As you well know by now, I do love to bake bread! I have been wanting to try a babka for some time and finally got around to developing this one. This is a bread that is slightly sweet and you can amp it up with more filling but we like a little less fruit and more of that bread flavor! I had a lot of apples after a recent Costco trip so I have been working them into every dish possible! This recipe can easily make two loaves, and I have included those options in the recipe located at the bottom of this post. Today, however, I decided to make a large, braided loaf and have also included that option, should you feel the need to have an enormous sweet bread centerpiece for your table!
This enriched dough begins with the making of a sponge, which is just water, yeast and sugar that has time to allow for the yeast to activate. Start by combining the yeast, brown sugar and temperature controlled water and let is sit for 30 minutes.
Next add the flour, oil, salt, egg yolks and eggs to the sponge.
Knead the dough until a smooth, but slightly sticky ball forms and place in a lightly greased, large bowl. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
While the dough is rising, prepare the cinnamon and apple filling. Whisk together the cinnamon, sugar and flour in a small bowl and set aside. The most important part of preparing the apples is to extract as much moisture as possible so that your dough will not be soggy. I did this by peeling, coring and grating the apples then placing them in a double lined paper towel and squeezing the water from the apples. There is a surprising amount of water that will drain out. I did this in small batches and cheesecloth would work well, but I didn’t have any on hand, so paper towels it had to be! Place the dried apple pieces into a bowl and immediately add the lemon zest and lemon juice, tossing to coat. Then add in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Set aside until the dough is ready.
Now comes the tricky part of shaping and filling the bread. I will refer you to this excellent tutorial from King Arthur Flour on how to shape babkas. This site has all the options that I mention in the recipe with step by step instructions and pictures. At this point you need to decide if you want two loaves or one braided loaf. In either case you begin the same way, divide the risen dough into two equal portions.
Roll one portion out to about 9″ X 18″ and spread half the cinnamon apple filling over the rectangle, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the perimeter. Start with the long side and roll into a log shape, much like you would if you were making cinnamon rolls. Pinch the bottom seam and the ends shut to contain the fillings. Repeat with the second portion of dough.
At this point you may opt to make two loaves using the classic twist, or the sliced braid methods discussed on the King Arthur site and my recipe write up, I will discuss the process for making the single, braided loaf.
Begin by slicing the log lengthwise to form 4 “ropes”.
Working with the filling side up, make a plus sign with the intersection at the middle of each rope. Then repeat with the other two strips to form a second plus sign that interlocks with the first one.
Working clockwise, fold every other strip over the neighboring end, then repeat with the ends that extend but go in the opposite direction (counterclockwise) this time. Here is the King Arthur photos for reference (they use their chocolate babka).
You will have some ends left over, just tuck them under the loaf. Place the loaf onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover and allow to proof for another 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and baked thorough the center.
While the bread cools mix the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, cinnamon extract, vanilla seeds and slowly adding enough milk or water to create a drizzling consistency. When the bead has cooled completely, drizzle with the glaze.
I know that there are a lot of steps for this but it is so worth it! If you are not up for the braid, then try the simple loaf shapes highlighted on the King Arthur site and let me know what you think! Happy baking!
cinnamon apple babka recipe