I was really pretty confident that this babka wouldn't turn out. In fact, I was sure I'd have to give it another go before writing a post about it. It isn't that this recipe is difficult, it's just that I wasn't exactly fully equipped before I began. Instant yeast? Whoops! I only had active dry. Mix the dough in a stand mixer with a dough hook? Nope and nope...my hands would have to do.
But the babka turned out great. Better than great, if I do say so myself. Which goes to show that if I can make this babka, you can (and should!) give it a go as well. It's the perfect treat for this time of year—warm, flaky dough with a dark chocolate filling, covered in a sticky sweet glaze that adds a beautiful glossy finish. Additionally, the recipe makes two loaves—so you can keep one for yourself and wrap one up for a friend.
The process begins with mixing up a buttery egg dough, letting it rise in the fridge overnight, then rolling it out into a rectangle. The filling is a decadent combination of dark chocolate, butter, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and cinnamon, all warmed together on the stove and spread generously onto the dough.
Then comes the fun part—rolling the dough into a log, splitting the log in half, and twisting the dough so that the chocolate faces outwards. Into the oven it goes to achieve its golden brown exterior.
The spirals of the babka means you can cut it into slices or eat it like a pull-apart bread, letting everyone grab at it and pull off soft, warm, flaky handfuls. Convinced? Good. Get baking!
Decadent Chocolate Babka
Makes 2 loaf-sized chocolate babkas
For the dough:
- 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp. instant yeast*
- Grated zest of 1 small lemon
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup water (cold is fine) and up to 1-2 tbsp. extra, if needed
- 3/4 tsp. table salt
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
*Active dry yeast will also work—just activate the yeast per the packet instructions and subtract the amount of water you use from the 1/2 cup cold water in the recipe.
- 4 1/2 oz. dark chocolate (or approximately 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- scant 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/3 cup water
- 6 tbsp. granulated sugar
For the dough: Combine flour, sugar, yeast and zest in the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer.* Add eggs and 1/2 cup water and mix with the dough hook until it comes together. If it's not coming together, add extra water (1 tablespoon at a time) until a mass forms.
With the mixer on low, add the salt and then the butter, one tablespoon at a time, mixing until well incorporated. Mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until dough is completely smooth, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
Coat a large bowl with oil (I used olive oil) and place dough inside. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half a day, preferably overnight. The dough should rise about 1 1/2 times its size.
*If you don't have a stand mixer, you can still make the dough. Using a hand mixer, combine the dry ingredients with the eggs and water. Then, use your hands and a pastry blender to knead in the salt and butter.
For the filling: In a saucepan set over medium heat, melt butter and chocolate together until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon. The mixture should be a spreadable paste.
Assembling the babka: Coat two 9-by-4-inch loaf pans with oil or butter and line the bottom of each with parchment paper. Remove half of the dough from fridge and roll out on a well-floured surface. It should be about 10 inches in width and 10 to 12 inches in length, though the measurements don't need to be exact.
Spread 1/2 (or less, if it looks chocolate-y enough to you without the whole half) of the chocolate mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Brush the far end of the dough with water and roll the dough up into a long, tight log, sealing it with the dampened end. Transfer the log to a lightly floured baking tray and set in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat with second half of dough.
Remove the logs from the freezer. Trim 1/2-inch off the end of each log. Cut the log in half lengthwise and lay both sides next to each other on the counter, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together and lift one side over the next, forming a twist with the cut sides facing out. Transfer the twist into the prepared loaf pan—and if it seems to large to fit vertically, try forming an "S" inside the pan. Repeat process with second loaf. Cover the loaf pans with a damp tea towel and leave to rise another 1 to 1 1/2 hours at room temperature.
Baking the babka: Heat oven to 375°F. Remove towels and place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine took much longer, I'm assuming because I let my dough rise for 2 days and therefore had larger loaves, or perhaps my oven wasn't as hot). If a toothpick or skewer feels stretchy inside and comes back with dough on it, continue baking in five minute intervals. When fully baked, you’ll feel almost no resistance with a toothpick or skewer. If your babka is browning too quickly, cover the top with foil.
For the syrup: Make the syrup while the babkas are baking. Bring sugar and water to a simmer until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool slightly. As soon as the babkas come out of the oven, brush the syrup over each. It will seem like too much, but will taste just right and will add a beautiful glossy finish. Let cool about halfway in pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.