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Chocolate Babka is the stuff dreams are made of. Rich, buttery brioche dough with swirling ribbons of orange-scented chocolate running through it make this recipe the dreamiest of them all.
This Orange Chocolate Babka Wreath is delicate, decadent, and perfectly irresistible. Made with a yeast dough enriched with eggs and butter, it’s both tender and rich.
Making Chocolate Babka from scratch may seem like a lot of work, but the process is surprisingly easy. Most of the time involved is hands-free rising time and baking time.
And you can split the work between two days—make the dough and let it rise overnight, then make the chocolate filling, fill and shape the loaf, and bake the babka on the second day.
Believe me when I say this sweet, chocolate-y babka is worth every second and ounce of effort.
What is babka?
The name babka comes from an Eastern European word for grandmother, and it’s a fitting name since just about every Jewish grandma has her own special babka recipe.
Babka is a yeast cake. It’s really a sweet bread more than a cake, even though it is almost always a dessert. The dough includes yeast, eggs, butter, and sugar and is very similar to a brioche dough, but sweeter.
The dough includes swirls of filling, which can vary from nuts and cinnamon to chocolate and caramel. There’s cinnamon babka, cinnamon-raisin babka, chocolate babka, Nutella babka, poppyseed babka, walnut babka, raspberry babka, and more.
Sometimes babka has a streusel topping. This one has a sweet orange and sugar syrup glaze. But the defining features of babka are the rich, yeasted dough and swirls of sweet filling (although I’m sure someone is making savory babka somewhere, too!)
Most babka is baked in loaf pans, but this Orange Chocolate Babka Wreath is baked in a round cake pan. This makes it an especially beautiful dessert for special occasions like Hanukkah or Rosh Hashana.
What ingredients do you need to make a Chocolate-Orange Babka Wreath?
This Orange Chocolate Babka uses pretty simple ingredients. Here’s what you need (note that the complete recipe including measurements is below in the recipe card.)
- All-purpose flour
- Instant yeast
- Milk (preferably whole milk)
- Softened butter (unsalted)
- Brown sugar
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Dark chocolate
- Oranges (juice and zest)
How do you make it?
This Orange Chocolate Babka Wreath takes about 8 hours to make, but 7 hours of that is for letting the dough rise, so it’s really not difficult or time-consuming. You can even let the dough rise overnight if that is easier. Here are simplified steps to making it (note that the complete step-by-step recipe is below in the recipe card.)
- Combine the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Make a well in the center of the mixture.
- Warm the milk briefly in the microwave.
- Beat the eggs lightly in a medium bowl and then add the eggs to it, and whisk them lightly before adding the milk and beating to combine.
- Add the milk and egg mixture to the dry mixture and beat together at medium speed using a dough hook attachment if you have one.
- Add butter a little at a time allowing it to fully incorporate before adding more. You’ll end up with a nice, soft dough.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (you can let it rise in the fridge overnight if you like.)
- Make the chocolate filling by combining the brown sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate, butter, and orange zest in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally, and heating until the chocolate melts and the sugar dissolves. Chill the chocolate mixture in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to allow the filling to set a bit.
- Line a 10-inch round baking pan with parchment paper.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and roll it out into a rectangle.
- Spread the orange chocolate filling over the dough, leaving a bit of space around the edges.
- Roll up the dough, starting with one of the long sides, into a cylinder. Use your fingers to press the edge to seal it.
- With a sharp knife, slit the dough in half lengthwise.
- Twist the two strands of dough together, and then bring the ends in to make a circular shape. Tuck the free ends of the dough underneath the loop as if you’re tying a knot.
- Place the wreath into the lined baking tin, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place, like a kitchen countertop, for about 40 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
- Brush the loaf with beaten egg before baking it until it is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. minutes or until golden brown.
- While the babka is baking, make the glaze by combining the sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan, heating to a boil, and letting it simmer for about 2 minutes until it thickens.
- As soon as you remove the babka wreath from the oven, while it is still hot, brush the syrup over the top.
- Transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tips for success
- Spreading the process of making babka out over the course of 2 days makes the task seem much more manageable. Make the dough on the first day then leave it to slowly rise in the refrigerator overnight. This also makes the dough easier to handle and a cold rise will greatly improve the flavor.
- Use whole milk rather than low fat or skim milk. The fat content contributes to the flavor and texture of the dough.
- The milk should be warm but not so hot that it kills the yeast. Test it by putting your finger into the milk. It should feel warm to the touch, but not hot.
- Use unsalted butter as this allows you to control the amount of salt in the dough. If you don’t have unsalted butter, you might want to omit or reduce the amount of the 1 ½ teaspoons of salt in the recipe.
- Make sure to use room temperature butter. Set the butter out on the counter about 30 minutes before you intend to make the dough.
- Adding the butter piece by piece will take a while, but it is key to producing a rich dough with great texture.
- The dough should be very smooth and elastic. If you touch it with a dry finger no dough will stick but it should feel slightly tacky. Don’t give in to the temptation to add extra flour.
- Don’t be afraid to use plenty of flour when handling the dough at the shaping stage. This won’t make any diﬀerence to the final texture or flavor.
- I much prefer chopped baking chocolate or any good quality bar chocolate to chocolate chips for making the filling. Chocolate chips have stabilizers that make them not ideal for melting or using as a filling.
- Line the cake pan with parchment paper to make it easier to lift the cake out and to make cleanup easier.
- If the babka seems like it is browning too quickly, cover it with foil while baking.
- If you don’t want to make a round loaf with this babka recipe, you can simply twist the rolled cylinder of dough over itself and put it in a loaf pan to bake.
- As with all freshly baked goods, this Chocolate Orange Babka Wreath is best warm from the oven.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days. Reheat it in a 350ºF oven for 10 minutes.
- You can also freeze babka for up to 6 months. Be sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.
There are endless variations you can use with this babka recipe. Use the same dough recipe, but skip the orange chocolate babka filling recipe and the glaze and use one of these fillings instead.
Cinnamon Babka: To make a cinnamon filling instead of the orange chocolate filling, stir together 1 cup dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and one egg white until smooth and well mixed.
Nutella Babka: To make a Nutella Babka, simply substitute 1 ½ cups of Nutella or other chocolate spread for the orange chocolate filling.
Other Babka Fillings: White chocolate, raspberry jam, caramel, chopped walnuts or pecans, poppyseed filling, pumpkin filling, or even savory fillings like pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and cheese.
Frequently Asked Questions About Babka
Babka originated in Eastern European Jewish communities in the early 19th century. It was a way to use up extra dough from making challah. The dough was spread with sweet fillings like cinnamon and sugar, nuts, or jam and twisted or braided to form a loaf with ribbons of filling throughout.
Babka originated in the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe in the 19th century when Jewish cooks would twist extra challah dough around sweet fillings. This practice morphed into the babka recipes we know and love today. But non-Jewish Eastern European culinary traditions, like Polish and Ukrainian, produced a similar cake called Baba. Back in the olden days in Europe, babka was usually enriched with oil to keep it parve (dairy free) while Baba was enriched with butter. The type of Babka now popular among American Jews is almost exclusively made with both milk and butter, making it rich and delicious, but not parve.
The classic babka is most likely a cinnamon or fruit jam filled version. Chocolate Babka is really an invention of American Jews, who added the added chocolate to the filling options. These days, you’ll most likely have the choice of chocolate babka or cinnamon babka in most Jewish bakeries.
These days Babka is often served on Jewish holidays like Hanukkah and Rosh Hashanah (especially this round version for Rosh Hashanah), or any special occasion. Baba is a popular Easter dish in Poland and Ukraine.
The best way to eat a piece of babka is warm from the oven with a cup of coffee. If you have leftover babka, you can reheat it in the oven, or use it to make an insanely good French toast or bread pudding.
Traditionally, Babka was strictly a dessert loaf, but these days, creative cooks have made savory versions, too. I’ve seen pizza babka recipes, olive babka recipes, and pesto and cheese babka recipes.
More Jewish Holiday Recipes
If you love the combo of chocolate and orange as much as I do, try this Chocolate Orange Cake.
Chocolate Babka Wreath with Orange
For the dough
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup milk warmed
- 5 large eggs
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small cubes
For the egg Wash
- 1 large egg beaten
For the chocolate filling
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate finely chopped
- 1/2 cup 1 stick unsalted butter
- 3 oranges zested
For the glaze
- Juice of 2 oranges
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Fit a stand mixer with the dough hook.
- Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into a large stand mixer bowl. Use a handheld whisk to combine the mixture then make a well in the center.
- Warm the milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds. It should be warm but not hot. Break the eggs into a jug or small glass bowl, lightly beat then add the warm milk and briefly beat again.
- Pour the milk and egg mixture into the well you made in the flour mixture.
- Use the dough hook to mix on a slow speed for 2 minutes then increase the speed to medium
speed and beat for 7 minutes.
- Keeping the speed at medium, add butter one piece at a time allowing the butter to become fully combined with the dough before adding the next piece.
- When all the butter has been added you will have a very light, smooth, elastic, and soft dough.
- Grease a large clean bowl with a little olive oil and transfer the dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.
- To make the filling, add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, butter and orange zest to a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook until all the ingredients have melted and the sugar has dissolved. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a bowl and refrigerate for 20 minutes so the chocolate filling sets.
- Line a 10 inch (26cm) baking tin with baking parchment.
- Generously flour the work surface and your hands. Take the dough
out of the refrigerator, use a floured rolling pin to roll it out into the shape of a rectangle approximately 36 x 28cm. I use a sharp knife to cut the edges into a perfect rectangle.
- Spread the dough with the cooled chocolate orange filling taking care not to go all the way to the edges.
- With the longest edge facing you, roll up the dough into a sausage shape. Seal the free edge together with your fingers.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the dough in half lengthways to divide dough into two long pieces.
- Twist the two strands of dough together then bring the ends in to make a circular shape. Tuck each free end of dough underneath the loop as if you’re tying a knot.
- Transfer the twisted wreath into the lined baking tin, cover with plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place for 40 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. When the wreath has doubled in size brush it with the beaten egg then bake in the center of the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.
- Meanwhile, make the glaze by adding the sugar and orange juice to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Boil for 2 minutes then brush the syrup over the wreath as soon as it comes out of the oven.
- Transfer the wreath to a wire rack to cool briefly.
- Serve warm.
- It is much easier to spread the process of making babka out over the course of 2 days. Make the dough on the first day then leave it to slowly rise in the refrigerator overnight. This makes the dough easier to handle and a cold rise will greatly improve the flavor.
- Use whole milk if possible. You can substitute low-fat milk, but don’t use skim as the fat is important to the flavor and texture of the dough.
- The milk should be warm but not too hot otherwise it will kill the yeast. Test it by putting your finger into the milk after it’s been heated to make sure it’s not too hot.
- Use unsalted butter if possible. If you only have salted butter, reduce or omit the added salt in the recipe.
- Make sure the butter is at room temperature before adding it to the dough. You can set it on the counter for about 30 minutes to bring it to room temperature.
- It will take a fairly long time to add all the butter piece by piece but this is the best technique to get a truly enriched dough with a good texture.
- After the butter has been added the dough will be very smooth and elastic. If you touch it with a dry finger no dough will stick but it should feel slightly tacky. Don’t be tempted to add extra flour.
- Don’t be afraid to use plenty of flour when handling the dough at the shaping stage, it will not make any diﬀerence to the final texture.
- If the babka is looking too brown during baking cover with tin foil.
- As with all freshly baked goods, this Chocolate Orange Babka Wreath is best eaten warm on the day it is baked. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days. It can be reheated in a 350ºF oven for 10 minutes.