Chocolate Cinnamon Babka – Brioche dough is braided with a swirl of chocolate and cinnamon and baked to perfection to make two perfect loaves.
Chocolate and bread has become something I’ve recently been drawn to. Only recently?! Yes, I know it’s odd considering I love all things carbs and all things chocolate. But chocolate croissants and Nutella on bread weren’t really my thing because the bread wasn’t sweet, too. I needed the whole bite to be wrapped in sweetness.
But once this Chocolate Cinnamon Babka entered my life, I found exactly what I’ve been looking for. The dough is rich and sweet (thanks to a cinnamon syrup we brush it with after baking) and the chocolate cinnamon filling is perfectly rich and spicy. It’s the best slice of chocolatey bread I’ve ever had!
Making the brioche
The first step in the process of making this chocolate cinnamon babka is the brioche. It needs to rest and rise in the refrigerator overnight so make sure you keep that in mind before starting this process.
The brioche is best made in a stand mixer because it’s a very wet dough with lots of butter. It will be nearly impossible to knead it with your hands because their warmth will melt the butter in the dough and cause a big mess.
The dough is made with milk, flour, eggs, vanilla extract, and, of course, butter. All the ingredients, except the butter, are mixed together to form the dough. Once the dough is formed, the butter is added slowly to help it incorporate easily. After all the butter is added, it’s kneaded for a few minutes before placing in a clean bowl, covering with plastic wrap, and refrigerating overnight.
Making the filling
The filling in the babka is simply a paste of cocoa powder, butter, and cinnamon. I mixed mine in the stand mixer to make it come together easier, but you can mix by hand, if you want.
Assembling the babka
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and split into two equal halves. Roll one halve into a rectangle and spread with half of the filling. Then, sprinkle with chocolate chips and roll up the rectangle into a log.
The log is then cut down the length of the roll to split it into two halves, but stopping just short of the other end to keep the halves attached. Braid the log by crossing both halves over each other two or three times. Place loaf into a greased pan and repeat with other half of dough and filling.
Finishing the babka
The formed loaves are covered and left to rise again for about 1.5 hours. Once risen, they’re baked for about 50 minutes or until the center reaches 200 degrees.
After they’re baked, the loaves are spread with a cinnamon syrup made by dissolving sugar into water and then stirring in some cinnamon. The syrup is drizzled over the top of the loaves while they’re still warm. They’re left to cool completely before serving.
Tips & Tricks
- The dough used in this babka is brioche. Just like any other brioche dough, this needs to chill overnight. Therefore, make sure you give yourself enough time to make the dough before you plan on enjoying it.
- Make sure you use a brush to help slowly pour over the syrup. If you don’t have a brush, spoon it over the loaves very slowly.
- The loaves will turn very dark on top because of the butter, sugar, and eggs in the dough. But don’t rely on the color to tell you when the loaves are done. You may think they’re ready but the centers will still be doughy. I recommend using a meat thermometer to check the temperature in the centers to ensure the loaves are ready. They should register at 200 degrees when ready.
- If the loaves are turning super dark before the centers are cooked through, simply cover the tops in foil to keep them from burning while they keep cooking.
Chocolate Cinnamon Babka
For the brioche dough:
- ⅔ cup milk scalded and slightly cooled
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
For the chocolate cinnamon filling:
- ½ cup butter room temperature
- ⅓ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
For the cinnamon syrup:
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ⅔ cup water
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the brioche dough:
- In a bowl fitted for a stand-mixer, add warmed milk, flour, yeast, salt, sugar, eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Attach dough hook and mix ingredients on low for 2 minutes until all the ingredients are combined, scrapping down the sides, as needed, to incorporate all the ingredients. Once incorporated, continue mixing for another 2-3 minutes until the dough smooths out.
- Cut butter into 10 pieces. Add one piece of butter to dough and mix on low until completely incorporated into dough. Repeat with remaining pieces of butter, 1 piece at a time. Once all butter is added, continue to mix on low for another 5 minutes. It is important for all the butter to be thoroughly mixed into the dough. If the mixture is too loose, add more flour a couple tablespoons at a time until it slightly separates from the bowl.
- Put the dough in a large bowl or plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the dough to prevent it from drying out. Let the dough proof in the refrigerator overnight (16 hours max).
Assembling the babka loaves:
- The next morning, prepare two 9×5 loaves by greasing with non-stick spray. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add softened butter for filling (½ cup), Dutch-processed cocoa, and cinnamon. Using the paddle attachment, mix together until a paste forms. Set aside.
- Remove dough from the fridge and bowl. Place on a lightly floured surface. Cut into two even halves. Roll out one halve into a 10×12 inches rectangle. Spread the entire dough with half of the chocolate cinnamon paste. Sprinkle with half of the chocolate chips.
- Starting on the shorter side, roll into an even log. Using kitchen shears, cut the log from one end to the other but stopping with about 1 inch remaining at the other end and so that the two halves are still attached at the top. Braid the two halves by crossing over two or three times and then sealing the end. Tuck the end under and then place into greased loaf pan. Repeat with other halve of dough and filling. Cover loaves with a damp towel and let them rise again for 1.5 hours. During the last 30 minutes of the second rise, set the oven to preheat to 350 degrees.
- Once rising time is done, remove towels and place loaves into preheated oven. Bake for 50 minutes or until center reaches 200 degrees. If tops get really dark before the centers are done, cover with foil. I had to do this about 35 minutes into the baking time.
Finishing the loaves with cinnamon syrup:
- Remove from oven and let cool in pan for no more than 10 minutes. Remove from loaf pans and place on wired rack over a sheet pan. Prepare syrup by adding water and sugar to a small sauce pan. Heat over medium and let the water warm up enough to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved, remove from heat and add cinnamon. Stir together to combine.
- Poke holes into the top of the loaves. Brush the syrup over the tops and sides of both loaves. Let loaves cool completely before slicing.