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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
You may use any brownie batter you like. See above section ‘brownie babka filling’ for a few more ideas on what recipes to use.
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.
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.
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.
Tent it with foil to avoid over-browning. When you cover the babka, do so loosely to avoid the top sticking to the foil.
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.
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.
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