Cinnamon bread on steroids is how I like to describe this delicious loaf! For those who think many cinnamon breads lack flavor, this is the loaf of your dreams. You'll get cinnamon flavor in almost every bite of this sweet, rich dough, with some special pockets of gooey cinnamon-spiced filling that I usually save for last. Cook's Country made the directions so clear, this is definitely not a yeast bread to fear, but to savor.
Babka makes for a beautiful Easter brunch treat, but deserves to be enjoyed throughout the year as well. If you truly want to make a decadent treat, make Sticky Bun Babka by adding 3/4 cup finely chopped toasted pecans to the filling!
Recipe from Cook's Country, makes one loaf
Step 1: Gather Ingredients
1 cup (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg white
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 cup finely chopped toasted pecans (optional, to make Sticky Bun Babka)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) whole milk, heated to 110 degrees
2 large egg yolks, plus 1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened
Step 2: For the Dough
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Grease large bowl. Whisk milk, egg yolks, and vanilla together in 1-cup measuring cup.
Using stand-mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed until combined. Slowly add milk mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium-low and add butter, 1 piece at a time, until incorporated, about 1 minute. Continue to mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, 10 to 12 minutes. (If after several minutes of mixing the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of extra flour. Because I have a Pro model KA with spiral dough hook, my dough was smooth after 6 minutes.)
Transfer dough to prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in turned-off oven until dough has risen slightly, about 1 hour.
Place in refrigerator until dough is firm and has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.
Step 3: Prepare Filling
While dough rests, prepare filling. Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Set aside 1 tablespoon filling.
Step 4: Shape Loaf
Line 8.5 inch by 4.5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over edges. (I used a 9x5-inch loaf pan and greased the pan and parchment to ensure a smooth release.)
Punch down dough on lightly floured counter. Roll out dough to 20 by 14-inch rectangle. Spread all but 1 tablespoon filling over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges. (This dough rolls out quite easily, the filling spreading is more of a challenge; as you can see, I dollop pieces all over the dough and spread the filling over the dough using a small offset spatula, it takes a few minutes, be patient and somewhat gentle.)
Working from short side, roll dough into a cylinder and pinch along seam to seal. Position cylinder seam side up and roll back and forth until stretched to 18-inch length.
Spread reserved filling over top of cylinder. Fold cylinder on top of itself and pinch ends to seal. Gently twist double cylinder twice to form double figure eight.
Place shaped dough seam side down in prepared pan, cover loosely with plastic, and let rise in turned-off oven until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Step 5: Bake and Enjoy
Lightly beat whole egg in bowl. Remove loaf from oven and discard plastic. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush loaf with beaten egg. Bake until deep golden brown and loaf registers 190 degrees, about 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and cool completely, about 2 hours. Serve.
Cook's Country recommends if baking in a 9x5-inch pan to check the loaf for doneness at 40 minutes, though the babka took 50 minutes to be done in my oven.
To Make Ahead: instead of letting dough rise after shaping and placing in pan, cover shaped loaf with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Let dough sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking.
Wrapped in foil, this bread kept well for me 2 days at room temperature. Babka tastes fine cut into slices as is, though my favorite way to serve and eat is toasted and spread with butter. Enjoy!