Sourdough Chocolate Hazelnut Cardamom Loaf

A few days ago I rewatched “The Great British Baking Show” season 4 bread week episode, and was inspired by Rav’s signature bake, a cardamom hazelnut chocolate babka. I love, love, LOVE the taste of cardamom and I’m always looking for excuses to use it in my cooking and baking. I converted his recipe into a full sourdough recipe, so you’ll need a live and active starter to make it. Enough chit-chat, let’s get to work on this delicious sourdough bake!

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An in-depth explanation of the different elements in this bake follows, but if you’d like to skip all of that TLDR

You will need a 100% hydration mother starter as a base for your levain build. As with most enriched dough recipes that I convert into sourdough, I use a sweet stiff starter as a levain. This allows me to maintain a low hydration level without adding extra liquid from my starter. I think the added sugars in the levain also kick the little yeasts into high gear and allows the dough to get a good rise even with all the richness from the milk, butter and eggs.

Aside from the use of a sourdough starter, my recipe differs from Rav’s in that I upped the fat content for more richness, and use the tangzhong method for an extra soft and chewy crumb (visit the King Arthur Bread Flour blog for an AWESOME explanation on exactly what tangzhong is, complete with photos). Tangzhong might be an extra step, but I promise it’s worth it for an oh-so tender pillowy-soft bread, as you can see from my bread pull.

I thought it would be a stretch, but I did manage to bake this bread in a single day (not including the levain build). Overall it took me 12 hours including mixing, bulk fermentation, proofing and baking to create this loaf. You can however, stretch bulk fermentation out overnight if it fits better with your schedule, it will also help develop the flavors in the dough even more.

While I usually like mixing my dough by hand, I just haven’t managed to do it with this mix, all the enrichments just make it too sticky. I used a food processor to combine the dough, which while less fun for me does make the process super easy.

I was encouraged to write this blog post after the amazing response by fellow members to photos of this loaf on the Sourdough Bread Baking group on Facebook. If you are a sourdough fan like me, I encourage you to join the group, there are bakers of all levels who can answer any of your questions, as well as newbies who you can help along the way.

Now on to the recipe! 


Sweet Stiff Levain

QuantityIngredientBaker’s Percentage
100 gAll Purpose Flour100%
65 g Water65%
30 g Honey30%
30 gStarter 100% hydration, unfed30%


QuantityIngredientBaker’s Percentage
15 gAll Purpose Flour100%
85 g Whole Milk566%


QuantityIngredientBaker’s Percentage
270 g Bread Flour (Bob’s Red Mill) 90%
30 g Whole Wheat Flour (Bob’s Red Mill)10%
100 g Whole Milk33%
60 gWhite Sugar20%
70 g Unsalted Butter25%
1 tspGreen Cardamom Powder
1Whole Egg
1Egg Yolk
4.5 gSalt1.5% 
120 gSweet Stiff Levain40%
Tangzhong mixture


Quantity Ingredient
50 gCrushed Hazelnuts
100 gDark Chocolate (I used Lindt 70% Dark Chocolate)

Egg Wash

1 Egg White
1 tbspWhole Milk or Water


Sweet Stiff Starter:

The night before you plan on baking your loaf, mix together all of the ingredients to make your sweet stiff levain. The mixture should be thick, but not too dry due to the honey in the mix. Set aside in a nice warm place to mature overnight. Your starter is ready when it has doubled in size and forms gluten strands when pulled from the container. You’ll end up with a little bit more than you’ll need for your recipe.


In a medium-sized pot combine flour and milk from the tangzhong section. Cook over medium heat whisking constantly until the mixture becomes a thick slurry. Cool completely before combining with the remaining dough ingredients.

Dough mix:

In a food processor combine flour, milk, cooled tangzhong mixture, sugar, salt, cardamom, eggs, mature sweet stiff starter and butter. Process until the dough comes together in a smooth, pliable ball. Timings can vary depending your food processor, dough is ready once it passes the windowpane stage.

Bulk Fermentation:

Turn dough mixture out into a clean surface and form into a tight ball. Place into a greased  medium-sized bowl and cover.

Let dough rise at room temperature (75 F/ 23 C) for 6 hours or in a refrigerator overnight.


Once your dough has doubled in size, scrape your dough out onto a clean surface. Roll dough out into a large rectangle and sprinkle hazelnuts and chocolate evenly over dough.

Feel free to shape this dough however you’d like. It should fit into an 8 x 4 glass loaf pan, you may be able to use tin or a different sized pan but your baking times may vary. I shaped my dough like an 8-strand plaited loaf, and used Paul Hollywood’s instructions.

Place your dough into a parchment-lined loaf pan (I used an 8 x 4 inch Pyrex glass loaf pan).

Final Proof:

Cover dough with plastic and allow to proof for 2 to 4 hours. As with all sourdough baking, this could vary depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Dough will be ready to bake when it’s puffy and light.

Near the end of your final proof, preheat oven to 350 F/175 C


When the dough is ready, bake covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, carefully remove cover from bread, brush with egg wash and bake for an additional 25 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 190 F/88 C.

Turn loaf out onto a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

This bread was amazingly moist, with a great flavor from the cardamom which perfectly accents the hazelnut and bittersweet chocolate. I really hope you make this bread and enjoy it as much as I did!

If you enjoyed this recipe, please be sure to follow my Instagram @MakeItDough for more sourdough and baking ideas. If you have questions feel free to DM me. Remember to post a photo and tag me when you make this delicious loaf, I’d love to see how your loaves came out!

More Sourdough Recipes and Guides

12 Comments Add yours

  1. I rattling delighted to find this website on bing, just what I was looking for : D as well saved to favorites.

    1. So glad the information is helpful to you!!

  2. Appreciate it for all your efforts that you have put in this. very interesting information.

    1. Patricia says:

      I made this incredible babka 2 times. First time I doubled the recipe and had so much sweet starter left over I saved it in the refrigerator, then made a third loaf four days later with it. Neither time did I get much of a rise over night in the fridge, but both times a four hour final rise in the pan worked beautifully, and then a final big rise in the oven. Thank you for this wonderful recipe and excellent directions!

      1. I’m so glad it worked for you and great that you made adjustments that fit what you were working with in your kitchen!

    2. Thank you!

  3. What about using walnuts instead of hazelnuts, because that is what I have on hand.

    1. Any type works!

  4. Ina says:

    Hello! I have tried 2 of your recipes and I love it. I wanted to try this on but hesitant since it is called for a food processor. Is it possible to use a stand mixer for this? Thank you!

    1. Thank you! Glad you’re loving the recipes ❤️. You can totally use a mixer or even mix by hand if you’re comfortable with handling wet doughs.

  5. Athena Engel says:

    I’m starting the sweet stiff levain for this tonight. I dislike altering recipes, especially when this looks so amazingly perfect. However, my husband is allergic to nuts and doesn’t care for dark chocolate. Do you think this would be good with semi sweet chocolate and minus the nuts? Also, is the chocolate just finely chopped? Hopefully I’m not getting ahead of myself by making the sweet levain tonight. Thank you very much for your wonderful recipes!

    1. Making the stiff levain the night before would be absolutely fine! Subbing with semi sweet would also work really well and totally fine without nuts. Yes, chop the chocolate and yes your ground cardamom question as well. Can’t wait to hear what you think.

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