Babka is a sweet yeast-based cake traditionally served at Christmas with chocolate. This homemade version does not use any yeast, but boasts the same flavor and texture you expect from this holiday favorite. It’s easy to make in just one day!
The “traditional babka recipe” is a delicious dessert that can be made at home. The recipe will take time to make, but the end result is worth it.
Loves, have a wonderful Monday! Let me introduce you to Chocolate Babka while we wipe the sleep from our eyes, sip our morning coffees, and generally attempt to get over this Monday hump. He’s rather lovely, isn’t he? Doughy, chocolatey, and well braided. Deb of Smitten Kitchen, one of my personal heroes, gave me the recipe. Her site and photos are so simple, yet she always manages to make gorgeous, inspirational cuisine that leaps off the page.
I haven’t prepared a recipe of hers in a long time (has anybody tried her Red Wine Chocolate Cake? You should), so when I spotted this Chocolate Babka on the blog a few weeks ago, I knew I had to make it. I mean, how could you not? Though it seems to be a hard dish at first glance, it is really rather easy. That lovely braiding? Simply roll the dough out like a sticky bun, split it in half, and twist it together. That concludes our discussion. (This reminds me of my Estonian Kringle, which is also a must-try.)
The true challenge with this bread is not eating it all in one sitting. You can’t stop yourself from ripping off small twisting bits. Which isn’t a big deal since there’s only 1 stick of butter, 6 tablespoons of chocolate chips, and less than 3/4 cup sugar in the total recipe. It’s incredible. I’m tempted to call it a healthy loaf, but I’ll hold off. In terms of fat and calories, I’d say this chocolate babka is better for you (better being relative) than most pumpkin or banana breads.
This handmade babka would go well with a cup of coffee or a PSL (I’ve heard they’re popular). I’ve never had one before. Whatever). Just make sure you’re in the company of others while you prepare your babka, since if you’re alone, you’ll devour the most of it.
My philosophy is to spread the calories around. A babka is very appropriate for a buddy in need.
OK. Perhaps not. I gave it my all.
What exactly is babka?
If you’ve never had babka before, you’re undoubtedly wondering what makes this braided bread so wonderful. This delectable delight, pronounced ‘Bahb-kah,’ is a thick bread that is frequently swirled with either chocolate or cinnamon sugar filling. Babka is an Eastern European pastry that has long been a favorite of Jewish bakers. It has, however, grown in popularity in recent years (at least on the East Coast! ), and can now be found at most bakeries and grocery shops throughout the Christmas season.
Although the babka is relatively dry, the filling is usually fairly melty and gooey—especially when served fresh from the oven! It is really a one-of-a-kind cake-like bread, and I strongly advise you to try it at least once in your life to see what all the hype is about.
What is the best way to make babka?
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: babka is a labor of love. The individual procedures aren’t difficult, but the dough requires a lot of time to rise, and there are no shortcuts in this recipe. The following is a fast and dirty recipe for chocolate babka:
To make the babka dough, combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Babka is made using enriched dough, which contains eggs, butter, and sugar. In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix together the dry ingredients, eggs, and water to produce the babka dough. Mix until everything is well blended (this will take a few minutes). Then, a tablespoon at a time, add the butter and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes, or until it’s fully smooth and pulling away from the bowl’s edges.
The babka dough should be refrigerated for at least 6 hours, but overnight is preferable. Babka dough does not double in size like other bread doughs, so don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t rise much in the fridge! Keep in mind that you’re producing a thick, cake-like loaf of bread.
To make the chocolate babka filling, combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
This is the most straightforward part—hurray! Simply melt chocolate and butter together, then whisk in a little powdered sugar and cocoa powder to produce the gooey chocolate filling. Once the babka dough has been refrigerated overnight and flattened out, this should create a thickish paste that you’ll need to apply over it.
Putting the loaves together
This is the step in preparing homemade chocolate babka that most people are afraid of. You’ll be OK if you stick with me! To make the classic babka swirl design, lay out the dough into a long, thin rectangle. Cover the dough with the chocolate filling, leaving a border around the edge (this will prevent the filling from seeping out).
Roll the dough into a long, tight cigar, then use water to seal the babka log. After that, you’ll need to clip the ends of the long log and then cut it lengthwise, leaving you with two long, thin logs. Place the cut side of the narrow logs close to each other. The babka braid may then be formed by twisting the logs together (I’ve included more comprehensive directions in the recipe card below).
Allow the babka to sit in the loaf pan and rise for another hour or so after braiding it. After that, all you have to do is stick it in the oven and bake it!
Prepare the syrup.
You’ll need to create a simple syrup to brush over the top of the babka while it bakes. Brush the babka with the syrup as soon as it comes out of the oven—it will seem like a lot, but it’s crucial to get that glossy sheen on top. It also provides a touch of wetness to the thick bread.
What is the best way to freeze babka?
After being frozen, babka thaws remarkably quickly! Allow a loaf of babka to cool fully on the counter before covering it in many layers of plastic wrap to freeze. After that, cover it in tin foil and put it in the freezer. This method can keep it fresh for up to a month.
Place the frozen babka on your counter (with all of its plastic wrap, etc.) and let it defrost to room temperature until you’re ready to eat it. After that, remove it from the plastic wrap it was frozen in and rewrap it in a single layer of tinfoil. Before serving, reheat it thoroughly in a 325°F oven for 8-10 minutes.
In other news, I’ll be returning to Boston this week for a much-needed vacation. I adore autumn in New England and can’t wait to see my friends and family again. This week has a lot of things planned for me, so be sure to follow me on Instagram for updates from Boston.
To make the dough
- 2 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 teaspoons extra for dusting
- a quarter cup of granulated sugar
- 1 package fast active yeast (2 1/2 tablespoons)
- a quarter of one orange, grated zest
- 2 eggs, big
- 1/4 cup water (cold is good) plus 1 to 2 tablespoons more if necessary
- a quarter teaspoon of fine sea salt or table salt
- at room temperature, 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- For greasing, use sunflower or another neutral oil.
The chocolate filling is made using
- dark chocolate, 2 1/4 oz (or approximately 6 tablespoons chocolate chips)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar, shaved
- cocoa powder, 1/3 cup
To make the syrup
- water (three tablespoons)
- 3 tbsp. sugar (granulated)
- To make the dough, follow these steps: In the bottom of a stand mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and zest. Mix in the eggs and 1/4 cup water with the dough hook until it comes together, about 2 minutes. It’s OK if it’s a little dry, but if it won’t come together, add a tablespoon of water at a time until the dough forms a mass. Add the salt, then the butter, a teaspoon at a time, until it’s well integrated into the dough with the mixer on low. Then, on medium speed, mix for 10 minutes, scraping the bowl down a few times, until the dough is fully smooth. After about 10 minutes, the dough would start to pull away from the edges of the basin. If it doesn’t, add 1 tablespoon more flour to speed things up.
- Place dough in a big basin, cover with plastic wrap, and chill (or scrape the dough out onto a counter and oil this one). Refrigerate for at least half a day, if not overnight. [Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t seem to have grown by more than half since it won’t entirely double.]
- To make the filling: Melt the butter and chocolate together until they are completely smooth. Combine the powdered sugar and cocoa in a mixing bowl; the mixture should form a spreadable paste.
- Assemble the loaves as follows: Coat the bottom of a 9-by-4-inch (2 1/4 or 1kg) loaf pan with oil or butter and a rectangle of parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. When rolling it thin, roll it out to roughly a 10-inch width (the side nearest to you) and as long in length (away from you) as you can on a well-floured surface.
- Cover the dough with the chocolate mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Water the end that is farthest away from you. Form a long, tight cigar out of the dough and filling. Glue the dampened end of the log to the log. Transferring the log to a lightly dusted baking dish and freezing it for 10 to 15 minutes made cutting it neatly in half a lot simpler.
- Remove the remaining 1/2-inch of the log from either end. Gently cut the log in half lengthwise and place the cut sides up on the counter next to each other. Gently pinch the top ends together. Lift one side over the other, twisting it together and attempting to keep the cut sides out (since they’re lovely). Don’t worry if this step produces a mess; just place the twist into the prepared loaf pan as best you can. My log was long enough to “S” within the pan in one batch, so I nested the cut ends in the holes. Don’t worry if you don’t (and instead opt to bake them individually in a small pan, like I did with previous batches), the dough will fill in any gaps by the time it’s through rising and baking.
- Cover with a moist tea towel and let to rise at room temperature for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Bake the bread and let it cool. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius). Remove the cloth and put the loaf on the middle oven rack. Bake for 30 minutes, although testing for doneness at 25 minutes isn’t a bad idea. A skewer pushed into an underbaked babka may feel stretchy/rubbery on the interior and may return with dough stuck to it. When the cake is done, there will be practically no resistance. If your babka need extra time, return it to the oven for 5 minutes at a time and re-test. You may cover it with foil if it browns too rapidly.
- Make the syrup while the babka is baking: Bring the sugar and water to a low heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and let it aside to cool slightly. Brush the babka with the syrup as soon as it comes out of the oven. It may seem to be excessive, but it will taste perfect — shiny and juicy. Allow to cool halfway in the pan before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely before eating (a cute advice from Ottolenghi – don’t worry, we know you’ll eat it warm).
- Make ahead: Babka may be stored at room temperature for a few days. I’d freeze it if it was longer. They are quite easy to freeze and thaw.
Recipes for handmade bread may be found at:
Banana Bread Carrot Cake
Cinnamon Apple Bread
Babka with Chocolate Chili and Peanuts
Bread with Parmesan Pesto
Soda Bread from Ireland
Homemade Chocolate Babka is a chocolate cake that can be made with just a few ingredients. Reference: chocolate babka cake.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between brioche and babka?
A: Brioche is a type of egg bread that originated from France. Its made with milk, butter and eggs. Babka is a similar type of cake that originates in Eastern Europe.
Is babka supposed to be dry?
A: Yes, it is.
What is the difference between babka and povitica?
A: A babka is a rich, dense cake with a soft doughy top and sweet filling. The povitica is made of thin layers of puff pastry.
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