Buttery and feathery vegan chocolate babka with lashings of chocolate ganache and a touch of cinnamon. No weird ingredients and super easy to make!
What IS babka?!
Babka is a Jewish brioche-like pastry often filled with chocolate or cinnamon. It is most popular in Eastern Europe, Israel and the USA! However, you can make it at home with a few simple ingredients from your local supermarket.
I first heard of babka by through Seinfeld: Season 5’s ‘The Dinner Party’. Jerry and Elaine debated whether chocolate or cinnamon babka were better but I believe they can be combined in a subtle and not confusing way. I added cinnamon to the dough of my jam donut babka and, trust me, it made ALL the difference!
Babka, let alone vegan babka, isn’t widely available in Australia. However, I had the pleasure of trying it in Israel with Vibe Israel recently. I fell in love with the babka by Vivida Vegan, which I wrote about in a blog post about all of my favourite the vegan eats in Israel.
What ingredients do I need to make babka?!
This babka is basically two tried and tested recipes combined: vegan brioche and chocolate ganache. There are no ‘weird’, expensive or hard to find ingredients in the babka. So you probably already have everything in your pantry to make it now!
For the dough, you will need:
- Plain flour
- Plant-based milk, such as almond, soy or coconut
- Vegan butter at room temperature
- Cane sugar
- Instant dried yeast
- Ground Cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
For the filling, you will need:
- Coconut cream
Kneading the dough for the vegan chocolate babka
Pop all the ingredients into a stand mixer or large bowl, mix and knead it for 5-10 minutes. If you’re doing it in your stand mixer, 5 minutes of kneading is sufficient. If you’re kneading it by hand, you’ll probably need to knead it for 10 or so minutes. The kneading activates the gluten and makes the dough stretchy and soft.
Since all brands of flour, milk and vegan butter are different, you might need to make very minor adjustments to get the dough to the right texture.
If the dough is a little dry and it’s not coming together, add a dash of milk and knead again. If the dough is sticking to the side of the bowl, add a little flour (say, 1 tablespoon) and knead again. The dough needs to be soft and supple but shouldn’t be sticky.
Resting the dough
Leave the dough in the stand mixer or bowl and cover it with a damp tea towel for about 1-2 hours. The moisture in the tea towel prevents the dough from drying out!
Make sure the bowl is in a WARM draught-free spot in your home. It gets pretty cold where I live so I put the dough near a heater or in the oven with the light on.
If your dough doesn’t rise, re-position it in a warmer spot in your home. It’s REALLY IMPORTANT that your dough rises at this stage otherwise it won’t be fluffy after you bake it.
How to assemble the chocolate babka
Now, this is the fun and slightly messy part! Roll out your dough into a square or rectangle. Spread your runny ganache on the surface and roll it up like a burrito.
Once you have a ‘log’ or ‘roll’ of dough, use a sharp knife to cut it in half lengthways. You’ll then have two strips of dough with an intriguing zebra pattern.
Fold the strips of dough over each other, as if you’re braiding the dough.
Then carefully transfer the babka into a loaf tin. I shifted the babka onto my forearms or a long butchers knife and gently squished it to go into the loaf tin. The ‘squishing’ (I know, big technical word) adds character to the swirly bread!
Baking the vegan chocolate babka
Similar to my jam donut babka, I baked this babka at 170°C (340°F) instead of the normal 180°C (350°F) as I found the latter browns it too quickly! It’s a tall loaf so I wanted the heat to get right in the middle!
I brushed a sugar glaze on the babka when it was still hot from the oven. This gives it a beautiful shine and helps ‘traps’ some of the moisture in the loaf.
Troubleshooting the chocolate babka
I’ve baked this recipe or variations of it about 10 times and have many readers who baked variations with success.
However, I realise that everyone uses different brands of ingredients and ovens heat differently so here are some ways to fix issues.
“My dough is too dry or wet”
Different brands of flours, milk and yeast etc absorb differently. Your dough should be soft and supple. However, it shouldn’t stick to the side of the bowl or be so dry that you can see cracks in it.
As mentioned in Step 1, if your dough is sticky, simply add 1 tablespoon of flour and knead until it’s combined. If your dough is dry, simply add 1 tablespoon of milk and knead until it’s combined.
Your dough may resist ingredients at this stage of the mixing. However, keep kneading and it will get there!
“My babka didn’t double in the first rise (when it’s in the bowl)”
Your bread doesn’t need to double in size – it just needs to grow by at least 50%! However, if it doesn’t grow at all, this could be due to various factors:
- The dough needs to be placed in a WARM place. If you’re in a cold climate, place the dough near a heater or in the oven with the light on.
- Your yeast is old and no longer active.
- You used a different type of yeast. As mentioned in the recipe, instant dried yeast doesn’t need to be activated. However, if you use fresh yeast (or some other types), you’ll need to activate/bloom it beforehand. Add the yeast to a small bowl of warm milk with a punch of sugar. Wait until it bubbles then use it in the recipe.
- Ingredient substitutions will 100% affect whether the dough rises. For example, heavier flours such as spelt and olive oil will make it more difficult for it to rise.
“My babka didn’t cook in the middle and is brown on the outside”
It sounds like your oven is too hot. Ovens can say they are 170°C (340°F) but are really much higher! If you bake a lot, I’d *highly* recommend you get an oven thermometer.
Nevertheless, if this happens, lower the temperature of your oven and cover the babka with an oven-proof bowl or plate. Bake until it’s ready!
I hope you enjoy this recipe!
Vegan Chocolate Babka
- 2 3/4 cups (345g) plain or all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/2 cup (125mL) plant-based milk, such as almond, soy or coconut, warm
- 1/2 cup (112g) vegan butter, room temperature
- 3 tbsp (40g) organic cane sugar, or coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon (10g) instant dried yeast*
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of any good-quality salt
Chocolate Ganache filling
- 1 cup (100g) roughly chopped chocolate or chocolate chips, dark and sweetened
- 1/2 cup (120g) canned coconut cream, to taste (optional)
Babka glaze (optional)**
- 1/4 cup (50g) organic cane sugar
- 2 tbsp (30mL) water
- To make the babka: Combine all the dough ingredients in a large bowl or stand mixer and mix until it comes together. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes or until the dough becomes soft, stretchy and comes away from the side of the bowl. If the dough is a little dry and hasn't formed a smooth ball, add a dash of milk and knead again. If the dough continues to stick to the bowl, add a little more flour and knead again. Leave the dough in the bowl or stand mixer, cover with a damp tea towel and leave it in a warm place for at least 1 hour or until the dough doubles in size (or close to double).
- To make the ganache: Add the chocolate and coconut cream to a small saucepan or double boiler over medium heat. Stir until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Dust a clean surface with flour. Roll out the dough into a rectangle shape (the long side should be a little longer than your loaf tin). Spread the ganache onto the dough 2 cm / 1 inch away from the edge. If you have too much ganache, reserve the remainder for drizzling on your babka after baking.
- Starting from the long side of the dough, roll the dough into a log.*** Use a sharp knife to cut the login half length ways creating two long 'strips' of dough. Carefully twirl the two halves together.
- Lift the twirled dough into a lined or dusted loaf tin (I used a 10x20 cm or 4x8 inch tin but a longer tin will be fine). Place a damp tea towel over the babka and set aside to rise for about 1 hour. It won't double in size but should rise by at least 25%. You can also let it rest overnight in the fridge, as long as you bring the babka back to room temperature before baking.
- When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F).
- Bake the babka for 30-35 minutes or until the outside is golden brown and a skewer can be inserted into the middle and there is no wet dough on it. If the outside is browning too quickly, turn down the oven to 160°C (320°F) and cover the babka with an oven-safe bowl or plate. Remove the babka from the oven.
- While your babka is baking, make your sugar glaze: Add the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. While the babka is still hot from the oven, brush the sugar glaze on top.
- The babka is best eaten the day it is baked. Alternatively, store it an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days. Warm up leftovers before enjoying them.
Please leave a comment below if you made this recipe, have any questions or thoughts! Your comment will help other readers and Rainbow Nourishments.