Filed under: Babkas
September 2, 2019

Brownie Babka

Brownies meet challah in babka form: this is a basic challah dough sweetened with vanilla that produces a soft bread.

Yield: 1 loaf
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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

  1. Make challah dough
  2. Make brownie filling
  3. Roll out dough, spread with filling
  4. Roll it up, set aside for second rise.
  5. Bake!

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

Brownie Babka

Soft challah filled and baked with brownie batter!
brownie babka
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Yields: 1 loaf
5 from 9 votes

Ingredients

VANILLA CHALLAH DOUGH

  • ½ cup warm milk
  • 1 heaped teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • cup honey
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups bread flour 250g, plus more if needed

BROWNIE BATTER

  • 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

Method

  • 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.

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Recipe Rating




  1. 5 stars
    Made this for my last day at my current job, got so many compliments! The brownie filling is so good and works really well with the challah dough.

  2. 5 stars
    Very yummy. Bread texture was great and liked the added depth of using the brownie batter flavor rather than a standard chocolate sauce. Baked in a 9in loaf pan for about 35min total.

  3. 5 stars
    This babka is AMAZING — rich and decadent but not too sweet or heavy. It took awhile with the rises but was otherwise easy to make and seems forgiving as I think made a few minor mistakes. Definitely give this a try! Make sure to read the notes above and/or watch one of the instagram videos as that helped answer several questions while I was making it. I can’t wait to make it again and try the rainbow babka.

  4. 5 stars
    Another one for the “make again” recipe stack. The brownie gets nicely crunchy on the exposed parts of the strand and stays gooey on the inside. The bread part stayed tender even though I’m pretty sure I over-kneaded the dough before the first proof (lost track of time multi-tasking). I say this because the dough wasn’t very sticky when I took it out of the stand mixer bowl, unlike the instructions indicated. It worked, though. Made it for Thanksgiving where it competed for attention with multiple desserts from other guests and yet everyone made sure to get a slice of the babka. 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    I recently made this and absolutely loved this chewy chocolatey goodness! I will definitely bake this again! Thank you, Sam! Cheers, Linda

  6. 5 stars
    such a genius idea to make this with a brownie filling!!! (and likewise your other recipe with cookie dough!) I added a little espresso powder because I am used to doing it with all brownies (lol) and it turned out so well! next time I want to twist this into a cookie butter-brownie combo…

  7. Hi! Wondering if this dough can be in the refrigerator longer than “overnight” I’m limited on windows for baking hut not sure if the dough can be refrigerated too long. I want to make this afternoon and bake in the morning. Thanks know advance!

  8. 5 stars
    My roommate told me this is her favorite thing I’ve baked thus far (and I bake a lot). I should have maybe left it in longer (though I left it in 5 minutes longer than called for) because some of the brownie batter still hadn’t cooked so leaked out, but I didn’t necessarily mind… just something to note!

    • Alex, so glad you guys liked it! In terms of bake time; it’s really best judged with a thermometer. I can tell you how long it takes in my oven using my pan but that doesn’t always translate to what works for others. Loaf pans vary widely in length and width and if you’ve made a thicker/taller babka then the middle will take longer to cook. So many variables! That is why I do prefer the thermometer (it’s done when bread part registers 190 F).

  9. Are the recommendations for instant vs. active dry yeast reversed? Usually you have to proof active dry and instant can be added directly to the dry ingredients. If these recommendations are reversed, what is the recommended volume/weight for each?

    • Hi Jillian, I would proof whichever yeast you are using. It helps to check freshness and gets the rising process started. As for the volume, you’ll need to add an additional 1/4 teaspoon of active dry.

  10. Hi! About to make this, reading through ingredients and directions and I don’t see water in the ingredients but it’s in the first paragraph of directions to mix with the sugar and yeast. Do you mean milk? Just want to be sure I didn’t miss something! Thanks

  11. Hi! I made the challah dough yesterday using the active yeast substitute and put in the fridge overnight. The dough didn’t rise at all, do you know why that might be, or if the substitute tends to lead to it not rising?

    • Hi Sophie! It definitely needs to rise. Did you add the extra yeast and add it with the flour? I would say if you’ve done everything right then I’d advice to set it at room temperature and see if it will double. If not, something is definitely wrong and you’d have to start over.

  12. Can I make the brownie batter ahead of time? If I am planning to let the dough rise in the fridge overnight, would it be okay to make the matter the night before as well?

    • Hi Liz! It actually might be ok to refrigerate the brownie batter, since there’s no leavening agent. I haven’t tried it so can’t be 100% sure, but it could work!

  13. My bread part came out quite dense and not airy at all, however the flavour is quite nice. What went wrong and what do I do differently?

    • Hi Juliana! This could either have to do with the flour being too dense or the dough not having enough rising time. How did the dough feel to you after the kneading? And was it puffy and fully risen before it went into the oven?

  14. Hi! Love your creations thank you for sharing them. How do you prevent foil to stick to the Brownie Babka mix in the oven. I might have done something wrong because it sticked and made a flat top.

  15. Hi! Can you give direction on how to make this babka with active dry yeast? It is all I could find at the store! Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Sarah! Add an additional 1/2 teaspoon of active dry yeast and skip the proving step (so add it with the flour).

      • Hmmm that sounds backwards. Your recipe calls for instant yeast, which should be added directly to the flour, and does not to bloom (prove) in liquid. However, you prove it in your recipe. Active dry yeast needs to bloom (prove) before using, it won’t rise properly otherwise.

        • Lynne, I did have the two reversed early on but fixed it awhile back. Personally, I bloom either type (if you scroll you’ll see I mention this to someone else in the comments).

  16. I CANNOT wait to make this! I was going to make the dough today and refrigerate overnight. How long do I let the dough sit out before filling it with the brownie batter. And then after rolling it out, how long do I let it rise before baking? Thank you!

    • The brownie batter yes. The dough would be difficult to knead with a hand mixer, you could knead it by hand but it will be very sticky.

  17. hi! Could I make this the night before and let it rest in the fridge before baking? I feel like babka always tastes best the day it’s baked. Thanks!

    • Hi Sally! I totally agree about it tasting best the day its baked! I havent tried making it a day ahead but if I did I would skip the room temp rise and put it straight in the fridge after the challah dough is made.

  18. Hi, the recipe looks amazing, cant wait to try it out. Could you please specify what you mean by an ounce? How can I measure an oz in tablespoons or cups?

    • Hi Taz! The way to measure the ingredients listed in ounces or grams would be with a kitchen scale. I definitely recommend one – they will give you precise measurements, especially for flour. In the absence of one, I have updated the recipe with cup measurements – hope that helps!

  19. Hello
    What do you mean with slice down the middle and twist the dough?
    Do you have some pictures or a video of that step? Please
    I love the recipe and I want to try it out!!

    • Hi Blanca! Basically, once you roll up the dough with the filling in it, you’ll take a knife and slice lengthwise, so you’ll have two logs. Then, you’ll twist them around each other. Does that make sense?
      Next time I make it I’ll do an IG story to show the whole process!

      • Successfully made this yesterday. Thank you for the great idea! This was actually my second attempt. The first time the dough was very very wet. I’ve made plenty of challah in my life so I’m familiar with this type of dough and it was just not quite right. Although I am normally a huge proponent of baking by weight, with this recipe I was much more successful using the volumetric measurements. Also, make sure you check that the bread is done with a thermometer! My first loaf completely sank in the middle and was not cooked through, even though the top looked lovely. Using the thermometer, I needed almost 25 additional minutes compared to what’s in the recipe. (And yes, everyone’s oven is different, I adjust my temperature settings accordingly.)

        • Hi Anna! Yes, this is why I give a temperature recommendation as well. It’s not just ovens, even in my own oven different loaf pans will take different bake times (sizes and material matters).