Chocolate babka is one of the culinary wonders of the Eastern European Jewish tradition. It’s a rich, eggy, buttery loaf with generous swirls of chocolate, and once you’ve had it, it’s the kind of bread that instills lifelong cravings.
Makes: 1 loaf
Time: About 3 1/2 hours, largely unattended
3 1/4 cups all purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) instant yeast 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold butter, cut into cubes, plus softened butter for greasing
2 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
3/4 cup milk, lukewarm
8 ounces dark chocolate
1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional)
1. Combine the flour, yeast, salt, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter in a food processor. Pulse the machine on and off until the butter is evenly distributed but not completely incorporated. Add the whole eggs and one of the additional yolks and pulse a few more times. With the machine running, slowly add the milk through the feed tube and process until the dough comes together into a slightly sticky ball. Turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for a few minutes until smooth. Grease a large bowl with butter and put the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.
2. Roughly chop the chocolate and put it in a clean food processor. Pulse until the chocolate is crumbled. Add the cinnamon if you’re using it, the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and the remaining 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, and pulse until combined (the texture should be coarse and crumbly). Set aside. Grease a loaf pan with softened butter.
3. Press down on the dough to deflate it and transfer to a floured work surface. Roll the dough into a large rectangle (roughly 20 × 16 inches, about 1/8 inch thick). Spread all but 2 tablespoons of the chocolate filling over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border around the edges. Working from the short side of the rectangle, roll the dough into a cylinder, press down on the seam to seal it, and pinch the ends closed. Roll the cylinder back and forth on the counter until it stretches out to about 18 inches long and pinch the ends shut to seal.
4. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate filling along the length of the cylinder (pressing it into the dough to help it stick). Fold the cylinder in half over itself to make a U shape, twist the 2 ends around each other once or twice, and pinch the ends together to seal it (see illustrations below). Put the loaf into the prepared pan (if it’s too long for the pan, gently squeeze it until it fits). Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour (it won’t rise very high, and that’s fine).
5. Heat the oven to 350°F. Whisk the remaining egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Brush some of the egg wash (you won’t need to use it all) over the top of the loaf and bake for about 45 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through, until the crust is deep golden and the internal temperature reaches around 195°F. Transfer to a rack to cool before serving.