It’s true I tend to count my blessings in terms of food…
And I have a loooong list of delicious bites I am thankful for. But I’ll start with a recipe I just learned how to make: babka!
Aside from that old Seinfield episode where Elaine tries to get one at the bakery, I’d never heard of this bread. Have you?
Popular in Jewish and Eastern European kitchens, it is made with a sweet, yeasted dough braided together with any variety of fillings, from nuts and seeds to cinnamon to fruit jam. It’s sometimes topped with streusel.
The name itself, loosely translated as “grandmother,” could refer to the traditional preparation of this bread – grandmothers would take leftover challah bread dough and twist it with filling before baking it.
For Foodal’s tasty interpretation, this recipe uses a buttery brioche dough with a chocolate and cinnamon filling.
And when I finally made it for the first time, I learned the following: making it is an all-day (and all-night) process.
You need to make the dough, proof it, rest it overnight, roll it out, make the filling, spread the filling, roll it, braid it, let it rise, and bake it for close to an hour.
It is the quintessential slow food. But when you have the time to make it, the result is extraordinary.
This recipe makes two beautiful creations, baked into two fluffy loaves with a mesmerizing pattern of swirls and twists of golden bread and a thick, luscious filling.
There’s no resisting that proud smile spread across your face as you pull these perfect baked goods out of the oven.
So, if you have the time, and want to enjoy the same feeling of pride and gratitude with making homemade bread, and tasting all the dynamic layers of yeasty dough and rich filling, bake this babka now.Print
Babka is a soft and sweet yeasted bread, braided like challah and filled with a rich chocolate cinnamon filling.
For the Dough:
- 1 recipe Brioche Dough, chilled in the refrigerator overnight
- All-purpose flour, for dusting and rolling
- Cooking oil spray
For the Chocolate Filling:
- 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
- 3/4 cup room temperature unsalted butter, cubed (1 1/2 sticks)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
To Make the Chocolate Filling:
- Place the chocolate, butter, and cinnamon in the top bowl of a double boiler. Heat the water, and melt the chocolate mixture until everything is melted and combined, stirring occasionally.
- Set aside and allow to cool completely and thicken slightly, about 15-20 minutes.
- While the chocolate filling is cooling, line two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches of overhang on each of the long sides. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- Set the chilled brioche dough on a well-floured work surface. Cut the dough equally in half and set aside.
- Roll out each portion of dough into a 16-inch square.
- Using an offset spatula, spread half of the cooled chocolate filling in an even layer on each dough square, leaving a border of about 1/4 inch around the edge.
- Starting at the edge nearest you, tightly roll up each dough square into a tight log, like a cinnamon roll. Finish with the seam on the bottom, touching the work surface.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the logs in half across the entire length of the roll. Place the cut sides facing upwards.
- Pinch the two halves together at one end, and twist the two pieces together to form a tight spiral, like a double-helix. Pinch the ends together.
- Carefully transfer each loaf to the prepared pans. Proof at room temperature until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
- When the loaves are almost finished proofing, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bake the loaves in the center of the oven for about 30-45 minutes, until puffed and well browned. Let cool slightly, then use the parchment paper to lift the them out of the pans and onto a cooling rack set over a sheet pan. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into slices. Enjoy warm, or cool completely.
Keywords: babka, bread, chocolate, cinnamon
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep the Brioche
The night before you are ready to bake, mix together one batch of Foodal’s recipe for brioche bread dough.
Let it rest in the fridge for at least 12 hours, or overnight. This serves two important purposes:
- It prolongs the fermentation process, improving flavor.
- It helps rest the elastic gluten that was developed during mixing, softening the dough to make it easier to roll and shape.
Step 2 – Make the Filling
Place the chocolate, unsalted butter, and cinnamon in the top bowl of a double boiler. Heat the water, and melt the mixture until everything is melted and combined, stirring occasionally with a spatula.
Set aside and allow to cool completely and thicken slightly, about 15-20 minutes.
Cooling it completely is very important! You want the mixture to be set and cold enough that it doesn’t melt and squeeze messily out of the cut dough while you are shaping it in the next few steps.
You can chill it faster by placing it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 3 – Roll out the Dough
Set the chilled brioche dough on a well-floured work surface. Cut the dough into two even mounds. Work with one mound at a time, keeping the other to the side, covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel.
Using a rolling pin, roll out each mound of dough to an even 16-inch square. It should be between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.
Step 4 – Spread with Filling
Using an offset spatula, spread half of the cooled filling in an even layer over each dough square. Spread it to within about 1/4 inch of the edges, leaving a border around the perimeter of each.
Step 5 – Roll into Logs
Starting at the edge nearest you, tightly roll up each square into a tight log, just like you would do with a cinnamon roll.
The filling can get a little messy – have a towel nearby to wipe off your fingers as you roll, to prevent creating too much of a chocolatey mess on the dough.
Once it is completely rolled, position the seam on the bottom, in contact with the work surface.
Step 6 – Cut in Half
Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll in half along the entire length of the roll.
Use very quick motions, and don’t move the knife around much as you cut. This will create clean layers with minimal smudging from the interior.
Step 7 – Twist or Braid
With the cut sides facing upwards, place the two halves right next to each other so they are touching. Pinch the two halves together at one end.
Carefully place one half on top of the other. Repeat with the other half, and repeat along the entire length to form a tight double-helix shape. Pinch the ends together.
Step 8 – Proof in Pans
To prepare the two pans, place a piece of parchment paper in each pan with a 2-inch overhang over the long sides for easy removal. Spray evenly with nonstick cooking spray.
Transfer the shaped loaves to the prepared pans, and reshape in the pan if necessary.
Proof the loaves at room temperature until about doubled in size, for about 45 minutes.
Step 9 – Bake and Serve
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
When the loaves have doubled in size, they are ready to bake. Bake them in the center of the oven for about 30-45 minutes, until puffed and well browned, rotating once halfway through baking.
Let cool slightly, then use the parchment paper to lift the them out of the pans and onto a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet.
Let cool slightly, about 10 minutes, before slicing and enjoying warm. You can also serve it completely cooled (though I personally adore a warm and steamy slice!).
The Grandmother of All Breads
If you have the time (weekends are always great!), you need to make this recipe for fluffy chocolate and cinnamon babka.
A gorgeous pastry with lovely swirls of dark, decadent filling and perfectly baked brioche bread, everyone will enjoy eating this unique sweet for breakfast or dessert.
For an extra touch of sweetness, I suggest glazing it with our super easy spiced glaze, which will be the perfect pairing with the subtly sweet dough and lightly spiced filling.
Love this pastry? Read up on all of our other brioche-based recipes. You’ll never want to leave your kitchen:
After you enjoy the very last slice of babka, don’t forget to rate the recipe. And let us know in the comment section below if you’ve ever made this pastry, and what type of filling you like to use. We love hearing from you!
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on July 20, 2010. Last updated: February 6, 2019 at 12:39 pm. With additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.