Sourdough chocolate babka

chocolate babka
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A babka for me is another way to eat brioche, my favorite sweet bread. The combination of rich soft brioche and chocolate can only be described as heavenly. I have made this a few times before, for get-togethers, tea parties and pot lucks. Those were made with commercial or instant yeast.

With my obsession with sourdough, lately, I have tried to replace instant yeast with natural yeast. It has been successful in almost all the cases. I guess once you get the hang of it, everything just falls in to place.

chocolate babka with nuts on top

Once you know your starter, you can predict it’s activity and how much rise you can get with what quantity and in how many hours and so forth. And after-all for me it’s a game of all senses. I clock my process and keep track of time, but at the same time, I touch and feel my dough and eye-ball too. This is what makes baking so much enjoyable and engaging.

chocolate babka
chocolate babka

So back to the babka. The brioche dough I’m using is comparatively less richer than a normal brioche or a traditional babka. Reason begin, I wanted to fill it with a much richer chocolate spread that would be oozing with butter and cocoa. So I thought, to take some of the richness off of the brioche would balance out the flavor and the consistency. Also I am using natural yeast, so this will need more time for bulking and proofing.

Make sure your starter(100%) is refreshed and ready to be used!


Mix everything until it all comes together into a soft sticky dough

developed dough

Keep mixing on medium speed ( 2 on KitchenAid) for about 3-4 minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides and use a dusting of flour on the mixer wall, to encourage dough to release from the sides. Once the dough feels developed ( there won’t be any window pane as such) stop mixing/kneading


Bring the slightly sticky dough out onto a floured surface and do a few slap and folds to bring the dough together. It will become smoother. Now round up the dough to a tight ball. Place in a greased bowl, cover and leave in a warm place to bulk

4-5 hours roughly around 32°C

bulked dough

Once the dough has bulked ( it will expand to almost 1.5 times the original size) bring it on to a floured surface and round up to a tight ball again.


Place the bulked dough in a container, close tightly and refrigerate for the long slow proof/fermentation. Anywhere from 12- 18 hours is fine

Same day bake:
You can also shape and bake this on the same day. In that case place in the fridge for 2 hours just to harden the dough and continue to shape and proof

fermented dough

If you retard the dough in the fridge, first take it out and let it sit on the counter for about an hour. Just until it is soft enough to roll out. Do not let it thaw completely

In the meantime, make the chocolate spread and let it cool completely.

chocolate spread

Use a good quality 70% dark chocolate. This elevates the cocoa flavor and it will prevent the spread from becoming super sweet. Recipe use both chocolate and cocoa powder. This is to reduce sweetness while lifting the deep chocolate flavor. Use unsweetened, dutch processed cocoa powder, again, make sure it is of good quality.

You can add any essence or other flavors you like;
orange essence/liquor
rum etc.

chocolate babka

Once the dough is soft ( but still very cold) roll it out to about 1/2 cm thickness.

chocolate babka

Spread the chocolate mixture and sprinkle with cookie crumbs and nuts or leave it plain if you like

I am going with toasted almonds. I love almonds and the crunch they add. But you can use other nuts too or even a mix. Make sure to toast the nuts and chop them coarsely.

Now roll the dough length-wise in to a log ( just like when you are making cinnamon rolls) Split the log using a sharp knife. Turn the cut sides upwards (so that the interior is exposed), pinch from one end and twist

If the dough becomes too soft, you can place it in the fridge for 15 minutes, so you can handle it without an issue

what this video to get an idea on how to cut and twist.

chocolate babka

When you twist, the strands will get shorter. You can slightly press from the sides so that it will be compacted and fit the baking pan.

If the dough becomes too soft, you can place it in the fridge for 15 minutes, so you can handle it without an issue

Place the twist in the pan (9″ by 5″) cover loosely and leave in a warm place to proof

Roughly for about 3-4 hours at round 32°C

Once proofed, egg wash lightly (optional) and bake. You can sprinkle the top with roughly chopped raw nuts for a added crunch. I love using walnut, pecans for this.

Once fully baked, leave the pan on a wire rack to cool down for about 15 minutes. Unmold the babka and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing with a serrated knife

baked babka
Baked babka

Those are my tips for nailing a great sourdough babka. Take these tips home and make it your own. This babka has no sour flavor( or it is not noticeable) and I have shared this with friends and family and they don’t even realize that it is sourdough unless I tell them so.

Feel free top play with the recipe, use different fillings and create something fun, share and enjoy!

chocolate babka
Let it cool completely before slicing

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    1. Of course you can use commercial yeast to make this. The process is very easy. You mix the dough and let it double in size(40 – 60 minutes), punch down and make the babka, place in the pan and let rise again (might take an hour) and bake. No waiting is needed. For this recipe replace starter with 4g of instant dry yeast (usual ratio is 7g yeast for 500g flour)
      Following is good recipe

    1. Thanks you so much Tracie.
      I don’t have a traditional sourdough brioche recipe on my blog right now.
      However my Sourdough brioche (dairy-free) coconut & matcha is very close. You simply have to omit matcha and replace coconut milk, oil with conventional ingredients. Let me know if you have any questions? Hope this helps.

    2. Hi Tracie, I just posted a sourdough brioche recipe on the blog. Wanted to let you know since you asked. Hope this helps 🙂

  1. Hi will this yield a sour babka as we are using a sourdough starter? I’ve been trying to bake with starter for sweet loafs but always ended up with sour taste to it. Thanks

    1. The babka wasn’t sour at all. The sour taste is due to either starved starter or longer proofing/retrading period. If you use fresh fed starter that is in it’s peak, there won’t be any sourness whatsoever. Hope this helps.
      p.s If you want to know more about starter/maintenance, I have a separate post too.

    1. Technically you can.
      But, the resulting crumb will be slightly chewy (like bread) and less on the soft side.

  2. Hi! instead of using all-purpose flour, can i use a mix of bread flour and cake flour? If so, what is the suggested mix ratio?

    1. Technically you should be able to, I haven’t done that so I am not sure of the resulting bake.
      Ratio depends on the gluten % of the bread flour. If it’s around 11% you can use bread flour alone.
      If it’s higher, then may be mix 10%, I’m just guessing here… so you’ll have to see for yourself.
      If you did go with this, I’d love to here your feedback

  3. Hi, I have just made this dough,using Plain flour (UK). From past experience I did not add all the milk, I have 60 mls left and the dough is already very wet. The flour I used is a good quality roller milled flour with 12% protein. I might have expected to have a little left over but 60 mls seems a lot? Do you have any explanation,
    many thanks

    1. Hi Penny,
      There are factors other than protein that would cause this, like the ASH content,moisture% of the flour. Also if they are sifted or not ( T65/T85).
      I have experienced this with freshly milled local grains.

    1. Egg beaters don’t have the yolk, so you will miss that bit of fat (richness) and might affect flavor, color very mildly.
      But otherwise yes you should be able to use it. I have not tried this myself so I am assuming it should be alright to use it.

        1. ha ha..I’m all in for substitutes ( I love to make food a little healthier, it’s a good excuse for me 😉 to eat more )
          Yes. Please do let me know how it went, and I will update the post so someone can benefit in the future!

          1. Worked just fine with the egg beaters! Thanks for such a great recipe! I used a standard meat loaf pan. Should I get a Pullman pan instead?

          2. That’s great! Thanks for letting me know.
            You don’t have to use a special pan, I used a regular 9 by 5 pan for this (in the picture)

  4. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing the recipe! So I didn’t read ahead and placed it in the fridge overnight for the first proof. I’ll do a second proof in a warm place, but should I pop it in the fridge for a couple hours after the second rise?


    1. If you have already shaped it, then you can go straight to the final proof. Your final proof may take longer as you skipped the bulk( overnight slow proof)
      It is not required to place in the fridge at this stage, it will only slow things down.
      In any bake, be it sourdough or Yeasted, the bulk is important. The bulk is what gives time for yeast to multiply, so that you’ll have enough yeast for the final proof.

      Hope this helps!

    1. I don’t have it in gram. use roughly 1/2 up or one hand full.
      This down’t have to be exact, you can use more if you like chocolate or less if you want less chocolate flavor

  5. Hey, sorry for the question. Dod you change something or re wrote the recipe? I am using your recipe for more than half a year and now I see some changes in it…
    Thank you

    1. Yes, all the posts/method get updated or tweaked depending on the user input/comments. Not so much the recipe measurements (unless I corrected a mistake). When I get a lot of questions, I decide to include answers in the post so that it will help everyone else reading too.
      The results will be similar or better.

      Thank you for trusting the recipe, I am glad you noticed 🙂

  6. Hi! I love this recipe and Im exploring different shapes I can do with it. If i make babka buns, will it alter the cooking time?

    1. Depends on how smaller they are. If they are burger bun size ( roughly 100g before baking) then I would say 20 minutes at 180 C. I can not be 100% sure as I haven’t tried that. But give it a try and if they are not cooked through, you can give another 5-10 minutes. It is hard to tell if they are cooked by looking at them, so try taking internal temperature (with a probe) and if it reaches 185°F to 190°F then you can assume they are cooked.
      Hope this helps

  7. Thanks for the recipe. Why are the amounts in a mix of metric and imperial? As well, fluids are in metric mass amounts (grams not millilitres). The inconsistency is a bit confusing. I winged it without a kitchen scale and did rough conversions. The recipe still turned out well, with both math and baking experience.

    1. Well, in recipes like these rough measurements work. So yes if you don’t have a scale or a measuring jug, you can always use (Google) rough conversions.
      Also in baking liquids are measured in grams(it’s a standard). I use both cups measures, metric measurements because it is practical for me.
      eg: 100 ml milk is 103.6 g so in this case I like to state 100 ml

    1. Yes you can. But it will take away some protein (structure) and fat(softness) from the dough.
      To compensate, you can add about 2 tbsp. milk or 1 tbsp. butter

  8. Made today for the first time after searching for a sourdough babka recipe. Babka was featured on Great British Bake Off a couple off weejs ago on bread week.
    Great sourdough recipe. It has come out lovely!

    1. Thanks Sarah. Oh!! didn’t we all want to bake a babka watching GBBO 😀
      Going to catchup on pastry week soon 😉


  9. Hi, Great recipe but need to check the whole section of text ‘Keep mixing on medium speed ( 2 on KitchenAid) for about 3-4 minutes.’ There is a spelling error that does need correcting!

  10. Came across your blog here and it has been my go to for the last month!! You are awesome. What are your thoughts on forming the Babka all the way(rolling out, filling, cutting, twisting and putting in bread pan) and putting it in the fridge over night so I can pull it out early in the morning for the final proof. Is there any downfalls in doing this?

    1. Thank you 🙂
      Yes, you can do that. Just keep in mind, that it may need a lot longer to proof as it first needs to thaw to room temperature before starting to proof.
      Also, don’t place directly in a warm spot, let it thaw first (an hour or 2 on the counter will bring it to room temp.)
      Other than that, I have noticed the dough and the sides of the pan gets a bit damp due to condensation while thawing, but it wasn’t a big issue. Make sure to line the pan so the dough won’t get stuck
      Hope this helps!

  11. Oh Vindi! I wish I could send you a pic of this. It rose above the pan and it
    doesn’t bother me one bit to sell them for $15.00 at the Farmers Market.
    I had problems with other Babka bread not rising and the one you posted takes a long time. I knew from your other posts that this would be great and it would work. You know what?-It did! It did!

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