As Elaine would say "You can't beat a babka".
In reality, babka isn't a pastry you can just "whip together" at a moment's notice. While it takes some work to make this bread, the results are worth every sugarcoated second – with a moist, deeply flavored tangy brioche-like cake wrapped around a dark fudge filling, then topped with cocoa streusel crumbs.
There's also plenty of non-sourdough babka recipes on the internet, I particularly like this one. You can also swap out the filling for whatever you want, just remember a super moist filling will make it harder to roll.
To help plan your bake, I've provided instructions with timings. Note that these timings aren't exact and you'll have to adjust based on the temperature of your home, the dough, the liveliness of your sourdough, etc.
Patience, is key 😊
Sourdough Chocolate Babka
Prep Time: 1.5 hrs
Wait Time: 8 1/2 hrs
Cook Time: 50-55 minutes
1. Make your Levian - 9:00am (or whenever your starter is mature)
Mix the following ingredients together in a clear jar or bowl. Cover and let it sit at a warm temperature for about 3 hours.
At this point you should also take out 100g butter, cut it into cubes and let it come to room temperature.
2. Mix your dough! - 12:00pm
Combine the mature levian, milk, eggs, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Slowly adding in the flour one cupful at a time, mix the dough together with a fork. Continue until the flour has been fully incorporated.
Let it rest for 10 minutes, uncovered. After 10 minutes, squeeze the softened butter into the dough with your fingers.
3. Knead the dough
Once it begins to get incorporated, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it with your palms. It will be sticky, but that's that's what makes it fun! 😁 Use your dough scraper to scrape the bits of dough sticking to your countertop back onto the main dough blob.
One method I've found particularly useful is the "slap and fold" technique. See it in action here:
Keep kneading and slapping and folding until you get a smoothish dough. It won't be perfect, but you'll know when it's done.
Put the dough back into your large bowl and let it rise somewhere warm for about 2-3 hours. It should increase in size and have a slight weblike structure at the bottom.
3. Prep the filling - around 3:30pm (just before the dough is done rising)
If your feeling lazy, feel free to just use Nutella. It tends to be stickier and messier to roll so just be warned.
Add the all the ingredients and a pinch of salt into a small bowl and stir. Put it in the microwave for 1 minute, stirring once again at 30 seconds. Let the filling cool while the dough finishes rising.
You can also add nuts, crumbled wafers, or whatever your heart desires into the filling. I prefer a classic chocolate! I also used a cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg mixture and coconut shavings
3. Prep the streusel
Stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt into a bowl. Stir in the melted butter until it is evenly distributed and forms large moist clumps. It should resemble a cookie crumble in some manner. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Make a syrup to drizzle on top (OPTIONAL)
This syrup adds a perfect coat to the top of the babka. Feel free to skip if you'd like yours less sweet.
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
5. Roll out the dough - around 4:00pm
Dump your dough onto a lightly floured work surface and flour the top of your dough. With your rolling pin, roll it into a rectangle about 2 feet long.
Spread the filling over the dough, leaving about 1 inch clean on the short side furthest away from you.
Starting with the short side closest to you, roll up the dough into a tight cylinder. You might need to pull the dough during each revolution. See the video below as an example.
Place the log on a baking sheet and freeze for 10-15 minutes. It'll help braid the dough afterwards!
Prepare your loaf pan by lining it with parchment paper. You can also oil/butter your pan if you prefer.
5. Twist, Cut, & Shape - around 4:30pm
Take the dough out of the freezer and place on your work surface. Using a sharp knife, slice the rolled dough in half lengthwise to expose the filling. Twist the two halves together and braid the dough.
See the video below for an example:
Fold the braid in half and place into your loaf pan. Let it curl around itself if it's too long for your loaf pan. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for 1-1.5 hours.
You can also cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise overnight in the fridge. You should bring it to room temperature for about an hour before baking.
5. BAKE! - around 5:30-6pm
You'll know your loaf is done proofing when it's increased in size significantly and puffy.
Preheat your oven to 375°F.
If you are not topping your loaf with the sugar syrup, brush the top with some milk. Use your fingers to clump streusel together and scatter all over the top of your loaf.
Bake for 40 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 10-15 minutes. You might need to reduce the time based on your oven. Keep an eye on the color of your loaf during the bake to get a better sense of when it's done. You can also stick a skewer or paring knife into the cake and it should come out clean of any dough (it'll probably have some chocolate on it though 😊).
OPTIONAL: As soon as the loaf comes out of the oven, use a skewer or paring knife to pierce it all over going all the way to the bottom, and then pour the syrup on top of the loaf.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pan for at least 10-15 minutes.
Do not let the babka rest for longer than 10 minutes or it’ll be hard to remove from the pan.
Turn the loaf out of the pan onto the wire rack and wait another 10-15 minutes before serving.
- I really like the Tartine Sourdough recipe so I tend to use their ratios for feeding my starter. Feel free to use your own and make yours as sour as you'd like! https://www.marthastewart.com/1130184/tartine-country-bread
- Here's another great starter recipe https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/sourdough-starter-recipe