This gorgeous Cinnamon Babka is made with a sweetened dough, filled with cinnamon sugar, and twisted to make the most stunning swirls. It is easier to make than it looks and definitely worth the effort!
After scrolling through my instagram feed day after day and seeing these gorgeous, twisted babka’s I just had to make one of my own! They looked absolutely stunning and their fillings offered so many tasty choices, I knew I had to try it!
What is babka dough?
Not knowing where to start, I did a lot of research into babka. It seemed every recipe I looked at were so different from one another. What recipe was the best? Where do I begin? Whose method do I follow?
After stumbling upon an article (which I have now lost but will return to this post and share it if I ever stumble upon it again), I read that babka’s aren’t really about a specific dough recipe, but more about the technique of rolling, slicing to expose the beautiful filling, and twisting it to produce the gorgeous swirls I fell in love with.
The dough is essentially a sweetened brioche-type dough. Any recipe will do. Well, being a Greek girl, and knowing that tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread) is essentially a brioche dough, I dug into my recipe box and pulled out a tsoureki recipe to use for this loaf!
Tsoureki is already braided or twisted (much like Challah) and so, after a few little tweaks (particularly leaving out the mahlepi that is specific to tsoureki bread), I only needed to add the step of forming it into a rectangle and spreading on a filling. Then rolling it up and slicing it to expose beautiful stripes.
I set out to make by babka, and flip flopped about what filling i’d choose because, dang it, I want it all! I want chocolate, nutella, cinnamon, jams. All of them. But not together. So, alas, I had my husband settle it for me and we went with cinnamon in the end.
I am so happy with this Cinnamon Babka! Its absolutely perfect! Not, the lesser Babka, as Elaine Benis would have us think! No, no! Are cinnamon rolls a lesser brekkie/dessert? Absolutely not!
What you’ll need to make Cinnamon Babka
The ingredients you’ll need to make this beautiful loaf is:
- dry active yeast
- orange zest (optional- this is used in tsoureki and I decided to leave it in because, yum!)
- vanilla extract
- flour (all purpose)
How to make Cinnamon Babka
To start making the dough, I begin by activating my yeast. I add the milk, a teaspoon of sugar, and the yeast to the bowl of my stand mixer and mix it together. Then I leave it alone to bloom for 5-10 minutes. You will know your yeast is good if it starts to froth up after that time.
Then I place my bowl in the stand mixer and add the remaining sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange zest (if using) and salt. To that I begin adding the flour until its incorporated and then, finally, the softened butter until that is also incorporated.
Then I let my mixer work the dough for about 8 minutes on low speed. The dough should start coming together nicely and pull away from the sides of the bowl. It should also start to get a bit elastic as the gluten develops. If you find the dough is too dry and not coming together, add a little bit of milk.
Once its worked, I grease the bowl and then place the dough back and cover it. I leave it in a warm area of my home (usually my kitchen counter) to rise for 2 hours or until it has doubled in size. Then it goes in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Filling, twisting and baking the Cinnamon Babka
While its in the fridge, I prepare my filling by mixing the melted butter, sugar and cinnamon.
Once the dough is chilled, I roll it into a rectangle and spread the filling on (leaving a little border on the long edges).
Then I roll it up, starting on a short edge. I pinched the ends together to seal them up and then sliced the roll lengthwise in half, leaving it attached a bit on one side. Then I twisted the two strands together and placed it into my loaf pan. Make sure the loaf pan is greased or lined with parchment paper.
I let it rise in the loaf pan for an hour before popping it into a preheated oven and baking it for 30 minutes at 350F.
While its in there, I prep the syrup by heating water and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Then, once the loaf is baking for 30 minutes, I take it out, brush it with syrup and pop it back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
When its done baking, I brush it with more syrup and then let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing it and letting it cool on a cooling rack.
The hardest part is waiting for it to cool because at this point, all I want to do is start eating it. It smells heavenly!
You may also like these easy (savoury) bread recipes:
For the Dough
- 2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
- 1/3 cup + 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 cup milk warm
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon orange zest (optional)
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup butter softened
For the filling
- 1/3 cup butter melted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoons cinnamon
For the sugar syrup
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- To make the dough, In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar and warm milk and stir together. Set it aside and let it rest for 5-10 minutes to activate the yeast and let it bloom.
- Attach the bowl to your stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Add the remaining sugar, eggs, orange zest, vanilla and salt to the yeast mixture. Mix on low, slowly adding in the flour until it comes together.
- Add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until it is all incorporated. Mix on low speed for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and pulls away from the side of the bowl. If the mixture is too dry, add a little more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Remove the dough, grease the bowl lightly with oil and then replace the dough. Cover and let it rise until it doubles in size (about 2 hours). After dough has doubled, place it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Prepare the filling by mixing all of the ingredients in a bowl.
- On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a 16×12 inch rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 1 inch border on the longer sides. Starting at a short side, roll the dough into a log and pinch the ends together to seal. Slice the roll lengthwise, leaving it attached a little at one end. Twist the 2 sliced strands around each other and place in a greased loaf pan, cut sides up. Cover and let it rise for 1 hour until it doubles in size again.
- In a small saucepan, make the syrup by bringing sugar and water to a simmer. Stir until the sugar dissolves (a minute or so). Remove from heat and let it cool.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Bake for 30 minutes. Brush with the sugar syrup and bake for an additional 10 minutes or so until it is a nice golden colour.
- Brush additional syrup over the baked loaf. Let it cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the loaf to a cooling rack to cool completely.