Updated: Jul 8, 2021
This traditional Eastern European yeast-risen sweet bread is laced with chocolate, butter, and old-world charm. A rich brioche-like dough is beautifully swirled with a dark fudge filling, topped with buttery streusel crumbs, braided, baked until perfectly golden, and finished with a brushing of a sweet simple syrup. This moist, light, and tender cake-like bread pulls apart into irresistible layers that melt in your mouth like a cinnamon roll. Serve this decadent chocolate babka warm as a special breakfast or as a comforting dessert. Although it takes two days to make, this scrumptious pastry is an experience you’ll never forget and is worth every minute.
Makes 2 loaves
1 cup whole milk, warmed to about 110°F
1 packet dry active yeast
½ cup granulated sugar, divided
4½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
⅔ cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature
Dark Chocolate Filling
8 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup dark brown sugar
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsalted butter cold and cut into small pieces
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the milk with the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, remaining sugar, salt, and nutmeg.
After the yeast has sat for 5 minutes, add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla to the stand mixer and sprinkle the flour mixture on top. Mix at medium speed for 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add the butter and mix at low speed until it is fully incorporated and a tacky dough forms, about 5-7 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and coat the paper generously with nonstick cooking spray. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the parchment paper and cut the dough in half. Pat each half into a neat square. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours).
Coat two 9x4-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving about 2-inches overhanging on the sides and spray the paper with non-stick cooking spray.
After refrigerating the dough overnight, roll out each square of dough into an 18-inch square. Using an offset spatula, spread half of the chocolate filling in an even layer over each dough square, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges.
Starting at the long edge nearest you, tightly roll up each dough square into a tight log. Trim about ½-inch off each end using a sharp knife.
Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the logs in half crosswise to expose the filling layers.
With the cut sides facing up, place one half on top of the other half in opposite directions to form a cross. Then twist together to form a spiral (as if you were braiding them).
Transfer the loaves to the prepared pans. Cover the loaves with a towel and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Sprinkle the streusel over the top of each loaf.
Bake the loaves in the center of the oven for about 40 minutes, or until puffed and well browned. Remove the loaves from the oven and immediately Brush the cooled syrup over the babkas. Allow the babkas to cool completely in the pan before slicing.
Dark Chocolate Filling
Place chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan and heat on medium until melted and smooth, stirring constantly.
Add the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder and whisk until completely smooth.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and cinnamon. Set aside to cool completely.
In a medium bowl, combine all of the crumb topping ingredients with a fork, pastry blender, or your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
In a small saucepan, add the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Let the mixture boil for a minute or two, then remove from the heat to cool completely.
NOTE: The filling, streusel, and syrup can be made a day in advance. Slightly reheat the filling to a spreadable consistency (like Nutella) just before using and refrigerate the streusel until ready to use.