Chocolate Babka

Making bread, including this chocolate babka recipe, is deeply satisfying. There’s the tactile thrill of putting your hands into whisper-weight flour, the invigorating exercise of kneading a mixture until it’s smooth, and the enjoyable charge that comes with punching down a pillow of dough. Amazingly, such emotional rewards are brought about by cool calculations and science.–Martha Stewart

LC Babkalicious! Note

Know what makes this chocolate babka recipe memorable, nay, the best babka ever? Take a peek at the ingredient list. Yup. More than two pounds of chocolate and butter in blissful excess. Fat phobes and calorie counters can take comfort in the fact that the recipe makes three loaves. That’s waaaaay less than a stick of butter per slice, which seems reasonable enough to us. And rest assured, Seinfeld fans, it draws on both chocolate and cinnamon, ensuring that it’s not a lesser babka.

Chocolate Babka Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H
  • 4 H
  • Makes 3 loaves

Ingredients

  • For the dough
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk [110°F (43°C)]
  • 2 (1/4 ounce each) packages active-dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup plus a pinch granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for bowl and loaf pans
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • For the filling
  • 2 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • For the streusel topping
  • 1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions

  • Make the dough
  • 1. Pour the warm milk into a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over the milk and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  • 2. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, 2 of the eggs, and the egg yolks. Add the egg mixture to the yeast mixture and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • 3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and salt. Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Change to the dough hook. Add 2 sticks of butter and beat until the flour mixture and the butter are completely incorporated and the mixture forms a smooth, soft dough that’s slightly sticky when squeezed, about 10 minutes.
  • 4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few turns, just until smooth. Butter a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  • Make the filling
  • 5. Place the chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the 1 1/2 sticks of butter and, using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut it in until well combined. Set aside.
  • Make the babkas
  • 6. Generously butter three 9-by-5-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pans and line them with parchment paper. Beat the remaining egg with the cream. Set aside.
  • 7. Gently punch down the dough and transfer it to a clean surface. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
  • 8. Cut the dough into 3 equal portions. Keep 2 portions covered with plastic wrap while working with the remaining portion. On a generously floured surface, roll the dough out into a 16-inch square that’s 1/8-inch thick. Crumble a scant 1/3 of the chocolate filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Brush the border with the egg wash and, starting at one side, roll the dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch the ends together to seal. Holding one end of the dough in each hand, twist it 5 or 6 turns. Brush the top of the roll with the egg wash and carefully crumble 2 tablespoons of the filling over the left half of the roll, being careful not to let mixture slide off. Fold the right half of the roll over onto the coated left half, then fold the ends of the dough underneath and pinch it to seal. Twist the roll 2 turns and nestle it into the prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of dough and the remaining filling. Don’t discard the egg wash just yet. (The babka loaves can be frozen for up to a month before baking. Remove from the freezer and let stand at room temperature for about 5 hours before baking.)
  • Make the streusel topping
  • 9. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and butter. Using a fork, stir until fully combined, with the streusel ranging in size from crumbs to 1-inch clumps.
  • 10. Heat the oven to 350°F (176°C).
  • 11. Brush the top of each loaf with the egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of the streusel topping over each loaf. Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place 20 to 30 minutes.
  • 12. Discard the plastic wrap and bake the loaves, rotating them halfway through, until golden, about 55 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325°F (163°C) and bake until the babkas are deep golden, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from the oven and transfer the pans to wire racks to cool to room temperature. Turn the chocolate babka out from their pans and cut them into thick slices.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Chiyo Ueyama

Dec 16, 2011

“HOLY COW!” I said it when I saw how much butter and chocolate the recipe calls for, and again when I tasted the babka. The texture is flawlessly half bread and half cake, and every bite has even swirls of chocolatey and just-eggy-enough heavenliness. Those who don’t have a stand mixer or three loaf pans (join the club) — don’t fret. You can make this babka. There was too much dough for the short hooks on my hand-held mixer, so I incorporated the butter into the flour and egg mixture mostly by hand, which didn’t take much time at all. I only have two loaf pans, so I froze one third of the dough after step eight, for later enjoyment. The recipe does take a while from start to finish, so get your calendar out and plan an afternoon centered around this chocolate babka! It’s truly worth the effort and time.

Testers Choice
Sue Epstein

Dec 16, 2011

OMG! I’ve died and gone to heaven! I love Babka and have made it many, many times with numerous recipes, but this is THE ONE. Not only was it delicious, but it seems to be indestructible. I made the dough and started to let it rise when I realized that I didn’t have enough chocolate, so I wrapped the dough in film wrap and put it in the freezer, where it sat for three days before I got out to buy more chocolate. On day three, I took it out of the freezer and started to let it rise when I had to leave home, so I put the bowl in the refrigerator and left it there for four hours. I thought I might have to redo the whole thing but the dough was fine. Very straightforward and easy to do. When I first read the recipe I thought 2 1/4 pounds of chocolate and five sticks of butter will make anything taste good, but the cake part of it was just the right amount of lightness and sweet. The only problem, if you could call it that, was twisting and folding the dough after rolling it jelly-roll style. My dough just didn’t seem to want to be twisted, and it didn’t work for me as written, but I twisted it as best I could and it looked beautiful and tasted like heaven. The recipe calls for baking it about 55 minutes, lowering the oven and baking for 15 – 20 minutes longer. Mine, however, were completely done after 55 minutes. (I always test for doneness with a thermometer — 190 degrees when it’s done.) Well, one other problem. You just can’t stop eating it! (I froze one of the babkas and obviously it wasn’t as good as fresh out of the oven, but it was still excellent. It was absolutely “inhaled” by my guests.)

Testers Choice
Amy M.

Dec 16, 2011

Holy Babka! This was amazing! I cut the recipe by one third. I did not want three of these things hanging around, as I would have eaten them all. The recipe worked perfectly with the reduced quantities. Though the recipe did take some time, it was absolutely worth it, resulting in a rich, chocolatly treat. Plus, if you prepare it the night before, refrigerate, and proof the following morning, the process is less onerous. My favorite part, though, was the streusel topping. Not only did it add a perfect textural contrast, but the addition of confectioner’s sugar (with its cornstarch) kept the topping light and crisp. Perfect recipe for breakfast during the holidays!

Testers Choice
Kara Vitek

Dec 16, 2011

Wow! This bread was worth all of the steps! I don’t think I’ve ever had Chocolate Babka before, so I don’t know what to compare this to. How about decadent chocolate baked into a crusty bread with a soft center? How about the house smelled incredible? How about it’s fun to make? How about three full loaves are yielded out of one dough recipe? I’m excited to say that this turned out so delicious! It really was fun to make. The dough was beautiful; so velvety and so easy to work with. Each step is explained thoroughly enough, except I had a bit of trouble shaping the first loaf. Once I got to the second and third loaves, their shapes were more consistent, and more of what it was supposed to be like. Although the shape of my first babka wasn’t probably exactly as written, once baked, you can’t even notice. I was turned off when I read of the two and a half tablespoons of cinnamon in the chocolate filling; but this was perfect! I don’t usually prefer cinnamon with chocolate, but it’s only slightly noticeable and delicious. This loaf is chocolaty, it rose well in the oven, and with the streusel topping, it looks as if it came from the bakery. I did freeze the other two loaves (made them up to step eight) and will send them home with my Thanksgiving guests for their holiday weekend! Do try this recipe. You will not be disappointed.

Testers Choice
Adrienne Lee

Dec 16, 2011

While this is an involved recipe, the end product is delicious. Like any yeasted bread, the amount of flour may need to be adjusted (as well as timing on kneading). Pay attention to the baking time. Mine took a lot less time to get to the color prescribed. When I lowered the temp, I also covered the loaves with aluminum foil.

Testers Choice
Ellen Fuss

Dec 16, 2011

As I stood waiting on line at my favorite New York City appetizing store on Friday, I noticed how many people were buying chocolate babka…but I thought to myself…my guests are in for a real treat…my Saturday morning project was going to be trying out this chocolate babka. I figured that if it didn’t work out I could bake a batch of cookies really quickly and my guests would never know what they were missing. As I started working with the dough and following the step by step directions I had a feeling that it was going well. The dough was silky and rose beautifully. The assembly process went smoothly and the tons of chocolate filled the loaves to perfection. They looked great, they smelled great and then when I tasted the babka I knew it was perfection. My project gave me a perfect reward. My New Year’s Brunch guests got a perfect dessert. I am thrilled to have two more loaves in the freezer, one fully baked and one ready to be brought to room temperature and then baked off. Those people at the appetizing store should have gone home and baked just like I did…this cake can’t be beat. It is perfection.


Comments
Comments
  1. Amy says:

    I made this recipe for Rosh Hashanah last year. It was the best babka I’ve ever tasted! I got so many complements on it. Delicious!!!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Looooovely to hear, Amy! That’s actually what we’ve heard from just about everyone we know who’s baked it…

  2. Natasha D. says:

    I love babka but have not been able to find it in any delis lately and am so happy to have found this recipe. I also noticed that Smitten Kitchen has a very similar recipe but she uses 1 3/4 cups plus a pinch of sugar…I just wanted to clarify, does the recipe really calls for 3/4 cup?

    Thanks so much! Here is SK’s recipe: http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/09/mmm-bab-bee-bab-ka/

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Hi, Natasha, so glad we’re able to help you secure your babka fix! The amount of sugar in this recipe is correct. It’s exactly the amount called for in the original recipe found, as you’ll see at the top of the recipe, in the Martha Stewart Baking Book. We tested it in several home kitchens with that measure of sugar, and that’s the amount of sugar responsible for the comments you see above, so we’re pretty confident it works!

      • Lee says:

        It looks like Deb (Smitten Kitchen) followed Martha’s babka recipe that was published in 2000 from Martha Stewart Living. The recipe calls for 1 and 3/4 cups of sugar and 3 and 1/2 sticks butter. I haven’t tried either recipe, so I can’t comment on how the end results compare – just thought I would clear up the confusion!

        Link here: http://www.marthastewart.com/312994/chocolate-babka

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Many thanks, Lee. Greatly appreciate it. Just to clarify, when we test a recipe, we test it exactly as it appears, so when you see our testers’ comments above, you can rest assured that they made this recipe using the amounts listed. And not to brag or anything, but they found it to be the best babka of their lives, evidenced by the “OMG!” and “Perfection.” and “Holy Babka!” and so forth. So while we were tempted to test Deb’s version and have a babka bake-off, I think everyone can understand why we decided to stick with a good thing. Again, many thanks! And I’m looking forward to hearing which you make and what you think!

  3. Nancy says:

    Hello, I’d love to try and make this recipe, although three loaves is more than I will need. Can you provide some insight as to how I can reduce this recipe to make only one loaf?

    Thank you,

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Nancy, doubling or halving a baking recipe can lead to unreliable results. But a few of our testers froze both the dough and the baked loaves for later use. Or you could be the most popular girl on the block and share the loaves with your neighbors.

  4. Leanne C says:

    ok, how much is a “stick” of butter? 1 lbs? 1 cup?

  5. I will attest that this is the best babka. I have made it many times. However, and this is a big HOWEVER, I now prefer the Chocolate Krantz cake from the Jerusalem cookbook by Ottolenghi. I did post about it, and I’m not trying to take away from Martha, but I now prefer this one. It’s a bit different and would be fun to compare the two side by side. Check his out. It is really, really good.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      That Chocolate Krantz cake does sound lovely, Abbe. Something of a different, albeit similar, beast….

      • Marlene H. says:

        Would it be OK to add chopped pecans or walnuts to the chocolate filling? My daughter-in-law makes amazing chocolate bread that includes nuts.

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Marlene H., we haven’t tried it that way, so I can’t say for certain, although honestly I see no reason why that wouldn’t be quite lovely. I suggest you lightly toast the nuts prior to sprinkling them over the dough. Please let us know how it goes!

  6. Wendy says:

    I made this today before I went into work (I work evenings). Making it takes a little time, but it is well worth it. Everyone at my work loved it! They loved it so much I almost didn’t get a piece. As soon as I began cutting the babka it was gone! I mean Immediately! I ended up splitting the last piece with one of my co-workers just so I could taste it. Everything worked out perfectly. The dough was silky and great to work with. I was concerned when I read the recipe and saw that you had to twist and fold the roll, but I worried needlessly; everything worked out perfectly. I don’t have a mixer so I had to do everything by hand and my babkas were Beautiful! The were absolutely Gorgeous. This is a wonderful recipe, Thank You so much for sharing it!

    • Beth Price says:

      Thank you, Wendy. We love hearing things like this, just a piece of advice for next time, hide! And take the babka with you.

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