one. You can contact me via email or Facebook and I’ll give you the details.

      Reply

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