How to Make Babka
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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:
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How to Make Babka
- Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
- Yield: 2 loaves + a mini
This recipe is a combination of two: Holly’s Challah with the addition of vanilla and orange zest to the dough and the chocolate filling from the Chocolate Krantz Cakes in Jerusalem.
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
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127 Comments on “How to Make Babka”
This recipe is awesome Alexandra. I love the little hints and your photos are super helpful, while looking beautiful. I’m on the last rise now and can’t wait to bake! I also took some notes from Broma Bakery and did one of the loaves with apple, so I’m excited to see how they go. I really wanted to make a yeasted sweet treat after failing miserably at starting a sourdough this week and thought of your recipes. Your blog is gorgeous. Thanks for being awesome 🙂
Krystle! It’s so nice to hear from you, and I’m so happy to hear all of this. I’m totally going to try an apple version next. Thank you for the kind words 🙂 🙂 🙂 xo
Welcome, Karen! I hope you find some recipes you like. Thanks for sharing your story. So sweet 💕💕💕💕
Hi! Wanted to try this recipe out but realized I only have rapid rise yeast. Can I use rapid rise yeast for this recipe?
Hi! is it possible to substitute the oil for coconut oil? Would it taste differently?
Worth a shot! Are you trying to use healthier oil? Or is it all you have at the moment?
I was wondering if i can use poppy seed filling for this?
Flavors are good, but I tried this recipe twice now and both times the dough in the center of the bread is undercooked and still doughy. I kept it in the oven longer on my second try and I got the same results. Has anyone else had this problem or know how to fix it?
Hi Katie! Are you using a scale to measure the flour? Are you having any issues with handling the dough? Like is it super sticky? If not, great … if so, I think you may need to reduce the water a bit.
Otherwise, truly, I think the solution is just baking it longer. Does your oven run cool typically? Do you have this issue with any other breads you bake?
I always use a thermometer to see if my breads are done. I looked it up and the done temperature for babka is 185 Fahrenheit. I am making the recipe now! It looks great so far…
Great tip, Julie! I love using my Thermapen for this purpose as well.
Absolutely amazing. Clear and easy to follow, and it came out perfectly. I gave a lot of it away to rave reviews.
Wonderful to hear this, Jillian!
I have made this recipe multiple times during quarantine without the orange and it is fabulous! It is in high demand! We love it!
So nice to hear this, Fran!
Just finished making the chocolate orange Babka and it came out great!!! I did add the glaze and baked it for about 40 min until the internal temp was 185 F. I will definitely make this again and may try it with a poppyseed filling!! Maybe with lemon glaze and lemon zest inside?
Oh yay! Wonderful to hear this, Julie!
The flavour is so delicious, the orange is so bright! This is only my third bread made ever, I’ve made your challah and foccacia with absolutely fantastic results. With this babka I hit a bit of snag…it ended up rather…chewy? Like…cinnamon roll chewy. I followed every step pretty exactly, used bread flour, no issues with proofing or filling or anything, the only difference was I had to cook it longer (about 15ish extra minutes. I usually have to add like 5-15 extra cook time minutes cuz my oven is finicky) as it was underdone at 30min. I’m rolling up my sleeves and remaking it until I get it right, do you have any tips for this kind of issue?
Thank you for the all your indepth bread recipes, they’re are sooo helpful for a new-to-bread baker 🙂
Great to hear this, Sama! I think if the texture is chewy, you might want to try using all-purpose flour instead. That said, I don’t think chewy is necessarily bad for this type of bread, but try the ap flour and see if you get better results. Thanks so much for writing, and thank you for your kind words. Means a lot.
Oh really? That actually makes sense. Ok awesome I’ll try that and see. Thank you for your help! I can’t wait to make more of your recipes!!!
Me encantan tus recetas, creo que he echo prácticamente todas las recetas dulces ( con mayor o peor fortuna ,jaja) aunque el babka es el favorito de mis hijos
Muchas gracias desde España
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
I was planning on making this today, but I just realized I bought active dry yeast instead of instant yeast. Will the recipe still work with the active dry?
Yes! Just be sure to bloom the active dry yeast with some of the warm water and some of the sugar. When it’s foamy (after about 15 minutes), it’s ready.
Hi Ali! I’ve got two loaves chilling overnight in my fridge. I’d like to bake one tomorrow, and leave the other loaf for next time. Is it possible to leave that unbaked in the fridge or should I chuck it into the freezer? TIA!
Definitely OK to leave in the fridge. Be sure it is tucked into an airtight bag or wrapped in plastic wrap to ensure the top of the dough doesn’t dry out.
I’m used to Babkas being made with butter for its richness of flavor. Since this is an adapted challah recipe it uses oil instead. Can you substitute the oil for butter and would it be the same weight?
Hi! I think you could definitely use butter. And yes, the same amout would work well.
Wow! This was spectacular! I’ve been wanting to make babka for quite some time, and this recipe was so intriguing to me – I love the combination of orange and chocolate. This did not disappoint. It’s amazing! Delicious and impressive-looking. Thank you for sharing this recipe!
So nice to hear this, Michelle! Thanks so much for writing. Orange and chocolate is one of my favorite combinations.
Can I use whole wheat flour instead of white flour?
Hi! I would not use 100 percent whole wheat flour as it will make for a very dense loaf. I think you could get away with using 50% whole wheat flour.
I love this recipe. It’s the only recipe of babka that I make. I replace 2 cups with www flour to make it even more healthier. Does anyone know if I can make 1 round babka with the entire dough recipe?
Hi Margarita! Great to hear this! I think you definitely can make one large one, though handling that amount of dough might become unwieldy. Would you bake it free form on a sheet pan or were you planning on tucking it into a round baking dish?
Well, I can try in a round form and if that does not work, i will do it in a free form on a baking sheet. Today, I am using your dough from this recipe for cinnamon rolls. Thanks for this recipe again!!
Ok great! And yay re cinnamon rolls. Happy Baking!
Absolutely heavenly!! My house smelled so good and it tasted wonderful. I made this as several small loafs to give as gifts and they were well received!
So nice to hear this, Doreene! Love the idea of mini babkas. So fun!
Amazing recipe with great flavours. Thank you.
Great to hear, Anita! Thanks for writing!
Can I use starter instead of yeast? If so, I’d like to know how to sub starter in for this recipe. I’m super excited to make it!
I haven’t tried, but I would say yes, absolutely. I always use about 100 grams of starter for recipes calling for this amount of starter.
Wow! Well I LOVED your Challah recipe and now I will add your Babka to my list of favorites🥰! Soo pretty and makes the house smell divine, my boys mouths are watering. Letting it cool right now with the glaze, but I am curious as to how to store it? Or give as a gift? Will the glaze still be sticky on top when I take it out of the pan once it’s cooled? And lastly can it be frozen?
Wonderful to hear this, Holly!!
I always store bread in a ziplock bag — I find it keeps bread the freshest the longest. To gift, I would purchase one of those clear cellophane bags — places like Michael’s sell them, but I imagine some grocery stores would at this point, too. I think if you were to tuck a loaf into one of those bags and tie it so that the tied end is at one of the ends of the babka, it would look really pretty.
Definitely can be frozen!
The glaze will be somewhat sticky when you remove the loaf from the pan. Let me know if there is anything else!
This recipe is Amazing! Its the first time I tried Babka bread and I just fell in love! Its beyond beautiful and tasteful! The hard work paid off in the end! I just wish you could also make a video recipe as would be much easier to follow.
Wonderful to hear this, Alessandra! I’ve had so many babka-video requests … I’ll try to do this soon!
So excited to make this! Can I substitute instant yeast with one cup of sourdough starter? Thoughts? Thanks 🙂
I would imagine! I haven’t ventured into the world of using sourdough starter in my sweeter breads yet, but I know, of course, that it can be done. My hunch is that you’ll need to reduce the liquid in the dough — I worry if you don’t, it will be a very wet dough.
Can you use butter instead of oil in the dough?
Mine came out beautifully !
Great to hear, Jodie! Thanks so much for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
All Alexandra’s recipes I have tried are phenomenal, including this one! Perfect for Rosh Hashanah. A bit of work, but worth it. Thank you, Alexandra!
Wonderful to hear this, Nili! Thank you for your kind words 🥰🥰🥰🥰
Hi Alexandra… I am wanting to use sourdough starter instead of yeast in the chocolate babka … can you pls provide an adaptation for this using starter? I am guessing to use about 20% inoculation and follow the sourdough process. I am currently making your sourdough pizza dough!!
Hi Jane! I wish I could give you some guidance here, but I have to be honest: I haven’t had as much success with the sweet sourdough recipes… last summer I tried to make my brioche buns using a sourdough starter and they just didn’t turn out as well as the yeasted version. Not sure what I did wrong. I think you are onto something however with the 20% inoculation. For recipes that call for about 4 cups of flour or 500 grams of flour, I almost always use 100 grams of starter … it’s just what works for me! Hope that helps some. And good luck!
Loved this recipe! I made chocolate babka with another recipe once before and it was difficult and didn’t come out as tasty. This was easy and came out absolutely delicious! I loved the orange flavor from the zest in the dough and the glaze.
So great to hear this, Gabriella! I love the orange here, too. Thanks so much for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
Question: does dar chocolate mean semi-sweet, unsweetened, or bitter? thank you, anxious to make this
Hi! Apologies for the delay here… been out of the country. And sorry this is so vague! I use something like 64% – 72% cacao. So, I think that’s considered semi-sweet.
Very curious on your use of oil here instead of the traditional butter. Would love to know what the different is in your hands! I’m curious to try oil for the moistness but have read that butter helps with structure.
Hi Penny! I think you could use either here with success here. I haven’t had any issues with the structure of this dough, but I can see how butter would generally help with the structure of a dough. The base recipe is the one I use for this challah bread recipe, and I find it to be a very nice dough to work with.
Made this and OMG! Stunning and delicious! I used the 2 day method in which I refrigerated over night. It took a long time to get to room temp. I might try the freezer method next time. Oh and that Orange glaze is the bomb!
So nice to read all of this! Thanks so much for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
The directions were simple and it turned out amazingly!!
Great to hear, Zander! Thanks for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
My dough is really sticky. I did the second rise and punched it down and stuck it in the fridge overnight as I read that as an option in the challah recipe. Any thoughts why its so sticky or how to correct? 🙂
Are you using a scale to measure? What type of flour are you using?