How to Make Babka
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Last week, I visited my friend Holly — you know, Holly of challah lore — for coffee, conversation, and of course, a little snack, a slice of babka from a loaf she had made the previous day. Upon serving it to me, she, as if she were any of the women in my family, instantly began critiquing it.
It’s lovely, she said, quickly noting it was kind of fussy to make, so much work for what it was. The dough was denser than she had hoped, and she wondered if she could use her challah dough recipe as a base, spread it with a chocolate filling or Nutella, and shape it like babka.
Tucking into my slice, happy as ever, it sounded like a plan to me. For the next few days, Holly and I texted back and forth, sharing photos and thoughts on our various experiments. In the end, we settled on adding orange zest and vanilla to her challah recipe otherwise making no other changes. And we used the chocolate filling from Jerusalem’s chocolate krantz cake recipe, which Smitten Kitchen made last fall.
Finally, in place of water in the sugar syrup that the babkas get soaked in upon emerging from the oven, we used fresh-squeezed orange juice.
I had never made babka before last week. I have never made krantz cakes either. But I love this hybrid — can’t stop eating it 🍞🍞 🍫🍫🍊🍊
Hope you love it as much as I!
How to Make Babka
The dough for this babka recipe is Holly’s Challah with the addition of orange zest and vanilla:
After you mix the dough, let it rise till it doubles in volume:
Once doubled, divide the dough into two equal portions; then roll each portion out into a 12X15-inch rectangle.
Meanwhile, make the chocolate filling by melting butter with chocolate; then adding cocoa and confectioners’ sugar:
Spread half of the filling over each rectangle half; then…
… roll up into a coil. Note: As you can see here, the light is dramatically different from the above and below photos. Know this: at any point of the process, you can stick the dough in the fridge and pick up where you left off in the morning.
When ready to shape, cut each coil in half; then cut off an inch or so of each end.
Coil the two halves into a spiral and transfer to prepared loaf pans (see video for better guidance at this step.) Let rise at room temperature until the dough fills the pan and feels soft and spring to the touch.
Bake at 375ºF until golden, about 25 minutes.
While the babka bakes, make a glaze with sugar and freshly squeezed orange juice. This gets brushed over the freshly baked babka loaves.
Day old babka, toasted… heaven!
Mini loaf made with dough ends:
5 Secrets to Foolproof Bread Baking
See how easy bread baking can be in my free ecourse!
A few notes:
- If you want more guidance making the dough, check out the Holly’s Challah post first.
- You can use at least one cup of whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour in the dough. (Holly always does.)
- To create lukewarm water: use ¼ cup boiling water and ¾ cup cold water, which will give you perfect lukewarm water.
- To create a warm place for your bread to rise: Heat your oven for 1 minute, then shut it off. It doesn’t matter what temperature you set it to when you heat it; the key is to only allow it to heat for 1 minute. This brief blast of heat will create a cozy, draft-free spot for your bread to rise.
- To break up the process a bit, you can stop after you roll the dough into coils or when you place the shaped loaves into the loaf pans, cover the pans with plastic wrap, and place in fridge. The following morning, if your dough is in coils, simply proceed with the recipe; if your dough is in the pans, bring it to room temperature — make sure dough feels soft to the touch and is filling the pan — before proceeding with the recipe.
- 4 to 5 cups (486 g to 614 g) all-purpose or bread flour
- 1 package or 2 teaspoons (8 g) instant yeast
- 1 cup (227 g) lukewarm water, see notes above
- 1 tablespoon (18 g) kosher salt
- ¼ cup (85 g) honey or sugar
- ½ cup (112 g) safflower, canola, grapeseed or other neutral oil
- 2 eggs
- zest of one orange
- 2 teaspoons (4 g) vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (130 grams) dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
- ½ cup (1 stick | 120 grams) unsalted butter
- ½ cup (50 grams) powdered sugar
- ⅓ cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
- ⅓ fresh-squeezed orange juice (83 g), or the juice of one orange plus enough water to make ⅓ cup
- 6 tablespoons (75 grams) sugar
- Whisk one cup (128 g) of the flour with the yeast and stir in the lukewarm water until combined. Cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel and let rise about 45 minutes or until puffy and bubbly.
- Directly into the bowl, add the salt, honey (or sugar), oil, eggs, zest and vanilla. Stir with a spatula or spoon until well mixed, then add the remaining four cups (486 g) of flour. Stir with a spoon until dough forms a sticky mass. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface and knead for just a few minutes, until dough becomes smooth. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with dish towel or plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, one to two hours or longer depending on the temperature of your kitchen. (To create a warm place to rise, see notes above.)
- Make the filling: Melt butter and chocolate together until smooth — you can do this in the microwave at 30 second intervals or in a saucepan. Stir in powdered sugar and cocoa until smooth.
- Punch down dough and divide into two equal parts, about 600 g each. Using a rolling pin, roll one half into a rectangle about 10- to 11-inches in width by 14- to 16-inches in length. Spread half of filling over top leaving ½-inch border all the way around. Starting from the short end, roll into a tight coil. To help keep coil bound, I wrap it in parchment paper and transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. (Note: you can make the recipe up until this point and put it in the refrigerator overnight — this works really well).
- If you are not refrigerating rolled dough overnight, transfer loaves to freezer to chill for 15 minutes — this was a Smitten Kitchen tip, which makes cutting and shaping the rolls easier. Meanwhile, coat two 9-by-4-inch loaf pans and one small vessel — I use a mini loaf pan — with butter.
- Place logs onto a large cutting board and remove parchment paper. Line each loaf pan with the parchment paper, folding as needed to make it fit the pan. Trim last inch (or less) off each log. Cut the logs in half lengthwise and lay them next to each other cut sides up. Lift one half over the other and twist each around the other — see photos for guidance. Transfer the twist as best as you can into the prepared loaf pan. Repeat with remaining two halves. Nestle trimmed ends into small vessel. Cover pans with plastic wrap and let rise 1 to 1½ hours at room temperature or until dough has risen and is filling the pan.
- Heat oven to 375°F. Remove plastic wrap, place loaf pans on a sheetpan and bake on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Check the mini pan around 20 minutes — it will be done before the others. If the loaves are browning too quickly, cover them with foil.
- While babkas are baking, make syrup: Place orange juice/water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside. Remove babkas from oven, brush some of the syrup over the small pan, then pour half of the remaining syrup evenly over each of the loaves. Let loaves cool completely in loaf pan if you are able to refrain, otherwise 15 minutes or so should do it.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Bread
- Method: Yeast
- Cuisine: Jewish
Keywords: babka, challah, Jewish, bread