Chocolate Cinnamon Brioche Babka: A Mesmerizing Swirled Pastry

It’s true I tend to count my blessings in terms of food…

Vertical close-up image of a whole baked loaf of chocolate cinnamon brioche bread.

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!

I love spending the day creating a yeasty dough and filling it with a blend of dark chocolate, butter, and cinnamon. And the smells in my kitchen are better than any bakery.

Aside from that old Seinfield episode where Elaine tries to get one at the bakery, I’d never heard of this bread. Have you?

Vertical image of a slice of pastry on a metal plate next to chocolate, loaves of babka, and a white towel.

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.

Vertical image of chocolate babka on a cooling rack.

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.

Vertical close-up image of baked chocolate babka in a pan.

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.

Vertical image of slices of baked pastry with chocolate swirls on a slate counter.

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.

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Horizontal image of two loaves of baked pastry on a cooling rack next to a bowl of chocolate.

Chocolate Cinnamon Brioche Babka


  • Author: Nikki Cervone
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 13 hours, 40 minutes
  • Yield: 2 bread loaves
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Baked Goods

Description

Babka is a soft and sweet yeasted bread, braided like challah and filled with a rich chocolate cinnamon filling.


Ingredients

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

Instructions

To Make the Chocolate Filling:

  1. 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.
  2. Set aside and allow to cool completely and thicken slightly, about 15-20 minutes.

To Assemble:

  1. 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.
  2. Set the chilled brioche dough on a well-floured work surface. Cut the dough equally in half and set aside.
  3. Roll out each portion of dough into a 16-inch square.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Using a sharp knife, cut the logs in half across the entire length of the roll. Place the cut sides facing upwards.
  7. 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.
  8. Carefully transfer each loaf to the prepared pans. Proof at room temperature until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

To Bake:

  1. When the loaves are almost finished proofing, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. 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

Horizontal image of a mound of dough on a floured wooden work surface.

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:

  1. It prolongs the fermentation process, improving flavor.
  2. 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

Horizontal image of a bowl of chocolate next to a white towel.

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

Horizontal image of two mounds of dough on a floured work surface with a knife.

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.

Horizontal image of a rolling pin next to a rolled out square of dough.

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

Horizontal image of a square of dough completely spread with chocolate on a wooden surface.

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

Horizontal image of a dough halfway rolled up with chocolate filling.

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

Horizontal image of an unbaked pastry log sliced in half with a knife.

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

Horizontal image of long pieces of dough with chocolate swirls attached at the top.

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.

Horizontal image of an unbaked braided bread with chocolate lines.

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

Horizontal image of a metal loaf pan with an unbaked chocolate pastry inside.

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

Horizontal image of two loaves of baked pastry on a cooling rack next to a bowl of chocolate.

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.

Vertical image of two whole loaves of pastry next to a bowl of dark candy.

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.

Horizontal image of a slice of baked pastry with chocolate swirls.

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: November 4, 2018 at 20:31 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.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

24 thoughts on “Chocolate Cinnamon Brioche Babka: A Mesmerizing Swirled Pastry”

  1. Yay! I’m so happy that things are going well for you 🙂 Maybe my brother and I will try to make this for the fam though next time I go home. It looks like something my mom would love.

  2. oh how this post made me smile. i’ve had babka once, with a beautiful, gorgeous man who made me smile sincerely for the first time ever in my life. i don’t recall the taste of the bread but i recall that i was sitting next to this man and i was happy.

    so very glad that you shared your first babka experience with us!

  3. long phone conversations. that’s when you know. and then you eat together. and then you REALLY know. 🙂 so happy for all of your blessings, shanna! 2010 – best year EVER. and here’s to many more bests to come. (also, babka! how fun to say! looks delicious.)

  4. This is really beautifully written. Baking with a dear companion by your side is truly a gift. You are right to cherish it.

  5. The babka looks really good. I’ll have to try it. Cooking with someone you care about can be a really great experience. You have so much great news as of late!!! Good for you!

  6. Just found your blog through MatadorLife’s “Five Recipe Blogs That Will Change The Way You See Food” – very happy that I found this place! I had challah for the first time in the beginning of the year, and I loved the taste. If this babka is like the dessert version of challah, then I’m in! ?

    Also, I’ve never even heard of Sucanat before reading this entry, so thanks for enlightening me! (I will definitely be looking for this stuff!)

  7. how sweet, and how true!

    i’ve seen a couple of babka recipes too, and have been thinking about that one in ‘good to the grain’ specifically. i really do need to just make the damn thing, eh?

  8. Oh, Shanna, there are just too many wonderful things to count. I am adding this babka to my list of “things to do after we move.” And honestly? I think you should just publish a cookbook already, because I would love to have your recipes all bound and pretty in my kitchen (though I suppose since many of the recipes on this site are adaptations, you might run into copyright issues). I might just print a bunch out and put them in a binder called “Shanna’s Amazing Recipes – Please Make Them All” so that I can work through all the food you feature, Julie & Julia style.

    Seriously, this post made my day, and I am just glowing with happiness for you. xoxo

  9. I almost can smell it now…the chocolate and yeasty goodness. What a perfect afternoon for you! The only thing that beats the pleasure of cooking itself is sharing it with someone else, right? So happy for you!

    Your new portfolio is gorgeous. I can sense the freedom and excitement this new journey contains for you. Glad to be watching it unfold, and reminded how God is writing each of our story…and though rarely the way we thought it might be, it turns out to be just right. Perfect.

  10. O.k., sitting here with my first cup of coffee of the day and am smiling. First (I notice I tend to make lists when commenting on your blog), that portfolio rocks! You, go girl. Should I throw in a “damn” for good measure? Second, I’m so, so happy you’ve met someone. You are certainly on the right path and we can all see that unfolding. Congrats, my friend.

  11. Caitlin, Aw, thanks! You’re so sweet to be excited with me. : )

    Jo, I wonder if you could make a gluten-free version of it for yourself? That would be awesome! Either way, it’s fun to make, and you’re super nice to want to do it for your fam!

    Lan, Thanks for sharing YOUR first babka experience with us! That sounds lovely.

    Maddie, I am trying to do just that! Thank you!

    Jacqui, Ha! : ) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about the way you said 2010 would be a great year. You were right! And it’s not over yet. Next up: YOUR WEDDING. PS – thanks for the kind words about the portfolio! Tim gets credit for the redesign, too!

    Heather, A gift indeed. Thank you!

    TJ, My cup overflows. Yes!

    Anastasia, Of course it’s fine to use sugar instead of the Sucanat, but I’ve cut all refined sugars and flours out of my baking/cooking. You can find Sucanat at Whole Foods – it makes a great sub!

    Heather, Ha! The only reason I didn’t use the Good to the Grain one was that you have to start it the night before. It did look gorgeous! Sounds like fate is pushing you towards babka. do it soon!

    Kim, You know, I have been thinking about a someday book for a while now, and the biggest issue is that I have so few of my OWN recipes. New goal. Thanks for the reminder and for your excitement, as always. : )

    Amanda, Aw, thanks for that sweet comment! I love the idea of watching things unfold, of knowing there’s a Great Author in charge, and you’re right: it always turns out to be just right.

    Megan, Laughed out loud at the mention of damn. So. Awesome. Thank you for your encouragement and happiness – I appreciate it so much!

  12. That Seinfeld episode is the first thing I think of when I hear the word babka…although I actually don’t think that association does yours justice…. This looks absolutely amazing! I love your writing…thanks so much for stopping by my blog! And congrats on meeting the boy through the blog…that’s a secret hope of mine…that eventually my prince charming will stumble upon mine and fall head over heels.

  13. This looks great! I have never heard of babka before either, but I know many loved ones that I would want to spend this experience with… now how to choose?! =)

  14. Joanne, Ha! That’s awesome. You just keep right at it then! : )

    Angela, Oh, I’d love to meet you in person! Nashville is def a possibility, but right now it’s looking more like Nashville might come to me. We’ll see!

    Peggy, Ha! Thank goodness there are so many great recipes to go around!

  15. Very nice, very nice, Shanna! So happy for you!!! Hope this continues to go very well!
    (and the babka sounds amazing, too!)

  16. This looks absolutely delicious! I remember that epi of Seinfeld with the Babka and can’t help but think of Elaine in the bakery whenever i’m in a bakery staring at a babka. And now, i’m going to make my very own.
    Thanks so much for sharing your great recipes!

  17. I love your blog! The photos! the recipes! the organic! Today, 3 weeks after I made my first challah, I thought I was ready to try babka, and found your site. It was so helpful – especially the pictures, showing how things looked at different stages. My babka came out great, too, although it took longer to bake – the first time I pulled it out, it was a bit doughy in the middle. Any ideas where I went wrong? Thanks for all your help!

  18. Thanks so much, Coleman! I love that you tried the babka, but that is a bummer about the center being doughy. With the extra time, it turned out though? I’m thinking maybe it’s just the differences between ovens or something? Glad it came out great in the end! Thanks for letting me know!

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