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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?
Be sure to tag me on Instagram @thecozyplum and use #TheCozyPlum! I can't wait to see your creations. For more ideas, follow me on Pinterest.
Chocolate Espresso Babka
- Digital thermometer
- Stand mixer with dough hook
- Rolling Pin
- Offset spatula or rubber spatula
- Standard loaf pan (9x5" or 8x4")
- Bench scraper optional
- ¼ cup granulated sugar 50g
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- ¼ cup warm milk (110℉) 60ml
- 1 large egg + 1 yolk room temperature
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour 270g
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature & cut into tablespoon pieces (85g)
- 3 oz chocolate (~60-70%) bars or chips
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted (85g)
- ¼ cup powdered sugar 30g
- ¼ cup cocoa powder 21g
- 3-4 teaspoons espresso powder
- ¼ cup water 60ml
- ¼ cup granulated sugar 50g
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
Making the dough
- Combine one tablespoon of sugar (from the ¼ cup), yeast, and warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer to bloom for 5 minutes. Once foamy, add the remaining sugar, egg and yolk, flour, and salt. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on medium speed until it comes together into a shaggy ball.
- Turn the speed one click lower, then add 1 tablespoon of the softened butter at a time. Wait to add the next piece of butter until the prior piece is mostly incorporated.
- Mix on medium high speed until the dough is totally smooth, scraping down the sides and bottoms a few times. If the dough hasn't turned smooth, increase the speed and keep mixing. It will come together!
- When it’s ready, the dough should completely be pulled away from the sides and mostly or fully off of the bottom. If a bit is still sticking to the bottom of the bowl, just pull it off. The dough will be very soft and supple when it’s ready.
- Form the dough into a ball and place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. The dough won’t look like it rose very much, which is normal!
Filling (*see notes)
- Chop the chocolate, then melt the butter and chocolate together in 30 second bursts in the microwave, stirring in between each, until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and espresso powder and mix until it forms a paste.
- Prepare a standard loaf pan with a strip of parchment paper overhangs and set side.
- Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, shape the dough into a rectangle with your hands, then roll the dough out into a roughly 10x14 inch rectangle. Push the dough down a few times with your rolling pin to begin to flatten, then roll. Use a bench scraper to keep the dough in a rectangle shape.
- Once rolled out, make the filling, then immediately spread it over the dough with an offset spatula. Leave a ½ inch border on all sides except for one of the long edges (this will be where you start the initial roll). Work quickly, and spread it as evenly as possible.
- Starting from the long edge where the filling meets the edge, tightly and evenly roll the dough into a log. Pinch the long edge of the dough into the roll the whole way across, and then place that side down to keep the seal.
- Transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet and gently push the dough together from each side, just to re-compact the log a bit.
- Cut off the edge of each side of the log - about an inch (which is what you didn’t cover with filling). Then, cut the entire log in half lengthwise and place each piece in line with each other so the filling side is up.
- Pinch the top edges together as best as possible, then, keeping the cut sides up, twist each piece of dough around each other as many times as possible, then pinch to seal the bottom edge. This part may not look perfect, but the key is to keep the cut sides UP as best as possible.
- Place the dough in the prepared loaf pan. If it's too long to fit in, just tuck one of the edges next to it like an “s”.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a slightly warm location for about 1-2 hours until the dough puffs up and starts to fill out the pan a bit. If your kitchen is rather cold, try another room in the house, or allow it to rise in a closed oven (no heat) with just the light on.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F/190℃, uncover the loaf, and bake for 25-30 minutes in the middle rack. You’ll know it’s done when you can insert a sharp knife and it has little resistance. If it still feels at all stretchy or doughy when you poke it in, allow it to bake for another 3-5 minutes and check again.
- As soon as the babka goes into the oven, make the simple syrup. Add the water, sugar, and espresso powder in a small saucepan and heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, then cool completely.
- As soon as the babka comes out of the oven, brush or spoon the simple syrup over the top, getting every nook, cranny, and edge, until it’s gone. It may feel like too much syrup, but it’s not!
- Cool until warm, then slice and enjoy.