Fudge meets brioche in this yummy Chocolate Babka, featuring a thick ribbon of fudge & chocolate chunks in a soft egg bread. A real treat!
Take a basic bread and enrich it with eggs, milk, and butter.
What do you get? Brioche.
Take that brioche and fill it with a ribbon of fudge and chunks of dark chocolate. What do you have now?
A delicious Chocolate Babka, perfect for a fancy brunch, afternoon tea, or satisfying dessert.
What is babka?
At its core, babka is a brioche bread recipe that's spread with some sort of filling before being rolled up, cinnamon roll-style.
Babka has its roots in the Eastern European Jewish community who brought it with them as they migrated to the New World.
The ingredients and method for making the babka dough will be familiar to brioche recipe bakers.
Actually, babka dough isn't far off from a basic challah recipe also, just subbing in milk and butter for water and oil. Given babka's origin story, that's not surprising because Jewish bakers bake challah for the weekly sabbath meal.
Creating a recipe for Chocolate Babka with a fudge filling is a natural next step, don't you think?
How to make babka
Generally speaking, there are three main steps for a chocolate babka recipe: make the dough, prepare the filling, then shape the babka.
Let's break it down.
Step 1: Making the brioche dough
As I said earlier, babka is essentially a filled brioche, so we'll start with a modified brioche dough. I say modified because we don't need to let the dough rest overnight.
Normally when I make egg bread, I combine all the ingredients in a bowl and the mixer brings the dough together for me. But with babka, the method is a little different.
With all the fat that goes into this dough, it's best to start by proofing the yeast. That means making sure the yeast is fresh and active. It'll need to push against the butter and dairy to create the soft and light dough you're looking for.
You're just hydrating the yeast with water and feeding it some sugar. If the yeast gets foamy after about 5 minutes, you're good to go. If not, get yourself fresh yeast and try again.
Next is to start mixing the babka dough ingredients, minus the butter. It's important to start developing the gluten in the dough as soon as you can.
Introducing the butter into the dough slowly ensures that the gluten network really has a chance to form before it's weighted down by the butter.
You'll want to knead the dough to get a smooth and slightly sticky consistency. If the dough is too wet, add additional flour in 1 tablespoon increments until you get the right texture.
When the dough is ready, set it aside in a warm place to rise for about an hour.
Step 2: Prepare the fudge filling
While the dough is rising, make the fudge filling with melted chocolate, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, espresso powder (to enhance the chocolate flavor), and salt.
This mixture needs to chill for at least 30 minutes to a peanut butter-like consistency. You want it thick, but spreadable.
Step 3: Shape the babka
This is where making babka differs from just making a basic loaf of bread, or even braiding challah.
After the dough has risen, press it out into a large rectangle, then spread with the fudge filling. Sprinkle with chopped chocolate, then roll up into a log from the long side.
Split the log down the middle, leaving about 2-inches connected at one end. I use a bench scraper rather than a knife to avoid cutting through the mat.
Turn the legs cut side up. Wrap one leg over the other, keeping the cut sides facing up, then repeat until you have a rope braid.
Squish the dough together and transfer it to the prepared loaf pan, tucking in any stray chocolate chunks. After brushing with an egg wash, let the dough rise again while you preheat the oven.
Cover the top of the babka with foil if you see the top is getting too dark.
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions that you might have...
Chocolate Babka takes a long time to bake, and the top will get dark brown long before the center has fully baked. Remember that yeast is pushing against a lot of fat and filling, and the oven heat will have a hard time penetrating all that. The best way is with a digital thermometer, when the center of the bread reads at least 190°F. Short of that, let the babka bake at least an hour or so.
Chocolate Babka will keep on the counter for a few days, but it's best eaten fresh. For longer storage, wrap it in plastic wrap and then place in an airtight bag in the freezer for up to 1 month. To defrost, place on the countertop for several hours, and reheat in the oven at 350°F for 10 minutes before serving.
Yes! Also known as a couronne, a ring-shaped babka is just the rope-braided dough with the ends tucked in together. Bake on a half sheet baking pan lined with a Silpat silicone mat or parchment paper for about 45 minutes or until it's golden brown. A Chocolate Couronne is perfect for an Easter brunch!
Babka is better than brioche
Don't get me wrong, brioche has its place at the table, but I'll take a slice of Chocolate Babka over brioche any day!
The soft, rich bread is enchanced by the deep flavor of fudge, not to mention pools of melted chocolate chunks!
It's also very pretty and surprising. You never know what the swirl pattern will be at the point you cut into it!
Chocolate Babka makes an elegant treat for brunch, afternoon tea, or dessert.
Add it to your baking repertoire. You'll be glad you did!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Recipes for shaped bread
I love to bake shaped bread, especially using sourdough starter discard. Here are some shaped bread recipes to try...
Chocolate Babka with fudge filling
- serrated knife
- rolling pin
- parchment paper
- pastry brush
For the dough
- ¾ cup milk, warmed between 100 to 110°F
- ¼ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 2¼ tsp yeast, instant or rapid rise (1 package)
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
For the filling
- 1⅓ cup chocolate, divided, see Recipe Notes
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp espresso powder, optional, see Recipe Notes
- ⅛ tsp kosher salt
- 1 large egg, beaten plus 1 Tbsp water, for egg wash
- Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs and vanilla, then mix on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add the flour, the remaining sugar, and the salt and mix on low speed until a sticky dough forms. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix in thoroughly before adding in another tablespoon.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on medium speed until a smooth and slightly sticky dough forms, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add more flour in 1 tablespoon increments as needed to make the dough the right consistency.
- Gather the dough into a ball, stretching it so the top of the ball is smooth. Spray a large bowl with canola oil spray and place the dough ball in smooth side down to wipe it with oil. Turn the dough with the gathered rough part of the dough down and the smooth surface of the ball facing up. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. The inside of a cool oven with the light on works well.
- Make the filling: In a microwave safe bowl, melt ⅓ cup (65g) of coarsely chopped chocolate and the butter in short bursts until almost melted, about 1 minute. Stir until the mixture is smooth and all the chocolate has melted. Stir in the cocoa powder, vanilla, espresso powder, and salt. Chill the filling for at least 30 minutes, or until the fudge starts to thicken up and feels spreadable.
- Roughly chop remaining 1 cup (170g) chocolate into ¼-inch chunks to sprinkle on the filling. Set aside.
- Once the dough has doubled, lightly dust a clean surface with flour and roll the dough out to a rectangle, roughly 15- x 17-inches, with a long side facing you. Spread the fudge over the surface of the dough using a small offset spatula, then sprinkle the chopped chocolate evenly over the filling.
- Starting with the long side, tightly roll the dough up from the bottom, making a 17-inch rope. Slice the dough in half lengthwise with a bench scraper, leaving about 2 inches connected at one end. You’ll have two 17-inch long legs.
- Turn the legs cut side up. Wrap one leg over the other, keeping the cut sides facing up, then repeat until you have a rope braid.
- Squish the dough together and transfer it to the prepared loaf pan, tucking in any stray chocolate chunks. Whisk the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the egg wash over the loaf with a pastry brush. Cover the loaf with a kitchen towel or a piece of plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Bake the babka: While the babka loaf is resting, preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the loaf pan on a quarter sheet baking pan and bake for 45 minutes. Cover the top with foil after about 30 minutes if it's getting too dark.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue to bake until the top of the babka is deep brown, about 15 minutes more. The babka will be fully baked when the center reads at least 190°F.
- Let the babka cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then use the parchment paper to lift it out of the pan and transfer it to a wire cooling rack. Let it cool to room temperature. When ready to serve, warm the babka or serve at room temperature. Slice thickly and enjoy!