It's the beginning of my birthday week (thanks for giving me life, Mom!), and I decided to celebrate by including a sprinkle layer in this babka recipe. Birthday babka is a thing, right? It is very extra, and it is very cute. Feel free to omit if you're looking for a more buttoned up babka option, or include if you're feeling fancy.
I'm going to go ahead and say it: babka is my favorite of all the sweets. It has everything you could want flavor-wise: buttery dough, chocolate, cinnamon, & tiny hint of citrus. And in my opinion, it doesn't get much more beautiful than a babka braid.
Yield: 1 babka loaf (approximately 8 thick slices)
Total cook time: 6 hours
- Active Dry Yeast: 2 teaspoons
- Whole Milk (Slightly Warmed): 1/2 cup
- Granulated Sugar: 1/4 cup (50g)
- Eggs (Large): 1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk
- Flour: 2 cups (250g)
- Kosher Salt: 1/2 teaspoon (2g)
- Lemon Zest: From 1/2 small lemon
- Unsalted Butter (At Room Temperature): 7 tablespoons + more for greasing
- Dark Chocolate (Semisweet or bittersweet): 3 ounces (85g)
- Unsalted Butter: 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup)
- Powdered Sugar: Scant 1/4 cup (25g)
- Cocoa Powder: 3 tablespoons (15g)
- Cinnamon: 1/8 teaspoon
- Kosher Salt: 1/8 teaspoon
- Nonpareil Sprinkles (Optional): 3 tablespoons
- Water: 3 tablespoons
- Granulated Sugar: 3 tablespoons (38g)
A Few Notes:
- Yes, you can/should add pecans (I usually do!). Toast them, then add 1/2 cup on top of the chocolate layer. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the top.
- The dough will be sticky: don't freak out. I find it's really helpful to use a bench scraper to pull it together and transfer it to the buttered bowl. Buy a bench scraper - it will be your favorite multi-use kitchen tool.
- You can sub orange zest for the lemon zest
- Don't have a pastry brush? I didn't either for most of the times that I made this. A paper towel will work to spread the sugar syrup!
- Letting the dough do the first rise in the fridge overnight will lead to a really awesome flavor.
Pairs Well With:
*Special equipment: 8-1/2"x4-1/2" loaf pan, pastry brush
The How To (Babka Dough):
Mix your warm milk, yeast, and a pinch of sugar in a glass measuring cup. Set aside until frothy (about 5 minutes).
In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, whole egg, and egg yolk. Whisk in the yeast mixture.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together your flour, salt, and lemon zest. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix on low speed using the paddle attachment until it comes together, about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough hook attachment and beat in butter, a tablespoonful at a time. Run the machine on medium low for 10 minutes, until dough starts to pull away from the side of the bowl. Scrape dough out onto a floured countertop and knead a couple of times with your hands. The dough will be sticky!
Transfer dough to a large bowl coated with butter (I generally like to use the same bowl for this - wash it out if necessary). Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 2 1/2 hours, until nearly doubled in size. Transfer dough to the fridge - refrigerate for 45 minutes.
The How To (Filling & Assembly):
While the dough is in the fridge, start your filling. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat. Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and kosher salt. Set aside to cool slightly. Butter your loaf pan.
Lightly flour your counter top. Roll the dough out so the side closest to you is about 10 inches, then roll it away from you until it measures about 20 inches. Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch margin on each side. Sprinkle with the nonpareils. Moisten the bottom edge of the dough with a bit of water (I just use my finger to do this). Starting with the edge furthest from you (the top/short side), use even pressure to roll the dough into a log. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and pop it in the freezer for 5 minutes (this makes it much easier to cut cleanly!). Using a sharp serrated knife, cut and discard a 1/2 inch section off both ends of the log. Cut the log in half crosswise. Lay the two pieces side by side on the counter, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends together. Braid the babka by lifting one side over the other a couple of times. Finish by pinching the other end together. Transfer babka to your buttered loaf pan.
Cover babka with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let it rise out on the counter for an additional 1-1 1/2 hours.
The How To (Baking):
Bake babka at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and babka is golden brown all over.
While the babka is baking, make your sugar syrup glaze. In a small pot, simmer the water and granulated sugar until the sugar disappears. Set aside to cool.
When you remove the babka from the oven, Immediately brush it all over with the sugar syrup using your pastry brush (use almost all of it). Let cook for 15 minutes in the pan, then transfer the babka to a wire rack to cool completely. When you remove the babka from the pan, brush the sides with the leftover sugar syrup.
Keeps at room temperature (covered) for up to 4 days. You can also slice & freeze any leftovers - reheat in the toaster oven for a surprise breakfast treat later!