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Babka

Ukraine 🇺🇦

Time: 3 hours + overnight | Servings: 16 | Rating: ★★★★★

Babka

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 ¼ teaspoon package active dry yeast
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar, plus a pinch
  • 4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing bowls and pans

For the Fudge Filling

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup butter, diced, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Streusel

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ½ tablespoons butter, melted
  • ⅓ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the Simple Syrup

  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, warm ½ cup of whole milk until it’s lukewarm but not hot (about 110° F). Add 2 ¼ teaspoons of yeast and a pinch of granulated sugar and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until slightly foamy.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together 4 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour, ⅓ cup granulated sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, the zest of 1 lemon, and the ½ teaspoon of nutmeg.
  3. Beat in the yeast mixture and 4 large eggs until the dough comes together in a soft mass, about 2 minutes. If the dough sticks to the side of the bowl and doesn’t come together, add a tablespoon more flour at a time until it does, beating very well in between additions.
  4. Add 5 tablespoons of butter and beat until the dough is smooth and elastic, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Beat in another 5 tablespoons oof butter and continue to beat or pulse until the dough is smooth and stretchy, another 5 to 7 minutes. Again, if the dough sticks to the sides of the bowl, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  5. Butter a clean bowl, form the dough into a ball and roll it around in the bowl so all sides are buttered. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place (inside of a turned-off oven with the oven light on is good) until it puffs and rises, about 1 to 2 hours. It may not double in bulk but it should rise.
  6. While the dough is rising, In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine ½ cup granulated sugar, ¾ cup of heavy cream, and a pinch of salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar completely dissolves, about 5 minutes. Scrape mixture into a bowl then stir in 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips, ½ cup of butter, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract until smooth. Let cool to room temperature. Filling can be made up to a week ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before using.
  7. In a bowl, stir together ½ cup of all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar, 1 ½ tablespoons of cocoa powder, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir in 4 ½ tablespoons of melted butter until it is evenly distributed and forms large, moist crumbs. Stir in ⅓ cup of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. Streusel can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge.
  8. After the dough has risen for 1-2 hours, press the dough down with your hands, re-cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight (or, in a pinch, for at least 4 hours, but the flavor won’t be as developed).
  9. In a small saucepan, combine ⅔ cup of granulated sugar and ⅔ cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
  10. Butter two 9-inch loaf pans, then line with parchment paper, leaving 2 inches of paper hanging over on the sides to use as handles later.
  11. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide in half. On a floured surface, roll one piece into a 9×17-inch rectangle. Spread with half the filling (there’s no need to leave a border). Starting with a long side, roll into a tight coil. Transfer the coil onto a dish towel or piece of plastic wrap and stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Repeat with the other piece of dough.
  12. Slice one of the dough coils in half lengthwise to expose the filling. Twist the halves together as if you were braiding them, then fold the braid in half so it’s about 9 inches long. Place into a prepared pan, letting it curl around itself if it’s a little too long for the pan. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until puffy (it won’t quite double).
  13. When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 350° F. Use your fingers to clump streusel together and scatter all over the tops of the cakes. Transfer to oven and bake until a tester goes into the cakes without any rubbery resistance and comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. The cakes will also sound hollow if you unmold them and tap on the bottom. An instant-read thermometer will read between 185–210°.
  14. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, use a skewer or paring knife to pierce them all over going all the way to the bottom of the cakes, and then pour the syrup on top of the cakes, making sure to use half the syrup for each cake.
  15. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving. Enjoy!