A recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Babka inspired by our visit to New York City! This rich dough is filled with layers of a chocolate hazelnut spread and chopped bittersweet chocolate.
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I originally posted this Chocolate Hazelnut Babka recipe and recap of our trip back in May 2018. Five years later and we finally visited New York City again! So, I am updating (in April 2023) with a few new photos and places.
Along with the recipe, I will be covering our time at Union Square, the James Beard House, and Flatiron District.
Check out the rest of our time in NYC:
- Black and White Cookies and New York City
- New York Style Pizza and New York City
- Matcha Lava Cake and New York City
- Xiao Long Bao (Chinese Soup Dumplings) and New York City
- S’mores Macarons and New York City
- Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies and New York City
- New York Style Bagels and New York City
Our first stop in Union Square was Evelyn’s Playground.
Located at the north end of Union Square Park, there are three sections across 15,000 sq ft perfect for all ages. Evan especially loved the abundance of areas to climb and steep slides.
Union Square Greenmarket
Directly next to the playground is the Union Square Greenmarket. This market is open year-round on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8 am to 6 pm.
It began with just a few farmers in 1976 and now has up to 140 during peak season selling everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to baked goods, flowers, meats, cheese, jams, and other products.
There are also seasonal weekly activities including cooking demonstrations, book signings, and pop-ups.
After lunch, we made our way to Kidding Around on 60 W 15th Street. The kids absolutely loved this store.
Claire picked out a little bear sticker tea party set perfect for playing in restaurants and travel.
Books of Wonder
Books of Wonder was another incredible find. They stock the newest children’s titles along with classics and a collection of rare collectibles.
Many of the books we came across were signed. There is even a gallery of original art and graphics.
The store hosts weekly storytimes and other events featuring authors and artists.
We made a quick stop by Breads Bakery at 18 East 16th Street before going on the subway to head back to the hotel and I am so glad we did.
A baker’s dream, it was so hard to narrow down what we wanted. I ultimately chose a Chocolate Babka while Evan picked out a Pain Au Chocolat to split with Claire.
There is also a kiosk at Bryant Park and another location at Lincoln Center.
James Beard House
While the kids played at Evelyn’s Playground with Chad, I stopped by the James Beard House for a tour with Victoria Jordan Rodriguez, Director of House Operations and House Events.
I first met Victoria while at MetroCooking DC and it was so fun to see the house in person.
The James Beard House is located at 167 W 12th Street in Greenwich Village.
It was just a short 1/2 mile walk from Union Square and near the 14th Street/Sixth Avenue station.
Following James Beard’s death in 1985, a fundraising campaign led by Institute of Culinary Education founder Peter Kump was organized to purchase the townhouse.
It was officially opened on November 5, 1986 by the James Beard Foundation “to provide a center for the culinary arts and to continue to foster the interest James Beard inspired in all aspects of food, its preparation presentation, and of course, enjoyment.”
The James Beard House now holds over 250 events throughout the year, almost daily.
In addition to the dinners by acclaimed chefs from around the country, the house also hosts a variety of free educational programming.
Victoria showed me all of the details of the house and how it has transformed over the years from the kitchen, garden, and dining rooms created to accommodate guests to even the updated bathrooms and wallpaper.
I especially loved all the items on display and the collection of cookbooks! If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you know how much I love cookbooks.
Want to see the James Beard House? Contact the James Beard Foundation to schedule your own tour of this historic home.
The Flatiron District is named after one of the most notable and interesting buildings in the area- the Flatiron building.
Constructed in 1902, this triangular-shaped 22 story building was designated a New York Landmark in 1966 and a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
When in the Flatiron District, we especially love visiting the Lego Store at 200 5th Avenue.
Along with the walls of Lego products, this location also has some unique local stylings with a Flatiron District model, Statue of Liberty, murals, and more.
Eataly, a huge 58,000 sq ft Italian-themed marketplace, is next door and another favorite.
The first location opened in 2007 in the Lingotto district of Turin by Oscar Farinetti. There are also locations Downtown and in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and other cities around the world.
The building is set up like a grocery store with counter service restaurants scattered throughout featuring pizza, pasta, meat, fish, vegetables, panini, gelato, pastries, and coffee along with a rooftop beer garden featuring a sit-down restaurant offering themed menu items that vary based on the season.
I loved browsing through all of the produce and specialty shops. I came across many ingredients that I often have difficulty locating such as fiddlehead ferns and a variety of mushrooms.
There are also sections with books, housewares, and gourmet items.
We stopped by BXL Zoute at 50 W 22nd Street for lunch during our latest visit to NYC!
BXL Zoute is open daily for lunch and dinner (brunch on weekends). They have a variety of Belgian classics, salads, Moules Frites, sandwiches, desserts, and drinks.
We ordered the Bitterballen (first time having them in a restaurant since our trip to Amsterdam!), Spaghetti Bolognese, Soupe à L’Oignon Gratinée (Onion Soup Gratinée), Gauffre de Liège (sweet dense sugar waffle with berries and whipped cream), and Carbonade Flamande (stewed sirloin tips in brown beer gravy with fries).
They also have a cafe location in the Theater District, Midtown West.
We first visited Dough Doughnuts in Times Square at City Kitchen. That spot is now closed, but recently we were able to stop by their Flatiron location at 14 West 19th Street.
Dough Doughnuts features large and fluffy yeast-based doughnuts in a variety of flavors and with vegan options.
The kids picked the cinnamon sugar and plain vanilla glaze. Other current offerings include Peanut Butter Crunch, Hibiscus, Café Au Lait, and Dulce de Leche.
Dominique Ansel Workshop
Dominique Ansel’s second NYC location, Dominique Ansel Workshop at 17 E 27th Street, is just a block north of Madison Square Park inside the pastry production kitchens.
They are open daily with a gorgeous assortment of pastries, sandwiches, drinks, and more.
Our latest visit was the week before Easter and I preordered the absolutely adorable Roxy the Red Panda Easter Egg filled with chocolate bonbons inside. We also picked up the Strawberry Vanilla Mochi Bun and Hong Kong Thousand Layered Hot Dog Roll.
Chocolate Hazelnut Babka
I have been wanting to make a Babka from scratch for a while and this seemed like the perfect time after trying the Chocolate Babka from Breads Bakery.
I slightly followed the bakery’s lead and filled my Babka with Nutella and chopped bittersweet chocolate.
After baking, it is finished off with a brushing of a simple sugar syrup to help keep the bread soft for a few days.
I was nervous about attempting the Chocolate Hazelnut Babka, but it ended up not being too difficult. Most of the time is for hands-off rising.
The sweet, rich yeast-based dough needs time to rest overnight in the refrigerator, then another 2-3 hours the next day at room temperature after filling and forming.
After the first rise, the dough is rolled out into a thin rectangle/square and covered with a layer of Nutella.
If that wasn’t chocolatey enough, the dough is then covered with an additional layer of chopped bittersweet chocolate before being tightly rolled, cut, and braided.
After resting again, the loaf is baked until deeply golden. Make sure it is cooked all the way through and brush immediately with the sugar syrup.
Allow to cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.
A Few Chocolate Hazelnut Babka Tips
I followed Smitten Kitchen’s tip of placing the rolled dough in the freezer briefly to help cut and form the dough with less mess. It doesn’t need much, maybe 10 minutes. Much more than that and the dough will be too stiff to twist well.
The ends are sliced off, then the roll is cut in half lengthwise to make two layered ropes.
There are a couple of different ways to twist the Chocolate Babka. I tried pinching together the two ropes at one end then twisting the ropes to the other end on the first loaf.
On the second one (and I liked this way better personally), I crossed the two ropes at the middle then twist each side individually from the middle to the ends. I was able to twirl it a little easier this way.
The twirled loaf is placed in the prepared pan and allowed to rest for another 1-2 hours. It is then baked until puffed and golden.
Immediately after removing from the oven, the loaves are brushed with a sugar syrup. This will help the Chocolate Babka keep for a couple of days and provides a beautiful shine.
I have made this bread with both lemon zest and orange zest.
The Chocolate Babka will be easier to slice and serve once it has cooled to room temperature.
It is best the day it is made, but it can also be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days or so.
They also freeze well. Reheat in a 350˚F (180˚C) oven just until warm.
Chocolate Hazelnut Babka Recipe
Adapted from Eden Eats and Smitten Kitchen
Chocolate Hazelnut Babka
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) lukewarm milk 105-115˚F, 40-46˚C
- 4 1/4 cups (530 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 lemon zest, or zest of 1/2 orange
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter softened at room temperature
- 2 cups (550 grams) chocolate hazelnut spread divided
- 1 cup (170 grams) bittersweet chocolate chips chopped, divided
- 1/3 cup (80 milliliters) water
- 1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
To make the dough:
- In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the milk. Stir to combine and allow to rest until frothy, about 10 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, salt, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.
- Mix in the eggs and milk with yeast until dough starts to come together.
- While the mixer is running on low, slowly add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, then continue to mix until fully incorporated and the dough is smooth. It might be a little sticky. If the dough is too crumbly, add a little more milk.
- Lightly grease a large bowl with oil, then add the dough, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours to overnight. The dough will puff, but probably not double.
- Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and allow to rest at room temperature, covered, for 1 hour.
- Grease 2 9×4 inch (23×10 centimeter) loaf pans with butter or oil. Line the bottom and two long sides with parchment.
- Divide the dough in half.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll one half of the dough into a thin rectangle/square 10 inches wide (25 centimeters) and 10-12 inches (25-30 centimeters) long.
- Spread half of the Nutella over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch (1.25 centimeter) border around the edges.
- Sprinkle evenly with half of the chopped chocolate. Wet the 1/2 inch (1.25 centimeter) edge furthest from you with water.
- Starting with the edge closest to you, tightly roll up the dough, sealing the dampened edge.
- If desired, place the roll in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden the chocolate slightly and allow the dough to be worked with more cleanly.
- Slice off 1/2 inch (1.25 centimeters) off each end of the dough and discard.
- Slice the rope in half lengthwise and place on the work surface cut side up. Twist together the ropes, cut side facing out, end to end. You can also cross the ropes in the middle, then twist them to the ends starting from the middle.
- Place the twisted loaf in the prepared pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat with remaining dough and filling and transfer to the second loaf pan. Allow to rise at room temperature until puffed, 1-2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Bake the prepared loaves until deeply golden and cooked through, about 40-50 minutes.
- While the loaves are in the oven, prepare the syrup.
- In a small pot, combine the water and sugar over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Removed the baked babkas from the oven and immediately brush with the sugar syrup.
- Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pans. Cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.