I’ve learned over the past few years, many people either don’t know what a babka is, or only know what it is because of that Seinfeld episode. If you’re unfamiliar, Jerry and Elaine are in line at a bakery to get a chocolate babka to bring to a party and end up having to get a cinnamon babka which Elaine feels is the “lesser babka”. Now.. do I feel the same? No, I love them equally. However, as you can see I did make a milk bread chocolate babka and not a cinnamon one.
To make this milk bread chocolate babka, I took my Milk Bread Buns recipe and added browned butter and changed the shaping. I tried some other flavors before landing on this chocolate browned butter version so you can also just make the milk bread recipe as is for a babka with regular unsalted butter. Because I didn’t want to scale this recipe (who wants to deal with using less than 1 egg), I bumped up the size of the loaf pan to a 9×5 instead of an 8.5×4 just to allow for the little bit of extra dough. Works great, and you have big fluffy loaf!
Now often babka is made from sort of a brioche-like enriched dough. I have other babka’s that are made from it and it’s equally delicious. But milk bread is one of my most favorite breads, and I saw Sam from Buttermilk by Sam make a milk bread babka and wanted to try. Originally, this didn’t start as a chocolate one but I ended up making it one because the other ingredients just weren’t working out. I made this a black cocoa and browned butter filling so it sort of tastes like an oreo cookie inside which.. who doesn’t love?
Milk Bread Chocolate Babka Key Ingredients
- Browned Butter – I used browned butter in both the dough and the filling. You need some non browned butter for the filling to get the right consistency though. Without it, it turns out very crumbly.
- Milk – Star ingredient of milk bread, adding lots of fat, flavor and tenderness.
- Black Cocoa Powder – If you don’t have black cocoa, you can use dutch process cocoa, but it will not taste the same. Black cocoa is very rich chocolate flavor without being overly bitter. It’s got a distinct flavor, and I have several recipes using it. It won’t go to waste!
- 12 g Bread flour
- 43 g Water
- 43 g Whole or 2% milk
- 330 g Bread flour 2¾ cup
- 6 g Instant yeast 2 tsp
- 1 tsp Sea salt
- 2 tsp Granulated sugar
- 1 large Egg room temperature
- 4 tbsp Browned unsalted butter cooled
- ½ cup Whole or 2% milk warm, around 100°F
- 2 tbsp Browned butter
- 4 tbsp Unsalted butter softened
- 2 tbsp Black cocoa
- 4 tbsp Granulated sugar
- pinch Sea salt
Brown the butter
- Note: This recipe requires 6 total tablespoons of brown butter, separated into 4 tbsp and 2 tbsp sizes. You can either brown all the butter together, and weigh it, and then use ⅔ in the dough and ⅓ in filling, or you can brown them separately. This is up to you which you prefer to do, it will have the exact same result. You will want to do this step first to allow the butter to cool sufficiently.
- Add your butter into a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow butter to melt, then stir continuously. Butter will bubble up and then foam. Then the milk solids will begin to brown. When the butter has become a golden brown and has a nutty aroma, remove from heat immediately and pour into a small bowl to allow to cool.
Make the Tangzhong
- In a small saucepan, whisk together water, milk, and flour. Turn heat to medium and stir with a rubber or silicone spatula.
- After about 90 seconds the mixture will turn into a more pudding like consistency. It is ready when your spatula leaves trails in the pan, where you can see the bottom of the pan.
- Transfer into a small bowl and let cool. Set aside.
Make the dough
- In the bowl of your stand mixer with dough hook attached, add flour, salt, yeast, sugar, egg, cooled tangzhong and warmed milk. Mix on low until a rough, shaggy dough comes together.
- Add in 4 tbsp of cooled brown butter, 2 tbsp at a time. Allow the first half to be fully incorporated into the dough before adding the remainder.
- Mix dough on low/low-medium until the dough is smooth and elastic, passing the window-pane test. If unfamiliar, the window pane test: take a small piece of dough, about the size of a golf ball and stretch out the sides. The dough should be elastic enough that light begins to be visible through the dough before it tears.
- Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover. Allow to rise in a warm spot for 1-2 hours or until dough has doubled in size.
Prepare the filling
- Mix together in a small-medium bowl, softened butter, brown butter, cocoa powder, sugar, and pinch of salt with a spatula or spoon.
- The filling will be a creamy paste. It is fine if the sugar granules are visible but make sure there are no cocoa powder clumps. Set aside.
Shape the babka
- Prepare a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- When dough is ready, punch down and transfer to your workspace. Roll out your dough into roughly a 10×15 rectangle.
- Spread your filling over the dough, leaving about a ½ inch border on the short sides.
- Roll your dough along the short side. When you get to the end, pinch the edge into the dough.
- Taking a knife or bench scraper, cut the dough in half, lengthwise.
- Take your two pieces and wrap them around each other, creating a twist.
- Place your babka into your prepared loaf pan, and cover. Allow to proof for another 30-45 minutes, until it has puffed up in size.
- While your dough is proofing, preheat your oven to 350°F.
- When your babka is ready, place on the center rack of your oven and bake for about 40 minutes. The internal temperature of the bread should be 190°F
- Remove from oven and allow bread to cool in pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Allow babka to cool COMPLETELY before cutting into it. This may take several hours, but cutting into bread while it is hot may leave you with a gummy texture.
- Babka is best enjoyed first day, but will keep for 2-3 days stored in an airtight container. Enjoy!