Cue all the Seinfeld references and jokes. Just lay ’em on me now. Get it out of your system.
I’d be lying if I said my husband didn’t crack a gazillion (dad) jokes about cinnamon babka being the inferior babka when he found out what I was making. That was until he had his first bite and then he was eating his words – literally – because this babka is so freaking good.
THE BEST even. I’d take it over chocolate babka any day, but my love for cinnamon swirls knows no bounds.
Picture cinnamon swirl bread sans the raisins (phew!) and amped up with a soft and buttery enriched dough.
THEN top it with a brown butter glaze.
I mean…………if that’s not what heaven tastes like, I don’t know what is.
Babka has come a long way since its Seinfeld days, gaining an almost cult following over the past decade, in part due to the efforts of Uri Scheft, the pastry chef behind the confections at Breads Bakery in NYC. Originating in the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, babka started as a variation on challah when extra challah dough was rolled up with various jams or spices and baked up into a loaf of its own.
It has evolved into the wonder that it is today through the invention and ingenuity of bakers around the world, capitalizing on the original concept of babka but drawing on a wide variety of global flavors to reinvent it in innumerous ways.
In some ways, with it’s traditional cinnamon sugar swirls, this recipe from Melissa Weller via her A Good Bake cookbook goes back to babka’s roots but in a truly amplified, majorly delicious way.
It starts off with a fairly typical enriched sweet dough that is allowed to ferment both at room temperature and overnight in the fridge to allow its flavors to develop more fully. The refrigeration also makes it easier to work with and rolling it out is truly stress-free.
The filling is a mixture of cinnamon, butter, almond paste, and honey. It is rich in spice, easily spreadable, and pretty addictive. I recommend against tasting it out of the mixing bowl because once you start it will be difficult to stop.
The final loaves contain two sets of dizzying swirls and are topped with a brown butter glaze while still warm that forms the most luscious sugary crust. They make for a truly indulgent (but worth it!) breakfast but are decadent enough to also work as dessert if that’s more your thing.
I’m betting they would also make for some pretty next level French toast, that is if you can hold off on devouring the loaves for long enough to let them stale slightly. We didn’t quite accomplish that feat (I won’t tell you how quickly we demolished them, let’s just say it was embarrassingly fast), and I say godspeed to anyone who tries, and please report back if you do.
- 3¾ cups (450 g) all purpose flour
- ½ cup (100 g) sugar
- 1 tbsp (9 g) instant yeast
- 2 tsp (12 g) fine sea salt
- 1 cup (240 g) whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 10 tbsp (141 g) unsalted butter, cubed and softened
- ⅓ cup (80 g) almond paste
- 1 cup (200 g) brown sugar
- ¼ cup (30 g) ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp (6 g) fine sea salt
- 14 tbsp (197 g) unsalted butter, cubed and softened
- 1 tbsp + 2 tsp (33 g) honey
- 1 large egg
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 4 tbsp (56 g) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (120 g) powdered sugar
- pinch fine sea salt
- 2 tbsp (30 g) whole milk
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix together the milk, egg, and egg yolk. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 3 minutes. Once well mixed, increased the speed to medium and mix for 5-8 minutes or until the dough completely wraps around the dough hook and cleans the sides of the bowl during mixing. With the mixer running, add in the butter and mix until completely incorporated, about 5-10 minutes.
- Cover the mixer bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest in the mixer bowl in a warm place for 2 hours, turning the dough after 1 hour. To turn the dough, use a wet hand to lift one side of the dough and fold it over the dough remaining in the bowl. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat on all sides. Re-cover the bowl and allow to finish resting.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease it with nonstick cooking spray. Dust a large, clean work surface with flour. Transfer the dough to the floured work surface. Divide it in half. Place the dough halves on the prepare baking sheet and pat them into even squares. Place in the refrigerator, uncovered, and allow to chill for 2 hours or overnight. If leaving overnight, cover the dough with plastic wrap after the initial 2 hour chill.
- Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with flour. Set aside.
- Dust a large, clean work surface with flour. Unwrap and remove one square of dough from the refrigerator and place it on the floured work surface. Roll the dough into a 16-inch square. Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet, folding any overhanging edges over the sheet of dough so that they are resting on the baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator and repeat with the second square of dough. Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the refrigerated dough. Place the second sheet of dough on the paper, again folding in any overhanging edges. Return to the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the almond paste, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and butter. Mix on low speed until the butter and the paste have completely mixed together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the honey. Mix on low until just combined. Transfer the filling to a small bowl and set aside.
- Grease two 9x5-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.
- Remove the babka dough from the refrigerator. Lift one sheet of dough off the baking sheet and onto a work surface. Return the second sheet to the refrigerator.
- Divide the filling in half and use half for each babka.
- Spread two thirds of one portion of the filling over the surface of the dough, making sure it is spread all the way to the edges. Roll the dough away from you to form a fat roll. Pick the babka up and gently pull on the ends to elongate it. Set the roll down and cut it in half down the middle.
- Spread the remaining one third portion of filling across one top of one of the two halves. Place the second half on top of the filing to form an X. Twist the ends of the bottom roll up and over the top roll to cover the filling. Place the babka in one of the prepared loaf pans.
- Repeat with the second sheet of dough and the remaining portion of filling.
- Cover each babka with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm spot for 2-4 hours or until doubled in size.
- Heat oven to 350F.
- To make the egg wash, whisk the egg with the salt in a small bowl. Uncover the babka loaves and brush the egg wash over their tops.
- Place babkas in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until deep golden, rotating halfway through. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in their pans for 5-10 minutes, then flip out onto a cooling rack. Place right side up and allow to cool slightly.
- While the babkas are still warm, make the glaze. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, or until browned and nutty. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool slightly.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the powdered sugar with the sea salt. Whisk the milk and brown butter into the dry ingredients until smooth.
- Spoon the warm glaze over the tops of the warm babka loaves. Allow to set before slicing.