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This Cookies n Cream Babka features a dark chocolate cookies n cream filling twisted inside a rich and buttery yeasted dough. From my upcoming second cookbook, Simple Small Batch Baking.
Table of contents
Cookies n Cream Babka
When I was writing Simple Small Batch Baking, I knew I wanted to include some sort of babka recipe. Most babka recipes yield 2 loaves minimum, which I mean is great if you’re making it for some sort of party, or plan on bringing leftovers into work… but for smaller families and those of us who live alone, it’s just way too much bread. This cookies n cream babka, which makes just 1 loaf, might be my new favorite thing. If you've never had babka before, then all you need to know is that it’s basically half bread, half cake, and 100% freakin' delicious! This yeast-based treat is sweet, soft, and buttery, making it hard to have just one slice. I also love how beautiful each slice is thanks to the layers of chocolate & oreo crumbs throughout the babka.
Making babka from scratch may seem like a challenging labor-intensive task, but the process is surprisingly easy (and very similar to cinnamon rolls)! Don't be intimidated by the ingredients list or long prep time, as most of it is just the dough rising. Follow my simple step-by-step instructions for making this homemade cookies n cream babka down below and you’ll be making this recipe like a pro in no time.
Ingredients for Cookies n Cream Babka
This cookies n cream babka recipe doesn’t require a ton of ingredients; here’s what you’ll need:
- Milk: I recommend whole milk due to the higher fat content, but know that almond milk will also work just fine (I’ve tried it numerous times!)
- Granulated sugar: This is used to help activate the yeast and sweeten the babka dough just a tad. You'll also need it for the sugar syrup.
- Instant dry yeast: Use instant yeast in this recipe to help the babka rise faster. You can also use active dry yeast, but it’ll take slightly longer to rise.
- Butter: The one and only. You’ll need it for the dough and the filling!
- Egg: This recipe calls for one egg for the perfect texture in the dough.
- All-purpose flour: I’ve experimented with different flours and find that all-purpose consistently leads to the best results; plus, that’s what most people have on hand.
- Salt: Salt helps to control the yeast, so don’t skip it.
- Vanilla bean paste: Vanilla bean paste is added straight to the dough for a sweet and fragrant vanilla note. Use 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract if you don’t have any paste on hand or omit it completely.
- Dark chocolate: I recommend using high-quality chocolate bars instead of chocolate chips as chips have less cocoa butter and contain added stabilizers (making them more difficult to melt).
- Oreos: Any creme-filled chocolate cookie will work, honestly, but I love using double stuf Oreos.
- Black cocoa: To amp up that cookies n cream flavor in the filling.
- Powdered sugar: To both sweeten and thicken up the filling to the perfect consistency.
- Honey: Just a tad for the sugar syrup; though you can totally leave it out!
- Cinnamon: Another optional ingredient like the honey; I find it adds just the right amount of flavor though!
How to Make Cookies n Cream Babka
The Babka Dough
Babka uses an enriched dough, which means there are eggs, butter, and sugar in it. To make the babka dough, you’ll first need to combine the yeast and warm milk in the bowl of a standing mixer. I like to just give a quick whisk until combined (if you're using active dry yeast, you'll let it sit until the yeast is activated; this will take a few minutes). Then, add in the butter, egg, salt, sugar, and flour. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it’s completely smooth and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
From there, the babka dough will need to rise; you can either allow it to rest in your fridge for 6-8 hours (or overnight) OR you can allow it to rise at room temperature for 60-90 minutes. The fridge route makes for a dough that's super easy to work with when it comes time to rolling and shaping, however, the room temp method allows you to dig in sooner!
The Cookies n Cream Dark Chocolate Filling
This is the easiest bit—yay! To make the gooey cookies n cream chocolate filling, you simply have to melt the chocolate and butter together, then stir in a little black cocoa powder and the powdered sugar. This should form a thick-ish paste that you’ll need to spread over the babka dough once it’s been rolled out. Then you'll just take 8-10 Oreos (or your fav chocolate creme-filled cookie) and chop/crush them up; we'll use these to sprinkle over the chocolate filling before rolling our dough up.
Assembling the Babka Loaf
This is usually the part of making homemade babka that intimidates people the most. Stick with me, you’ll be totally fine! To create that iconic babka swirl pattern, you’ll need to first roll the dough out into a rectangle. Spread the cookies n cream dark chocolate filling over the dough, leaving a border around the edge (this will prevent the filling from seeping out). Roll the dough into a long, tight log (similar to the process of making cinnamon rolls) and then seal the babka edges. Afterward, cut it lengthwise—you’ll be left with two long, skinny logs. Lay the skinny logs next to each other with the cut side facing up. You can then twist the logs together to form the babka braid and pinch the ends together so they're sealed. Once you’ve braided the babka, let it rest in the loaf pan and leave it to rise for another 30-45 minutes or so. Then, just pop it into the preheated oven and bake!
The Simple Syrup
While the babka bakes, you’ll need to make a simple syrup to brush over top of it. To add some flavor to the syrup, I add 1/2 tablespoon of honey and a pinch of cinnamon before bringing it to a boil. As soon as the babka is taken out of the oven, brush it with the syrup. It adds that glossy sheen on top plus, it adds a little moisture to the dense loaf (& keeps it fresh longer).
Cookies n Cream Babka Recipe Troubleshooting & FAQ
Can I make this babka by hand?
If you don’t have a mixer, you can mix the babka dough with a wooden spoon in a large bowl before kneading the dough by hand. It will take at least 15 to 20 minutes. Be careful not to over-flour the counter if you’re hand kneading, as you don’t want to incorporate too much additional flour into the dough!
How do I know when the babka is done baking?
You're looking for a golden brown color! To be extra sure that your babka loaf has finished baking, you can use an instant-read thermometer to check if the internal temperature has reached 190°F (88°C).
Can I skip the sugar syrup?
No, don't skip the syrup at the end! It not only makes the babka exterior shiny and beautiful but also helps keeps the bread from drying out and keeps the babka fresh longer!
How is babka served?
Since it's a cake-bread hybrid, a slice of this cookies n cream babka is perfect for breakfast or as a dessert! Serve it heated up, toasted with butter (my new fav), or at room temperature!
How do I store babka? Can babka be frozen?
This cookies n' cream babka keeps well at room temperature for up to 3 days; be sure to wrap it up in plastic or place it in an airtight container. You can also freeze it if you’d like to store it longer; freeze in either individual slices so you can thaw a portion at a time to snack on or freeze the whole loaf. To freeze babka, wrap the loaf in plastic before wrapping it in tin foil; it will last for about 2 months. When ready to enjoy, thaw it overnight in the fridge and then leave it at room temperature.
This is not an ultra-quick recipe. Making the dough from scratch, letting it rise, making the filling, rolling, shaping, & baking… it all takes time, I won’t sugarcoat it. That being said, despite the time commitment, each step is actually really simple. In the end, this cookies n cream babka is so tasty and such a crowd-pleaser that you’ll find it's well worth it!
If you’ve tried this cookies n cream babka recipe, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how you liked it in the comments below; I love hearing from you!
Cookies n' Cream Babka
For the Vanilla Bean Brioche Dough:
- 125 g milk warm (115°F)
- 7 g instant dry yeast
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 42 g unsalted butter melted
- 250 g all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 50 g granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the Cookies n' Cream Chocolate Filling:
- 113 g unsalted butter
- 115 g dark chocolate (70% cacao)
- 15 g black cocoa
- 120 g powdered sugar
- 8-10 Oreos coarsely chopped
For the Simple Syrup:
- 50 g granulated sugar
- 60 g water
- 10 g honey (optional)
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- Make the vanilla bean brioche dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, mix together the yeast with the milk. Add the egg, butter, flour, salt, sugar, and vanilla bean paste and mix until the ingredients are just barely combined. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes so the flour has time to hydrate.
- Using the hook attachment, knead on medium speed for about 5 minutes until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 8-10 minutes longer. *If you do not have a stand-mixer with a hook attachment, knead the dough by hand in this step.*
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap, a paper towel, or aluminum foil and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 60 to 90 minutes.
- Make the cookies n' cream chocolate filling: While the dough is rising, make the filling. Place the butter and chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water to create a double boiler. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is fully melted. Then remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the black cocoa and powdered sugar. Set aside and allow filling to cool & thicken into a paste.
- Butter an 8x4-inch loaf pan and line with parchment paper leaving an overhang on the two long sides (which will help you remove the baked babka later). Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 16×12-inch rectangle. (If the dough resists and contracts when rolling, let it rest for 5-10 minutes and then continue rolling.) Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick.
- Spread the cookies n' cream chocolate filling all over the dough and then sprinkle the chopped Oreos on top. Starting with the shorter end, tightly roll up the dough to form a 12-inch-long log. Using a sharp knife, cut the log in half, lengthwise. Turn the dough slightly to ensure the cut sides are facing upwards on both pieces. Pinch the ends together on one side then gently twist the two pieces of dough, pinching the other ends together as well. Carefully push on both ends to compress the twisted strands of dough until they are about the length of your loaf pan. Using both hands, carefully place the babka into the prepared loaf pan, tucking the ends under slightly if needed. Cover and let proof somewhere warm for about 45 to 60 minutes, or until risen and puffy.
- While the loaf is proofing, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Once risen, bake the babka for 40-45 minutes, until the babka is golden brown and measures 190°F (90°C) on an instant-read thermometer.
- Make the simple syrup: While the babka is baking, bring the sugar, water, honey, and cinnamon to a boil in a small saucepan. Let boil for 2-3 minutes, or until the sugar is completely dissolved, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface with a spoon. Remove from heat and let stand.
- Remove the babka from the oven and brush the loaf with the sugar syrup while hot. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes then remove and transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before slicing. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days or wrap tightly before freezing.
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