This decadent babka, swirled with cinnamon-spiced chocolate, is worth the challenge. Follow our step-by-step guide to make it for yourself.
Our tips for success
- When incorporating the butter into the dough, make sure the butter really is at room temperature or it won’t mix in properly. Give it at least an hour out of the fridge. Don’t microwave it to soften it, as too-warm butter will make the dough greasy.
- Let the chocolate filling cool to the point where it’s still fluid and only just warm. If it gets too cold it will seize (turn hard) so warm it up again gently, stirring over a low heat.
- The dough is very soft, so flour the work surface and rolling pin generously when rolling.
- As the dough is so soft it might stretch when twisting, but don’t worry. It will look much neater after it bakes than when it’s been put into the loaf tin.
- Once the babka is in the oven, don’t be tempted to open the oven door before 25 minutes. If you do, you could lower the temperature and cause the loaf to collapse.
- The babka will sink a little towards the end of baking and as it cools, but that’s normal.
- As this is such a soft, sticky dough you’ll find it a lot easier to use a stand mixer if you have one. If you don’t, follow our guide for beating butter into dough by hand – but be warned, it’s hard work.
1. Gently warm the milk and 40g of the butter in a small saucepan until the butter has melted – don’t let it boil. Put the flours, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre, then pour the warmed milk and one of the beaten eggs into the bowl.
2. Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined, then mix at medium speed with the dough hook for 15 minutes until smooth. The dough will seem wet but will stiffen later when kneaded.
3. Turn the speed up slightly and add the remaining butter, a tablespoon at a time, making sure each addition is incorporated into the dough before adding the next. Mix for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth, slightly sticky and very elastic.
4. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise at room temperature for 45-60 minutes until nearly doubled in size. Chill for another 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, make the filling. Put the butter and sugar in a small saucepan and gently heat until melted, then add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. Remove from the heat and leave to cool until barely warm. It may look a little grainy because of the sugar but that’s not a problem.
6. Flour your work surface, then tip out the dough and flour that too. Roll out to a 28cm x 60cm rectangle, moving the dough often to prevent it sticking and dusting with extra flour if necessary. Spread the filling over the dough, then take a long edge and roll up tightly like a swiss roll.
7. With the seam underneath, cut the dough lengthways down the centre, leaving the halves attached at one end by about 4cm.
8. Twist the two strands around each other [J], then lay the dough in the tin, from one end to the other and back in a zig-zag. It doesn’t have to be neat. Cover loosely with cling film and leave in a warm place to prove for about 30 minutes. It’s ready when a gentle prod from your finger leaves a slight indentation in the dough. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.
9. Very gently brush the top of the loaf with the remaining beaten egg, then bake for 1 hour, loosely covering with foil after 25 minutes. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.