Buttery, indulgent, chocolatey, fluffy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. This chocolate brioche babka is definitely a dessert you want to make. Aside from the fact that it's soooo delicious, your home will smell heavenly when this baby is in the oven (and a good while afterwards)!
Before you read on - this is not hard to make at all! There's a lot of waiting around - making this a perfect project on a relaxing Sunday at home.
The secret to a great chocolate brioche babka is patience and more patience. You've got to let the brioche dough rise twice. This means allowing the dough to rise and get big - almost double its size.
You've been warned: you may be tempted to have 2 or more slices after your first bite. Go on, live a little.
Alright, so what is a babka? I did a little digging on Google. A babka is a rich, braided chocolate bread/cake originated in the Jewish communities of Poland/Ukraine. What a great invention.
There are many variations of babkas out there and this is my take on this delicious dessert. There's lots of butter, lots of chocolate, lots of love with a great hint (but not overpowering) cinnamon.
You can easily double the ingredients to make 2 loaves (highly recommended!) The process is exactly the same.
- Dark & milk chocolate I like using a combination of both because it's the perfect combo! It's like rich milk chocolate, more intense cocoa flavour but with the added milk chocolate fun. Feel free to just use dark chocolate or throw some white chocolate in. Note also that chocolate blocks are used here which is then roughly chopped into small chunks. This means chunks of all different sizes which brings the element of surprise when eaten. Plus, the added bonus of crumby chocolates which ensures great distribution across the brioche loaf. This kind of magic is just not there with chocolate chips IMO.
- Dark brown sugar is used to make the cinnamon butter (which is just cinnamon, butter & sugar). You can use caster instead but the rich, caramelly molasses within dark brown sugar is too hard to pass!
- Vanilla essence not used in traditional babka nor brioche recipes however it elevates this chocolate brioche so much!
- Instant yeast can be swapped for active dry yeast. If using active dry yeast, make sure to dissolve the yeast in the warm milk to active it.
A bit more on the yeast. I've adjusted and tested this recipe to the point where there's as little yeast used as possible without compromising the desired light and fluffy texture of brioche. This recipe only needs 1.5g or ½ teaspoon of instant yeast for 1 loaf.
Making the brioche dough
Equipment required (must!)
Most of the recipes in my site so far (as young as it is) requires just a trusty pan. Not this one. To make this recipe, you'll need a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, rolling pin and a loaf tin.
2 step process
- Step 1. Make a little sponge. This is a yeasty dough made of instant yeast, warm milk, sugar and all-purpose flour. Images 1 and 2 below is what it looks like. Just a little spongey blob. This sponge will help make the brioche light and yummy.
- Step 2. Then the brioche dough. Combine all the brioche dough ingredients including the spongey blob, excluding the butter. Turn on the mixer and mix until a hard dough is formed. Now, slowly add the butter (1 large tbsp at a time) into the dough and mix. Only add more butter once it has been completely incorporated into the dough. Once all the butter has been incorporated into the dough, continue to mix on high until the dough passes the windowpane test.
The windowpane test
Super important test to pass. Perhaps more important than your year 3 math test. Passing the windowpane test means the brioche dough will rise proudly and come out (of the oven) fluffy. And deceptively light (but really, it's full of butter goodness).
You know the dough has passed the test when it has become stretchy, elastic and can be pulled so thin that it's a little translucent without the dough breaking.
Once your dough has passed the test with high distinction, cover with plastic film or cling wrap as we call it here in Australia. Let it rise to double its size.
Overnight slow rise
At this point, if you feel like you need a break or have run out of time (life happens!), place this covered dough in the fridge. Let it develop and rise slowly overnight. By the next morning, the dough should have risen and doubled in size. Simply carry on where you left off.
Assembling chocolate brioche babka
Now comes the exciting part.
You'll want to wash your hands and lightly flour the (clean!) work surface.
One thing to note: Make sure to spread the cinnamon butter and chocolate chunks all over the dough - don't miss the edges!
Proofing time really depends on the weather. The day when I shot this recipe, it was around 26 degrees (79F). Took about 2.5 hours for this brioche babka to almost double in size. Patience. Don't be tempted to start baking before it's doubled in size - unless you want a dense loaf.
Those of you wondering why we need to let the dough to rise twice: it gives the brioche bread a better texture and flavour as the yeast develops during the process.
You know the dough is proved when it looks bigger and it wobbles happily when you shake the loaf tin.
Bake at 180°C/360°F for 30 minutes, in the middle shelf of the oven and ta-da!
Golden, devilishly delicious (and light!) chocolate brioche babka!
I've tested this recipe soooo many times, altering ingredients here and there. Finally got to this point where the flavours and textures are perfectly balanced.
Straight out of the oven, it's crunchy golden on the outside, soft and rich on the inside. And the melted chocolate chunks!
Rich but not sickening, sweet but not too much. You'll only start feeling sick after 3 slices (if you eat really fast - before the stomach knows what's happening). That's pretty good in my books.
What sets brioche bread apart from the rest is the RICHNESS of brioche bread. They're luxurious, super buttery and delightfully soft. Brioche bread are made with eggs, LOTS OF BUTTER, milk, flour, yeast, salt and sugar.
In contrast, a normal white loaf is generally made of water, flour, salt and yeast.
Because of this, brioche is expensive to buy at a bakery! They simply cost more to make than most bread. And is it worth it? Hell yes. Is it worth making your own chocolate brioche babka? Definitely.
There are so many reasons why you should make this recipe.
- It's cheaper making it yourself
- you can sprinkle as much chocolate as you want
- your kitchen will smell heavenly (buttery and chocolatey)
- you can eat it straight out of the oven (as soon as it's safe to!) and enjoy it whilst the chocolate is gooey and the brioche is ever so soft
- a great show off dessert when you've got guests over next
To keep your chocolate babka fresh, keep in an airtight container or wrapped. This will stop it fry drying out. Good to sit on the kitchen bench for about 3 days.
Tip on freezing (if it ever gets to that..): thickly slice the babka before freezing. Comes in handy when you only need that one cheeky slice. Lasts in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Chocolate brioche babka
- Stand mixer with a dough hook
- Rolling pin
- loaf tin
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp instant yeast 1.5g/0.05oz
- ⅓ cup milk warm, full fat
- ½ tsp caster sugar
- prepared sponge
- 1½ cup all-purpose flour
- 115 g /1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 1½ tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- ½ tsp sea salt
Filling (cinnamon butter + chocolate)
- 100 g /3.5oz milk chocolate block (note 1)
- 50 g /1.8oz dark chocolate block 70% cocoa or more (note 1)
- 50 g /1.8oz unsalted butter about ½ a stick, at room temperature
- 50 g /1.8oz dark brown sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon powder
Making the sponge
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well with a spoon until a paste is formed.
- Cover with plastic film/cling wrap and set aside for about 30 minutes or until foamy and bubbly.
Making the brioche dough
- Add all ingredients except the butter into the large mixing bowl that can be attached to the stand mixer.
- Fit the stand mixer with a dough hook and mix on medium until a ball is formed. You may need to pause the mixer and scrape the sides with a silicone spatula once or twice.
- Cut the room temperature butter into 6 parts. Add 1 part into the dough and mix on high. Once butter is fully incorporated into the dough, add another part of butter. This should take about 1 - 2 minutes.
- Repeat until all of the butter has been incorporated into the dough.
- By now, the dough should be quite soft and malleable. Continue to mix the dough on high until it has passed the windowpane test. About 8 - 10 minutes. (note 2)
- Leave the dough in the mixing bowl and cover with plastic film/cling wrap. (note 3) Place in a warm area (but not directly in the sun) and allow the dough to rise to double its size. This takes about 2.5 - 3 hours.
Assembling the chocolate brioche babka + baking
- Whilst the brioche dough is proofing, prepare the filling. For the cinnamon butter, combine cinnamon, sugar and butter and mix to form a paste. For the chocolate, chop the chocolate blocks into small rough chunks. Set the filling aside.
- Once the dough has doubled its size, flatten the dough with a fist and then scrape the dough onto a lightly floured (clean!) surface.
- Roll the dough out to a large rectangular sheet with a rolling pin. About 30cmx40cm/ 12inx16in.
- Spread the cinnamon butter evenly across the dough with a large spoon.
- Sprinkle chopped chocolates evenly across the dough.
- Gently but tightly roll up the dough from the long side, from one end to the other.
- Now, horizontally half the rolled dough with a knife (or a dough scraper) and gently plait.
- Gently place the dough plait into a lightly buttered loaf tin. If necessary (if the plait is a little long), lightly push in the ends of the plaits so that it fit the loaf tin.
- Cover the loaf tin with plastic film/cling wrap and proof the dough. Place in a warm area (but not directly in the sun), allow the dough to almost double in size, takes about 2.5 - 3 hours.
- Once proofing is done, remove plastic film/cling wrap and bake at 180°C/360°F in the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes.
- Allow loaf to cool for 5 minutes before transferring onto a cooling rack.
- Dig in whilst it's still warm.
- The yeast in the dough will have extra time to develop and will have a finer flavour
- The dough will be firm to touch and thus much easier to roll out and fold into a large plait.
Tip on freezing: thickly slice the babka before freezing. Comes in handy when you only need that one cheeky slice. Lasts in the freezer for up to 2 months.
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