Happy Holidays everyone! Even though this year looks and feels a little different, I hope that you got to spend it with family, friends, and loved ones (virtually, socially distanced, or masked!). My siblings are currently home for the holidays, so we’ve gotten to spend a lot of quality family time together. Although I haven’t had much time to bake or blog this past week, I wanted to post this recipe before the holidays (and the end of 2020) come to a close.
I actually had the idea for this recipe in early December. I knew I wanted to make something “hot chocolate” themed, and I figured a babka would be an easy bet! Since you can just play around with the fillings and toppings, it was easy to add a different twist to this dessert. The recipe is not very hard (it’s pretty simple actually) but it does take a good amount of time and effort. However, there are some shortcuts you could take to cut down on active time (more on that later).
This babka features a chocolate brioche, a chocolate filling, a marshmallow fluff filling, and a crushed candy cane topping. The bread is super soft, while the filling adds the perfect amount of sweetness. The filling is also pretty easy to work with and doesn’t excessively squish out of the babka when you shape them (which is always my gripe with making babkas).
Don’t be intimidated by the amount of time needed for this recipe. The brioche needs an overnight rise in the refrigerator, and although this step isn’t entirely necessary, I highly recommend it. The amount of actual active time is pretty low, and it’s spread out between two days.
I made this recipe into one large loaf and 12 small buns. The recipe does make enough to make two large loaves or up to 30 smaller buns. If making smaller portions, you can either bake them in a muffin tin or just shape and bake them on a baking sheet. I’ve made them both ways and they turn out great every time.
I made the marshmallow fluff at home, but you could definitely just use a store-bought option. I prefer the homemade stuff but both ways would be delicious. You could also sub the chocolate filling with Nutella or a different type of chocolate spread.
Other than that, this recipe is pretty simple and absolutely perfect for the holiday season. I included these in the holiday treat boxes that I made earlier this month and they were a hit! They’re perfect to give away or to serve at a holiday get together for family and friends.
These are best served the day of, but they’ll last for up to 5 days if stored in an airtight container.
Hot Chocolate Babka
For the brioche:
- 1/2 cup warm milk
- 9 grams active dry yeast
- 2 tsp honey
- 5 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2.1 oz granulated sugar
- 17.6 oz all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 8.8 oz unsalted butter, softened and cut into four portions
For the chocolate filling:
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 12 tbsp butter, melted
For the marshmallow fluff:
- 1/3 cup water
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup corn syrup
- 3 large egg whites
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup crushed candy canes
Make the brioche dough:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the warm milk, yeast, and honey. Whisk to combine. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, until foamy. Make sure the milk isn't too hot, or else you'll kill your yeast.
- Add eggs and yolk, then whisk gently to just break the yolks.
- Add vanilla, sugar, flour, sea salt, and cocoa powder. Mix with a wooden spoon to form a shaggy dough.
- Attach the dough hook to your stand mixer. Knead the dough on medium-low speed for about 5 minutes.
- Add the first portion of butter to the bowl. Mix with the dough hook until the butter is mixed fully into the dough, about 2-3 minutes. Repeat with the other 3 portions of butter, making sure to mix fully after each addition.
- Once all the butter is added, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough for 15-25 minutes on medium-high. You'll know the dough is finished when it is soft and tacky, but it no longer sticks to your fingertips.
- On a lightly floured surface, turn your dough out of the bowl. Lightly flour your hands and the surface of the dough. Gently fold in the edges of the dough towards the middle a couple of times. Carefully flip the dough ball over, and shape the dough to form a tight ball.
- Transfer the dough back into the mixer bowl or another large bowl. Let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and deflate gently with your hands. Fold in the edges again as before, pressing them into the center. Flip your dough over and tighten the dough into a ball with a smooth surface. Transfer back into the bowl.
- Cover and let it chill in the fridge for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. You can let the dough sit in the freezer for at least 3 hours and then the fridge for 1-2 hours, but I recommend the overnight rise.
Prepare the fillings:
- For the chocolate filling: In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix until fully combined. It won't necessarily be smooth, but that's okay.
- For the marshmallow fluff: Place water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine. Heat over medium-high. Do not stir past this point.
- Wipe down your mixer bowl and whisk attachment with lemon juice to make sure they're completely grease free.
- Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Start whipping the egg whites once the sugar is hot enough. If you have a candy thermometer, it'll be around 225°F. If not, just wait until the sugar comes to a boil and then let it cook for another 5 minutes. Whip egg whites until soft peaks form, about 3-4 minutes.
- When the sugar reaches 240°F, remove it from the heat. You can test that the sugar is done by putting a drop of the sugar in a bowl of cold water. It should harden into a ball, but it should still be malleable.
- Turn the mixer to medium and very slowly stream the sugar syrup into the whites. Do this very slowly.
- Once all the syrup is in the bowl, set the mixer to medium-high and continue whipping. Continue to whip for 8-10 minutes.
- Add vanilla extract and whip until cooled completely.
Shape the babka:
- Remove chilled dough from the fridge. Butter and dust two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. You can also use muffin tins to make smaller buns as well.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and deflate it gently. Divide into two equal portions (I made 1 loaf and 12 small buns).
- Work with one dough portion at a time, keeping the rest in the fridge while you work. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one dough portion until it becomes a large rectangle. It should be slightly less than 1/4-inch thick.
- Spread the chocolate filling onto the dough with a spatula. Cover the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Next, cover the chocolate filling with an even coating of the marshmallow fluff.
- Starting from a long side, start rolling the dough into a tight spiral. Keep going until you get one large log. Slice the dough log in half down the center. Turn each side so the filling is facing outward. Twist both sections together. Either fold the dough in half to fit into the loaf pans or roll them into small buns to fit into the muffin tins (or to just bake on a baking sheet).
- Cover your babkas and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 325°F toward the end of the rising time.
- Bake for about 35-45 minutes (for loaves) or 20-30 minutes (for smaller buns). The tops should be browned and a tester should come out clean if poked into the center.
- Remove from the oven and let the bread cool slightly. Flip the bread out of the pans and let cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes.
- Let cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.