I love making bread and pastries at home, and what could be more delicious than a Chocolate Hazelnut Babka?
With layers of sweet yeast dough, lavishly smothered with chocolate and studded with crunchy hazelnuts, this is one sweet treat that is completely irresistible.
They’re also much easier to make than they look (that chocolate hides a multitude of sins!) so they’re brilliant for beginner bakers.
What is a Babka?
A Babka is a sweet braided bread with origins in the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. It’s made from a simple enriched yeast dough, which is rolled out, spread with a sweet filling, then braided or plaited into shape and baked.
In Germany, this popular tea-time treat is simply known as a ‘Zopf’ or plait and is available in any good bakery.
Are babka difficult to make?
Not at all! Despite looking as though they are terribly complicated, a babka is simple to make and very forgiving for the beginner baker.
Somehow, even if they don’t turn out perfect, the combination of delicious ingredients will taste amazing anyway.
I’ve packed my recipe with loads of helpful hints and tips to ensure babka baking success, so don’t be scared!
To make my Chocolate Hazelnut Babka you’ll need the following equipment:
- A loaf pan: I use a standard European loaf pan which is around 30cm (12 in.) long with high sides. These are sometimes sold as 2 lb. pans. Alternatively, this babka can be baked as a spiral in a 26 cm (10in.) round spring form pan.
- A stand mixer with a dough hook: Because yeast dough is quite wet, it’s easiest to use a stand mixer to make the dough. Don’t worry if you don’t have one! You’re just going to need a large mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and plenty of elbow grease! Full details in recipe notes.
- A rolling pin: The dough needs to be rolled out before braiding, so you’ll need a rolling pin for this recipe (though in a pinch, a wine bottle or other cylinder will do.)
As the base of my Chocolate Hazelnut Babka is a simple yeast dough, the ingredients are easily available in any grocery store. To make a babka you’ll need:
- Whole milk: Whole milk ensures that the babka dough is lovely and soft and fluffy.
- Yeast: I like to use fresh yeast, but if it’s not available where you are active dry yeast works just as well. Check the date on the packet as if the yeast has expired your bread won’t rise.
- Flour: All-purpose or plain flour works best for this recipe.
- Sugar, salt and orange zest: To balance the flavours in the bread.
- Butter: I always use unsalted butter as that way I can control the amount of salt in the recipe, though in this recipe salted butter will work as well.
- Heavy cream and dark chocolate: These two simple ingredients combine to make the luscious chocolate filling.
- Toasted hazelnuts: Either buy pre-roasted hazelnuts or toast your own by placing the hazelnuts in a roasting tray in an oven at 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4 until the skins begin to split and peel away from the nut. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before rubbing the skins away with a clean kitchen towel.
How to make a babka
(Full instructions in the recipe card at the end of the page)
Making a babka has 4 main stages:
- Make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and knead to a soft, smooth dough. Allow to rise for an hour until almost doubled in size. An enriched yeast bread with lots of butter like this one will not rise as much as a plain bread dough.
- Make the filling: I use a simple chocolate ganache as the filling in this babka. It’s as simple as heating the cream and pouring it over the chocolate. Use good quality dark chocolate for the best results.
- Roll out and shape the dough: When the dough has risen, roll it out on a floured work surface into a large rectangle, spread generously with the chocolate filling and sprinkle over toasted hazelnuts. Then, starting at a short side, roll into a cylinder. Chilling the dough for 20 minutes at this point will make it easier to handle. Cut the dough lengthways and twist it into a simple braid, then transfer it to a lined loaf pan for the second rise.
- Bake: When the dough has risen for around 20 minutes, bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, then glaze with a simple sugar syrup. The hardest part is DEFINITELY waiting for the babka to cool down enough to eat!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What can I do if the dough doesn’t rise?
If the dough doesn’t rise, it’s likely that it is out of date, though it can be simply due to the kitchen being a little too cold!
Give the dough an extra half-hour rising time in a warm spot, then proceed as per the recipe. Be sure to use the freshest possible yeast (check the expiry date!) for the best results.
What can I do with leftover babka?
I can say, hand on heart, that there is seldomly leftover babka in my house! However, it makes a fantastic french toast if you need to pep it up a little. I also slice it and freeze it if I think it won’t get eaten up.
Can I make other flavours of babka?
Of course! Cinnamon and sugar is a delicious option, as well as using jam or jelly. You can even make a savoury babka with pesto or pizza sauce (yuuuummmmm!)
Enriched Yeast Dough
An enriched yeast dough of hefeteig like this one is an incredibly useful recipe!
Chocolate Hazelnut Babka Recipe
for the dough:
- 100 ml (3.5 oz.) whole milk
- 21g (½ a cube) fresh yeast or 7 g (2 tsp) active dry yeast
- 250g (1 ½ cups) plain or all-purpose flour, divided
- 30g (2 Tbsp) white sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla sugar
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 50 g (3 ½ Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 egg yolk
for the filling:
- 100ml (3.5 oz.) heavy cream
- 200g (7 oz.) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 100g (3.5 oz.) toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- pinch of sea salt
for the glaze:
- 3 Tbsp white sugar
- PREPARE THE YEAST: Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until just warm (but not hot!) when you dip your little finger into it. Remove from the heat, then stir in the yeast. Set aside.
- MAKE THE DOUGH: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook fitted (see note 1) combine 175g flour (about two-thirds), sugar, vanilla, salt and orange zest. While mixing, add the butter and egg yolk, then give the yeast and milk mixture a stir and pour it into the bowl. Run the mixer on high until the ingredients are combined, then with the mixer on low add the remaining flour. Knead for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes the dough should be moving freely around the bowl of the mixer, and only lightly sticky. If it is still a little liquid or sticking to the sides of the bowl add one tablespoon of flour and knead for another minute.
- LET THE DOUGH RISE: When the dough has finished kneading, shape it into a ball - it should feel soft, springy and elastic. Place dough back in the bowl, cover loosely with a clean cloth or some plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
- MAKE THE CHOCOLATE FILLING: While the dough is rising, make the chocolate filling. Heat the cream in a saucepan until nearly simmering, then remove it from the heat. Place the chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl and pour over the hot cream. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then gently whisk until smooth. The chocolate mixture will look like it won't come together at first, but keep going! Set aside to cool. (see note 2)
- ROLL OUT DOUGH: When the babka dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Press out the air, then roll into a large rectangle around 1cm (⅓ in.) thick. Spread the chocolate mixture over the surface of the dough, leaving a gap around all edges. Sprinkle over the hazelnuts, and roll into a cylinder, starting from one of the short sides.
- OPTIONAL: Transfer the rolled dough to the refrigerator for 20 minutes. This will make the dough MUCH easier to handle.
- SHAPE DOUGH: Line a loaf pan with baking parchment paper and set aside. Use a serrated knife to cut the dough cylinder in half lengthways, leaving the very top just attached. Turn the cut sides of the dough face up, then lift one over the other to begin a rough two-stranded plait. Continue lifting the dough strands over each other, then tuck the ends under and lift into the prepared pan. Allow to rise in a warm spot for a further 20-30 minutes.
- BAKE: While the dough is rising, heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4. When risen, bake in the middle of the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until risen and golden brown.
- GLAZE: When the babka has nearly finished baking, combine the sugar with 4 Tbsp of water in a small saucepan and heat gently until dissolved. Brush glaze over the hot baked babka, being sure to use all of the glaze. Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes before slicing and serving.
1) I recommend using a stand mixer to make yeast dough, though it is perfectly possible to make it without one. Mix the dough at first in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, then add the remaining flour and knead with your hands until you have a smooth dough. Proceed as per the recipe.
2) You can cheat here and use a commercially made chocolate hazelnut spread. It's so simple to make your own however and it's not full of palm fat and other chemical preservatives!
3) If you don't have a loaf pan, you can make a spiral in a 26cm (10 in.) springform pan or a VERY well-greased Bundt pan (don't use a very intricate one, it will get stuck). Alternatively, you can make several small chocolate hazelnut babka buns instead.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 231Total Fat: 137gSaturated Fat: 85gTrans Fat: 6gUnsaturated Fat: 44gCholesterol: 462mgSodium: 209mgCarbohydrates: 170gFiber: 2gSugar: 163gProtein: 106g
Nutrition is calculated automatically and may not always be accurate.
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