Chocolate Babka

Michael Solomonov
Recipe by
Michael Solomonov

This babka is so easy, baking it almost feels like cheating. Sweet and rich yeasted dough is stuffed with chocolate, then rolled up and baked. It has the kind of balance of sweet and savory that lures you into consuming way too much of it – I have a hard time not eating it as it comes out of the oven.

At my restaurant, Zahav, we gild the lily by serving the babka with cardamom-flavored Turkish Coffee Ice Cream. The sweetness of the cardamom is excellent with the bitter notes of the coffee and chocolate. You can bake the babka in a single loaf or in muffin tins for individual servings. If there are any leftovers (doubtful!), babka makes excellent bread pudding or French toast.

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1/3 cup dark chocolate (at least 60% cacao), chopped
2 tablespoons active dry yeast (or 3 1/4-ounce packages)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
6 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt
6 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened

For the Filling

  • Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until evenly mixed. Add the butter and chocolate and pulse until a crumbly, coarse mixture forms. It should be chunky, not powdery. Set aside. 

For the Dough

  • Combine the yeast with 6 tablespoons warm water in a small bowl and let stand until frothy, about 5 minutes.
  • Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or use a hand mixer and a big bowl) and mix to combine. Add the yeast mixture, milk, vanilla, and lemon zest. Mix on low speed until combined. Add one of the eggs, the yolk, and the butter. Mix until the dough comes together in a smooth, pliable ball, about 8 minutes. (if the dough seems too wet and resists forming a ball, add a little extra flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Turn the dough out into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour. 
  • On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle as wide as your loaf pan is long and about 3/4 inch thick. Set aside 1/4 cup of the filling. Sprinkle the remaining filling onto the dough and roll up like a jelly roll. Freeze until firm and sliceable, about 3 hours.
  • Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with enough oiled parchment paper that the parchment paper extends over the edges of the pan. Cut the frozen babka into 1-inch-thick rounds and reassemble the loaf in the prepared loaf pan. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise again until doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly beat the remaining egg. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the babka with the egg and sprinkle the reserved filling on top. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and springs back when you press it, 60 to 70 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving. 

Yield: 1 loaf

Excerpted with permission from ZAHAV by Michael Solomonov. Copyright © 2015 by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Photography © 2015 by Mike Persico. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Chef Michael Solomonov was born in Israel and grew up in Pittsburgh. He and Steven Cook are the co-owners of CookNSolo Restaurants, home to some of Philadelphia's most distinctive culinary concepts, including Zahav, Federal Donuts, Abe Fisher, Dizengoff, Rooster Soup Co., and Goldie. They are a combined four-time James Beard Award Winners, including the 2016 "Best International Cookbook" and "Book of the Year" awards for their first cookbook, Zahav, and a 2011 "Best Chef Mid-Atlantic" win for Solomonov, who was named the 2017 JBF's "Outstanding Chef".