One of my new years baking resolutions (yes, I make those… and only those lol) was to come up with a recipe for double chocolate babka. I wanted the typical chocolate babka filling but instead of the usual plain, I wanted it surrounded by a dough enriched with cocoa. The trick was to figure out how to manage the cocoa which both dries out the dough, and inhibits yeast performance. After many, many tries I finally got there and I’ve made it a few times since. Here is a photo of my double chocolate babka from February this year:
As beautiful and delicious as it was, I realized something about all babka in this process - you don’t really taste anything but the filling. Whether I made it with the usual plain challah dough or the cocoa dough recipe I developed, the filling dominated. And the double chocolate didn’t have the same aesthetic appeal as it lacked the variation and contrast in color. So I never got the tingle of excitement to share my dough recipe with you.
Until now that is!
I first saw a two-toned dough in this pic on instagram and was floored by how pretty it was. No method was shown but I saw something similar a few weeks later on this site and deduced how it was made. I saved a screenshot, and forgot about it until I was looking at my baking plans for summer and saw that my double chocolate babka was still hovering over my blog agenda. When I ponder over things long enough, an image will randomly pop into my head and that’s exactly what happened. I pictured a chocolatey dough swirl within the plain dough. I knew that keeping a plain dough would give me the pretty contrast I wanted. And what made me even happier once I made it was that we realized that the cocoa dough did come through in taste - as my husband described it, it had the taste of chocolate without the sweetness. Success!
The recipe requires you to make two small separate doughs, allow them to rise separately and then roll each out and fold them together for a second rise. Honestly, it’s super easy and totally worth the extra dough-making. And since you don’t have any of the added sweetness it makes a great breakfast bread. It’s basically a really great challah bread with hints of cocoa and it’s absolutely gorgeous to boot.
Swirled Chocolate Challah
This makes two loaves, halve each dough recipe for just one loaf. My plain dough recipe is adapted from Alexandra Cooks. The cocoa dough recipe is my own, which came about after lots of trials. If you were curious, make the entire chocolate dough as a regular challah and you’ll have a lovely cocoa challah. I made it once with chopped chocolate and we loved it.
Make your plain dough first, and without washing the bowl, make your cocoa dough. You’ll let them rise together so they are ready at the same time.
I recommend a dutch process cocoa for the chocolate dough. Here is the one I am a dedicated fan of.
Psst, did you want to make the double chocolate babka pictured from Feb? One cocoa challah recipe (below) will yield one loaf. While it is proving, melt 1/4 stick butter and 75g dark chocolate together. Add 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 25g dutch process cocoa and mix and allow to cool a bit. Once dough is proved, roll it out into a rectangle (the width should be an inch or two longer than your loaf pan) and spread the filling. Roll it up into a log, then split it lengthwise with a knife and braid it gently. Allow it to rise again in your loaf pan for another 45 minutes, then bake it at 375 for 20 minutes. If it’s not done yet, cover it with foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes.
1 heaped tsp instant yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup warm water
⅛ cup honey
¼ cup canola oil
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix the yeast, sugar and the warm water with a fork. Let sit for 5 minutes to prove. It should bubble to indicate it is good for use.
Add the honey, oil, vanilla and egg to the mix and begin mixing with the dough hook attachment.
Add the flour and salt, knead with the dough hook until dough comes together in a ball. You may need to add a tablespoon or two more of flour to get it to come together. Let it knead for about 5-7 minutes.
Oil a large bowl and place the dough in it, turning it to cover it in oil.
Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for an hour or two until doubled in size.
100g warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
⅛ cup canola oil
⅛ cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
280g bread flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dutch process cocoa powder
Follow the same method as above for the cocoa dough, adding the cocoa with the flour.
Flour a table surface and a rolling pin to roll out the doughs. Cover the bottom of a cookie sheet with a bit of oil and some parchment paper. Flour the parchment paper (this is where you’ll keep your first dough while you roll the other one - if you are limited in space.)
Once both doughs have doubled in size, remove the plain and roll out in a rectangular shape - making the shorter side an inch or two longer than the bottom of your loaf pan.
Place the plain dough on top of the floured parchment paper on the cookie sheet.
Roll the cocoa dough out to just a bit shorter on each side than the plain. Place on top of plain dough and roll from the shorter side like you would for cinnamon rolls.
Fold the tube in half, and twist sides around each other.
Place in a loaf pan, lined with parchment paper.
Allow to rise again for 45-60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375. Check for doneness at 25 minutes.