This not so traditional chocolate hazelnut babka with cream cheese glaze is the perfect sweet bread for breakfast or dessert! Don’t let the steps and time frame scare you in this recipe. It’s not as difficult as it seems. With a little patience and know how, this chocolate hazelnut babka can be on the table in less than 24 hours and has just enough elegance to impress just about anyone at your next brunch!
I used to devote just about every Sunday to hanging around the kitchen. I would cook, prep and eat my way into oblivion. When we moved into 2016, I made it a goal to try to stay out of the kitchen on the weekends where work was involved. I would get everything I needed to get done for the next week the Thursday and Friday before. If I were to spend any time in the kitchen, it was going to be for recipes that were not blog related. I would cook because I just felt like cooking.
For the most part, this plan has worked out beautifully. Well, it was working out until this chocolate hazelnut babka came along. This is a recipe that I literally spent an entire weekend trying to perfect, and I think I finally have perfected it!
Oh sure, I’ve made a babka or two in my day, and I’ve definitely eaten my fair share of them. Hey, I spent most of my childhood in the NYC/Philadelphia metro area. Babka grows on trees out there! I swear it! When I moved out west to Denver metro, I basically gave up on baking bread. I had such a hard time baking anything at 5200 feet, and I’m not the most patient person in the world, so I basically gave up baking things like bread for a good year or so. I eventually got out of this stubborn-like mentality and tried again. I eventually perfected it.
Fast forward 3 years, and we moved to Wyoming where I now live at 7500 feet. I had to start the entire process over again. What I was doing in Colorado wasn’t working here. I felt like my bread would never rise, or it would literally take days (I’m not kidding you…DAYS) for any of my breads to rise. By that point, the top had dried out and I would be in a serious fit of rage. I gave up on bread again for a few months. Then I discovered this magical thing called “rapid proof.” The most amazing setting on my amazing oven, and it worked! … and I had bread … and all had rejoiced!
Since then, I have been on kind of a psycho bread making kick. Like I can’t stop…and I won’t stop because bread is literally my favorite thing on the planet. This chocolate hazelnut babka is one of the first recipes I will be sharing with you. I’m basically obsessed with it, and I’m sure that I’ll get some backlash from my BFFs in the NY/NJ area (you know who you are) using a cream cheese glaze (instead of the traditional) and that chocolate hazelnut (let’s be honest…it’s Nutella) filling instead of a traditional chocolate or cinnamon, but I had to put my own twist on it. Twist I did and all was right with the world.
This chocolate hazelnut babka is one of my favorites, and I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I do! Pair it with a chocolate stout! The chocolate bitterness from the beer will really highlight the sweet chocolate flavor in this babka.
P.S. As I was recipe testing and writing up this recipe in this post, I realized that this post really needs step-by-step photos. I am going back and redoing it in the next week or so, so at this point the recipe should be much easier to follow.
This recipe takes at least 16 hours of inactive time, so this makes this chocolate hazelnut babka the perfect overnight bread recipe. Make sure to plan ahead for this one. This time is reflected in the "total time"
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature
CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT FILLING
1/3 cup chocolate hazelnut spread
6 ounces dark chocolate, chips or chunks will do
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 cup finely ground chocolate wafer cookies
2 tablespoons honey
CREAM CHEESE GLAZE
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk (more as needed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In the bowl of your stand mixer, with dough attachment fixed, add the almond milk and yeast. Give it a stir and let stand for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast is foamy. During this 5 minutes, whisk the flour, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Once the yeast is foamy, add the egg and the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed for about 2 minutes and then increase the speed to medium and mix for about 6 minutes or until the dough has started to come together and is smooth. Add the butter and mix again for an additional 4 minutes until all of the butter has incorporated and the dough is once again smooth. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.
On a plate or baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper, dump the dough. Form the dough into a square, about 1 1/2 inches high. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, or overnight.
Once you have chilled the dough, you can now prepare your filling. To a bowl set upon a barely simmering pot of water (double boiler), add the chocolate hazelnut spread, dark chocolate, and butter. Stir often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Stir in the cookie crumbs and honey. Set aside.
Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving just enough overhang so that it is easy to remove the bread later. Set aside.
Remove your dough from the freezer and transfer it to a work surface. You shouldn't need flour at this point because the dough is oily from the butter, but if you do find that it is sticking, you may add a thin layer. Roll the dough out to a 15x15 inch square. Take filling and spread all but 1/2 cup of it onto the rolled out dough, leaving a 1/2-1 inch border. Roll the dough up tightly from one end until you reach the opposite end to form a tight log.
Cut the log in half crosswise and tug in each end so that it lengthens just a bit, you want each half to be about 8 inches long. Set one half aside, and onto the remaining half, spread the filling on the outside of the log (yes, it will get a little messy). Place the log with the filling on the outside on top of the plain one crosswise to form a "+" shape. Twist to form a spiral, pinching the two ends and place it in the prepared pan. Cover the loaf with a tea towel and put in a warm place to rise for 3-4 hours or until the dough has double in size.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread in the center of the oven for 40-45 minutes or until dark brown on top and cooked through. Remove from heat and let cool for just a few minutes in the pan. Remove the bread from the pan by using the parchment paper overhangs and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
While your babka is cooling, prepare the cream cheese glaze. Place all of the ingredients for the glaze in a medium bowl. Whisk vigorously until creamy and smooth. Add more milk to reach a thinner consistency.
Drizzle the cream cheese glaze on the slightly cooled babka and serve while still warm. Alternatively, you can hold off on drizzling the glaze and wrap the babka up in plastic wrap until you are ready to serve.
As I was writing up this recipe, I realized that it could really use step-by-step photos. I will update this recipe in the next week or so to reflect that.