Breads Bakery Chocolate Babka
Hailing from Eastern Europe, babka is a yeasted cake typically filled with chocolate, cinnamon, or fruit (though we find it lends itself well to almost any filling, sweet or savory). Make a version of our world-famous chocolate babka at home using our challah recipe as a simple base for your favorite chocolate hazelnut spread.
Makes 4 babkas (freezing instructions included)
For the Dough
1 Recipe of Breads Bakery Challah, made through step 5 of "Mixing the Dough"
For the Filling
350 grams (1 1/2 cups) Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread
200 grams (1 1/3 cups) dark chocolate chips, roughly chopped
For the Syrup
160 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
120 grams (1/2 cup) water
• one large mixing bowl, or a stand mixer
• bowl scraper, or your hands
• clean kitchen towel, or plastic wrap
• rolling pin
• offset spatula, or a spoon
• serrated knife
• pastry brush
• four loaf pans (9x5"), or two sheet pans
Either metal or disposable paper loaf pans will work equally well. Don't have enough loaf pans? You can bake some or all of the babkas directly on sheet pans instead.
A note from our bakers:
"This is a versatile recipe and we encourage you to experiment with your favorite flavors! The main thing to keep in mind is the amount of moisture you're adding. A good rule of thumb is that whatever you swap out the Nutella for -- whether its softened butter or cheesecake filling on the sweet side, or pesto or a cheesy tomato sauce on the savory side -- aim for something with a similar consistency for best results."
Cinnamon Babka: swap out the Nutella and chocolate chips for a thin layer of softened butter topped with cinnamon sugar. Layer in crushed walnuts and currants too, if you like.
MIXING THE DOUGH
- Make the Breads Bakery Challah recipe through step 5 of "Mixing the Dough".
SHAPING & PROOFING
- Lightly grease four 9x5" loaf pans with butter or oil, or line two sheet pans with parchment.
- Warm the Nutella to make it more spreadable by putting the sealed container in a warm water bath for about 10 minutes prior to using.
- Roll out the dough: lightly flour a rolling pin and work surface and roll the dough into a square measuring approximately 18" x 18".
The majority of the work can be done here right off the bat by just pulling and stretching the dough out to the desired size. Use the rolling pin to even out the thickness, lifting the dough off the table a few times to make sure it's not sticking. If the dough shrinks back as you roll, it's a sign that the gluten needs to relax; simply cover the dough with a towel for 5 minutes to let it rest and then continue rolling again.
- Spread the Nutella evenly over the dough using an offset spatula, making sure to spread it all the way out to the edges. With a serrated knife or pizza cutter, divide the square in half lengthwise, creating two 9 x 18" rectangles. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over each piece.
- Roll it up: starting with the rectangle closest to you, roll it up from the bottom along the longer edge, working evenly side to side and pulling back with your fingertips to make the roulade as tight as possible. Repeat for the second rectangle.
The tighter the roulade, the more layers of chocolate you'll have. And the more layers of chocolate you have, the happier you'll be!
- Even out the roulades as needed so that they have an even thickness throughout and are approximately 18 - 20" in length. Arrange them seam-down and parallel in front of you.
- Cut the roulade: using a serrated knife or pizza cutter, cut each roulade in half along their 18" lengths, doing your best to divide them evenly. Keep both halves together.
- Divide the roulades down the middle into two even halves, each about 9" long. You should now have 8 total pieces (4 pairs of 2). Carefully move all but one pair off to the side to make room on your workspace.
If some pairs are significantly larger or smaller than the others, you can mix and match the pieces to obtain equal sizes.
- Twist the babka: working one pair at a time, make the iconic babka shape by crossing two pieces, cut-side up, to form an X. Starting on the right side of the intersection, twist the two pieces around each other 2-3 more times, making sure to keep the cut sides facing up the whole time. Repeat of the left side of the intersection to create a total of 5 - 7 even twists along the whole babka. Adjust the babka as needed to achieve an even thickness throughout.
This is the messy part. Embrace it!
- Put the babka in the mold, angling the ends downward to help prevent them from rising out of the mold during proofing. (If you're using sheet pans, arrange the babkas two per pan with at least 2" of space on all sides. Press the ends firmly onto the sheet pan to help prevent them from unraveling during proofing).
- Repeat steps 9 & 10 with the remaining 3 pairs to make 4 babkas in total.
See the note below if you'd like to freeze some or all of the babkas at this stage to bake at a later time.
- Proof the babkas: cover them loosely with a kitchen towel and let rise for about 1 - 1½ hours in a warm, draft-free spot.
- Preheat: about thirty minutes into proofing, position a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Want to bake some or all of your babkas another day? Instead of leaving them to rise a second time, place the shaped babkas directly into the freezer either in the loaf pans or consolidated on a sheet pan. Once frozen solid, wrap them individually with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze for up to one week.
About 5-6 hours before you're ready to bake, remove them from the freezer and remove the foil. If they were frozen in loaf pans, leave the plastic on to help wick away excess moisture as they defrost. If they were frozen on a sheet pan, remove the plastic, arrange the babkas on the sheet pan(s) with about 2" of space on all sides, then loosely cover again with the plastic.
Let them defrost in a warm area for about 2-3 hours (alternatively, defrost in the fridge overnight to bake in the morning). Once the dough has defrosted, continue with step 12 above.
BAKE IT NICE
- Make the syrup: while your babkas are proofing, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. The sugar should be completely dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
The syrup can be made in advance and held in the fridge up to one month. Use any extra for glazing other sweet-filled challahs, or save it for sweetening up your iced coffee or favorite cocktail.
- Bake the babkas for 20 minutes. Then, rotate the pans and lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the seams between the twists have started to color just slightly. The chocolate should look quite dark but not black.
- Remove them from the oven and brush generously with syrup.
- Cool completely before devouring (and then pat yourself on the back for your notable willpower).
STORING YOUR BABKAS
Babka will always be best the same day, but they'll hold well at room temperature up to three days after baking. Store the cooled babkas in a sealed container or wrapped in plastic.
Kept your babka past its prime? Stale babka has a decadent second life as french toast, monkey bread or bread pudding.
You can freeze your babkas for up to 30 days after they're baked. Allow them to cool completely, then wrap in both plastic wrap and aluminum foil. To defrost, take them out of the freezer and remove the foil. Let sit for about two hours at room temperature, covered in plastic wrap to help wick away excess moisture. Remove the plastic and reheat at 350F for 5 - 8 minutes before serving.