Black Forest Babka

I am constantly reminded of how I came second to last in the 2013 Tang Xmas Bake Off.

Seeking to redeem myself this year, I searched EVERYWHERE for inspiration. My favourite finds were:

(I am going to post my attempts at all the above bakes soon!)

After much umming and erring, I finally settled on one of my favourite things in the world: a black forest babka. (Credit for this hybrid bake goes to Michelle Rozzolo, owner of the Big Sur Bakery).

Now, I knew that I would never win the bake off with this entry – my aunties (the judges) have a serious dislike for chocolate and alcohol. However, I persisted given the technically challenging nature of the babka and also because this was the first bake in a long time that I really really really wanted to eat!

Recipe (adapted from, an epic read for foodies)

Ingredients (makes two loaves):


  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) plus 2 tablespoons warm milk
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast (make sure it is not out of date, otherwise your bread will not rise!)
  • 240 g (1 cup) strong bread flour (provides the gluten required for the bread to rise!)


  • 720 g strong bread flour
  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 300 g room temperature butter, cubed
  • 2 egg yolks (you can use the whites to make my salt caramel macarons)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 120 g dried cherries soaked in brandy overnight (or longer if you want an extra hit)
  • 180 g  high quality dark chocolate, really finely chopped (I used a fruity Madecasse sea salt and nibs)


  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 120 g unsalted butter
  • 80 g cocoa powder
  • 80 g high quality dark chocolate, really finely chopped (I used a fruity Madecasse sea salt and nibs)


  • 80 ml water
  • 80 ml brandy (reserved from the dried cherries)
  • 240 g caster sugar


  • Make the flavoured cherries by soaking the cherries in the brandy. Leave overnight.
  • To make the “Starter”, warm the milk
  • Ensure the milk is warm and not boiling (if you can dip your finger in it, it’s fine; otherwise it will kill the yeast!)
  • Using your hands, mix the milk, flour and yeast in a bowl
  • Knead until a rough dough is formed (7-8 minutes)
  • Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave the dough in a warm location until the sponge bubbles
  • Place the bowl in the fridge overnight.
  • This is your “starter”, which will give your babka a more intense flavour and also help give the babka an extra bit of a rise!
  • To make the dough, put the bread flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla in a bowl
  • Mix well
  • Once combined, add the butter, yolks and the “Starter”
  • Knead the dough until it becomes shiny and no longer sticks to your fingers. This will take at least 30 minutes! (For a good technique, watch Paul Hollywood!)
  • Drain the cherries and reserve the brandy. Chop the cherries and combine with the chopped chocolate
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch it to flatten
  • Place the dough between two sheets of baking parchment and roll the dough into a 2cm thick rectangle
  • Sprinkle 2/3 of the cherries and chocolate over the dough and fold the dough in half
  • Add the remaining cherries and chocolate to the top and, using your palms, shape the dough into a boule (a ball)
  • Place the dough into a buttered bowl and cover with clingfilm. Let it proof until doubled in size (essential if you want a good rise!)


  • As the dough is proofing, make the chocolate filling. Combine the sugar, butter, and cocoa in a saucepan and warm until the sugar dissolves. Add the chocolate and mix to form a paste. Ensure there are no lumps
  • Make the syrup by bringing the syrup ingredients to a boil
  • Whilst you wait for the dough to finish proofing, line two loaf pans with baking parchment
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, gently transfer the dough to a floured surface and cut in two
  • Shape each piece into a boule and let them rest for 10 minutes
  • Place one piece of dough in between two sheets of baking parchment and roll into a rectangle of 2 cm thickness (the thinner the dough, the more swirls inside the babka!)
  • Using a spatula, spread the still warm chocolate filling into the dough
  • Roll the dough into a cigar shape as tightly as you can
  • Press down on the ends of the dough to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half:


  • Holding the two ends of the dough, twist the dough together to make a rope
  • Repeat the previous 5 steps with the other boule of dough
  • Place the dough in the pre-prepared loaf pans. Cover with a damp towel and wait until the dough has doubled in size
  • Place an oven rack in the middle position and pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5
  • Bake until the babka is a deep golden brown colour (35 minutes or so)
  • Remove the babka from the oven and let it cool. Once cool, brush the babka with the syrup


Seriously, this is the shiz. You HAVE to give this a go!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s