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!
Ingredients Halva Chocolate Babka
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.
Important tips to remember for making Chocolate Babka
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:
- Roll the dough out so that it’s just a bit wider than your loaf pan and trim the edges after you roll it.
- If you let the sauce harden a bit once it’s spread onto the dough it will roll up without seeping out of the sides and making a mess.
- Use a sharp knife to slice through the log.
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.
How to make Chocolate Halva Babka
- Make the roux (cook flour and milk together into a paste)
- Knead the dough
- First rise
- Make the filling
- Shape the babka
- Second rise
FAQ on Chocolate Halva Babka
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.
Halva Chocolate Babka
- two standard size loaf pans
- stand mixer for kneading the dough
- 1 cup milk 232g
- ⅓ cup bread flour 40g
- 1 packet instant yeast 7g
- ½ cup water warm, 55g
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup nut oil such as walnut almond or hazelnut (can also use canola oil or brown butter, measured after browning and increase to ⅓ cup)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 cups bread flour 500g
- ½ cup butter unsalted, 113g
- ½ cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate
- ⅓ cup dutch process cocoa 35g
- ⅓ cup powdered sugar 38g
- Pinch salt
- ⅔ cup Halva crumbled
- Make the roux: in a small pot over medium heat, whisk together the milk and flour until it thickens into a paste, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
- Dissolve the yeast: combine the yeast, a sprinkle of sugar and warm water in the bottom of a stand mixer bowl and set aside for 5 minutes. It will become foamy.
- Make the dough: Over the yeast add the remaining dough ingredients and the roux. Knead on low then medium for 15-20 minutes, until the dough comes together around the hook. It will still be sticky and mostly shapeless but you’ll note that as it kneads it holds together better. Set in an oiled boil and cover with plastic wrap to rise for about 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.
- Make the filling: Have the chopped chocolate nearby in a heatproof bowl and brown the butter by cooking it over medium heat in a frying pan until it has brown bits at the bottom and stops sputtering. Immediately pour over teh chocolate. Stir so the chocolate fully melts. Add the powdered sugar and cocoa, a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla and stir until smooth.
- Shape the dough: Divide the dough into two equal halves. Have two standard size loaf pans greased and lined with parchment paper ready. Roll one half out so that it’s a couple inches longer than your loaf pan and as wide as you can get it (at least 12-13”). Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 1” border and sprinkle ⅓ cup of halva over it. Roll it up into a log, slice off the edges and then slice lengthwise so you have two long logs. Twist them around each other and set the babka in the loaf pan. Repeat with other dough half.
- The second rise: Set the pans in a warm area for a second rise, about an hour but check for readiness by pressing the dough with a finger: if it springs back without leaving an indentation it needs more time. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Bake: Brush the babkas with eggwash and sprinkle with sugar if you like. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the inside registers 190F. If the babkas are browning too quickly, tent with foil.