Supersoft milk bread (made with a tangzhong) swirled and filled with a brown butter chocolate sauce and crumbled halva.
This is a simple but delicious twist on my basic milk bread babka. More or less keeping everything the same but changing up the filling by adding bits of marbled halva (plain halva works too) and browning the butter in the filling to lean into that nutty taste.
P.S. If you like this recipe you’ll love these halva chocolate chip cookies!
Milk: Whole or 2% milk is preferred. If you are trying to make this dairy free you could use a nut-based milk or soy.
Bread Flour: A flour with a higher protein content will lend a chewier bread, look for 11% or higher. All-purpose can be substituted if necessary (but avoid a very low protein content, if it’s below 10% it won’t yield a good texture).
Yeast: I used instant yeast but you can sub active dry, just add another ¼ teaspoon of yeast. Don’t skip the proving step, it helps the yeast dissolve better and checks for freshness.
Sugar: Granulated fine sugar. Bigger granules won’t dissolve as well into the dough.
Eggs: Large. If you are looking for an eggless dough recipe to make with this check out this recipe (the cinnamon roll dough will work for a babka).
Butter: Brown butter goes into the filling, and if you like you can also used browned butter in the bread itself. Use a little more than nut oil (butter has less water) and be sure to measure after you brown (the browning causes the butter to lose moisture).
Cocoa: Dutch process cocoa will yield a dark, rich taste. You can use black or natural if you prefer though.
Chocolate: Dark chocolate pairs wonderfully with the halva. You can use chocolate chips, but a good quality brand. If you use milk chocolate the sauce will be runnier, you may need to add more powdered sugar.
Powdered sugar: This sweetens and thickens the ‘sauce’ to be spread.
Halva: Marbled halva works exceptionally well here as it combines the nutty taste with some added chocolate. Check a local Lebanese or Middle Eastern store and if not, trader joes sells some (they are in individual packs, a blue bag) or I’ve heard good things about this brand.
DOUGH & RISING TIMES
There are two rises for the dough, for the first the dough should double in size for the second it should be puffy and you’ll know it’s ready for the oven by checking with your finger. Both of these depend on the temperature in your kitchen and the temperature of the ingredients used. If you wait awhile to add the roux, it will cool and the dough will be less warm. If your eggs are cold, it will also slow the rise. Don’t worry so much about timing listed, those are more of a guide. Know your dough by the way it feels and looks.
Usually this is made in a pot on the stove but in the case of this particular babka, we’ll brown the butter and pour it over the chocolate to melt it. The rest of the ingredients are stirred in. If the sauce is very very runny you may want to add more powdered sugar. If it’s very thick, add some heavy cream to it. Both of these depend on the type of chocolate you use (a darker chocolate has less cocoa butter so it will make for a thicker sauce, for example).
Importantly, the actual consistency of the sauce will change as it cools and the butter and chocolate solidify a bit. So don’t add too much powdered sugar less you over thicken it and then spreading it becomes difficult.
SHAPING A BABKA
Even the most badly shapen doughs will turn out gorgeous once baked, so don’t stress over this too much. Here’s a quick video of me shaping this one pictured. A few things to remember:
BAKING A BABKA
Because they are baked in deep pans, it can be difficult to know exactly when the babka is done baking. Sometimes they over-brown on top and are still quite doughy in the center. If your babka is over-browning, tent it with foil to protect it. The best way to know if it is done baking is to use an instant-read digital thermometer, which should read 190 degrees F.
WHY A ROUX?
This is called tangzhong, a chinese method used to make japanese milk bread. By cooking some of the flour with milk (or water), this yields a fluffier, more tender texture that lasts for days.
Can I make any part of this ahead of time?
You can also make the full dough the night before and let it rise in the fridge overnight. You could also make these (up to the point of shaping the babka) and leave them in the fridge overnight. They may need time at room temperature before they got into the oven, the dough is ready when it’s puffy and when pressed it leaves an indentation.
Can I make this dairy-free?
Use a nut based milk or soy milk and vegan butter and chocolate.
Can I make this egg-free?
Not with this recipe, but you can use this dough recipe which uses sour cream instead of eggs.
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