Brownies meet challah in babka form: this is a basic challah dough sweetened with vanilla that produces a soft bread. In this recipe it is laced around a rich brownie batter so that when baked, you get the combination of brownies and bread!
Brownie Meet Babka
Today I want to open up that babka-loving space in your heart and add something a little more wonderous. Because, I’m betting if you love babka, you also love brownies. And if you have one in each hand… well, I think this bread is comparable to Joey’s xerox girl and jam: “put your hands together” moment =)
My idea was simple, instead of making a chocolate ‘sauce’, I spread brownie batter on the dough and baked them together. I had been baking Stella Park’s brownies frequently at the time, and one day I also had a challah rising, these stuffed pretzels had been on my mind and I thought, why not bake them together? They have around the same bake time, and wouldn’t it be awesome to bite into a slice that had a combination texture of soft challah bread and chewy chocolatey brownie?
It’s a pretty simple process: you make challah dough, and when it’s close to a full rise, you make brownie batter. Roll out the dough, spread the batter and allow it to rise again in the pan. Then, bake!
The result is phenomenal. Like why haven’t I been doing this for years? Obviously, now I will be and hope you will too!
Brownie Babka Filling
The brownie batter portion of this recipe comes via Stella Parks. I adore her glossy, fudgy recipe on seriouseats. To have just enough to fill one loaf of challah, I quartered her recipe. I’ve also made the filling (quartered) from my own beloved thick cocoa brownies.
How to make brownie babka
- Make challah dough
- Make brownie filling
- Roll out dough, spread with filling
- Roll it up, set aside for second rise.
FAQ on Brownie Babka
Why is the dough super sticky?
Challahs are soft, enriched doughs and a sticky dough means a softer bread post-bake. I add enough flour to give my bread structure by try to avoid adding too much less it dry out the bread. One way to make it easier to deal with is to let it have its first rise in the fridge overnight. A cold dough is a lot less sticky. Before you begin rolling and shaping, flour the countertop. When rolling up, I find a bench scraper useful.
What loaf pan should I use?
Either an 8″ or a 9″ loaf pan. As far as material; avoid ceramic or glass which can affect bake time. I prefer anodized aluminum which conducts heat steadily.
Do you have a video showing how to make the brownie babka?
I do! Here is a link to a highlight from a story I did on IG showing me shaping the brownie babka. In the video I’m using the eggless dough (see below for notes).
Can I use a different brownie filling?
You may use any brownie batter you like. See above section ‘brownie babka filling’ for a few more ideas on what recipes to use.
How do I know when the bread is done rising?
I offer timings in my recipe instructions but you really want to look for your own cues as rising time is dependent on the temperature of the kitchen and the temperature of the ingredients used when making the dough. For the first rise the dough should have doubled in size. For the second, you are looking for the dough to be soft and puffy to the touch.
Can I use a different bread recipe?
I have a milk bread babka recipe on the site which produces the softest challah ever. The recipe relies on making a roux with some of the flour at the start and makes enough for +2 loaves so you can either halve it or save half of the roux for another day (store in the fridge). If you are looking for more of a brioche style bread, I recommend this one from KAF.
How do I get clean cuts and a pretty swirl?
A cold dough is easier to shape and cut neatly. Use the overnight first rise option and once you have rolled up the dough into a log, set it in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Use a very sharp paring knife to slice the dough lengthwise.
What do I do if my babka is over-browning in the oven but hasn’t finished baking?
Tent it with foil to avoid over-browning. When you cover the babka, do so loosely to avoid the top sticking to the foil.
How do I know when the brownie babka is done baking?
This is tricky because the brownie obscures some of our visual cues. The babka will be golden brown in the dough areas, and puffed up in the center. The best tool for this job is an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the babka which should read 190 F.
Ingredient info and Substitutions for Brownie babka
Bread Flour: If you have it, a higher protein flour makes a chewier and better texture for the bread. You can use all-purpose as well.
Honey: Use a floral honey, something that doesn’t have a strong taste.
Yeast: You can swap the instant yeast for active dry by increasing the amount to 1 1/4 teaspoon.
Oil: Anything without a prominent taste is good, canola, grapeseed, etc., tastes good here, if you use refined coconut oil the coconut taste won’t come through. You could also use melted butter (measure it after you melt).
Eggless Dough Option: If you don’t have eggs, use 1/4 cup greek yogurt and swap the honey for 1/3 cup sugar.
Recipe for Brownie Babka
- stand mixer to knead the dough
- loaf pan
VANILLA CHALLAH DOUGH
- ½ cup warm milk
- 1 heaped teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- ⅛ cup honey
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups bread flour 250g, plus more if needed
- 3 oz unsalted butter about 6 TB
- 1 ½ oz dark chocolate chopped (about 1/4 cup)
- 4 oz sugar 1/2 cup plus 1 TB
- ½ oz brown sugar 1 TB
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs (divided into 1 egg plus 1 yolk
- save the second white for the bread’s egg wash)
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 1 oz dutch process cocoa 1/4 cup plus 1 TB
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Combine milk, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Set aside to prove while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Whisk together the flour and salt in a separate bowl. In another bowl, mix together the egg, honey, oil and vanilla.
- Once your yeast is bubbly, pour in your wet and dry ingredients.
- Knead with the hook until the dough comes together in a soft, sticky ball. You may have to add a bit more flour, but avoid adding more than 1/2 of a cup.
- Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn with the spatula or your hands a few times until the dough is completely covered in oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours, until doubled in size (Depending on how warm your kitchen is this could take less or more time.) Alternatively (but recommended) place the dough in the fridge for an overnight rise. It will be easier to work with the next day.
Once the dough is ready, make your filling:
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat your eggs, sugars and vanilla together until very light and fluffy – about 8-10 minutes.
- Brown the butter: warm butter in a saucepan on low and once completely melted, turn heat to medium high. Let it sputter but keep a watchful eye, once it goes silent, it’s done. Place it in a heatproof bowl and add the chocolate to it. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
- Whisk together the cocoa, salt, and flour in a separate bowl.
- When the eggs are done whipping, add the warm chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Add the flour and turn the mixer on with the whisk attachment until the dry ingredients are just combined. Use a spatula to scrape bottom and sides of bowl to incorporate.
Make the babka:
- Roll out your challah dough into a rectangle on a well-floured surface. The shorter side should not be more than 1-2 inches longer than your loaf pan.
- Spread your brownie batter over the dough, leaving a half inch border on all sides.
- Roll the dough up into a log from the shorter side (so, your log will be about as long as your loaf pan). Slice with a knife down the middle lengthwise and twist the two logs around each other.
- Prepare a standard loaf pan with oil and parchment paper. Place the twisted dough in the pan and set in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes. If you have done the overnight rise, it’ll need a longer second rise, probably closer to 1.5 hours.
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix the leftover egg white with some water and gently brush it over the challah dough (avoid the brownie).Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5-15 minutes. The bread is done when a thermometer inserted into the middle of the dough reads 190 F.