This chocolate babka is made of a rich brioche dough and a rich, smooth and super chocolaty filling, and it always feels homey and comforting. It’s such a delicious treat and an all-time favorite in our home! Every bite is soft and buttery and full of chocolate goodness. No one is able to resist a warm piece of this chooclate babka!
What is Babka?
Thanks to my Jewish heritage, I was introduced to babka as soon as my first teeth came in. My mom used to make babka for special occasions – always at least four and with a variety of different fillings. Babka is made of a rich brioche dough, usually with a cinnamon or chocolate filling. Sometimes they’re topped with streusel for extra crunch. 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!
Up until now, I’ve mainly used two babka recipes that I got from my mom. 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. The recipe may look complicated but it’s easy once you get the hang of it.
My Favorite Traditional Recipe
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.
This wonderful recipe is taken from the cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (update: I updated the recipe since then so it’s now a bit different, especially the filling). The book is filled with amazing recipes and heartfelt stories that take you on a diverse culinary journey.
Babka Tips and Tricks
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.
- 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 any bread, this cake will start drying out after 24 hours, but the good news is that it freezes well.
- Instead of water (in the dough), 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. You can add ⅔ cup chocolate chips or chunks or 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or other nuts (for both loaves).
- If the chocolate filling becomes firm, warm it up a bit in the microwave. Don’t use it hot, though, since it can warm the dough and cause it to melt. If, on the other hand, the filling is too soft and not in a spreadable consistency, place it in the fridge for a short while, but keep an eye on it so it won’t become too hard.
More Chocolate Breads To Try
This recipe was updated on February 2021. The recipe for the dough hasn’t changed much, so it’s mostly the filling that’s different. I almost doubled the amount of the filling and played with the ingredients and it’s now much more rich and chocolaty!
- 3 3/4 cups (530g) all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon (10g) instant dry yeast
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2/3 cup (150g) unsalted butter ,cut into small cubes and softened to room temperature
- Neutral oil (sunflower, canola) for dressing
- 200 g (7 oz.) bittersweet chocolate
- 115 g (1 stick/4 oz.) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream
- 1/2 cup (60g) powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup (120ml) water
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
Place flour, sugar, yeast, and salt 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 butter, adding a few cubes at a time, mixing on low-medium speed, until incorporated. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed, until dough is completely smooth, elastic and shiny. It would look soft and might be sticky – that’s ok. During mixing, you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
With floured hands, transfer dough to a large bowl brushed with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge for at least half a day or overnight. The dough may not look like it has risen much, that's ok. If placed a long time in the fridge the dough can become hard, that’s ok, too; leave it at room temperature until it’s easy to work with, 30-60 minutes.
Grease two loaf pans (I usually use 9×5 inch pans but a bit smaller or larger pans would work too) with oil and line the bottom and sides of each pan with parchment paper for easy release later on. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan place chocolate, butter, heavy cream, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt, and bring just to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat to low and mix until melted and completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool. It would thicken and become spreadable as it cools. You can place it in the fridge for a short while until you get a spreadable consistency.
Divide dough in half. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and shape into a rectangle measuring 16x12 inches (40x30 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.
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.
Using a serrated knife, 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 it looks messy at this point. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and leave to rise at room temperature for 1 to 1½ hours until almost doubled in size. Repeat to make the second cake.
Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C, making sure to allow plenty of time for it to heat fully before the cakes have finished rising. Remove plastic wrap, and place cakes on middle rack of oven. Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden brown on top. If you have a thermometer, you are looking for an internal temperature of about 200ºF/93ºC degrees.
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.
Babka will stay fresh for 24 hours in an airtight container at room temperature. Do not place it in the fridge. It also freezes well for up to 2 months. To thaw, leave at room temperature for 2 hours, or overnight in the fridge.
Recipe is adapted from: Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.