Babka or brioche? My husband Pierre insists on calling this a brioche wreath. Wikipedia says babkas are traditionally used for Easter holidays in eastern European countries. In fact babka comes from the Polish word Baba for grandmother. And some researchers believe babka goes as far back to the Greek period of Homer based on anecdotal texts that mention sweet, yeast leavened bread similar to Babka. Brioche is a pastry (viennoiserie) with a high butter and egg content which gives it that tender butter rich crumb. It origins date back to the early 1400’s in France. In any case, I don’t want to bore you with a history lesson. You’re here for a guaranteed holiday showstopper that tastes amazing.
I fully admit that this recipe requires time and patience. Which is why it’s perfect for a special holiday like Christmas or Easter. Theres not much hands on prep time as there is time to wait for the dough to rise. 3 hours warm room temp or overnight in the fridge. Then another hour for the second rise. So if you came here looking for a quick treat, wrong recipe. This babka needs to be prepared in advance. But trust me it’s totally worth the wait.
As you read the recipe below. You’ll notice a chocolate cookie or brownie I’ve used to sprinkle over the chocolate spread. This is optional. I’ve added that for an extra chocolate kick and crunch. Feel free to replace with nuts or even dried fruit. As well, I’ve used scalded milk instead of just plain warm water to help with a tender crumb. There is nothing worse than having spent so much time waiting and making a gorgeous wreath then biting into a dry tough babka. As well, warm milk aids in enhancing that wonderful orange flavour. Which is then complimented by the rich marvellous chocolate spread…all sandwiched by a tender buttery bread. So yummy. In fact, I think I need to make another one right now!
- 530 g or 4 1/4 cups AP flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons traditional active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 100 g or 1/2 cup granulated white sugar + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 3 eggs + 1 yolk
- 3/4 cup warm scalded milk
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice (from about 1 large orange or 2 medium sized oranges)
- Zest from 2 fresh oranges (makes about 2 tablespoons)
- 150 g or 2/3 cup unsalted butter room temperature cut into inch sized cubes
- 4 ounces dark chocolate chips
- 113 g or 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup or 30 grams cocoa powder
- 57 g or 1/2 cup confectioners sugar or powdered sugar
- 2 Chocolate cookies or 1 brownie square (OPTIONAL)
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed Orange juice (from about 1 large orange or 2 medium oranges).
- 132 g or 2/3 cup granulated white sugar
- In small saucepan, warm milk over medium heat until small bubbles form at edge of pan and temperature reaches 180F
- Allow to cool for a few minutes to about 110F which is still quite warm but not too warm to touch
- Stir in 2 teaspoons of sugar, and sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk and set aside
- Meanwhile in your stand mixer, with dough hook attachment, place the orange zest and sugar in bowl
- Using your fingers, rub the orange zest into the white sugar in the stand mixer bowl
- Sift the flour into bowl and combine with the sugar
- On low speed, add orange juice, then the milk with poofed yeast (poof takes about 8 minutes) if yeast hasn't poofed, start milk/yeast again...see notes below)
- Then add the eggs and 1 yolk in one at a time
- Increase to medium speed and mix for about 5 minutes until dough comes together
- Dough may seem a bit ragged and dry which is normal, keep mixing. If still dry and not coming together after 2 or 3 minutes, add a teaspoon of water or milk until dough comes together. If opposite issue of too wet, add add an extra tablespoon of flour
- Add the salt and then the butter cubes in one at a time
- Continue to knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, shiny and no longer sticky
- Roll dough around in greased large bowl until it is lightly covered in oil (Make sure bowl is large enough to accommodate the fact that dough will double in size)
- Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight OR allow to rise in warm area of home for at least 3 hours. If refrigerating overnight, make sure dough comes to room temperature before baking.
- In small saucepan, bring about an inch of water to a simmer. Place a heat proof, clean dry bowl and melt the chocolate chips and butter. Stir until incorporated and smooth
- Whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder until it's completely incorporated.
- Set aside to cool about 20-30 minutes
- Should have a silky and smooth consistency
- Cut the dough in two equal parts
- On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough part out into a rectangle shape approximately 16x 12 inches
- With spatula, spread chocolate filling evenly and equally on both pieces of dough leaving about half an inch on the ends.
- Sprinkle a broken up cookie or half a brownie over each dough rectangle
- Dab a bit of warm water along the edge of the longest side of dough
- Roll the dough starting with the dry longer end and pinch lightly or press to seal the dough
- Let rest on the sealed seam to allow gravity to seal even more
- Trim about an inch off the ends of the rolls
- With a serrated knife, cut the rolls down the centre middle in half lengthwise.
- Gently now criss cross/braid the two halves with the cut sides facing up.
- Do this with the other roll that was cut in half
- Gently transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment paper
- Form a circle and pinch together the end tendrils of dough to create a continuous braid
- (Don't worry to much about imperfections at this point- the second rise and the actual bake will help conceal any gaps)
- Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to rise again for about 1-1 1/2 hours
- Meanwhile, make the syrup
- In a small saucepan, over medium heat, lightly boil the orange juice and the sugar whisking frequently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat.
- Preheat oven to 375F. Remove tea towel and bake for babka about 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Test by pressing babka...top should be firm. As well, you can check by inserting toothpick or skewer and checking if it comes out clean.
- Immediately brush the orange sugar syrup all over the babka. Be sure to use all the syrup!
- *When yeast doesn't poof, it usually means the water was too warm or too cold. If you don't have a food thermometer, test by touching water. It should be very warm but not so hot that your fingers can't take it.
- Another issue could be the yeast has expired or simply died.
- Babka's are best consumed same day, however can be kept up to 3 days at room temperature wrapped with plastic
- Can also be frozen for about a month
Lucy Parissi says
The texture is so perfect! And the photos are dreamy too 🌟 I would go with wreath I think but whatever you call it I need to eat a very large slice
Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to share a huge slice of this. Thanks Lucy xoxo
Absolutely gorgeous! I must try this. Perhaps for our family boxing day brunch.Thank you for this lovely share.
Thanks for your kind words Michelle. Sorry I’m so late responding. Hope the donuts were yummy! cheers, Betty
The 1/3 cup of cocoa powder isn’t included in the filling instructions? It didn’t seem to need it however? Beautiful and delicious recipe, thank you!
Indeed! I made it initially with the cocoa powder but settled without the second round and forgot to omit. Thanks for catching that. Would love to see a pic of your babka! xo
Teri C says
So does this make one babka or two wreaths? Thanks in advance-I’m trying this for holiday!
Hi there. It makes one very large wreath. the process is:
-cut them lengthwise in half
-twisted 2 half tendrils together to get a twist
-I then took the two braids and connected them to make a wreath.
It is a large wreath for entertaining large families and guests. So perfect for the holildays indeed. Let me know if I can assist again. Thank you!