Babka, melt-away, even chocolate bread. Whatever you want to call it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it is one of those desserts that is TRULY irresistible.
While irresistible, it is also one of those desserts that require a little bit of time and patience. Getting that perfect swirl requires some precision, but don’t let that intimidate you. The first time I made babka was for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year celebration. As a traditional Jewish dessert, it seemed like the perfect time to try this one out, rather than settle for the store-bought version.
The recipe comes from a family friend and is pretty traditional. While I tend to stick with chocolate or cinnamon filling, it is super versatile and can really be switched out for any flavor. This past Rosh Hashana, I added chopped Granny Smith Apples and mixed them into the cinnamon filling. Let me tell you, I am still drooling over that flavor combo.
There are a few key rules to follow when making babka.
- Let It Rest
- Like any yeasted dough, the babka needs a few hours to rest in order to achieve that perfect rise. The recipe calls for 2 – 4 hours. When I am rush, I tend to let the dough rise to 2 hours and take it from there. The dough still comes out good, but not as good. If you have the time, let it rise a little longer, giving it some more time to develop.
- Filling to Dough Ratio
- The key to getting the babka right it the filling to dough ratio. Too much filling and everything will come spilling out of the dough. Not enough filling will result in dry bread. But don’t be afraid to toss some extra chocolate chips in there!
- Roll, Roll, Roll
- I’m sure you could get all fancy with the rolling and braiding techniques, but I like to keep it simple. After spreading out the dough and placing the filling on top, I roll the dough into two long Iogs. The logs then get twisted and put into a loaf pan. The twists create perfect swirls and keep all the filling tucked in tight.
- Flavor Combos!
- Experiment with fillings! Throw some marshmallows in with the chocolate for a s’mores babka or some apples in with the cinnamon. The dough works as a base for just about any filling!
Don’t let this doughy dessert intimated you! It might look a little complicated, but just remember to take your time. Check out the recipe below.
Try any unusual flavor combinations?! Let me know!
Chocolate and Cinnamon Babka
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 oz (2 envelopes active dry yeast
- 2 1/2 cups, plus 1 tsp sugar, divided
- 5 cups flour, plus extra for sprinkling
- 3 cups (6 sticks) margarine, softened, divided
- 2 large eggs plus 1 white (reserve yolk for glazing)
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup cinnamon
- In a large bowl, gently combine 1/2 cup of warm water with 1 tsp of sugar and the yeast. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, until the mixture starts to form small bubbles. Add 1/2 cup sugar, the flour, 2 sticks of the margarine, and the eggs in the bowl. Mix with a dough hook or a wooden spoon until the ingredients are combined.
- Cover the bowl with plastic and let rise for 2-4 hours. The dough should double in size.
- While the dough is rising, make the filling. For chocolate filling, in a small bowl combine 1 cup of sugar with the cocoa powder and 2 sticks of margarine. For cinnamon filling, in a small bowl combine 1 cup of sugar with the cinnamon and 2 sticks of margarine. Mix with a mixer or by hand. Keep the filling out and at room temperature. This will make it easy to spread.
- Once the dough is complete with the rise, preheat the oven to 375. Grease 2 12-inch loaf pans and preheat the oven to 375.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Take 1 piece and set the rest aside. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a 10x7 inch rectangle. Spread 1/4 of the filling onto the dough. If using chocolate chips, scatter them in the dough. Roll up the dough beginning with the horizontal side of the rectangle. Repeat the steps with the remaining dough.
- When you have 2 rolls with the same filling, twist them around each other, trying to keep the seam on the bottom. Tuck the ends of the loaf underneath and place it into the prepared pans. Repeat for the remaining loaf.
- Once in the pan, brush the loaves with the reserved egg yolk and a bit of water. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar/ chocolate chips as desired.
- Bake the babka for 45-55 minutes, until the top has a golden brown crust. Allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, run a knife around the babka and remove from the pan to fully cool.