Chocolate Babka

Babka – sweet braided bread – with dark chocolate filling.

Popular in Poland, Israel and the U.S., babka is a truly special braided bread that every baker should make at least once. (Although, after the first loaf, you’ll probably make it again and again – trust me.)

A twist of sweet, buttery yeast dough with a rich dark chocolate filling and simple syrup glaze, chocolate babka is worth the extra effort. If you have premium butter, now is the time to use it, but if not, still use a good quality butter. This is also the right recipe to use up any fancy bars of dark chocolate lingering in your cupboards.

Babka is a great weekend baking project since chilling the dough overnight is a must, as it’s very sticky. Commit to carefully following each step, and in the end, you’ll reap the rewards when you cut into the golden loaf, revealing a stunning and delicious swirl of silken dark chocolate. For tips on how to shape babka, click here.

Chocolate Babka

Yields | one 9-by-5-inch loaf |

Babka Dough

  • ¼ cup whole milk 
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp premium unsalted butter, room temperature (preferably Kerrygold)

Chocolate Filling

  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 oz high-quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 5 Tbsp unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream or milk
  • pinch of kosher salt

Simple Syrup

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water

| Preparation – Babka Dough | In a small bowl, add milk and 2 tablespoons water; heat in microwave until warm to the touch (not hot). Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer; sprinkle in yeast. Lightly mix and then let rest, 5 minutes. By hand, whisk in eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Attach dough hook to stand mixer. Add flour to bowl. On low speed, mix until dough forms. Increase speed to medium and continue to mix, 5 minutes. Return mixer to low speed and gradually add butter in tablespoon-size pieces, allowing each piece to incorporate into the dough before adding the next. Stop and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Once all the butter has been added, mix dough on medium speed, another 5 minutes. (The dough will be a sticky mass, not a ball.)

Using a bowl scraper or spatula, transfer dough to a medium bowl; cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature, 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size. Remove kitchen towel and cover bowl with plastic wrap; transfer to refrigerator and chill overnight.

Next day, spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking oil spray and line with a long rectangle of parchment paper. (Leave a slight overhang of parchment paper on the long sides of the pan to pull loaf out after baking.)

Prepare chocolate filling (recipe follows).

Remove dough from refrigerator and scrape out onto a well-floured work surface. Flour the top of the dough. Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle. (If dough sticks to the work surface, scrape the bottom with a bench scraper and sprinkle more flour under the dough.) Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate filling over dough, leaving 1 inch of clean border along the edge farthest from you. Starting on the side closest to you, gently roll the dough into a tight log. Once rolled, pinch the edges of the dough together to seal in filling.

With a lightly oiled knife, cut the log in half lengthwise. Place the halves side by side, cut-sides up. Cross the top of the left half over the top of the right and tuck the end underneath. Next, gently cross the entire right half over the left; repeat until the dough is twisted into a tight spiral. Make sure both ends are tucked under to finish forming the loaf. With floured hands, carefully lift babka and place it into prepared pan. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature, 1½ hours. (Babka will be puffy and domed when ready to bake.)

Approximately 30 minutes before dough is finished rising, preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare egg wash (recipe follows).

Once dough is finished rising, use a pastry brush to gently brush the surface of the dough with a thin layer of egg wash. Place pan onto a large baking sheet; transfer to oven and bake until deeply golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Tent the pan with foil in the last 10 minutes of baking if the top begins to look as if it might burn.

Prepare simple syrup (recipe follows).

Remove babka from oven and allow to cool, 10 minutes. Brush top with a layer of simple syrup. Run an offset spatula around the edges of the pan to help release the loaf. Using the “handles” of parchment paper, carefully lift babka out of pan; set on wire rack to finish cooling. Slice and serve.

Babka is best enjoyed the day it’s baked, but it can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature for up to one week.

| Preparation – Chocolate Filling | In a bowl, add butter and chocolate; heat in microwave, 30 second intervals, stirring well after each interval, until melted and smooth. (Be careful not to overheat.) Add sugar and cocoa powder; stir until combined. (Mixture will be grainy.) Set aside.

| Preparation – Egg Wash | In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients.

| Preparation – Simple Syrup | Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat and pour into a small heatproof bowl to cool.

Teresa Floyd is a Kansas City-based food writer, editor for the online food publication feedfeed and contributing monthly columnist for Feast Magazine’s Sugar Rush. Find her current creations on Now, Forager, a pastry blog featuring seasonal desserts.

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