This chocolate orange cranberry babka has the fluffiest brioche dough (with an overnight rise option!) made with dried cranberries, orange zest, and a rich chocolate filling. It's drizzled with a zesty orange simple syrup that keeps the bread pillowy soft & moist.
This chocolate orange cranberry babka is made with an enriched dough, making it pillowy soft & fluffy. This bread has tons of flavor from dried cranberries & orange zest in the bread, a rich chocolate filling, and a zesty orange simple syrup that keeps the bread nice & moist.
This recipe is adapted from my Fluffy Brioche Bread recipe - brioche is incredibly versatile because you can use it for babkas, donuts, cinnamon rolls & more! It can be adapted to your flavor & mix-in preferences. Make sure to read that blog post for all the tips & tricks!
Why you will love this chocolate orange cranberry babka
- Super soft brioche. This babka is made from an enriched dough so it's pillowy soft & buttery. While making bread from scratch does add a layer of complexity, this recipe has easy, straight-forward instructions, which will make it all worth it!
- Festive flavors. Cranberry & orange is a winter flavor combination that I adore! With fresh orange zest & juice, tart raspberries, & rich chocolate, this babka is so flavorful.
- There is an overnight option. It can be difficult to set aside multiple hours just to make bread. That's why I make it by proofing the dough overnight when I am short on time. This allows you to not have to babysit the dough while it's rising.
- All purpose flour: the primary structural component of the bread, creating a soft & tender crumb.
- Salt & nutmeg: added spices to enhance the flavor profile of the bread.
- Dried cranberries: chopped dried cranberries are mixed throughout the dough for added flavor & texture. Try to chop them as small as possible!
- Whole milk: used for added moisture. If using active yeast, the milk needs to be heated to 110F. If you are using instant yeast, the temperature of the milk does not really matter.
- Yeast: yeast is responsible for the rise and volume of the dough. Instant yeast or active yeast works in this recipe.
- Granulated sugar: aside from adding sweetness, the sugar also acts as food for the yeast, promoting fermentation and allowing the dough to rise.
- Eggs: eggs enrich the dough with their fat content, contributing to the brioche's tender crumb and structure.
- Oranges: a key flavor in this brioche! Orange zest is used in the bread, while freshly squeezed orange juice is used in the simple syrup that we drizzle on top of the warm loaf.
- Unsalted butter: butter adds to the soft & fluffy texture and that signature buttery taste.
- Heavy cream: used in the filling for added creaminess.
- Chocolate: I used semi-sweet baking chocolate in this recipe, but feel free to choose whatever cacao percentages you prefer!
- Powdered sugar: sweetens the chocolate filling.
- Cocoa powder: I used dutch processed cocoa powder for a deep chocolate flavor, but regular unsweetened cocoa powder also works.
See recipe card for the full list of ingredients & their quantities.
How to make a chocolate orange cranberry babka
1. Make the brioche dough.
Whisk together flour, salt, and nutmeg. Add the chopped cranberries and toss to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the yeast & sugar. Slowly stream this mixture into heated milk while continuously whisking. If you are using active dry yeast, allow the mixture to sit for 15 minutes. If using instant yeast, simply move on to the next step.
To the milk/yeast mixture, add eggs, vanilla extract, and orange zest. Whisk well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients & mix until a ball forms around the dough hook. Then, gradually add your butter a few pieces at a time, waiting for the butter to be fully incorporated before adding more. Knead for 8-12 minutes, cover and let rise for 1 hour until doubled in size or overnight in the fridge.
2. Make the filling & shape the dough.
When the dough has about 45 minutes left to proof, prepare the filling. Over the stove on medium heat, mix together heavy cream & butter until the butter is melted. Add the chopped chocolate & mix until the chocolate is melted and combined. Whisk in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, & salt. Set aside to cool.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 16x12 inch rectangle. Spread the filling evenly. From one of the short ends, begin rolling up the dough into a tight log. Pinch the seam to seal and trim each edge. Cut the dough in half lengthwise, exposing the layers.
With the cut sides facing up, weave the two halves together. Carefully transfer the babka to a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Let rise for another 30-40 minutes until puffy.
3. Bake & make the simple syrup.
Once the dough has completed its final rise, brush the tops with an egg wash. Bake for 45-55 minutes at 350F. The tops should be golden brown.
While the dough is baking, prepare the simple syrup by combining the water, sugar, and freshly squeezed orange juice in a sauce pan over medium heat. Let it come to a boil, then simmer for 4-5 minutes. Once the loaf is done, immediately brush the simple syrup on top of the loaf. It will slowly seep in, making the loaf incredibly moist.
Brioche bread baking tips
- Use a kitchen scale. I cannot stress this enough - a kitchen scale is the only way to ensure accurate results. They are cheap and will make cleaning up SO much easier.
- Don't boil the milk. If the milk is too hot, it can kill the yeast and the bread won't rise.
- Allow the dough to rise for the entire instructed time. Don't rush the rise process! Interrupting the rise can result in a dense bread.
- If you let the dough rise in the fridge, make sure to bake within 24 hours. It is perfectly okay to let your dough rise in the fridge overnight. However, try not to let it reach that 24 hour mark, otherwise you run the risk of having an over-proofed dough.
- Use an egg wash. The only way to achieve a shiny, golden brown crust is to use an egg wash.
You certainly can, but it will take a lot of elbow grease!
Bread products are best enjoyed the day they are made, but if you have leftovers, place them in an airtight container or wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. Store at room temperature for up to 1-2 days.
Whether you proof your dough at room temperature or overnight in the fridge, proofing time is crucial. Gently poke the bread with a floured finger. Immediate spring back means the dough needs more time to rise. No spring back means the dough is over-proofed & should be baked immediately. Slow spring back means it should be good to go!
If these flavors aren't your cup of tea, just leave one or both out! Make this a classic chocolate babka or experiment by adding other flavors such as pistachios, dried cherries, hazelnuts, espresso powder, etc.!
Baking in grams
I rely on gram measurements when testing recipes because they offer the highest level of accuracy (and less cleanup!). Unlike volume measurements, which can vary, grams provide a reliable and consistent standard. I carefully test all of my recipes using this kitchen scale, therefore I cannot guarantee the outcome when using volume measurements. However, volume measurements are available in the recipe card.
Other bread recipes
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Chocolate Orange Cranberry Babka
- 2 ½ cups (313 grams) all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ cup (65 grams) dried cranberries finely chopped
- ½ cup (120 grams) whole milk does not need to be room temperature
- 1 standard (7 grams) instant or active yeast packet a standard yeast packet is about 2 ¼ teaspoons
- ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon orange zest about 1-2 medium oranges
- 5 tablespoons (71 grams) unsalted butter room temperature, cut in cubes
- ¼ cup (57 grams) unsalted butter does not need to be room temperature
- ¼ cup (60 grams) heavy cream does not need to be room temperature
- 4 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate finely chopped
- ⅓ cup (40 grams) powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons (15 grams) dutch processed cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- ½ cup (120 grams) water
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, mix the flour, salt, and nutmeg. Add the chopped dried cranberries & whisk to combine. Set aside.2 ½ cups all purpose flour, ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ cup dried cranberries
- Heat the milk to 110F (if you don’t have a thermometer, I usually microwave it for 30 seconds on high, which gets me to about 110-120F).½ cup whole milk
- While the milk is heating up, combine the yeast and the sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.1 standard instant or active yeast packet, ¼ cup granulated sugar
- While whisking constantly, slowly stream in the sugar/yeast mixture into the heated milk. If you are using active dry yeast, allow the mixture to sit for 15 minutes. The yeast will activate in this time. If using instant yeast, you don’t have to wait for the yeast to activate, simply move on to the next step.
- Mix the eggs, vanilla extract, & orange zest into the milk/yeast mixture. Whisk well to combine.2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon orange zest
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, using the dough hook, mix on low-medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until the dough forms a ball around the hook.
- With the mixer on medium speed, add the butter a few pieces at a time, allowing them to fully incorporate before adding more. Once all of the butter is fully incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and knead for an additional 8-12 minutes.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- To check if the dough has kneaded enough, rip off a small piece and spread it gently in between your fingers. If it stretches easily without ripping and you can see light passing through it, it is finished and ready to proof.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a towel, and let it rise in a warm environment for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Alternatively, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in the fridge overnight.
- When the dough has about 45 minutes left to rise, make the filling. Combine butter & heavy cream over the stove on medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted.¼ cup unsalted butter, ¼ cup heavy cream
- Add the chocolate and mix until melted & combined. Remove from the heat.4 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate
- Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt and whisk until smooth. Pour the filling into a heat proof bowl and chill for 20-30 minutes in the fridge stirring periodically until paste-like.⅓ cup powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons dutch processed cocoa powder, ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Prepare a 9x5 inch loaf pan by lining it with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a 12x16 inch rectangle.
- Spread the filling onto the rolled out dough. Starting on one of the short sides, tightly roll up the dough into a log and pinch the seam to seal. Trim the edges then cut it in half lengthwise.
- Cut sides up, begin weaving the two pieces together. Place in your loaf pan, cover & let rise for an additional 30-40 minutes until puffy.
- Preheat oven to 350F & prepare the egg wash by whisking together the egg & heavy cream. Brush the dough with the mixture then bake for 45-55 minutes until the edges are deeply golden & a toothpick comes out with no resistance.1 egg, 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- While in the oven, make the simple syrup by combining the water, sugar, and freshly squeezed orange juice in a sauce pan over medium heat. Let it come to a boil, then simmer for 4-5 minutes.½ cup water, ½ cup granulated sugar, 3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- Once the loaf is done, immediately brush the simple syrup on top of the loaf. It will slowly seep in, making the babka incredibly moist. Let cool in the pan. Enjoy!
Tried this recipe? Make sure to rate and review and tag @sturbridgebakery on Instagram!