How to Make Chocolate Babka (Step-by-Step Photo Recipe)

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You guys. YOU GUYS! I’m super excited about this post.

This recipe has a fair amount of steps.

That means it’s the perfect, holiday luxury bake in my book.

These chocolate babkas take about 6 hours from start to finish, give or take, since it’s a yeast dough.

So, call it an Epic Holiday Baking Quest…an act of love…you get the idea.

(Not all of this is working time, though…you’re waiting for loaves to rise and bake, etc. etc.).

And it’s so damned delicious I almost can’t stand it.

It’s definitely the new holiday darling at our house.

This chocolate babka is buttery, fragrant with heady cinnamon, and shot through with ribbons of bittersweet chocolate.

It’s topped with a rich and buttery, sweet streusel topping.

If that’s not heaven, I don’t know what is.

I mean, real talk. LOOK at all this butter:

This is a long post, but that’s because I’m going to walk you through every step of making this.

I’ve also included a printable recipe card at the end of this post, as well.

This isn’t my recipe

Meet my good friend Holly from Edward Owl Jewelry.

Here we are adventuring up in salty Portsmouth, NH this past summer:

No wait, those are the chocolate babkas. Here we are!

This is Holly’s recipe.

And I can’t thank her enough for sharing it with us—and all of you. I tweaked it slightly for this post.

A little backstory. Holly’s been a dear friend of mine for many years now.

She’s also an a-ma-zing jeweler and the mastermind ladysmith behind Edward Owl Jewelry.

You can get a load of her stuff (and pick up any last-minute, glittering holiday presents) here on Etsy.

Holly handcrafts her high-quality solid gold and sterling silver jewelry up in her New Hampshire studio.

She personally selects and sets the stones, offering outstanding value and gorgeous  jewelry.

Most of my favorite jewels have been made by Holly’s magical hands, including several one-of-a-kind, custom pieces that indulge my infamous love for rocks.

Get ready for a holiday giveaway!

Later this week, we’ll be giving away some of Holly’s jewelry to thank you guys for being so awesome.

And, of course, to celebrate the winter holidays!

Stay tuned for more about the prize and details on how to enter in a few days.

But for now…back to the chocolate babka!

What kind of pans should you use?

When it comes to making chocolate babka, you want to use light-colored loaf pans.

Darker pans seem to result in loaves with crunchy, hard crusts.

I used these little guys, which I picked up at Home Goods.

Any light colored loaf pan should do you just fine. Just make sure they’re 9-inch pans.

Bonus? They’re pink, which is pretty awesome (though completely not required, lol).

Chocolate: To chop or not to chop?

That is the question! *ducks*

This time, I didn’t chop my chocolate much, which resulted in a denser, slightly heavier loaf.

Perfect for snacking—and it made killer French toast.

For a lighter, airier—and more traditional—loaf, chop the chocolate finely.

And I mean FINELY.

My friend Holly minces her chocolate chips in the food processor in batches, so the heat doesn’t melt it.

Then, she cuts the chocolate even smaller with a mezzaluna when she mixes the filling.

Up to you, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

At Holly’s recommendation, I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. (Yum!) Use your favorite.

Make ahead and freeze the unbaked loaves

If you ever needed a secret weapon in your freezer, this is it.

Prepare these sweet little babies up to the part where you make the streusel topping, then wrap well and freeze for up to a month.

When you’re ready to bake, remove from freezer.

Let the loaves stand at room temperature for about 5 hours to thaw.

Top with streusel, and bake per the instructions below.

Alright, enough yapping. To the ovens!

Chocolate Babka  

For the dough
1 1/2 cups whole milk, warmed up to about 110 degrees F
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
3/4 cups sugar + an extra pinch
6 cups all-purpose flour + more for work surface
2 sticks butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for bowl and loaf pans

For the filling
30-40 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips, very finely chopped (30 oz. if you’re not chopping much, 40 oz. if you are!) 
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 whole, large eggs
2 large egg yolks

For the egg wash
2-3 large eggs
1-2 Tablespoons heavy cream

For the streusel topping, (makes ~3 3/4 cups)
1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/3 cups flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter

Yields 3 babka, using 9” lightly colored loaf tins

Proof the yeast

Trust me. Do this first.

Put the milk, yeast, and a pinch of sugar in the bowl of your mixer (or in a large mixing bowl if mixing by hand…but be warned, you’ll need muscles!).

Whisk to combine. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Don’t skip this step.

It’s the one that proves your yeast is alive and kicking.

(It would be a shame to go through all the trouble of making the dough, only to find out your yeast is dead and won’t rise, right?)

You’ll know you’re good after about 5 minutes. The yeast will rise to the surface of the milk and form a sort of raft that’s dotted with bubbles.

If you see this, you’re good to go.

(If not, junk the whole business right here, and go to the store and get fresh yeast.)

Make the chocolate babka dough

After you’ve proofed your yeast, add 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 eggs, and the 2 egg yolks to the bowl.

Whisk to combine.

You want a uniform, golden liquid.

Toss in the flour and salt.

Mix with the paddle attachment to combine.

When the chocolate babka dough starts to come together, scrape the paddle off and switch to the dough hook.

Throw in your 2 sticks of butter, cut into hunks.

Knead for 8-10 minutes, until the butter is totally incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic.

You want the dough to be soft, and only a little bit sticky.

Let your chocolate babka dough rise

Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead a few times by hand (either in the air or on a lightly floured board).

Form into a rough ball. Plop it back into your mixing bowl—or into a clean, buttered bowl.

I like to keep my dishes to a minimum and don’t find that using the same bowl makes any real difference. (I know, I’m a savage.)

Up to you!

Cover with a damp cloth.

Set aside in a warm place to rise for about an hour, or until it about doubles in size.

Prep your pans

Butter your loaf pans and line them with parchment paper, like this.

I cut a sheet of paper that’s longer than the pan, then crease the bottom edges to help the paper stay put ’til I drop in the loaves.

Be sure to let the paper hang over the edges of the pans.

This will let you airlift the loaves out of the pans easily.

Set those aside while you deal with the chocolate.

Make the chocolate babka filling

If you didn’t do it in advance, chop your chocolate finely (or not so finely, see my notes above) now.

Put the chopped chocolate, 1 cup of sugar, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.

Stir to combine.

Toss in 1 1/2 sticks of butter, cut into hunks.

Cut it in with a pastry cutter, mezzaluna, or your bare hands (this is what I did this time because my chocolate pieces were on the bigger side).

Set the filling aside while you make the topping.

Make the streusel topping

You guys, you’re doing great. We’re getting there.

Put the sugar, flour and butter in a large bowl.

Mash to combine.

You can do this with a pastry cutter, a few forks, or your (very clean) paws.

I used this little mini-potato masher that I’ve had for ages.

The goal is to wind up with lots of medium-large crumbs.

Set that aside while you make your egg wash.

Make the egg wash for your chocolate babka

This is a quick bit.

Put your eggs in a mixing cup or small bowl.

Beat in the cream until the mixture is uniform.

Set aside while you deal with your chocolate babka dough again.

Form the chocolate babka loaves

After about an hour, your dough should have doubled in size. (If it hasn’t, give it a little more time.)

Pre-heat your oven to 350-degrees F.  

Grab a board. Throw a little flour on it.

Punch down your dough, round it up into a ball, and plop it onto your floured board.

Sprinkle a little flour on top.

Whack it into three equal parts (a bencher or sharp, non-serrated butcher knife work well for this).

Round each piece up.

Take a little dough from one blob and add it to another if you need to even them out.

To get more precise about this, use a kitchen scale to ensure you have 3 even dough balls.

Round each blob up into a ball.

Set two aside while you form the first loaf.

Throw some flour on top of the dough ball.

Roll it out into a 14-16 inch square.

It should be roughly 1/8 of an inch thick.

Brush the edges with the egg wash, like you’re painting a frame around the outer edges of the dough.

Take 1/3 of your filling. Set about 2 Tablespoons aside for a minute. Spread the rest out inside your egg wash frame.

Roll the dough up tightly, just like you would with a jelly roll.

Pinch the ends together to seal.

You’ll have a chocolate-filled log of dough, about like this:

Twist the log 5 or 6 times.

Brush the twisted log with egg wash.

Take the 2 Tablespoons of chocolate filling that you reserved and sprinkle it evenly over the left side of your twisted log.

Fold the right side of the log on top of the filling.

Fold the ends under and pinch to seal.

Twist another 2 times.

Plop your loaf into your prepared pan.

I wound up with a few holes in my outer layer of dough (the larger pieces of chocolate coupled with slightly too-aggressive log twisting).

No big deal in my book.

This is a rustic, imperfect thing—and it all baked out well in the end.

Brush the top with egg wash.

Repeat with the remaining two loaves.

Once all three of your loaves are formed, top each with 1/3 of the streusel mixture.

Bake your chocolate babka!

We’re in the home stretch. You’re doing great! I can just smell the chocolate and butter now.

Slide your pans into your pre-heated, 350-degree F oven.

Bake the loaves, rotating halfway through (for even baking), until golden, about 55 minutes.

After about 55 minutes, lower your oven temperature to 325-degrees F.

Bake until deep golden, about 15-20 minutes more.

When they’re done, remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool.

After about 10-15 minutes, airlift your chocolate babkas out of their pans (using the parchment paper handles).

Set on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Let your chocolate babka loaves cool ’til just warm before slicing.

And…that’s it! You did it!

Serve, inhale, enjoy!

Transfer your chocolate babkas to a serving platter.

Serve fat wedges with steaming cups of espresso or tea—and maybe a little French vanilla ice cream.

Be sure to watch for giveaway details later this week!

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