This Nutella babka is made with a buttery brioche dough wrapped around a smooth chocolate and hazelnut filling. Babka is not difficult to make. But if you have patience, you will be rewarded with a slice of heaven to enjoy for breakfast, tea, or any time of day.
This chocolate hazelnut babka is an adaptation of the Krantz cake recipe from the Jerusalem cookbook. Despite my appreciation for the Seinfeld episode which debated the merits of cinnamon babka, I hadn’t made these yeast-leavened cakes that are babka until I watched the Great British Bake Off.
In one early GBBO episode, I learned that yeast was the primary way of leavening baked goods until about 150 years ago. So I finally made those Krantz cakes.
This Nutella babka recipe was created for the reddit 52 weeks of baking challenge, week 50: yeast-leavened.
Tips and tricks
Making the babka dough
The base of this Nutella babka recipe is brioche, an enriched dough made with eggs, butter, and milk. Brioche can be made by hand, but it is much easier with a stand mixer.
To start, mix the dry ingredients (Panel #1) and then the eggs (Panel #2).
Scalded milk is added next.
Tip from the wise quacker: scalding is important when using milk in yeasted doughs because it breaks down the milk proteins. If you don’t scald your milk, this can prevent your yeasted doughs from rising.
Change to the dough hook to save your mixer’s motor, and add the butter, piece by piece. The Jerusalem instructions say to scrape down the bowl a “few times.” This is an understatement.
During the butter incorporation, you will need to scrape the bowl frequently and fold your dough over with a spatula in order to get it to mix. And don’t be afraid to add a bit of flour if it looks like a sticky mess.
Eventually it will form a soft and pliable dough. Once it does, shape it into a ball and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator (Panels #4 and #5 above). Feel free to take it out and let it continue to rise at room temperature if it has not yet doubled in size.
Filling and shaping
To shape the babka, divide the dough in half. Put one half back in the bowl, covered in plastic. Roll out the dough on a floured surface (Panel #1 below) until it is about 12 inches by 14 inches or so (Panel #2). It does not have to be exact.
Use a knife or offset spatula to spread the Nutella evenly on the dough, leaving a margin of about a half inch (Panels #3 and #4 above). Roll the babka from the long end into a roulade, place the roll seam-side down on a baking sheet, and put it in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. This brief chilling makes it easier to handle without making a mess.
To shape the Nutella babka, cut the roll in half lengthwise with a sharp knife and separate the halves with the inside facing up on the countertop (Panels #1 to 4 below).
Pinch the top of the halves together, then carefully twist the them until you get to the bottom. (Panels #5 to 8 above). Pinch the bottoms together.
Transfer the twisted babka to the prepared pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise and bake. Finish it off with the sugar syrup, and let cool before slicing.
Variations and substitutions
- Use the chocolate filling from my chocolate rugelach for chocolate babka.
- Use this dough for other sweet babka, like dulce de leche or sprinkling with cinnamon sugar.
- You can make savory babka as well. A recipe for kale babka will be coming soon!
Babka, meaning “grandmother” in Polish, is a yeasted cake made by Ashkenazi Jews since the 1800s.
Halfway between a modern cake and a sweetened bread, most food historians consider it a yeast-leavened cake (see my comment above about the relative newsness of chemical leavening agents).
You can serve babka any time of day. This Nutella babka goes perfectly with your favorite cup of coffee.
Yes, you can freeze babka at pretty much any stage of the recipe, from the brioche dough, to the shaped and unbaked babka, or the baked babka. I prefer to freeze baked babka because yeast loses some activity in the freezer. Double wrap the babka in plastic wrap and seal it in a freezer bag. You can let it come to room temperature or gently warm it wrapped in foil in the oven.
- Stand mixer
- Two 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pans
- 4¼ cups (531 grams or 18.7 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour plus more as needed when adding butter and for rolling out the dough
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
- zest of two small or one medium orange
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- ½ cup whole milk, scalded and cooled
- 10 tablespoons (142 grams or 5 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed and softened plus more for greasing the pans
- vegetable oil for greasing the bowl
- 1 cup (280 grams or 10 ounces) Nutella
- ⅓ cup (67 grams or 2.4 ounces) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup water
- Add the flour, sugar, yeast, and zest to the bowl of your stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment on low speed.4¼ cups (531 grams or 18.7 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast, zest of two small or one medium orange
- Add the salt and mix on low speed.½ teaspoon salt
- Add the eggs one by one and mix briefly on low between each one.3 eggs, room temperature
- Add the scalded milk and mix on low until the mixture starts to come together.½ cup whole milk, scalded and cooled
- Switch to the dough hook and start adding butter cubes. Use a spatula to repeatedly scrape down the side of the bowl and fold your dough and mix until the butter is all incorporated. Add a bit of extra flour if your dough sticks to the mixing bowl.10 tablespoons (142 grams or 5 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed and softened
- Increase the speed to medium and knead for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft and pliable.
- Lightly grease the mixing bowl with oil, form the dough into a boule, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight. It should double in volume.vegetable oil
Shaping, filling, and baking the Nutella babka
- Prepare the pans. Butter two 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pans, layer the bottom with parchment paper, and grease the paper.
- Divide the babka dough in half and put one half back in the bowl. Lightly flour the countertop and roll out the other half of the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches by 14 inches.
- Use an offset spatula or knife to spread half of the Nutella onto the surface of the rectangle, leaving about half inch on all edges.1 cup (280 grams or 10 ounces) Nutella
- With the long side facing you, dab a small amount of water along the far edge of the rectangle. Roll the rectangle up into a roulade that will be about 14 inches long.
- Place the roulade seam side down onto a baking sheet and press down lightly to seal. Freeze for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the roulade in half lengthwise. You will have two halves about 14 inches in length.
- Lay the two halves on your countertop with the inside facing up and pinch the tops together.
- Twist them together by lifting one side over the other and repeating, always keeping the cut side of the halves facing up, until you have twisted the full length. Pinch the bottom of the halves together.
- Carefull transfer the twisted babka to the prepared pan, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume and reaches the sides of the pan, about 2 to 3 hours. Repeat with the second babka.
- When almost ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, until the top of the babka is a golden brown and a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean.
- Meanwhile, make the sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water together over a boil until the sugar has dissolved.⅓ cup water, ⅓ cup (67 grams or 2.4 ounces) granulated sugar
- When the babkas have baked, place the pans on a cooling rack and brush with the sugar syrup.
- Let cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and let cool before slicing. Once cool, baked Nutella babka can be frozen or wrapped and stored at room temperature for several days.
If you make this babka, please leave a rating or a comment. Pretty please.
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Week 1: New Year new recipe – blueberry galette
Week 2: seasonal – Smitten Kitchen’s grapefruit pound cake
Week 3: Great British Bake Off – Kate’s sticky toffee apple caramel cake
Week 4: Australia – sausage rolls
Week 5: bite sized – cookies
Week 6: Chinese New Year – mushroom bao
Week 7: new tool – baguette baker
Week 8: chocolate – chocolate peanut butter bonbons
Week 9: timed bake – under 1 hour! chocolate chip scones
Week 10: allergy/diet restriction – macarons
Week 11: quick breads – kale and cheese quick bread
Week 12: signature bake – purple cow bread
Week 13: enriched breads (kale and cheese babka fail)
Week 14: childhood favorite –fudgy triple layer chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting
Week 15: decorating challenge – purple velvet cake
Week 16: crispy crunchy – bacon cheddar popcorn
Week 17: p52 of a favorite cookbook, or your favorite blog – chocolate peanut butter drip cake
Week 18: pâte à choux – bacon cheese puffs
Week 19: veggies turned sweet – red velvet beet waffles
Week 20: plating – chocolate chip cookie (butter challenge)
Week 21: Birthday Party! – chocolate orange cake
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Week 24: Tarts – rainbow fruit tart
Week 25: Bagels and donuts – maple donut cake
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Week 28: Seasonal ingredients – blackberry lemon bread
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Week 31: Unusual ingredient – juniper lime drizzle cake
Week 32: Gelatin (homemade marshmallows) and 33: Picnic – peanut butter Rice Krispie treats
Week 34: Brunch – spinach and feta muffins
Week 35: Laminated dough – puff pastry cinnamon twists
Week 36: Friendship challenge – chocolate chip marshmallow cookie bars
Week 37: Sweet and salty – salted caramel chip chocolate cookies
Week 38: Decoration challenge – royal icing
Week 39: Buns and biscuits – challah buns
Week 40: West Indies – mini banana muffins with coconut
Week 41: Pantry challenge – chocolate chip pound cake
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Week 45: Fairy tale, novel, or TV – Miracle Max’s Miracle pill (aka coffee truffle)
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Next week: Structures