Chocolate babka, a pop culture icon thanks to the “cinnamon vs chocolate babka” Seinfeld episode, is a delicious sweet dough that can be enjoyed one chocolatey layer at a time. Two varieties are popular in the United States. One is typically baked in a ring mold or bundt pan and served on Easter; while the other version is baked in a loaf pan and is popular in Jewish bakeries and delis. This delicious mouth-watering babka is of the variety often associated with Jewish culture. There are endless possibilities for fillings, however the favored version for most appears to be chocolate. Jerry Seinfeld might disagree however, having once stated: “Cinnamon takes a back seat to no babka! Lesser babka? I think not!”
Babka is a Slavic word, a term of endearment for “grandmother.” How this dough came to be called “babka” is debatable. The most popular theory is, the fluted ring molds resemble pleats on a woman’s skirt – a skirt often worn by older women and grandmothers. Others say the term “babka” was coined because it was the grandmothers whom predominately baked this bread. Then there is a small sect whom believe the warm, sweet, sticky goodness provides similar comfort to that of a grandmother’s embrace. Whatever the origin, this chocolate babka recipe is the best one I have ever had the pleasure of producing. The dough is sweet, fluffy and light in texture – similar to a Challah bread; while the filling is chocolatey and gooey with a tart fruit finish.
Chocolate babkas make a great dessert or a nice breakfast side dish. If you really want to go wild, you could make a mean french toast which will surely send your insulin levels into overdrive. Whenever you decide to serve this treat, take confidence in knowing it will be thoroughly enjoyed by all.
- 1 packet of instant dry yeast
- 1 tsp of sugar - plus ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup of warm water (110 degrees F)
- 4-5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ cup butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
- ¾ cup raspberry jam (I used a cherry jam)
- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 8 oz bittersweet chocolate finely chopped (I used mini chocolate chips)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp butter at room temperature
- ⅓ cup water
- 6 Tbsp of sugar
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the yeast, 1 tsp sugar and warm water. Let stand until foaming, 5-10minutes. Attach your dough hook.
- Add the remaining ½ cup of sugar and the eggs to the yeast mixture. Whisk to combine.
- In a separate bowl, whisk 4 cups of flour and salt. With the dough hook moving at medium speed, steadily add your flour mixture to your yeast mixture. You will need to mix your dough for about 10 minutes. If you are kneading by hand, add an additional 5 minutes to your kneading time. The dough will be sticky but not so sticky that it leaves a lot of residue on the bowl. You are aiming for a sticky dough that can be easily removed from your bowl. Start with ¼ cup of flour at time if you need additional flour to achieve this consistency.
- Lightly oil a large bowl. Place your dough in the bowl, wrap the top with plastic wrap. Place in a warm draft free place for about 1.5 hours.
- While your dough is rising, you can start making your filling. In a medium bowl, stir together the jam and cocoa powder until combined. Add your chocolate, sugar and butter. Mix with a fork or your hands until evenly combined.
- Grease two 9x5 loaf pans. Cut parchment paper in quarters, allowing two pieces per loaf pan. Place one piece of parchment paper along the length of the pan and the other piece along the width. This will make a little basket that will allow for easier removal.
- Punch down your dough (gently, no Mike Tyson moves). On a lightly floured surface divide your dough in half. Roll out one piece at a time, while the other is covered with a damp towel to prevent a skin from forming. The rectangle should be 10x12 and between ⅛-1/4 inch high.
- Using a spoon, spread half the jam mixture onto your rectangle, leaving a 1.5 inch border free of jam. Roll up into a cylinder being careful to maintain the length by gently patting ends as you roll. Cut lengthwise into two equal parts. Twist the two halves together and place in loaf pan. Repeat with the other dough. Cover the loaf pans loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise slightly, about 1 hour.
- Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake babkas for about 45-60 minutes. You will want a toothpick to come out crumb free when placed in the center. If your tops start to brown more than desired before their cooking time is up, place tinfoil loosely on the top of your pans - this will keep it from browning further.
- Remove pans and place on cooling racks.
- In a small saucepan, heat your water and sugar on high heat until sugar dissolves. Pour the syrup over the tops of the loaves. Let sit in pans for 30 minutes. Then remove babkas from pans and place on a wire rack over a cookie sheet until cooled. Serve at room temperature or lightly toasted.