Chocolate Babka

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Chocolate and Nutella-swirled babka makes a crave-worthy treat any time of day.

Babka is a braided yeast bread or cake hailing from the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. It is prepared with an enriched bread dough, like challah or brioche, that is rolled out and spread with a sweet or savory filling, then rolled up and twisted before baking. Charmingly, the word “babka” comes from the Polish babcia, which translates to “grandmother,” similar to the Yiddish word for grandmother, bubbe. The story goes that babka was created by resourceful Jewish grandmothers, who would repurpose leftover challah dough on Shabbat to make an early version of the bread. The name supposedly comes from the fluted mold resembling a grandmother’s skirt the bread was traditionally baked in.

Traditional babka recipes called for oil instead of butter and weren’t overly sweet, but over time the bread evolved into the buttery and dessert-like chocolate-filled babkas of today. Perhaps the most famous babka (after the one mentioned on Seinfeld in 1994) is sold at Breads Bakery in NYC. It is outrageously good, and since it’s filled with Nutella rather than a homemade chocolate spread, it’s easy to make at home. I tweaked the recipe on their website to use my favorite brioche dough and also scale it down. While this is a very simple recipe, the dough requires two separate rises as well as at least 3 hours in the fridge. If you plan to bake and serve babka on the same day, it’s best to start the process the day before.

What You’ll Need To Make Chocolate Babka

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Make the dough

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, warm water, sugar, salt, and yeast. butter, water, sugar, salt and yeast in bowl

Whisk to combine, then add the eggs and egg yolk.

adding the eggs and egg yolks to the mixture

Whisk again to combine.

whisked liquid ingredients for babka dough

Add the flour all at once.

adding flour to liquid mixture

Stir with a wooden spoon until uniform and all of the flour is absorbed. The dough will be wet, lumpy and somewhat elastic (it will firm up in the fridge and smooth out when you knead it later).
babka doughCover loosely with plastic wrap (be sure the bowl is completely covered but don’t make it airtight) and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to three days.

dough after first rise

Step 2: Form the Babka

On the day of baking, grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan generously with butter. Dust a clean work surface with flour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, transfer it to the work surface, and dust it lightly with flour. Knead with your hands, sprinkling more flour as necessary so the dough doesn’t stick, for 30 seconds.

kneading the doughRoll out the dough into a 14-inch square, dusting more flour underneath and over the dough as necessary; it should be about ⅛ inch thick.
rolling the babka dough

Using an offset spatula, spread the Nutella over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border.

nutella spread onto dough

Sprinkle the chocolate over the Nutella.

chocolate sprinkled over dough

Starting with the side closest to you, roll the dough tightly into a log; turn it vertically, so one end of the log is facing you, and place seam side down.

babka dough rolled into a log

Using a sharp serrated bread knife, cut the log in half lengthwise.

cutting log in half

Turn the cut sides up and twist the strands together, keeping the cut sides facing up.

twisting the dough

Transfer the twisted dough to the prepared loaf pan. (This is a messy process; just do your best – it will look pretty no matter how messy it is).
dough in pan

Cover the babka loosely with plastic wrap (not airtight) and let sit at room temperature for 90 minutes. It will rise just a bit. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position.

dough after second rise

Step 3: Bake and Glaze

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the babka is a rich golden brown color. A toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf should come out without any wet dough sticking to it (melted chocolate is okay). If you have an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 190°F to 200°F in the center of the loaf.

Meanwhile, make the syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the pan with the baked babka on a rack. Immediately brush or drizzle the syrup over top. The syrup helps to add a nice sheen to the loaf while also keeping the babka moist.

brushing glaze on baked babkaLet cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out and cool completely before slicing.

How To Freeze Babka

Once the babka is completely cooled, wrap it in a few layers of plastic wrap, then in foil. Store it in the freezer for up to 1 month. Thaw the wrapped babka at room temperature. Before serving, warm the babka in a 325°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until warmed through.

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Chocolate Babka

Chocolate and Nutella-swirled babka makes a crave-worthy treat any time of day.

Servings: One 9x5-inch babka
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes, plus at least 6½ hours for the dough to rise

Ingredients

For the Dough

  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus more for greasing the pans
  • ½ cup warm water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1⅛ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon rapid-rise/instant yeast
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled off, plus more for kneading and rolling

For the Chocolate Filling

  • ½ cup Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread, at room temperature
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (⅔ cup), best quality

For the Syrup

  • ¼ cup water
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • Generous pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, warm water, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add the eggs and egg yolk and whisk until evenly combined. Add the flour all at once, and stir with a wooden spoon until uniform and all of the flour is absorbed. The dough will be wet, lumpy and somewhat elastic (it will firm up in the fridge and smooth out when you knead it later). Cover loosely with plastic wrap (be sure the bowl is completely covered but don't make it airtight) and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to three days.
  2. On the day of baking, grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan generously with butter.
  3. Dust a clean work surface with flour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, transfer it to the work surface, and dust it lightly with flour. Knead with your hands, sprinkling more flour as necessary so the dough doesn't stick, for 30 seconds. Roll out the dough into a 14-inch square, dusting more flour underneath and over the dough as necessary; it should be about ⅛ inch thick.
  4. Using an offset spatula, spread the Nutella over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border. Sprinkle the chocolate over the Nutella. Starting with the side closest to you, roll the dough tightly into a log; turn it vertically, so one end of the log is facing you, and place seam side down. Using a sharp serrated bread knife, cut the log in half lengthwise. Turn the cut sides up and twist the strands together, keeping the cut sides facing up. Transfer the twisted dough to the prepared loaf pan. (This is a messy process; just do your best – it will look pretty no matter how messy it is).
  5. Cover the babka loosely with plastic wrap (not airtight) and let sit at room temperature for 90 minutes. It will rise just a bit.
  6. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position.
  7. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the babka is a rich golden brown color. A toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf should come out without any wet dough sticking to it (melted chocolate is okay). If you have an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 190°F to 200°F in the center of the loaf.
  8. Meanwhile, make the syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  9. Place the pan with the baked babka on a rack. Immediately brush or drizzle the syrup over top. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out and cool completely before slicing.
  10. Babka is best enjoyed fresh on the day of baking, but it will keep wrapped in plastic wrap or in an airtight container for a few days.
  11. Freezing Instructions: Once the babka is completely cooled, wrap it in a few layers of plastic wrap, then in foil. Store it in the freezer for up to 1 month. Thaw the wrapped babka at room temperature. Before serving, warm the babka in a 325°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until warmed through.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (12 servings)
  • Serving size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 273
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Saturated fat: 9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 34 g
  • Sugar: 11 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Sodium: 162 mg
  • Cholesterol: 67 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • I made this to bring as a hostess gift to someone. I followed the directions exactly. So worth it! It is delicious. The dough looked very wet and messy but after it rises on the counter and then in the fridge it is easy to handle. The directions on how to roll and cut the babka were very clear. I will definitely make again and keep it for my family!

    • — Nicole on August 15, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’ve been cooking your recipes for the last couple of weeks and can’t wait to try more and more of them. They all turn out great. The Babka burned a little, or maybe it just got dark golden brown, which is because of my oven and the fact that I only checked it at the 40th minute. Anyways, it didn’t ruin it. It was crispy on the outside and just awesome. Thank you once again!

    • — Svetlana on June 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • I have been making babka for years, it is a tradition in our culture! Love it and so does everyone else…it is my go-to birthday gift for everyone. I do make a richer dough and add orange zest and rum, as well as a sweet vanilla crumble on top. Usually walnuts in the middle along with the chocolate. So many versions. Yes, it takes time, but it is worth it!

    • — Dagmar MacDonald on May 22, 2022
    • Reply
  • I have loved every recipe of yours that I’ve tried, so when I needed to take dessert to Easter dinner, I started the search on your website. I was intimidated by the look of the Babka, but your clear instructions and photos made it so easy! Everyone thought it was beautiful and LOVED the taste. A big hit! My daughter now wants me to try making it with fruit. I see many more babkas in our future. Thanks Jenn!

    • — Amy on April 18, 2022
    • Reply
  • Fun to make for Easter. Are you supposed to drizzle all of the glaze or jus enough to brush the whole top?

    • — Ellen in Tokyo on April 16, 2022
    • Reply
    • All of it 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 16, 2022
      • Reply
  • Also, can you substitute oil for the butter? If so, how much oil?
    Thank again!

    • — Mary on April 14, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, Mary, that should be fine, and you’ll need the same amount (1/2 cup). Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on April 14, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    Can I make this babka recipe with a cream cheese filling? Do you have a babka cheese filling recipe?

    • — Mary on April 14, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary, If you’re looking to make one with cream cheese filling, I’d look for a recipe specifically for that — I think you’ll have the most success that way. 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 14, 2022
      • Reply
  • Beautiful, delicious, and easy to make; rave reviews from kids and spouse. Thank you for another great recipe, Jenn!

    • — Jaclyn on April 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    I am a huge fan and make tons of your recipes. I am going to try this latest one for babka this weekend. For salt in this recipe and others, do you use table salt, or, I thought I read recently in a recipe comment, that you use fine sea salt?

    I’ve been using table salt in your recipes unless otherwise noted, but maybe should be doing something else?

    Thanks so much!

    • — Trisha on April 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Trisha, I use Baleine fine sea salt, but regular table salt is fine too. If I use kosher or another type of salt, I will call for that specifically. Hope that clarifies and you enjoy the babka! 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 8, 2022
      • Reply
  • Could you use a poppyseed filling for this? Or just sprinkle poppyseeds into the dough? Would love to try the old European flavours. Thanks for all your great recipes Jenn!

    • — Eva on April 7, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, Eva – you could do either.

      • — Jenn on April 7, 2022
      • Reply
    • Eva, you can make a traditional European cooked poppy seed filling, similar to making kolaches. Poppy seeds are simmered in milk, then a bit of rum and sweetener added.

      • — Dagmar on May 22, 2022
      • Reply
  • I made a loaf of this a few days ago and shocked even myself. It was so easy to do following Jen’s foolproof instructions. I thought I would never be a bread baker, but this recipe has me ready to venture out and try other types of yeast loaves!

    • — Mariah C. on April 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • You were right, no mixer required. Delicious. This one belongs in your cookbook. Thank you Jenn!!

    • — Ashley on April 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn! I have wanted to make a babka for a long time but was scared to try it since we live at 6700 elevation in CO. Had tried a number of your recipes in the past, all with great results, so figured I would give this one a go. It was a great success!! The only change I made was to use 3 whole eggs rather than 2 and 1 yolk as written to adjust for high altitude. Received rave reviews! Thanks for another stellar recipe!!

    • — Cindy on April 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • So delicious, and so easy, just time consuming. Thanks Jenn for always breaking it down in easy to follow steps!

    • — Emily on April 3, 2022
    • Reply
  • If I wanted to make two, should I make each separately or is it okay to mix a doubled portion of the dough? Thanks.

    • — Stella on April 3, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Stella, It’s perfectly fine to make a double portion of dough; instead of two egg yolks, you can just 1 whole egg. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on April 3, 2022
      • Reply
  • Looks great! Any chance I can use bread flour for the recipe? I have a lot of it…

    • — SaraC on April 2, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Sara, It should work. Please LMK how it turns out. 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 2, 2022
      • Reply
      • What an amazing recipe! The bread flour worked fine. I did add a little bit more water to make sure the dough was “wet” as you described it. It turned out fabulous! Thank you for the recipe!

        • — SARAC on April 3, 2022
        • Reply
  • Will Active Dry yeast do? Or should I go buy Instant/rapid rise.

    • — Lisa S. on April 2, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Lisa, Yes active dry yeast will work. I would just add it the warm water first and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, or until foamy.

      • — Jenn on April 2, 2022
      • Reply
  • Can you use cinnamon sugar to make a cinnamon Babka with the same recipe? And what would you do

    • — Angela on April 2, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Angela, I would use the cinnamon filling in this recipe. Hope that helps, and please LMK how it turns out if you try it.

      • — Jenn on April 2, 2022
      • Reply
      • I baked it today with the cinnamon filling that you suggested. The cake was wonderful. I would not use that cinnamon filling again a lot of it seeped out and it didn’t have enough cinnamon for me. I’m definitely going to try it with Nutella I’m sure I’ll like it better although it really was good…. So much better than anything I have reached recently found in the stores. it’s a great recipe I’ll definitely make it again

        • — Angela on April 5, 2022
        • Reply
    • Just made a couple loaves of this today. Thanks for the great recipe! So easy to do (just time consuming waiting on dough to rise). It looks so fancy and I feel like a pro!

      • — Jenn B. on April 3, 2022
      • Reply
  • Yum, this looks amazing. Can’t wait to make it.

    Jen, is there any way I can mix up the dough in my Kitchenaid using the dough hook? I don’t want to ruin the dough but am all about making life easier too.

    • — Ashley on April 2, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Ashley, You could use your mixer but I would use the paddle attachment; it’s a very wet dough. That said, the mixer really isn’t necessary – this dough is super easy to mix by hand. 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 2, 2022
      • Reply
  • Because of nut allergies, I was wondering what I could substitute for the Nutella?

    • — Amy on April 2, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Amy, You could use a nut-free chocolate spread (unfortunately, I don’t know of a good one to recommend) or you could make your own chocolate filling in place of the Nutella and chopped chocolate, like the chocolate paste in this recipe (keep in mind you’d need less, as the linked recipe makes 2 loaves).

      • — Jenn on April 2, 2022
      • Reply
      • My son is allergic to peanuts and most tree nuts except for almonds. Trader Joe’s has a nice almond-based Nutella-like spread, and I’ve seen similar with sunflower seeds at Berkeley Bowl (similar to Whole Foods).

        • — JL on April 2, 2022
        • Reply

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