Sweet and rich, this Chocolate Babka has the texture of a cinnamon roll with a decadent chocolate filling. This is a showstopper bread recipe to share with friends and enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea. Step by step photos and a video are included for more visual help!
This recipe makes two loaves, so the second loaf is perfect for epic french toast!
Chocolate Babka Recipe
There’s nothing quite like a loaf of babka! I’m so excited to share my recipe with you.
Traditional chocolate babka is a bit infamous for being difficult to make. Honestly though, I really don’t think so. It’s certainly much more time consuming than a quick bread, but not difficult. If you’ve ever made cinnamon rolls or challah bread, you can absolutely make babka.
This is not a bread that you can whip up in 30 minutes or even a few hours. There are several times when the dough needs to cool or rise for an hour or more – even up to 8 hours at one point – so this is a recipe that needs to be planned out. But it is SO worth it!! Perfect for those lazy days when you’re relaxing or futzing around the house.
What is Babka?
Babka is an Eastern European yeast-risen coffee bread. It’s considered a Jewish sweet bread, though you can also find it in Polish bakeries. The base is similar to brioche bread, with a decadent chocolate filling. The texture ends up being similar to a cinnamon roll. Logs of dough are braided together in a criss-cross pattern to show off the tasty filling and ensure there’s chocolate in every bite.
Though the ingredient list is a bit long, almost everything used to make babka bread is a pantry staple. Like all-purpose flour, sugar, powdered sugar, yeast, salt, cocoa powder, butter, milk, eggs, and chocolate chips.
How to Make Chocolate Babka
Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of steps to making babka bread. While this is a hands-on recipe and takes time, none of the steps are difficult.
(To make this babka recipe, scroll down to our printable recipe with the complete directions, and don’t miss the video below for more visual help.)
Make the Dough and Chocolate Filling:
- Make the dough. This is a dough that requires a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. You’ll combine flour, sugar, yeast, and salt, followed by eggs and milk until a dough forms into a rough ball. Then pats of butter get added one at a time. The dough will continue kneading for 8 to 10 minutes, until it’s smooth, elastic, and doesn’t stick to the bowl.
- Allow the dough to rise. The dough is placed in a bowl that’s lightly brushed with canola oil, then covered with plastic wrap where it will rise at room temperature for one hour. Then the bowl is transferred to the fridge to chill overnight.
- Make the chocolate filling. The butter and cream are combined over medium heat. Once the mixture is steaming, chocolate is added and stirred constantly. Off the heat, it’s mixed with powdered sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt. The mixture is transferred to a bowl to cool for about an hour until it thickens to a spreadable consistency.
- Add the filling to the dough. Each dough half gets rolled into a rectangle and then spread with half of the chocolate filling, then tightly rolled into a log and sealed. After being wrapped in plastic, they are transferred to the fridge to chill for a few minutes while the pans are prepped.
Twist and Bake:
- Prep the pans. Grease two loaf pans with oil and line with parchment paper, leaving a couple inches of overhang on the long sides.
- Twist the babka. Start with one dough log. Cut it gently in half length-wise. Position each half parallel to each other with the chocolate layers facing up. Twist together a few times, keeping the chocolate side up. Squeeze the ends together and tuck them under.
- Allow to rise. Transfer the babka to the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size.
- Bake. Bake at 350F for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown on top.
- Make the syrup. Bring water and sugar to a bubble. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
- Drizzle the syrup on top. Pierce the top of the loaves in several places with a fork. Brush the syrup all over the bread.
- Cool. Let the loaves cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to the wire rack to cool completely. Allow to cool to room temperature before slicing.
How Long Does the Dough Need To Chill?
Chilling the dough in the fridge overnight is ideal and highly recommended for optimal flavor. However, you can make the babka the same day if time doesn’t permit otherwise, as long as the dough can chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. The chill time is important as the dough continues to rise and it helps increase the flavor. The dough is also easier to work with when it’s cold.
Note that the dough can harden when placed in the fridge for a long time. Just leave it at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes until it’s easy to work with.
Babka Filling Add-Ins
While chocolate is one of the traditional babka fillings, there are many other things you can add in with the chocolate filling or even replace the chocolate with. Here are a few babka filling ideas:
- Cinnamon (this can also be added in with the chocolate)
- Nutella (instead of the homemade chocolate filling)
- Chocolate chips (not melted)
- Pecans or other nuts
- Dried fruit
- Cream cheese
Tips for Success
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed about making babka bread for the first time, here are some helpful tips.
- Don’t rush. This is by far the most important thing when making babka. Do not rush any of the rising or cooling times. The easiest way to mess up babka is by not letting it rise correctly. Yes, it’s a lot of time spent waiting, but it’s 100% worth it!
- Use a thermometer to check doneness. The easiest way to tell if your bread is finished baking is to use an instant read thermometer. The temperature should be about 190F.
- Don’t cool completely in the pan. Once you add the syrup to the babka, it should cool for just 10 minutes in the pan. Then transfer it to a cooling rack. If you leave it in the pan, it will likely stick due to the syrup.
- Allow to cool before cutting. As tempting as it is to slice it immediately, allow the chocolate babka to cool to just about room temperature before slicing. Otherwise, the filling won’t set properly and it will make a mess.
How to Store Babka
- Serving suggestions. Babka is best eaten within 24 hours of baking. It will have the freshest flavor and texture then. Serve your babka slightly warm or at room temperature. It’s typically enjoyed for breakfast or in the afternoon with coffee or tea.
- Storing leftovers. It will keep for up to 3 days if stored in an airtight container. Always store at room temperature. Baked babka should not go in the fridge. If you have more than you can eat in a few days, follow the directions below to freeze the extras.
- Can I freeze babka bread? Yes, chocolate babka freezes well. This recipe makes two loaves, which is perfect for having an extra to freeze. To freeze a loaf, allow it to cool completely then wrap in plastic wrap. Wrap again in foil and freeze for up to two months. To thaw, leave it on the counter for 2 hours or in the fridge overnight.
Video: How to Make Chocolate Babka
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For the Dough
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour , spooned and leveled (plus extra for dusting)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs , room temperature, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup whole milk , lukewarm (about 100-110 degrees F)
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened to room temperature
- canola oil , for coating the bowl and the loaf pans
For the Chocolate Filling
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- pinch of salt
For the Syrup Topping
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Make the Dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Add in the eggs and milk; mix on medium speed until everything is incorporated and the dough forms a rough ball, about 2-3 minutes.
- Switch to medium-low speed and add in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each one is fully incorporated before adding the next tablespoon. (Adding all the butter will take about 5 minutes.)
- Continue kneading the dough for about 8-10 minutes on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until dough is smooth, elastic, shiny, and doesn't stick to the bowl.
- Brush a large bowl with canola oil to coat and place the ball of dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour. (It won't double in size, but it should be puffy and have visibly risen.) Transfer the covered bowl to the refrigerator and chill for 8 hours/overnight so it can rise further and develop flavor.
Make the Chocolate Filling
- Combine butter and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and the mixture is steaming, add the chocolate and stir constantly until melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Transfer to a bowl and let cool until thickened to a spreadable paste-like consistency, about 1 hour.
Rolling and Shaping
- On a lightly floured surface, punch down dough and cut in half evenly with a bench scraper or sharp knife. (Work with half the dough at a time, placing the other half back in the fridge, covered.)
- Lightly dust the top of the dough and a rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough out to a 12×16-inch rectangle, with the short edge closest to you.
- Using an offset spatula, spread half of the chocolate filling evenly over the entire surface, leaving a 1/2-inch margin at the top of the rectangle furthest from you.
- Starting from the short side closest to you, using both hands, tightly roll the rectangle into a log, pressing to seal where the seam is. Wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge, while you repeat the same process with the other half of dough and chocolate filling.
Prep the Pans
- While both rolls are chilling in the fridge for a few minutes, prep the pans.
- Grease 2 loaf pans with oil (you can use either 9×5-inch or 8×4-inch), then line with parchment paper, leaving a couple inches of overhang on the long sides, for easy removal once baked. Set aside.
Twist the Babka
- Remove one dough log from the fridge and using a large serrated knife, gently cut the roll in half lengthwise, starting at the top, so you have 2 long even halves
- Position each half parallel to each other with the cut sides and chocolate layers facing up. Twist the halves together a few times, keeping the cut sides facing up. Gently squeeze together the ends and tuck them under.
Transfer to the Pans
- Carefully transfer the babka into one of the prepared pans. (Don't be concerned if there are gaps in the pan – they will fill up as the babka rises and bakes.)
- Cover the pan with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours until almost doubled in size. (The dough should be puffy and will have risen to about 1/2-inch below the rim of the pan.)
- Repeat the entire process with the second log of dough.
Preheat Oven and Bake
- 15 minutes before the end of rising, preheat oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the middle position.
- Once oven is fully preheated, remove plastic wrap from both pans.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown on top. A toothpick inserted deep into the loaf should come out clean. To check for exact doneness, you're shooting for an internal temperature of 190 degrees F with an instant thermometer.
- Make the Syrup
- While the babkas bake, make the syrup topping. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring water and sugar to a bubble. Once the sugar dissolves, take off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool.
- As soon as the babkas are finished baking, pierce the top of the loaves in several places with a fork or tiny skewer.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the syrup all over the surface. It may seem like a lot, but use it all, dividing equally between both loaves. This helps keep the bread moist and adds that beautiful shine.
Cool and Enjoy
- Let the loaves cool in their pans for 10 minutes, while they absorb the syrup (but not longer, or they can stick.) Then using the parchment paper, lift out the loaves and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Don't be impatient and slice too soon – the bread needs to be close to room temperature to set properly.