Babka is a show-stopping sweet treat you can serve at breakfast, dessert, and anytime in between. The enticing, glossy top and lovely swirls are sure to impress at your next brunch, afternoon tea, or dinner party.
What Is Babka?
Babka is a sweet, enriched yeast bread that is rolled out and spread with a sweet filling before being twisted into a loaf, baked, and finished with a sweet syrup.
Babka originates in Jewish communities of Eastern Europe and is a popular treat in Israeli cuisine. It is thought to have stemmed from an inventive way to use up leftover challah dough by spreading it with jams or fillings and rolling it into an eye-catching bake.
In recent years, the mesmerizing swirled loaves have gone viral across social media—and for good reason!
A Different Take on Babka
Traditional babka is swirled with a decadent chocolatey or fragrant cinnamon filling, but this autumn-inspired loaf is the perfect treat for anyone who lives for pumpkin spice season. Pumpkin spice babka is just as at home alongside your morning coffee (a pumpkin spice latte, perhaps?) as it is at your fall harvest celebrations from Thanksgiving to Sukkot (the Jewish autumn festival).
Tips for Making Enriched Dough
- Read the recipe before you begin. Make sure you have enough time for the dough to properly rise and bake before starting.
- Use a stand mixer. Butter, eggs, and sugar inhibit gluten formation, meaning this dough takes time to knead.
- Use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour. Bread flour has a higher protein content, meaning it will develop more gluten for a better loaf.
- Do a “window pane test” to check if your dough is kneaded properly. If you can stretch a piece of dough in your hands so that you can see light shine through without it breaking, you’re good to go.
- Let it rise. Enriched doughs often take longer to rise due to the butter, eggs, and sugar. If you feel unsure about the timing, let the dough rise gradually in the fridge overnight for the first rise.
- Chill the dough before shaping to ensure a clean twist that holds its shape.
Pumpkin Spice Babka
This recipe makes 1 large babka (similar to the kind that I grew up eating) but can be made into 2 loaves baked in smaller loaf pans (8x4-inch) for approximately 30 to 40 minutes.
For the dough
3 3/4 cups (475g) bread flour
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
1 packet instant dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup whole milk, lukewarm (110°F)
1 1/2 tablespoons neutral oil (like grapeseed or avocado oil), plus more for greasing the bowl
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
For the filling
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
3/4 cup pumpkin butter
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Stand mixer with a dough hook
Make the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the bread flour, sugar, yeast, cinnamon, and salt and mix to combine.
Pour in the lukewarm milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix on low until a dough forms, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is elastic and forms a ball around the dough hook, 6 to 8 minutes. The dough will be tacky but shouldn’t stick to the sides of the bowl.
Cover and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. This helps the gluten form before adding in the butter.
Add the butter and knead:
Uncover the dough. With the stand mixer on medium speed, add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Ensure that each tablespoon is fully incorporated before adding more. This should take 3 to 5 minutes.
Once the butter is fully mixed in, knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to the bowl, an additional 6 to 8 minutes. (Enriched dough takes longer to develop gluten, that’s why it needs so much kneading.)
Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball. Grease the bowl. Return the dough to the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.
Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to the fridge and let rise an additional hour (2 1/2 hours of proofing total). Chilled dough is easier to work with when rolling your babka.
You can let the dough continue rising in the fridge for up to 2 days to develop even more flavor.
Make the filling:
In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer (or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) to beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the pumpkin butter, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and mix until smooth.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble.
Roll out the dough and add the filling:
Scrape the chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a rectangle, about 10x15 inches.
Cold doughs are easier to shape and roll out, so keeping it in the fridge until you're ready to roll it out is key.
Use an offset spatula to spread the pumpkin butter filling in an even layer on the dough. Leave a 1/2-inch border on the short end of the dough furthest from you. This helps seal the dough when rolling.
Roll up the dough and prepare the pan:
Starting from the short end closest to you, tightly roll the dough into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Generously grease a 9x5 loaf pan with butter and line with parchment paper.
Shape the babka:
Remove the rolled dough from the freezer. Cut it in half lengthwise using a sharp knife or dough scraper.
Pinch the ends and twist the dough together to form a swirl, with the cut sides on top. Carefully transfer to the prepared loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel.
Let rest for 30 to 60 minutes at room temperature. When properly risen, the dough will expand to fill up the loaf pan. If you make an indent in the dough with your pointer finger and it springs back slowly leaving an indent, it’s done.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Start preheating the oven while the dough proofs.
Uncover and bake the babka until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean without any dough clinging to it, 45 to 55 minutes. Alternatively, use a thermometer to check the center of the loaf. Once it hits 190°F, it is fully baked. If it starts to brown too much, tent a piece of aluminum foil on the top.
Once out of the oven, use a butter knife or skewer to pierce the top of the babka in 8 to 10 places.
Make the syrup and brush the babka:
While the babka is baking, make the syrup. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, water, and vanilla over medium heat. Cook just until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.
Using a pastry brush, brush the syrup over the top of the baked babka, ensuring that all the syrup is used (don’t worry, it will soak in!). This gives the babka a shiny top.
Let cool and serve:
Let the syrupy babka cool for 10 to 15 minutes in the pan before removing. Keeping the babka in the pan for too long may result in it sticking.
Lift the babka loaf out of the pan and let cool on a wire rack. Let cool completely before slicing; this helps the babka maintain its structure.
Store leftover babka in an airtight ziptop bag in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 8 to 10|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 15g||19%|
|Saturated Fat 7g||37%|
|Total Carbohydrate 58g||21%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||8%|
|Total Sugars 22g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||3%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|