This Nutella babka is a sweet and beautiful bread that is delicious as a dessert or perfect for breakfast as well. Brioche bread dough is swirled together with a generous amount of Nutella to create this perfect Eastern European Jewish bread (aka chocolate kranz cake).
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Typically Babka bread is served on special holidays and for some on Easter. This recipe was inspired by the traditional chocolate babka recipe but was modified to be made with Nutella instead.
I love Nutella don't you? A loooong time ago I did a study abroad and was introduced to Nutella for the first time and I fell in love! What is Nutella? Nutella is a chocolate hazelnut spread that originated in Italy.
It really does go perfectly with this brioche bread. I am a sucker for swirl breads, like my Cinnamon Streusel Bread, which is super easy and delish. However this recipe is a little different than that! First, it's made with sweet brioche dough, and second, it's is drizzled with a simple syrup over the top (traditionally).
This recipe for Nutella babka makes 2 loaves, so plan accordingly.
Babka is a traditional Jewish pastry that is very regional to Eastern European countries like Poland and Ukraine, and of course in Israel. In Germany it is known as Krantz Cake.
The ingredients for this Nutella babka recipe are quite simple and basic:
- Active dry yeast
- Milk Salt
- Butter (salted)
- Lemon juice
This recipe is kind of time consuming, only because of the sheer amount of resting time that the brioche dough needs. I actually made this over a span of about 3 days. You don't need to take 3 days to make it, but you do need to let the dough rest for 4 hours at the least!
Typically, babka dough becomes babka because it rests for so long in the fridge. It gives it the perfect texture and the gluten and yeast works together for the best traditional babka recipe.
How to make babka dough (sweet brioche)
Go ahead an pull out your KitchenAid stand mixer. Heavy duty stand mixers are my friend when it comes to making bread with yeast. It does all of the mixing and kneading for me!
Either in a small sauce pan, or in the microwave, heat the milk up until it is warm to the touch, but not too hot! Add a little bit of the sugar to it along with the active dry yeast. Give it a quick stir and let it sit and activate until it blooms and is fragrant (about 10 minutes).
Add the milk and yeast and the rest of the sugar to the mixer bowl and begin mixing on low speed with the dough hook attachment. Next, add salt and vanilla. Slowly incorporate the flour just a little bit at a time (about 1 cup at a time) and let it work together well, until the dough comes together. At this point it will be kind of crumbly since we haven't added the eggs or butter yet.
Next, add the eggs, one at a time until it is all mixed.
Now it's time to add the softened butter. Only add about 5 tablespoons at a time. Let it all incorporate into the babka dough. Once you mix all of the butter, let the mixer do the work and knead everything together for several minutes.
If it seems to be sticking to the sides of the bowl, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Remove the dough and place it into a buttered bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
Hint: It is very helpful to have the eggs at room temperature before adding them to the dough.
It is VERY important to rest babka for a significant amount of time? How long should you rest babka dough? You need to at least let it rest in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours after it rises. I actually cover it with plastic and let it rest ALL NIGHT in the fridge. Just do that ok?
How to braid babka
Now that your dough has rested sufficiently, it's time to learn how to roll and braid babka bread. It's actually rather easy so don't get scared! I did it on my first time.
Your dough will be stiff since it is cold. Go ahead and take half of your dough and roll it into a thin rectangle (about ⅛" thick). It should be roughly 10x18 inches. I said roughly! It doesn't have to be perfect!
Tip*** Use a large piece of parchment paper underneath as you roll your dough. It will help you to roll and braid it easily.
After it is rolled out, spread about ½ cup of the Nutella filling evenly over the dough. You can take it to the edges. Working along the length of the dough, roll it up tightly. You want it to be a long and tight log of chocolate filled babka dough.
Once it is rolled up, sort of pinch the seams and the ends together to seal it.
After you roll it, stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes while you work on the other babka zebra.
Repeat with the other one.
Pull the first babka out of the freezer and with a very sharp serrated knife cut it in half lengthwise. You will have 2 long babka bread dough pieces.
Cross one over the other and twist them together. See the pictures below, and there is also a video.
Repeat with the other dough and place both of them in 2 buttered non-stick 9 inch loaf pans.
At this point, you can either cover and stick the pans in the fridge overnight again, or let it rise in a warm place for 2 hours before baking.
Preparing the sugar syrup
While you are baking the babka, you will make your syrup.
Take ½ cup water and ½ cup sugar and boil it together for about 10 minutes, or until it just starts to thicken up. Remove it from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
Check out this how to braid babka video for an easy visual to help you learn how to twist babka.
⏲️ Baking time
Place the prepared babkas in a preheat oven at 350° F and bake it for 25-30 minutes, until it is golden brown on top. Pull it out and
with a skewer, poke some inconspicuous holes throughout the bread so that the syrup can soak in. Revised to say that I cut down the amount of syrup and only glazed the top. Too much syrup makes it sticky on the bottom. Just brush it on the top as a glaze instead.
Pour the warm syrup over that chocolate hazelnut babka. After it cools, remove it from the babka pan and place it on a serving platter. Enjoy!
What to substitute for Nutella?
- Nutella substitute - If you would rather make a chocolate spread for babka instead of babka with Nutella, just melt together some semi sweet chocolate chips, sugar and heavy whipping cream. If you go this route, I would totally recommend adding some chopped up and toasted hazelnuts to make this a delicious chocolate hazelnut babka.
So there are many different kinds of babka bread recipes. One of my favorites is cinnamon babka and whenever I make a recipe for babka, I just make one with Nutella and one with cinnamon, since it makes 2 loaves already.
- Cinnamon babka - Instead of Nutella, go to my homemade cinnamon rolls recipe and make the brown sugar filling. This makes for an amazing babka recipe!
- Strawberry Babka - using either strawberry jam or a strawberry filling, you can make this variation of babka. YUM!
- Apple Cinnamon Babka- This is just so yummy, use your favorite apple pie filling and it's perfect!
Once this is totally cooled, you can wrap it in plastic and store it at room temperature for up to 4 days. Just make sure it is covered well with plastic.
This babka recipe also freezes very well. Just wrap it tightly in plastic and store it in a freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Pull it out and defrost it at room temperature until it is thawed.
💭 Top tip
This recipe turned out for me the first time I did it, however some of the syrup got kind of sticky. I adjusted the recipe to use less of the syrup and it should be more of a glaze on top, rather than a syrup that is soaked up.
It is also super helpful to use parchment paper when rolling out this dough. You don't want to be using flour on this babka dough as you roll it.
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As I stated previously, I love using my KitchenAid stand mixer for breads and many other things as well. I highly recommend it! Check out some of the equipment used for this recipe here with my affiliate links:
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- 1 cup Nutella
- ½ cup whole milk
- 2 ¼ teaspoons dry active yeast one package
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 4 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
- 10 tablespoons butter salted, + extra for the pans
For the syrup glaze
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or the juice of ½ of a lemon
- Bring the eggs and butter up to room temperature before beginning
- Warm the milk either in the microwave or in a saucepan until it is warm to the touch, but not too hot
- To the warm milk, add 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the yeast. Give it a little stir and let the yeast activate for about 10 minutes, or until it is foamy and fragrant
- In a KitchenAid or stand mixer, add the flour, salt, sugar, vanilla and milk/yeast mixture. On low-medium speed, mix all of those ingredients until well incorporated
- Add in eggs one at a time and let the dough mix
- After the eggs are incorporated, add half of the softened butter and mix for several minutes
- Add the rest of the butter and run the mixer for about another 3 minutes
- If the dough seems wet or sticks to the sides of the bowl, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time and mix for another minute or so, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Transfer the dough to a large buttered mixing bowl and cover with plastic. Place it in a warm place and let it rise for 2 hours. It won't quite double in size, but it should rise a little.
- Punch the dough down, re-cover it and place it in the fridge for at minimum 4 hours, preferably let it rest in the fridge overnight.
- After it has rested, take half of the dough and place it on parchment paper. Roll it into a thin rectangle (about 10"x18" and ⅛" thick roughly). It will be a stiff dough, so you will have to use a rolling pin and it may take a few minutes.
- Spread ½ cup of the Nutella evenly on the rolled babka dough even up to the edges.
- Tightly roll the babka lengthwise and pinch all of the seems closed
- Place the rolled babka into the freezer for 10 minutes while you work on the other half of the babka dough
- Repeat the steps for rolling out the babka
- Pull the first prepared Nutella babka dough out of the freezer and with a serrated knife, cut it lengthwise so that you have 2 long halves.
- Braid the babka by placing one of the halves across the other and twisting them together (video in post)
- Place the braided babka in a well butter bread loaf pan
- Repeat with the other babka loaf
- Cover and let the babka loaves rise in a warm place for another 1-2 hours
- Preheat the oven to 350° and bake the babka bread loaves for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown on top
For the babka syrup
- While the babka loaves are baking, prepare the syrup by boiling the water, sugar and lemon juice together for about 7-8 minutes or until it just starts to thicken
- As soon as the babka comes out of the oven, pour the warm syrup over the top of both loaves, brushing it to make sure it glazes the tops
- Let it cool for about 20 minutes before removing it from the pan. Serve and enjoy