Babka has been on my to-do list for a long time now. So when King Arthur Flour featured their babka recipe as their Bakealong Challenge back in April, I Jumped on the opportunity to finally make my own.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with babka, it’s like cinnamon swirl bread but on crack. Often filled with chocolate or cinnamon and nuts, then topped with a sweet, crunchy streusel topping – this stuff is irresistible.
Though it looks very intimidating, having finally made it I can honestly say it’s not nearly as scary or daunting as I thought it would be. It’s a lot like making cinnamon rolls except you don’t have to cut the log into individual pieces, although once I made these all I wanted to do was turn them into rolls… which is why my April post turned into a July post (oops?).
However you decide to shape it, your babka will start with a simple sweet yeast dough. Once properly kneaded, you let it rise, shape it, let it rise again, then bake it off in the oven.
I know what you’re thinking… You’re looking at all those twisties and and saying to yourself that clearly this is some kind of trick. It must be harder than expected because just LOOK at how beautiful these babies are. I assure you, it’s no trick. Though time consuming (as all yeast breads are), these are not actually “difficult”. I made these three ways so you can choose your favorite and run with it.
The original recipe provided by King Arthur Flour gave enough for two loaves, so I’ve halved the recipe assuming you will only want to make one loaf (or 12 rolls). If you want to make two loaves (or two batches of rolls), feel free to double the recipe and divide it into two pieces after its first rise to work one loaf at a time. I did NOT halve the filling or the topping, you will use all the filling in the rolls and you’ll have leftover topping but that stuff is good on everything so feel free to stash it in your fridge or freezer for the next time you want to jazz something up with a bit of streusel on top.
- 1/2 to 2/3 cups warm water
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 3 cups + 2 tablespoons (13.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk*
- 1 tablespoon instant (rapid rise) yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup dutch cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
- 1 cup mini chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg, beaten (set aside)
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 Tablespoon milk
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine all of the dough ingredients, using the lesser amount of water. Mix the ingredients together until everything is moistened, adding additional water if necessary to enable the dough to come together. It will still be a little lumpy and not very pretty. Once the dough comes together, cover the bowl with a cloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
- After resting, knead the dough by hand or with the dough hook until it becomes soft and smooth like a normal bread dough.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the dough becomes very puffy (it may not quite double in size).
- If you need a break, now's the time to take it. Instead of allowing to rise now, you can cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, remove from fridge and allow to rise, covered, for 2 to 3 hours until it's nice and puffy.
- Stir sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and espresso until the butter is fully incorporated. Set aside, covered, until ready to use. (Do not mix the chocolate chips or nuts in with the other ingredients).
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl until moistened. You should be able to press the streusel into clumps with your hands.
- Extra streusel can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. Throw it on top of banana bread or muffins, or toss some into pancake or waffle batter. You can also freeze it for a month or two if you like.
- Line a 9-by-13 inch pan with parchment and grease lightly with butter or cooking spray.
- Pour dough onto counter and gently deflate, stretching/patting into a rectangle.
- Roll dough into a rectangle approximately 15 by 20 inches. If it's being stubborn cover it with a towel and let it set 5 to 10 minutes to relax. I usually use a combination of rolling and stretching until I achieve my desired size, it doesn't have to perfect, just something in that vicinity.
- Spread filling over the dough and sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts.
- Starting at the long end, roll the dough into a log about 20-inches long. Trim about a half inch or so off of each end to get rid of the straggly edges.
- Using a serrated knife, cut into 12 equal-sized rolls and place cut-side down into prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until rolls become puffy and begin to crowd each other in the pan.
- Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Once ready to bake, lightly brush the tops of the rolls with egg wash and sprinkle generously with streusel topping.
- Bake rolls for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown on top and baked through.
- In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and milk until no lumps remain. If too runny, add more powdered sugar, if too thick add more milk. The glaze should be on the thicker side, sort of like Elmer's glue but more delicious.
- Drizzle glaze over slightly-cooled rolls. Best served the day they are made (and still slightly warm).
- Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment and grease lightly with butter or cooking spray.
- Shape each half of the dough into a 9" x 18", 1/4"-thick rectangle.
- Smear dough with the filling, coming to within an inch of the edges and scatter nuts and chocolate chips over the filling
- Starting with a short end, roll the dough gently into a log, sealing the seam and ends.
- Use a pair of scissors or a sharp knife to cut the log in half lengthwise to make two long pieces of dough.
- With the exposed filling side up, twist the two pieces into a braid, tucking the ends underneath. Place into prepared baking pan
- Starting with the long end, roll the dough gently into a log, sealing the seam and ends.
- Fold the dough log in half (like a horse shoe) and twist the horseshoe. Place log into prepared baking pan.
- Starting with a short end, gently roll the dough into a log about 10-inches long, sealing the seam and ends. Place log into prepared baking pan.
- Place loaf into a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap, allowing to rise about 2 hours. Right before baking, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with topping.
- Preheat oven to 300°F and bake for 35 minutes. Tent with foil then continue baking an additional 15-25 minutes, for a total baking time of 50-60 minutes.
- Remove loaf from the oven, and immediately loosen the edges with a heatproof spatula or table knife. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.
* If you don't have dry milk, substitute liquid milk for the water.
* If the dough doesn't want to roll/stretch out, cover it with a clean towel and let it rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten, then stretch it some more.
* For those (like me) who like to rely on thermometers, the bread should reach an internal temperature of at least 190°F