Braided with swirls of chocolate in a light tender brioche dough, this easy chocolate babka recipe will not disappoint. Amazing plain, toasted, or as french toast. Tastes like the version from a famous NYC bakery!
What is babka?
Babka’s origins start from the early 1800’s in the Polish Jewish communities. The people would use leftover dough from their traditional Challah bread and wrap it with flavors like jams or cinnamon.
In recent years, we’ve taken a much sweeter take on the traditional babka bread and fill it with just about anything – sweet or savory.
I love this version using a homemade chocolate filling. It’s decadent without being overly sweet. Amazing plain, toasted, or as french toast. I ate my way through New York City last fall and scouted out some of the best recommended babka in the area. I tried a $5 slice with raving reviews, and was both disappointed and happy to taste that my version at home was definitely just as good or better. So here’s to making an amazing bakery style loaf in your own home, and at a much better price!
How to make chocolate babka
While it looks intimidating, this bread is easier than it looks when you follow a few simple steps! You can also spread out some steps over a couple days if that’s easier. The filling can be made up to a week in advance (and even frozen) and the dough can be made 1-2 days ahead of time before assembling as well.
Here’s the overview:
1. Make the dough + rise
2. Make chocolate filling
3. Roll out dough, fill, and roll up into a log
4. Chill dough (optional, but helps create a neater braid)
5. Cut the log into two pieces vertically and twist the two pieces together
6. Rise + bake
More ways to use babka dough
This recipe makes two loaves. You can do so and devour both, freeze one (it freezes really well!), give one away, OR my personal favorite – use the second portion of dough to make a second flavor.
You could opt to not braid it and just make a standard loaf of bread (which would make amazing french toast because it’s so tender). But you could also half the filling recipe and half another filling recipe to have two flavors. Feel free to experiment and go sweet or savory. Our family favorites are filling with a garlic butter and cheese filling, red pepper pesto, or a jam like this homemade raspberry version. For holidays, you can also dye the dough and create a really fun effect like I’ve done in our Valentine’s Swirl Babka.
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If you make this recipe, make sure you tag @loskitchenco on Instagram and leave a comment below! You can also save for later by clicking the ‘Pin Recipe’ button on the recipe card. Happy baking!
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- ~4 cups bread flour *See note
- 6 oz (1 cup) semi sweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup butter (salted or unsalted is fine)
- 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract as sub)
- pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter)
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- For the dough: Add warm milk, yeast, and sugar to a stand mixer with a dough hook. A large bowl will also work if making by hand.
- Add about 2 cups of flour, eggs, and salt. Let mix well. Then while mixer is running, slowly add the softened butter. Slowly add remaining 2 ½ cups of flour. Depending on your moisture level, it may be slightly more or less flour. Dough should be soft and smooth, but not too sticky.
- Let mixer knead the dough for 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, put in oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 1 ½ hours or put in the fridge to rest overnight.
- OPTIONAL: After the dough has risen, place it in the freezer for a half hour. It will make it easier to work with in assembly.
- For the filling: While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Melt the butter, cream, and chocolate together. Then add the remaining filling ingredients and mix until you get a smooth, thick paste. Set aside.
- Assembly: Line two 8.5x4.5 inch loaf pans (9x5 will work too) with parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over the edge (just helps in pulling the dough out). Spray lightly with nonstick spray.
- Divide the dough into 2 even sections. Start with one section and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 10x12" rectangle. Add an even layer or chocolate filling, leaving about a half inch on all sides. Using the short end, roll up tightly into a log (like a cinnamon roll), being careful not to squeeze any of the filling out. Gently pinch along the seam to seal. Repeat this process with the second ball of dough.
- Place logs on a lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30-60 minutes (or the freezer to expedite it!) **This chilling step is optional but does help make the next step a bit easier if you have the time!
- Once chilled, start with one log and use a sharp knife to cut lengthwise down the entire center, exposing the middle of the log with those long beautiful strips of chocolate. Carefully twist the two ends together. You can do this easily by making an x with the two pieces and then twisting the top, then the bottom. Place in your loaf pans, cover, and let rise until the loaf has risen about 50 percent - usually about 30 minutes. Repeat with second log.
- Place in your loaf pans, cover, and let rise until the loaf has risen about 50 percent - usually about 30 minutes or until the dough is soft and pillow-like. Repeat with second log.
- Bake: While babka is rising, preheat oven to 350. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. If your oven browns the tops quickly, you can put a piece of foil on the top about 20 minutes in. It's done when the bottoms are a dark golden brown and layers look fully cooked. You know it's done when it's a rich golden brown color and the interior dough (not the filling) reaches about 200℉
- When babka is almost done baking, make your syrup by brining the water and sugar to a simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Once the sugar has dissolved and is slightly thickened, take it off the heat. Using a pastry brush, generously lather the tops of the baked babka with the syrup.
- Remove loaves from oven and immediately brush with sugar syrup while hot. Let the loaves rest in the pans for about 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. Let loaves cool completely before slicing for best results. Bread is best kept at room temperature up to 3 days. It also freezes great. Serve plain, toasted, or use as french toast. Enjoy!