Recipe courtesy of Jake Cohen

Chocolate-Tahini Babka

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If it’s your first time making babka, I pass on to you my pearls of wisdom as someone who has persevered after slicing into dry loaves many times, as well as loaves that were still raw in the middle! You need to respect the dough. This ain’t a no-knead baking project. Since you’re going to have a softer dough than you might be used to, you want to make sure you mix it enough to build up a proper gluten structure. Then, don’t skimp on the proof. If you want a fluffy babka, make sure you give it the time to rise; how long it needs will fluctuate depending on the time of year and how warm (or cold) your kitchen gets. My visual cues are simple: double in size for the first proof and expand to fill the loaf pans for the second. Finally, fill ’em up however you want! This recipe calls for a filling that mixes chocolate and tahini, but with this master dough, the combinations are truly endless.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 4 hr (includes proofing and cooling times)
  • Active: 40 min
  • Yield: 2 loaves
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Ingredients

Chocolate-Tahini Babka Filling:

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the warm milk and sugar together. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the melted butter and 3 of the eggs, then whisk until well incorporated. Switch to the dough hook, then add the flour and salt. Beginning on low speed and gradually increasing to medium, knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Grease a medium bowl and your hands with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Using your hands, transfer the dough to the bowl, gently turning to coat it with the oil, and shape it into a smooth ball. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes. (Alternatively, you can let the dough rise in the refrigerator, covered, overnight.) 
  4. Divide the dough into 2 equal balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one ball of dough into a 12 by 14-inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick and aligned horizontally. Spread half the filling evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all the way around the rectangle. Starting with the edge closest to you, roll up the dough tightly into a log. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the roll lengthwise in half. Twist the strands together and pinch the ends to seal. Carefully place the babka in one of the prepared loaf pans. 
  5. Repeat this process with the remaining dough and filling. Cover both babkas loosely with plastic wrap or clean kitchen towels and set aside in a warm area until the dough expands to fill the pan, about 45 minutes. 
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with the remaining oil, using 1 tablespoon for each pan. 
  7. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg, then liberally brush each babka with the egg. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, for 35 to 40 minutes, until the babkas are golden and each has reached an internal temperature of 185 degrees F. 
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly in the pans, then remove the loaves from the pans and let cool completely before slicing and serving. Babka is best served the day it’s baked.

Chocolate-Tahini Babka Filling:

  1. Place the chocolate in a heatproof medium bowl. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring continuously, until browned and nutty in aroma, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour the melted butter over the chocolate, then add the sugar, salt and tahini. Whisk until a smooth ganache forms, then let cool to room temperature.
  2. Fill the babka dough as directed and garnish the babkas with the sesame seeds right before baking.

Cook’s Note

If you’re looking to keep the dough parve, substitute 1 cup water for the milk and substitute 1/2 cup vegetable oil for the butter. While I swear by the slice-and-twist method I use in my recipe, this is not the only way you can twist up your babka. The first variation I learned from Jared Plaxe, a former classmate who was working at Sadelle’s in NYC, baking up babka on the daily under Melissa Weller’s incredible bread program. After you roll each piece of dough into a log, instead of slicing it lengthwise, slice it crosswise for two equal-size rolls. Use your hands to gently stretch each slightly, then twist the two together and place in the prepared pan. Then, of course, there is the method preferred by the equally iconic and Jewish Melissa, Melissa Clark. I absolutely adore her double twist, where you slice lengthwise and twist like I do, but then bring the two ends of the twist together to fold and then twist them again!

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