Babka is a rich brioche dough filled with cinnamon and dark chocolate. I first had this decadent treat in an Israeli cafe in London and swiftly fell in love. It’s not quite a bread nor a cake, and the rich chocolate filling with hints of cardamom taste amazing straight out the oven.
It took me a while to put together this recipe, as most of the recipes I found online recommended using an electric mixer with a dough hook. My recipe can be made completely by hand. I also found that cardamom wasn’t a common ingredient, but I feel it makes a massive difference to the finished product, hence why I added a homemade cardamom syrup to the babka after baking.
Prep time: 4-5 hours
Cook time: 40 minutes
For the dough:
- 100 ml milk
- 350g strong white bread flour
- 50g caster sugar
- 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 100g unsalted butter, softened and chopped into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
For the filling:
- 75g unsalted butter
- 75g dark chocolate
- 150g caster sugar
- 25g cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the glaze and syrup:
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 50ml water
- 40g sugar
- 2 cardamom pods, lightly bashed
- Heat the milk in a saucepan until it’s just warm. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, yeast, cardamom and a pinch of salt. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook you can mix it in there.
- Make a well in the centre of your flour mixture and add the milk, egg and butter in the middle. Mix together to create a dough using a spoon to swirl the flour mixture into the well. After a while you might need to start using your hands. Shape into a ball and then knead by hand on a well floured surface for 15 minutes until you have a soft dough that springs back when pressed.
- Oil the bowl by patting a small amount on a paper towel and wiping it inside the bowl, then return the dough to the bowl and cover with a piece of oiled clingfilm. Leave to prove in a warm place for 2 hours (I normally turn my oven on for 2 minutes – make sure you turn it off again – so it’s slightly warm and then place the bowl in it to prove). The dough should be doubled in size after proving.
- While the dough is proving, make the filling by melting the butter in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate, sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon.
- Once the dough has proved, place on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle approximately 50 x 30cm. Spread the filling over the dough, covering it completely, but leave a small border. Roll the dough up tightly from one of the longer sides into a sausage shape (for a demo on how to roll and plait the babka, this video is really helpful from 4:45).
- Cut the dough in half lengthways so you have two long pieces with the inside exposed (I cut mine into 4 and made 2 babka loafs as I didn’t have a loaf tray which worked fine too). If you are finding it difficult to work with the dough at this stage, chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to make it easier to handle.
- Twist the dough into a braid and push the ends together. You can either put this in a loaf tray, if you don’t have one like me, you can lay these on a baking tray covered in baking parchment. Loosely cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place for 1.5 hours, or until doubled in size.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C/ gas mark 4. Brush your dough with the beaten egg. Bake for 40 minutes until deep golden, loosely covering with foil towards the end of cooking time if it is getting too dark. If you have done one large braid rather than two seperate braids like I did, it may need an additional 10 minutes of baking.
- Whilst the babka is cooking, make the cardamom syrup. In a small pan, add the water and cardamom pods on a low heat. Once the water is lightly bubbling, stir in the sugar until it dissolves and then reduce to a low heat and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Leave to infuse for another 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the loaf from the oven, brush with the sugar syrup and leave to cool.