Last Friday, I shared my recap of the amazing time I had in Israel and today I’m sharing something equally as exciting: this amazing cinnamon apple babka recipe from my good friend, Uri Scheft. You can find the full recipe (and a lot of other amazing bread recipes too :)) in his book, Breaking Breads. But today, we’re embracing this Fall weather with the cinnamon apple babka of all your wildest autumnal dreams.
What is babka?
Pronounced ‘Bahb-kah’, this sweet treat is a dense bread that’s usually swirled with either chocolate or a cinnamon sugar filling…or cinnamon apple filling if you’re feeling all the Fall flavors like we are. Babka originated in Eastern Europe and has been a staple at Jewish bakeries for years. However, it has become extremely popular in recent years in the US, and can now be found in most bakeries and grocery stores around the holidays.
Babka is slightly dry, but the filling is typically quite melty and gooey—especially if you serve it warm, straight from the oven! It really is a unique cake-like bread, and I highly recommend trying it at least once in your life to see what all the fuss is about. And if apple isn’t your thing, check out this equally delicious cinnamon chocolate babka.
How to make cinnamon apple babka?
This cinnamon apple babka recipe is from the king of bread making himself, Uri Scheft, and he breaks down exactly how to produce a beautiful, twisty babka that tastes like it’s straight from a bakery. His babka dough is foolproof and the the apple cinnamon filling is what spiced, buttery, caramel dreams are made of. It’s truly the perfect complement to the tender dough.
- Make sure your yeast is still active: You do this by dissolving the yeast in warm milk. The yeast should bubble up and foam, meaning it’s still active! While this step isn’t actually necessary, I always feel better if I check first.
- Be patient! Listen, I am the least patient person I know (especially when it comes to dessert), but it’s so important to give your dough the time it needs to proof and activate the yeast. Don’t try to rush any of the steps!
- Work smart: Making a homemade babka isn’t exactly a quick process, so prep things where you can and get ahead. You can make the apple filling up to 5 days early, and you can always make your dough and freeze it, so you have it on hand whenever you just NEED a babka.
Don’t be discouraged by the extensive directions for this apple babka you’re about to encounter. The directions are only long because they’re thorough. No guesswork here.
How to store cinnamon apple babka?
I’d be surprised if this is even a problem you’d encounter because we inhaled ours in roughly ten minutes, but if you do have some self control, you can store this babka covered at room temperature or in the fridge for up to 3 days. Simple reheat in the oven or the microwave when you want a slice.
Cinnamon apple babka is best served warm and fresh, and this recipe makes two small loaves, so if you don’t think you’ll make it through two, you can always pop the prepared dough in the freezer for up to 3 months. Simply take it out the night before to defrost in the fridge, allow to proof and then bake!
If you’re looking for a fun project, hoping to relieve some stress via bread kneading (highly recommended), or interested in making something that’s equally as delicious as it is beautiful, then this cinnamon apple babka is for you.
Happy Sunday and happy baking!
Cinnamon Apple Babka
- Prep Time: 24 hours
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 24 hours 25 minutes
- Yield: 2 babkas in 9 x 5 standard loaf pan 1x
for the babka dough
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) whole milk, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons (6 grams) active dry yeast*
- 2 1/4 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (220 grams) pastry or cake flour, sifted 220 grams
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 large pinch fine salt
- 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (80 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
for the cinnamon apple filling
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (45 grams), room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 golden apples, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch thick slices
- 1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise to expose the seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 lemon
for the egg wash and topping
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 3/4 cups (275 grams) sliced almonds
for the simple syrup
- 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (160 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) water
for the babka
- Whisk the vanilla into the milk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Use a fork or your fingers to lightly mix the yeast into the milk. Then, in this order, add the flours, eggs, sugar, salt, and finally the butter in small pinches.
- Mix on the lowest speed, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, and to pull the dough off the hook as it accumulates there and break it apart so it mixes evenly, until the dough is well combined, about 2 minutes (it will not be smooth; see photo on page 29). If the dough is very dry, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time; if the dough looks wet, add more all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix until the dough is smooth and has good elasticity, 4 minutes.
- Stretch and fold the dough: Lightly dust your work surface with flour and turn the dough out on top; lightly dust the top of the dough and the interior of a large bowl with flour. Grab the top portion of the dough and stretch it away from you, tearing the dough. Then fold it on top of the middle of the dough. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the stretch, tear, and fold. Continue to do this until you can stretch a small piece of dough very thin without it tearing, about 5 minutes. Then use your hands to push and pull the dough against the work surface and in a circular motion to create a nice round of dough. Set the ball in the floured bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Chill the dough: Set the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and press it into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours before proceeding.
for the apple filling
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and beginning to caramelize, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the apples, cinnamon, and the vanilla bean, and cook, stirring often, until the apples become juicy, their liquid cooks off, and the apples begin to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the apples to a bowl, remove the vanilla bean, and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Set the bowl of apples aside to cool completely (if you can chill the apples for 30 minutes in the refrigerator it’s a good idea–in fact, the apple filling can be refrigerated for up to 5 days).
assemble the babka
- Unwrap the cold babka dough and set it on a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half, return one piece to the refrigerator, and roll the other piece into 5 x 28 inch rectangle (it should be just shy of 1/4 inch thick) with a the long side facing you. Pull and shape the corners into a rectangle.
- Sprinkle half the apples evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border at the bottom, and then roll the dough from the top down, forming a tight cylinder. Pick up the cylinder, holding one end in each hand, and gently stretch it. Using a bread knife, slice the cylinder crosswise into two pieces. Repeat with the other piece of dough so you have a total of 4 filled segments.
- Take 2 pieces of dough, overlap one over the other to form an X, and twist the ends together like the threads on a screw so you have at least 2 twists on each side of the X. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
- Place each twisted babka in a loaf pan greased with butter or lined with parchment paper. Cover the pans with a dry kitchen towel and set them aside in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough rises 1 to 2 inches above the rim of the pan and is very soft and jiggly to the touch, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on how warm your room is.
- After the breads have proofed, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Make the egg wash by whisking the egg, water, and salt together in a small bowl. Brush each of the babkas with egg wash and then sprinkle them generously with almonds. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, loosely tenting them with aluminum foil if they begin to get too dark.
- Meanwhile, make the simple syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the het and set aside the syrup to cool.
- Remove the pans from the oven and while the babkas are still hot, brush the tops with the simple syrup. Once the babkas are completely cooled, turn them out of the loaf pans, slice and serve.
* You can also use 20 grams (2 1/2 tablespoons) fresh yeast