You’ll love every morsel of this Chocolate Espresso Babka! A soft brioche dough is filled with a fudgey chocolate layer that’s spiked with espresso powder for an extra delicious kick!
This post contains affiliate links.
Babka is a brioche dough that gets filled, rolled, twisted, and baked a loaf pan. A common treat in many Jewish households, this bread is perfect for breakfast or as a dessert treat!
And this Chocolate Espresso Babka is a sight to behold! While it may appear to look complicated, it’s basically just a cinnamon roll process in a slightly different form. Totally doable and you’ll be questioning why you haven’t tried your hand at it sooner!
This entire recipe came about after I discovered Espresso Chocolate Chips at the grocery store! Obviously I had to get a bag. When I asked my sister what I should make with them, this was her request! I dedicate this recipe to the best sissy lou I could ever ask for.
Chocolate Espresso Babka Ingredients
Most ingredients are pantry staples, but here are a few notable particulars:
- Yeast. This recipe calls for active dry yeast, however, you can also use instant yeast. If you use instant yeast, particularly in the “quick method,” your rise will take less time (and it doesn’t need to bloom).
- Cocoa powder. For this recipe, I chose to use Dutch processed. It is a darker cocoa powder and produces a deeper flavor. If you only have natural cocoa powder, that is perfectly fine!
- 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) or these espresso chocolate chips. If using the espresso chips, still add an additional 1 teaspoon of espresso powder.
How to make this babka
Activate the yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer, then add the rest of the ingredients (except the butter). With the dough hook on medium speed, mix 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.
While adding the butter, the dough will go from looking shaggy and dry, to wet and super butter-y, to a beautifully soft, supple dough. The process will take about 5-7 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 hear the dough slapping the sides, and this is when you know it’s just about there!
The dough then gets moved to an oiled bowl, covered, and placed in the fridge for about 8 hours (or overnight). The dough will not rise much in the fridge, this is normal! See the next section if you’d like to tackle the “quick method” of the babka where the fridge time isn’t needed. The reason I like to rest it in the fridge is because it makes the dough SO much easier to work with. This filling in particular is meant to be thick and fudgey, so it doesn’t spread very easily. A cold and sturdy dough helps in this regard.
After resting, roll out the dough into a 10×14″ rectangle and spread the filling over the dough as evenly as possible. I have found it best to plop small pieces all over the dough, and then carefully spread it with an offset spatula or your fingertips. This process can take a bit of time, so be patient!
The Babka Twist
Rolling from the long side, tightly roll the dough (just like cinnamon rolls!) and pinch the edge into the roll to seal. At this point, I place the dough (seam side down) onto a parchment lined baking pan and put it in the fridge for 15 minutes. While not necessary, this just helps keep everything in place. This will make the chocolate hard and it will feel like it’s bulging out of the dough, but that’s normal!
Cut about 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.
Cover and allow it to rise for another 1-2 hours, then 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.
As soon as the babka comes out of the oven, brush or spoon the espresso simple syrup all over the mixture, then let cool. Enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature.
Quick method babka
To make my “quick method” babka, follow the exact same steps to make the dough. However, rather than putting the dough in the refrigerator, place the dough in a rather warm location for 1-2 hours until the dough doubles in size.
Punch down the dough a few times, then roll it out to the 10×14″ dimensions and follow the same steps moving forward. I will note that using the quick method makes it much more difficult to add on the filling because the dough is so soft (and lovely).
I have found the best way to add this particular filling to the quick method dough is to flatten pieces in between the palms of your hands and evenly distribute them over the dough as best as possible. The quick method dough can rip more easily, so be patient and careful!
For the quick method, don’t skip the 15 minutes in the fridge after it’s rolled. It will make the swirling/wrapping process much easier. Continue with the same instructions to wrap and bake.
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.
Active dry vs. instant yeast
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 will 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.
How long does chocolate babka last?
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.
Want more brioche recipes?
*To anyone who made this recipe before March 17, 2021 – I made a terrible mistake and owe you a huge apology! I transcribed the filling ratios incorrectly and I can’t tell you how sorry I am that you had a runny filling experience. The recipe has since been retested again and I assure you, the filling will be a paste (as intended)!
Chocolate Espresso Babka
- Stand mixer with dough hook
- Standard loaf pan (9×5" or 8×4")
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour 270g
- ¼ cup granulated sugar 50g
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 large egg + 1 yolk room temperature
- ¼ cup milk (60g) warm (110F)
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 T unsalted butter room temperature & cut into tablespoon pieces (85g)
- 3 oz chocolate ~60-70% cacao or espresso chips
- 3 T unsalted butter melted (85g)
- ¼ cup powdered sugar 30g
- ¼ cup cocoa powder 25g
- 3-4 tsp espresso powder
- ¼ cup water 60g
- ¼ cup sugar 50g
- 1 tsp 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 speed until the dough is totally smooth, scraping down the sides and bottoms a few times. This will take around five minutes.
- 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.
- 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! *If you’d like to follow the “quick babka method” see the "notes" section at the end.
- 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 and roll the dough out into a roughly 10×14 inch rectangle. Drop the filling in blobs all over the dough and spread as evenly as possible using an offset spatula or the tips of your fingers. Leave a 1 inch border on all sides except for one of the long edges (this will be where you start the initial roll). This step can take some time and patience. Take care not to push or spread too hard or the dough could be punctured.
- 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. Place the dough in the fridge for about 15 minutes. This helps everything stay together when twisting.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and 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 at room temperature for about 1-2 hours. 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. The dough will not rise considerably, just a bit. One and a half hours is the sweet spot in my kitchen.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F, 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. Allow the mixture to bubble and reduce for about one minute, 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!
- Store the loaf, wrapped, at room temperature for 3 days. Freeze (wrapped in plastic wrap, foil, and in a ziplock bag) for up to 3 months.