Chocolate Sourdough Babka

This is another gorgeous bread that I was dying to try making. I’ll be honest, my first one of these did not turn out well. I must have done something wrong in making the chocolate paste, because it was very crumbly and didn’t get the pretty swirled effect this bread is supposed to have. Babka is another shaped, braided bread – but with a “twist”.

In my post about my Sourdough Challah (here), I talked about leavening using a levain. This bread also uses a levain, but with sugar added, and also uses a Tangzhong.

What is a Tangzhong? Glad you asked.

Tangzhong is an Asian technique that results in softer, more tender rolls, bread, or cakes. It is a method of combining a small amount of water or milk and flour briefly over heat into a roux and then adding this to your other ingredients for the bread.

The method pre-gelatinizes the starches in your flour, which then helps it absorb more water. This results in a less sticky dough that is therefore easier to handle. It also means that your dough will rise higher and last longer in your pantry.

This is a 2 day bread – similar to the challah recipe linked above but is really considered a brioche (coming soon).


Sweet Levain

  • 5 grams sugar
  • 15 grams active sourdough starter
  • 30 grams cold milk (whole or 2%)
  • 40 grams all-purpose flour


  • 80 grams milk (whole or 2%)
  • 20 grams all-purpose flour

Main Dough

  • 320 grams all-purpose flour
  • 50 grams sugar
  • 100 grams of eggs (approx. 2 medium eggs)
  • 110 – 130 grams of cold milk (whole or 2%)
  • 6 grams of fine sea salt (or 8 grams of coarse kosher)
  • 65 grams of softened unsalted butter

Dark Chocolate Filling

  • 200 grams of dark or semi-sweet chocolate
  • 115 grams of unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Dutch process but any will do)
  • pinch of salt


  • 40 grams of water
  • 40 grams of sugar


Day One – In the morning

For the Sweet Levain – combine all the ingredients into a small bowl and place in a warm spot for 8 – 10 hours until it has doubled or more in size.

Day One – In the evening

Make the Tangzhong – add the flour and milk to a small pot and heat over medium heat, while whisking. Cook until the mixture has thickened and temp reads about 150 degrees.

Transfer the Tangzhong to a plate or bowl, cover with plastic wrap pressed down onto the surface of the mixture. This will keep a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature before continuing to the main dough.

For the Main Dough – to the bowl of your stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, eggs, milk, all the levain and all the tangzhong. Mix just until combined. Rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.

Add the salt and knead at medium speed using your dough hook for 5 – 10 minutes.

Slowly add the cubed butter, while mixing, one cube at a time. Let each cube incorporate into the dough before adding the next. Once all the butter is added, scrape down the sides of the bowl and then knead at medium speed until the dough passes the window pane test. (See the challah recipe linked above for an explanation of this.) This can take anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes depending on your mixer.

Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover and proof at room temp for 2 hours. Then transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to cold proof overnight.

Day Two

Making the Chocolate Filling – Start the filling about 30 minutes before you plan to take the Main Dough out of the fridge.

In a small pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the chocolate and stir until it’s fully melted. Add the cream, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Stir until smooth.

Transfer the filling to a bowl and let it chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes, stirring every 5 – 10 minutes. If you don’t give it a stir periodically, it will harden up on you. You want it to be a paste you can spread.

Take the filling and dough out of the fridge at the same time. Give the filling a stir.

To Shape your dough – Place the dough on a floured work surface. Roll it out to a square about 13×13 inches. Evenly spread the filling on the dough, leaving about a 1/2 inch border on all sides.

Roll up the square like a roulade. Push in the seams and gently shape to even it out. Then transfer it to a parchment lined sheet pan and refrigerate/rest for at least 20 minutes.

Butter your bread tin while the dough rests.

Remove the dough from the fridge and with a heavily floured and very sharp knife, cut the roulade in half lengthwise.

With the cut sides facing up, cross one side over the other to form an X with the sides. Then braid the top, crossing one side over the other, until you get to the end. Repeat with the bottom. Mine usually is just one more crisscross on the top and bottom each.

Tuck the ends in an under gently. Transfer to your prepared bread pan. Cover the pan and let proof again for 6 – 8 hours or until the dough has risen to fill up at least 80% of the tin.

To Bake – Preheat your oven to 390 degrees. Bake the babka for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 20 minutes. If it starts to brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Bake until it reaches at least 203 degrees internally.

Make the syrup – while the babka is in the oven, make the syrup. In a small pot, heat the water and sugar together, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely. Take off the heat and let it cool.

When the babka is out of the oven immediately brush or pour over the syrup. Then leave it in the bread pan until it’s cool enough to handle. Transfer to a wire wrack to finish cooling.

Slice and eat.

“With a piece of bread in your hand you’ll find paradise under a pine tree.”

Russian Proverb

Published by Elizabeth Escalante

Freckles. Food. Travel. Dachshunds.

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