This Chocolate Espresso Babka is the perfect loaf for dessert or breakfast! A gooey, fudgey, chocolate espresso filling is nestled into this enriched yeast brioche dough to produce a soft, fluffy bread.
Posted 2/20/21; Republished 1/17/22
This Chocolate Espresso Babka is made with an enriched brioche dough that gets filled, rolled, twisted, and baked a loaf pan. The origin and history of babka is that it is an iconic treat and dessert in many Jewish households, specifically for holidays or religious traditions.
Re-sensationalized by a particular Seinfeld episode in the 90s, there are a few major bakeries in New York City that are known for their babka. Read more about the history of babka. One other note? The filling possibilities are endless, which I love!
Chocolate babka is truly a sight to behold and is the ultimate loaf, in my opinion. While it may appear to look complicated, it's actually quite easy! It's basically the same process as a cinnamon roll, just shaped in a slightly different form. Totally doable and you'll be questioning why you haven't tried your hand at it sooner!
Babka also tastes like a cinnamon roll in terms of texture, but can be filled with a variety of different fillings. Chocolate is most classic, which is why I wanted to add a slight twist of the espresso flavor.
If you'd rather go for a standard cinnamon roll situation, you can try my Cranberry Orange Rolls! Otherwise, let's dive in and make the BEST Chocolate Espresso Babka!
Ingredients & Tools
Most ingredients are pantry staples, but here are a few notable particulars:
- Yeast. This recipe calls for active dry yeast. I always prefer to use active dry yeast as there is an activation period that must happen first. This is a great way to tell whether your yeast is dead or alive before continuing on with the recipe.
- Cocoa powder. This recipe uses Dutch processed. It is a darker cocoa powder and produces a deeper flavor. If you only have natural cocoa powder, that is perfectly fine! Look for Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa in the grocery store for the dutch-processed version.
- Espresso powder. If you can't find espresso powder, instant coffee will also work! Do not substitute liquid espresso or coffee for the powder.
- Chocolate. You can either use chopped chocolate (60-70% cacao), chocolate chips, or these espresso chocolate chips. If using the espresso chips, still add an additional 1 teaspoon of espresso powder.
You'll also need a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, a rolling pin, and an offset spatula or rubber spatula. A bench scraper is also particularly helpful for rolling out the dough (to help keep a rectangular shape).
While I haven't tested it, the babka dough can theoretically be made without a stand mixer, but the kneading process will take much longer to come together.
How to Make the Chocolate Espresso Babka
Note that while this babka is very quick to get started and assemble, it does take about 8 hours of chilling time in the fridge, but another 1-2 hours of rise time, so plan accordingly!
Additionally, it's crucial to measure your flour and cocoa powder appropriately. Check out my quick video on how to measure flour, but I do recommend using a scale for this recipe.
STEP 1: Activate the yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer until it's foamy, about five minutes. Be sure the milk is at the correct temperature so you don't kill the yeast. If the yeast does not foam up, it's likely dead. You'll need to start again.
STEP 2: Add the rest of the ingredients (except the butter), attach the dough hook, and mix on medium low until it forms a shaggy dough. Then, add one tablespoon of softened butter at a time, waiting to add a new piece until the first is almost fully incorporated.
The dough will go from looking shaggy and dry, to a beautifully soft, supple dough by the end. Knead the dough on medium high speed. The process can take up to 10 minutes.
You will know the dough is ready when it completely "cleans" the bowl. Meaning, the dough will naturally stop sticking to the sides and will pull away. You'll also likely hear the dough slapping the sides, and this is when you know it's just about there!
STEP 3: Shape the dough into a ball, then transfer it to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 8 hours (or overnight).
This allows the dough to ferment slowly and give it more flavor. Additionally, because this filling is meant to be thick and fudgey, a cold dough is easiest to work with to get the filling on, and also less messy when twisting!
STEP 4: After resting, shape the dough into a rectangle with your hands, then use a rolling pin to push the dough down a few times to get it started. Then, roll out the dough into a 10x14" rectangle.
Use a bench scraper to push the sides of the dough in to keep it into a rectangular shape. Do this after every few rolls!
Dough rolled out.
Making the Babka Filling
STEP 5: Once the dough is rolled out accordingly, make the filling. Melt the butter and chocolate together, then mix in the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and espresso powder.
As soon as the mixture is combined, spread the filling over the dough as evenly as possible with an offset spatula. The longer you wait, the clumpier the filling will become, making it more difficult to spread.
Leave about ½ inch uncovered on all edges except for one of the long sides, in which you should take the filling to the very edge.
Filling has been added and getting rolled into the dough.
Pinch the edges of the roll to seal.
The Babka Twist
STEP 6: Rolling from the long side where the filling meets the edge, tightly roll the dough (just like cinnamon rolls!) and pinch the edge into the roll to seal. Place the dough (seam side down) and gently roll it to flatten it out.
STEP 7: Cut about ½ inch to 1 inch off of each edge, then cut the babka completely in half lengthwise. Place them directly next to each other with the cut sides up.
Pinch the tops of the dough together, then wrap the dough pieces around each other as many times as possible. The most important part here is to keep the cut sides UP. Pinch the bottoms of the dough together, and place into a parchment lined loaf pan.
Cut the log in half longwise and pinch the tops together.
Twist the babka dough, keeping the cut sides up.
Pinch the bottom together to seal.
STEP 8: Cover the chocolate espresso babka dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 1-2 hours until the dough gets puffy and slightly starts to fill out the pan.
Babka dough in the pan before rising.
Babka dough in the pan after rising.
Bake at 375℉ for 25-30 minutes. Insert a wooden skewer or sharp paring knife into the center of the loaf to check for doneness. It should slide in and out rather easily. If there is a lot of give or feels doughy, continue baking for another 3-5 minutes then check again.
Espresso Simple Syrup
STEP 9: While the babka is baking, combine the water, sugar, and espresso powder in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat.
As soon as the babka comes out of the oven, brush or spoon the espresso simple syrup (use all of it!) all over the babka, then let cool. Enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature. I recommend using a serrated knife to cut the babka.
Brush on the espresso simple syrup after baking.
This chocolate espresso babka will last for about 3 days at room temperature. After that, the quality significantly diminishes and becomes hard and dry. Store the babka tightly covered in foil, and slice off pieces as needed. P.s. if it does get stale, turn it into french toast!
Lucky for us, babka freezes exceptionally well. Once fully baked and cooled, wrap the babka in plastic wrap, foil, then place in a ziplock bag and freeze for three months. To thaw, fully unwrap the bread and thaw at room temperature. This recipe can easily be doubled to create two loaves, one for eating and one for freezing.
Is babka a brioche?
Yes, babka is made with an enriched brioche dough. This means that milk, butter and eggs are added to the dough, rather than just using water/flour/yeast/salt. Brioche is a soft fluffy dough that you are likely most familiar with in cinnamon rolls and donuts.
Can I use instant yeast instead of active dry yeast?
You can also use instant yeast. To do so, skip the blooming portion and just add all of the first round of ingredients to the stand mixer, then the butter step.
Active dry yeast requires activation (or blooming) before utilization, while instant yeast can be added directly in with all ingredients. I typically prefer to use active dry yeast, because I can tell up front whether my yeast is alive or dead during the blooming stage.
Keep in mind that if you use instant yeast, the dough may rise more quickly than with active dry yeast. This is because the instant particles are smaller than active dry so they dissolve and activate more quickly. Can I make the babka in one day?
Yes, but you'd have to start very early in the morning to allow for the full 8 hours of fridge time, plus the 1-2 hours of rise time, and the 30 minutes to bake.
Is the chilling necessary?
For this recipe, yes. Because the filling is meant to be thick and fudgey, a cold dough is needed to hold up to the process of spreading on the filling. A non-chilled dough would rip. Additionally, the extended fermenting process produces a more delicious dough!
How should I eat babka?
This is totally personal preference. I love it fresh out of the oven while it's still warm. After a day, I like to quickly heat a slice in the microwave and slather it with butter. If it gets to the point of being stale, turn it into French toast!
What are some other babka fillings?
While the possibilities are endless, some other popular fillings include Nutella, pistachio, cinnamon sugar, and fruit jams. There are also many savory versions of babka, as well!
Want more dough inspired recipes?
- Cranberry Orange Rolls
- Pumpkin Spice Soft Pretzels
- Lemon Filled Donuts with Meringue
Be sure to tag me on Instagram @thecozyplum and use I can't wait to see your creations. For more ideas, follow me on Pinterest.