Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka

Yeast of Eden mostly sells traditional long-rise bread, but every once in a while, Olaya makes something sweet. In The Walking Bread, the 3rd Bread Shop Mystery, she makes Babka. Because we eat gluten-free in our household, I included the gluten-free version, which is so good!
One by one I pulled the loaf pans filled with Babka dough from the walk-in refrigerator. We’d spent the entire day before making the traditional dough, letting it rise, filling it with the coffee-infused chocolate schmear, shaping it, placing each log into a prepared bread pan, and then sprinkling the crumbly cinnamon-sugar topping on top. We tented each loaf pan before placing them into the refrigerator.
“Why Babka?” I’d asked Olaya after she showed me the baking plan for the Art Car Show. The sheet of paper listing the various baking tasks we’d have leading up to the event lay on the table between us. 
“Babka. Panettone. Challah. Traditional bread. It is my specialty. No matter where it is from, what I want to share with my customers is the old way. I want them to experience bread the way it should be. The slow rise. The rustic experience, or the refined taste. Whatever it is, what I do is make bread the way it was made before bread machines and Wonder Bread.” She tapped her index finger on the paper. “Babka is not a common bread here. Most say it original, is that how you say it?”
“Originated?” I said.
She nodded. “Yes, yes. It originated in Eastern Europe. Russian or Slavic. Originated here with Jewish immigrants. You can find it in big cities. New York. San Francisco. Posiblemente en Houston, even. Not in a small town bakery or bread shop. But the Babka, it is good. The people, they love it. So I make the chocolate krantz cakes for this event.”
And make them she did. We did. Dozens and dozens and dozens of them. 



  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast SAF Red or SAF Gold instant yeast preferred
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature*
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • *Reduce the salt to 2 1/4 teaspoons if you use salted butter.


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa Triple Cocoa Blend, or the cocoa powder of your choice, Dutch-process or natural
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped semisweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips mini chips preferred
  • 1 cup diced pecans or walnuts toasted if desired


  • 1 large egg beaten with a pinch of salt until well-combined


  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour


  • Combine all of the dough ingredients (starting with the lesser amount of water), mixing until everything is moistened. Add additional water if necessary to enable the dough to come together. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Then mix/knead it until it’s soft and smooth.
  • Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and cover the bowl. The dough is going to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it’s quite puffy.
  • Gently deflate the dough, and divide it in half. Set the pieces aside, covered, while you make the filling.
  • To make the filling: Combine the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and espresso. Stir in the melted butter. The mixture will look grainy and slick; that’s OK.
  • Shape each half of the dough into a 9″ x 18″, 1/4″-thick rectangle. If the dough “fights back,” let it rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten, then stretch it some more. Don’t be fussy about this; 19″ or 20″ is as good as 18″.
  • Smear each piece of the dough with half the filling, coming to within an inch of the edges.
  • Scatter half the nuts, and half the chopped chocolate/chips over each piece. If using standard-size chips, process them in a food processor first, to create smaller bits of chocolate and a less chunky filling.
  • Starting with a short end, roll each piece gently into a log, sealing the seam and ends. Working with one log at a time, use a pair of scissors or a sharp knife to cut the log in half lengthwise (not crosswise) to make two pieces of dough about 10″ long each; cut carefully, to prevent too much filling from spilling out. With the exposed filling side up, twist the two pieces into a braid, tucking the ends underneath. Repeat with the other log. Place each log into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
  • Brush each loaf with the egg glaze. Mix together the topping ingredients until crumbly, and sprinkle half the topping over each loaf.
  • Tent each pan with plastic wrap, and let the loaves rise until they’re very puffy and have crowned a good inch over the rim of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 300°F.
  • Bake the bread for 35 minutes. Tent lightly with foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 25 minutes (for a total of 50 to 60 minutes); the loaves should be a deep-golden brown.
  • To ensure the loaves are baked through, insert a digital thermometer into the center of one loaf. It should register at least 190°F.
  • Remove the loaves from the oven, and immediately loosen the edges with a heatproof spatula or table knife. Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out of the pans onto a rack to cool completely.
  • Slice the babka and serve it at room temperature; or rewarm individual slices briefly in a toaster, if desired. Store any leftovers, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.


Or make it gluten-free!
*Chocolate Babka, recipe credit to King Arthur Flour