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Chocolate Cinnamon Sourdough Babka

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This Sourdough Babka Recipe is a delicious and special treat. Swirly sourdough brioche is filled with a chocolate cinnamon filling and topped with a crumb topping.

sourdough babka loaf on cutting board

Babka is a lovely sweet bread that is perfect for the holiday season, tea parties, or any time of year! Lovely brioche wrapped around swirly chocolate, this will be a favorite way to use your sourdough starter.

Other sourdough recipes:

three plates with slices of babka bread on them

What’s the difference between Povitica and Babka?

I had never actually heard about Babka until Oct 2011 when I hosted the Daring Bakers Challenge to make Povitica! I got a lot of comments on whether Povitica and Babka were similar. After some research I discovered that they were very similar – a holiday enriched bread made with swirly patterns with Easter European heritage. However, they have different fillings and the swirls are made with completely different techniques. Ever since then, I have been thinking of babka.

Babka, as it turns out, is not nearly as labor intensive as povitica to make, but it is just as fun to roll, twist, and flip your dough around. And it is filled with butter and an unbelievable amount of chocolate. Add a fantastic sourdough tang to it, and you have one heck of a bread.

No really, it is so very delicious. This might be one of my favorite loaves of bread to make ever!

loaf of sourdough babka on parchment paper

How to make Recipe

This recipe isn’t overly complicated to make – if you can make homemade cinnamon rolls and bread, you can make babka!

To mix the dough:

  1. Cut the butter into cubes and set them aside.
  2. In the bowl of your electric mixer combine the flour, starter, sugar, salt, eggs, and milk and mix until you get a stiff batter.
  3. Cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Mix on medium speed for another 10-15 minutes, until the batter starts to resemble a soft dough, but without the same elasticity you would expect from bread dough.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, smear/massage/fold the butter into the dough until no lumps remain.
  6. Continue to mix the dough until you start to get some elasticity from the dough. It won’t quite pass the windowpane test but will be close. The dough should be smooth and shiny. 
  7. Place the dough in a greased large glass bow, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to bulk proof in a warm place for 2 hours. The dough will expand but not quite double. Do a series of stretch and folds every 30 minutes ( so at 30 minutes, 60 minutes, and 90 minutes) to develop the elasticity of the dough. Note: You can do an overnight fermentation in the fridge at this point if you want. When you are ready to assemble the next day, allow the dough to sit on the counter for about 1 hour before you start. Using semi-cold dough will make it easier to roll, too.

Make the filling and topping

  1. First, make the filling by combining the chocolate, cocoa powder, butter, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and mixing with a fork until well combined. This recipe uses both chocolate and cocoa powder to really deepen the flavor. Make sure both are good quality to get the best flavor. Remove 2 Tablespoons of the filling to a second bowl. Set both aside.
  2. In a second bowl, mix the ingredients for the crumble topping and set aside.

How to assemble the babka

  1. Generously butter a 9×5 loaf pan.
  2. Generously sprinkle your work surface with flour and turn the dough out on top of it. At this point the dough may still be very, very, very sticky. Its ok to work a little bit extra flour into the dough to make it workable, but don’t add too much – take the dough just a touch past extremely sticky. Keep your counter and rolling pin well floured.
  3. Roll the dough out into a 16 inch square that is about ⅛ inch thick.
  4. Brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash (keep the egg wash, you still need it!).
  5. Evenly spread the chocolate filling over the dough (reserving the 2 Tablespoons for later). 
  6. Roll the dough up tight like a jelly roll and pinch the edges to seal.
  7. Carefully twist the log of dough 5 or 6 times along the length. 
  8. Brush the top of the log with the egg wash (keep the egg wash, you still need it!)
  9. Take the 2 Tablespoons of reserved chocolate filling and place it on the top of the left half of the roll, pressing it in slightly.
  10. Fold the right half of the roll over the left half, sealing in the chocolate (think about a 1 slice of bread sandwich).
  11. Pinch the edges together and fold them under.
  12. Twist the entire roll twice and place it into the prepared pan.
  13. Cover with a tea towel and allow to sit in a warm place for about 3-5 hours until fully proofed. This is an enriched sourdough dough, which tends to take longer, so pay attention to the dough, not the clock. When the bread has doubled, it’s time to bake.
  14. Brush the remaining egg wash over the top of the loaf and sprinkle the topping on.

Baking the babka

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Bake the loaf for 40-50 minutes.
  3. Lower the oven temperature to 325 F and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the bread is a deep golden brown. If the bread is browning too fast, cover it with a piece of foil and continue baking until the center reaches about 200 F.
  4. Cool the bread in the pan, on a wire rack.
  5. Carefully turn the dough out onto the wire rack, slice, and enjoy!

What kind of sourdough starter do I use for this recipe?

This babka recipe requires a 100% hydration sourdough starter. To learn more about what that means and how to maintain your starter, read Feeding Your Sourdough Starter

For this recipe, your starter needs to be fed and active, meaning that it is bubbly and has doubled, but has not yet begun to fall. Make sure it has had a few good feedings before you start this recipe.

Baker’s Schedule

This recipe takes about nine hours to make from start to finish. Make sure you make a note about when you want to be finished with baking and work backwards to decide when you need to start baking and when you should feed your starter. 

You will need about 1 hour for baking, 3-5 hours for proofing, about 30 minutes of assembly, 2 hours for bulk fermentation, 30 minutes to mix the dough, and however long it takes for your starter to become active.

Note that the temperature and humidity level of your house can affect proofing times of this dough. If your house is warm and humid, it will take less time. If your house is colder (if your air conditioner is blasting or it is winter), it will take more time. Watch your dough, not the clock for these steps.

wooden cutting board with loaf and slices on plates

Should Babka be refrigerated?

No, babka should not be refrigerated. Babka will stay fresh for 2 or 3 days when stored in an air tight container.

Babka also freezes well for 3 months.

Try these other twisty bread recipes:

image of inside of babka loaf

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Yield: 12 Servings

Sourdough Chocolate Cinnamon Babka

wooden cutting board with loaf and slices on plates

This Sourdough Babka Recipe is a delicious and special treat. Swirly sourdough brioche is filled with a chocolate cinnamon filling and topped with a crumb topping.

Prep Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients

Sourdough Brioche:

  • 250 g flour
  • 125 g sourdough starter, 100% hydration, fed and active
  • 15 g sugar
  • 5 g salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g milk
  • 150 g unsalted butter, room temperature

Chocolate Cinnamon Filling:

  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Egg Wash:

  • 1 teaspoon heavy cream
  • 1 egg white

Topping:

  • 4 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar

Instructions

To make the Dough:

  1. Cut the butter into cubes and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of your electric mixer, combine the flour, starter, sugar, salt, eggs, and milk (do not add the butter yet!) and mix until you form a stiff batter.
  3. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Mix on medium speed for another 10-15 minutes, until the batter starts to resemble a soft dough, but without the same degree of elasticity.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, fold/massage/smear in the butter until no lumps remain.
  6. Continue to mix the dough untl you start to get some elasticity from the dough. It won't quite pass the windowpane test, but will be close. The dough sould be smooth and shiny.
  7. Place the dough into a large glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit in a warm place for 2 hours. The dough will expand but not quite double. Do a series of stretch and folds every 30 minutes ( so at 30 minutes, 60 minutes, and 90 minutes) to develop the elasticity of the dough. Note: You can do an overnight fermentation in the fridge at this point if you want. When you are ready to assemble the next day, allow the dough to sit on the counter for about 1 hour before you start. Using semi-cold dough will make it easier to roll, too.

To Make the Filling:

    1. First, make the filling by combining the chocolate, cocoa powder, butter, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and mixing with a fork until well combined. This recipe uses both chocolate and cocoa powder to really deepen the flavor. Make sure both are good quality to get the best flavor. Remove 2 Tablespoons of the filling to a second bowl. Set both aside.

To Make the Topping:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the topping with a fork until well mixed. It should be crumbly.

Assembly:

  1. Generously butter a 9x5 loaf pan.
  2. Generously sprinkle your work surface with flour and turn the dough out on top (at this point the dough may be very very sticky, and you might need to work a little bit more flour into the dough - this is fine, just be careful to only take the dough a touch past extremely sticky. Keeping your counter and rolling pin well floured helps.
  3. Roll the dough out into a 16 inch square about 1/8 inch thick.
  4. Brush the edges with the egg wash. (reserve the egg wash, you still need it)
  5. Evenly spread the chocolate filling over the dough (keeping the reserved 2 TBSP for later).
  6. Roll the dough up tight like a jelly roll and pinch the edges together to seal.
  7. Twist the log of dough 5 or 6 times along the length.
  8. Brush the top of the roll with egg wash. (keep the remainder of the egg wash, you still need it!)
  9. Carefully take the 2 TBSP of chocolate filling and place it on top of the left half of egg roll, pressing them in slightly.
  10. Fold the right half of the roll over the left half, sealing in the chocolate (think about a 1 slice of bread sandwich).
  11. Pinch the edges together and fold them under.
  12. Twist the entire roll twice and place it into the prepared loaf pan.
  13. Cover the loaf with a tea towel and allow to sit in a warm place for about 3-5 hours until fully proofed. This is an enriched sourdough dough, which tends to take longer, so pay attention to the dough, not the clock. When the bread has douled, its time to bake.

Baking the Babka

  1. Brush some of the egg wash over the top of the loaf and sprinkle on the topping.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  3. Bake the loaf 55 minutes.
  4. Lower the oven temperature to 325F and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until deep golden brown. If the bread is browning too fast, cover it with foil.
  5. Cool in the pan, on a wire rack.
  6. Enjoy!!

Notes

This recipe uses 100% hydration sourdough starter that has been fed and is active (meaning it is bubbly and has doubled without starting to sink back down).

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 516Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 80mgSodium: 222mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 6gSugar: 13gProtein: 9g

Nutrition information is an estimate and is provided for informational purposes only. For the most accurate information, please calculate using your specific brands and exact measurements.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram, and don't forget to tag #gingeredwhisk.

(slightly adapted from Double Helpings and Martha Stewart)

slice of sourdough babka with chocolate and cinnamon filling laying on white background
You have GOT to see how the amazing swirls in this Sourdough Chocolate Cinnamon Babka are made!
Sourdough Chocolate Cinnamon Babka loaf on cutting board with two slices laying beside it.
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Claire

Sunday 7th of February 2021

Hi! I tried this recipe twice today and couldn’t get a dough to form. I’ve weighed everything out with care and got the same result. It was very soupy and wouldn’t come together at all. Any idea what I did wrong? It looks delicious and would love to get a good product!

Jenni

Sunday 7th of February 2021

Hi Claire! Sorry you had problems with this recipe today! What hydration do you keep your starter at? Do you feed your starter by weight or by volume? And what do you feed it with? Sometimes the consistency of our starters can differ!

Debbie A

Thursday 21st of January 2021

I wish I could see how you actually twisted it - that is the only part about this recipe that confuses me - I hopefully am going to attempt to make this weekend! It looks so good!

Jenni

Friday 22nd of January 2021

Hi Debbie! Just grab it at both ends and twist! Think about wringing out out a towel or twisting some playdough.

Monica Medrek

Wednesday 4th of November 2020

I'm in the middle of making this recipe and I wonder how much cocoa powder is needed? Directions or the filling say "First, make the filling by combining the chocolate, cocoa powder..." but the ingredients list doesn't include cocoa at all! Thanks.

Jenni

Wednesday 4th of November 2020

Hi Monica, there should be 4 Tablespoons of cocoa powder in the filling.

Martin Levitt

Saturday 31st of October 2020

How much cocoa powder for the filling?

Cindy

Wednesday 12th of August 2020

I see this is an old post but I just saw it, and I have a question. You don't mention if the starter should be fed, unfed, cold, room temperature....I'm assuming fed and at room temperature but please go on the record.

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