Jill Fergus

I began cooking as a child and feeding family and friends has always been my passion. My kitchen is a busy one. I love to experiment and embrace the kitchen successes along with the accidents. I love to cook and collaborate with friends. I am seasonally driven (I love the farmer's market!), avoid processed foods and focus on whole and organic (mostly plant-based, but not exclusively) choices. In my home, my family has a variety of eating preferences from plant-based, gluten free, refined sugar free to full on omnivore. My goal is to create dishes to please all, either as is or with minor adjustments to the recipe. Where did "Feed the Swimmers" come from? When my kids began swimming competitively and growing into young adults, I realized, even more, how important nutrition is to performance, growth and overall health and emotional well being. Everyone (including the coach during travel meets) would ask "what are you feeding the swimmers?" This has become my mantra whenever I'm in my kitchen cooking for family and the friends I love.



Chocolate Hazelnut Babka

Chocolate Hazelnut Babka

Some of my favorite days in the kitchen are those I spend with Erin. We’ve been baking together for over a year now and every one of our baking days result in spectacular creations and a very messy kitchen (unless we feel lazy and catch up on emails and such together and play with all the fur babies) and this Babka is no exception!

We frequently share recipes we batch cook and, on this day, Erin had brought over a big jar of chocolate hazelnut spread she had made from the Dandelion Chocolate cookbook (one I highly recommend!). Oh man! This spread is amazing, like really over the top, and we decided to put it to good use by pairing it with tender brioche dough- our Babka was born! This recipe yields two loaves. You have plenty to share (or keep all for yourself as it freezes well) and any leftovers make divine French toast and bread pudding. And, if you don’t have the time to make your own chocolate hazelnut spread, Nutella or your favorite will be just fine!


The dough may be made the evening before doing the first proof overnight in the fridge. If you do this, you will be able to skip the freezing step below as the dough will have achieved the desired firm texture.

Any day or two old leftovers that have dried out a bit are ideal for bread pudding. I cut back on the sugar as this babka is already nice and sweet.

We used previously chopped and toasted hazelnuts for the filling. If you will be chopping you own and starting with raw nuts, start with the toasting instructions in the recipe for the Chocolate Hazelnut Spread. I would cut baking time back to 5 minutes.


Chocolate Hazelnut Babka

Yields 2 loaves


Brioche Dough:

1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast

3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk, lukewarm

4 Tbsp sugar

3 3/4 cups (565g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

115g (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature and divided

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (recipe from Dandelion Chocolate):

280g (2 cups) raw hazelnuts

424g (3/4 cup) melted dark chocolate (at least 70%)

200g (1 cup) sugar

1 tsp kosher salt


1 ¼- 1 ½ cups chocolate hazelnut spread

1 cup lightly toasted and chopped hazelnuts (we used pre-chopped)

Egg Wash

1 egg plus 1 Tbs water



1- In a small bowl, combine the yeast, milk and 2 Tbsp of the sugar. Mix well, and leave to sit for 10-15 minutes, or until foamy. In addition, prepare a large bowl for the dough by brushing with oil and set aside.

2- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, salt, and remaining 2 Tbsp sugar. Mix briefly to combine. Add the eggs, vanilla, and foamy yeast mixture to the bowl. Mix on low for 2-3 minutes, until the dough is starting to come together. It may look slightly dry at this point, but do not worry - it will come together nicely (a few more steps to go). Increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix for another 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth.

3- Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the butter a little at a time, until each portion is fully incorporated into the dough before adding more. This process should take 3-4 minutes. Once the butter is fully incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix for an additional 5 minutes, until the dough is very soft and smooth.

4- Transfer dough to the oiled bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot until doubled in size, approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours.

5- Once the dough has risen, punch down slightly and shape into a rectangle. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and place on a baking sheet. Place in the freezer for 2 hours to firm up before rolling).

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread…

1- Preheat the oven to 350˚f /180˚c. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven, shaking occasionally, for 8-10 mins, checking often, until they are golden brown. Allow to cool completely, then rub between your hands to remove the skins. Do not worry about any stubborn skins. Transfer to the work bowl of a food processor, and pulse briefly to chop.

2- Add the melted dark chocolate, sugar, and salt. Pulse to combine, then mix on high speed for at least five minutes. Check, and give more time mixing if needed. Transfer to a container and store at room temperature until you are ready to use.

Assembling the Babka-

1- Lightly grease two loaf pans, and line with parchment paper.

2- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 16" x 25" rectangle (40x64cm). Spread the hazelnut spread over the surface of the dough, and sprinkle with the hazelnuts. Starting with the long side, roll up into a tight spiral. Cut in half, and set one half aside. Using a sharp knife, cut the first piece in half, lengthwise (this will expose the filling), and then cross the pieces over one another to create a twist, as shown in the photos (this video also explains well). Place into the loaf pan, tucking the ends under slightly if needed. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

3- Lightly cover the loaf pans in plastic wrap, and place in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the dough springs back lightly when pressed. While the loaves are proofing, preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c.

4- Brush the loaves lightly with egg wash. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely before slicing. Store leftovers in an airtight container, or wrap tightly before freezing. I like to slice some before freezing for easy access to single servings or overnight French toast. Any babka that’s a little dry if it’s a day or two old is ideal for bread pudding.


spread filling evenly 

spread filling evenly 


Roll lengthwise


Slice lengthwise using a sharp knife  


Create a simple twist


Yuck ends under a bit and place in prepared loaf pans. Lining with parchment makes for easy lifting the final baked loaf.  


And, day or two old Babka makes heavenly bread pudding! Never bum out at stale bread! 

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