Last year, I really thought babka was going to have its year. Around January of 2019, I kept seeing major food publications posting babka recipes and I got excited, thinking that America would see what it had been missing and embrace this delicious, layered delight. Alas, the moment came and went and, while I still see babka pop up here and there, it’s mostly in the Jewish community. The world at large continues to miss out.
Seinfeld was not wrong in asserting that chocolate babka is a superior babka. I mean, it’s a buttery brioche-style bread with thick ribbons on chocolate running through it – who isn’t going to love that? But I think there is plenty of room to play with babka and in honor of Rosh Hashanah, I offer you this: an apple butter babka, kissed with a touch of honey.
The recipe makes two loaves – you can totally pretend you plan on sharing it and I won’t judge you if you eat them both.
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup milk (higher the fat the better)
1/3 cup of honey
1 yolk (reserve white for egg wash)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teas. cinnamon
sprinkle of salt
1/2 cup apple butter
1 large, tart apple, peeled and chopped into small bits
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teas. salt
1/4 teas. cinnamon
1/4 teas. nutmeg
4 tbsp. melted butter
Reserved egg white (from the dough)
1 tbsp. half and half or cream
- For the dough: the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, yeast and salt.
- In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and then add the milk, cooking until butter is just melted and milk is barely warmed through.
- Add the butter mixture, honey and egg and yolk to the flour mixture and combine until a shaggy dough comes together. Switch to a dough hook and knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes.
- Place dough in a large greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rest in a warm spot until doubled in size, about an hour.
- To make the filling: combine the sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
- To make the crumble topping: combine the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon and combine. Drizzle melted butter over and mix until a sandy consistency comes together. Rest in the fridge until ready to use.
- Lightly grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans and line with a parchment sling and set aside.
- Once the dough is doubled in size, punch it down and turn out onto a clean, well-floured surface. Divide dough in half and return the half you aren’t using to the bowl.
- Gently shape the dough into a long rectangle and then roll it out, about 16 x 12. If the dough is resisting, let it rest for 5 minutes to help the gluten relax, then try again.
- Spread out a 1/2 cup of the apple butter, leaving a 1/2 inch perimeter around the edge of the dough. Sprinkle half of the sugar filling mixture over the apple butter and then sprinkle half of the finely chopped apple bits.
- Roll the dough the long way, to make a long cylinder. Gently shape the cylinder into a long horseshoe type shape. Twist the dough twice and then place it in the prepared pan.
- Repeat with the remaining half of the dough/ingredients for the second pan.
- Gently cover the pans with a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350.
- Once loaves are ready to go, take the remaining egg white and tablespoon of half and half and whisk together. Brush over the tops of the loaves and sprinkle the crumble topping over the loaves, pressing down gently.
- Bake babkas for 45 to 50 minutes. Breads should be golden brown. If you use an internal thermometer, it should read 190.
- Let bread cool completely before loosening from the pan, slicing, and serving (or as cool as you can wait for). Store covered well at room temp.