The moment I saw those Great British Bake-off contestants tackling chocolate bread, I knew I’d be making chocolate babka.
I first heard of chocolate babka in that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and Elaine fail to buy one for a dinner party, but have never made – or eaten – any type of babka until now.
It turns out that making babka is a time-consuming, fiddly labour of love. Part way through the bread-braiding process, I thought “this is the first and last chocolate babka I’m going to make.”
And then I tasted that pillowy sweet dough laced with swirls and knots of chocolate and nuggets of toasted pecan. If I hadn’t been stupified by deliciousness, I could have happily started making another one immediately…;-)
While babka isn’t something you throw together in twenty minutes, the finished product does justify the effort involved. Alternatively, seek out a great bakery that sells babka and buy your bliss…
This chocolate babka recipe is closely based on one provided by David Lebovitz. He also includes helpful illustrations of the slicing and braiding process (I would have needed a dedicated photographer to braid and shoot at the same time).
(makes one loaf)
For the dough:
- 2 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1/2 cup milk, warmed
- 2 1/2 cups plain flour, divided
- 60g butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp salt
For the filling:
- 100g butter
- 150g caster sugar
- 75g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), chopped
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans (or other nuts)
For the syrup:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp honey
- In a mixing bowl, combine the yeast, caster sugar, milk, and 1/2 flour. Leave for ten minutes to allow the yeast to bloom.
- Stir in the butter, then add the egg and salt, and mix until smooth. Add enough flour to make a pliable dough. Tip onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Return to the bowl, cover and leave to rise in the fridge for six hours (or overnight).
- Make the chocolate filling by melting the butter and sugar together in a small pot over a medium flame. Remove from the heat, add in the chocolate pieces, and stir until melted.
- Stir in the cocoa powder and cinnamon, then set aside to cool.
- Butter a 9″ loaf pan, and line with a pieces of baking parchment, leaving the sides over the paper overhanging.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12″ x 20″ (30cm x 50cm) rectangle. Spread the chocolate filling over the entire surface. Scatter with nuts.
- Starting at a long edge, roll the dough into a tight log shape. Cut in half lengthwise, then turn the two pieces so the cut sides face up.
- Twist the pieces together, taking care to always keep the cut sides facing up. Carefully lift the babka into the prepared loaf tin, pushing down the ends so that it fits.
- Cover the babka with clingfilm and leave to rise until double in size (about two hours).
- Make the syrup by heat the water, sugar and honey in a small pot over a medium flame. Boil for four minutes, skimming off any foam that forms on the top. Set aside to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (185°C) and bake for about half an hour, until a skewer comes out clean (aside from melted chocolate).
- Spread the top of the babka with syrup and leave in the tin until completely cooled.