I originally wanted to make chocolate babka because I love the babka that appears on my family’s doorstep every Christmas courtesy of Zabar’s and my godfather. When I came across the recipe that Deb at Smitten Kitchen determined to be the best after all of her trial and error I knew it had to be good. The cinnamon really is an underestimated element here, don’t skimp or your babka will lack that extra oomph!
I have made this babka three times and it has received rave reviews every time. However, from these three times I have learned a few things:
1. DO NOT USE CHOCOLATE CHIPS! I cannot emphazize this enough. I know it seems like a genius time saving plan, but don’t do it! Some chips will retain their chip-shape and it will break your heart when you pull it out of the oven. Trust me.
2. The original recipe says that you should roll the dough out to about 1/8 of an inch thick, but I have found that this is a) nearly impossible and b) if you do roll it that thin you have issues with tearing dough in the twisting step. Roll it thin, but not too thin. Trial and error is best here, each batch makes 3 loaves so there is plenty of time to learn.
3. The original recipe recommends that you bake the loaf/loaves at 350 for 55 minutes and then lowering the temperature to 325 for another 15-20 minutes. Through an error of my own the first time I baked this I learned that i prefer it baked at 325 for the entire baking time, although it does take a bit longer. Following the original instructions will yield a lighter, airier bread portion of the bread, but I prefer it to be denser (hence the lower baking temperature). It’s just a matter of personal preference.
I know it is a long and involved recipe, but don’t be daunted! It was the first yeast bread I ever made and it turned out great!
As seen on Smitten Kitchen
When shaping the babka, twist dough evenly throughout the length of the roll a full 5 to 6 turns. The babka can be prepared up to step 8 and frozen for up to a month before baking. When ready to bake, remove from freezer; let stand at room temperature for about 5 hours, and bake.
Makes 3 loaves (you could downscale the recipe, but they freeze really well)
1 1/2 cups warm milk, 110 degrees
2 (1/4 ounce each) packages active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups plus a pinch of sugar
3 whole large eggs, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for bowl and loaf pans
2 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped (use a food processor if you have one!)
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Streusel topping (below)
Pour warm milk into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar over milk; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and egg yolks. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment*, combine flour and salt. Add egg mixture, and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Change to the dough hook. Add 2 sticks butter, and beat until flour mixture and butter are completely incorporated, and a smooth, soft dough that’s slightly sticky when squeezed is formed, about 10 minutes.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few turns until smooth. Butter a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Place chocolate, remaining cup sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut in remaining 1 1/2 sticks butter until well combined; set filling aside.
Generously butter three 9-by-5-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pans; line them with parchment paper. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon cream; set egg wash aside. Punch back the dough, and transfer to a clean surface. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Keep 2 pieces covered with plastic wrap while working with the remaining piece. On a generously floured surface, roll dough out into a 16-inch square; it should be 1/8 inch thick.
Brush edges with reserved egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of the reserved chocolate filling evenly over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Refresh egg wash if needed. Roll dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch ends together to seal. Twist 5 or 6 turns. Brush top of roll with egg wash. Carefully crumble 2 tablespoons filling over the left half of the roll, being careful not to let mixture slide off. Fold right half of the roll over onto the coated left half. Fold ends under, and pinch to seal. Twist roll 2 turns, and fit into prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of dough and remaining filling.
Heat oven to 350 degrees**. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of streusel topping over each loaf. Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place 20 to 30 minutes.
Bake loaves, rotating halfway through, until golden, about 55 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until babkas are deep golden, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from oven, and transfer to wire racks until cool. Remove from pans; serve. Babkas freeze well for up to 1 month.
*Don’t sweat it if you don’t have one, I have made it with a stand mixer and by hand, it doesn’t change the quality at all!
**Or 325 if that’s what floats your boat (see note above).
Makes 3 3/4 cups (this is way more than I have ever needed, feel free to downscale)
1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, and butter. Using a fork, stir until fully combined with clumps ranging in size from crumbs to 1 inch.