If you’re looking for a way to celebrate the holiday season at your family breakfast table, look no further. You simply can’t do better than homemade Cinnamon Babka. While I have made this loaf innumerable times, my family still gets excited at the promise of a loaf of Cinnamon Babka on our breakfast menu.
Babka is a European delicacy and seems to be made in as many different versions as there are countries in Europe. References to Poland, Bulgaria, Denmark, and Israel are abundant. Different fillings are used and different shapes are made of the finished loaves. You’ll even find it called Baba in some countries.
No matter the geography where it is found, this is a bread used to celebrate holidays and mark special occasions. Once you have tasted it, you’ll understand why.
I can’t claim that this is a truly authentic version of Babka. I can promise you that it is delicious and sure to please the family and friends gathered around your holiday table.
These are the tools that I used to create this loaf in our kitchen. I have provided these links to enable you to learn more about the tools and specialty ingredients that I personally use on a daily basis. These links will take you to exterior sites in order for you to learn more about each product. Some of these links are of the affiliate variety. Those links have not influenced my honest opinion or recommendation of these products.
makes one standard sized loaf
I like to use my stand mixer to work this dough. I find that it does a wonderful job of incorporating the butter evenly. While I use freshly milled whole wheat flour, you can substitute a high quality store brand of flour if you don’t have access to a mill. If you don’t have Grandma Eloise’s Dough Enhancer or vital wheat gluten, you can omit it from the recipe. The resulting loaf will still be delicious, but the texture will be slightly more dense and the shelf life will be several days shorter. Cinnamon is my favorite Babka filling, but fresh preserves or chocolate ganache can be substituted with equally delicious results.
1/2 cup (4 ounces) warm water
1 Tablespoon honey
1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup (150 grams) Whole Wheat flour
1 1/4 cup (150 grams) All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Grandma Eloise Dough Enhancer
1 Tablespoon vital wheat gluten
6 Tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, cut into small cubes
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
4 Tablespoons (2 ounces) softened butter
1/2 cup (96 grams) brown sugar
If you are using a dough proofer, which I highly recommend, preheat the proofer following the manufacturer’s instructions as you prepare the dough.
In a large bowl, combine the warm water and honey. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water and allow to rest for approximately five minutes as you assemble and measure the dry ingredients.
After five minutes have passed, add the egg, vanilla extract, and salt to the bowl with the yeast and whisk gently to combine thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and stir to form a shaggy dough using the dough hook on a stand mixer.
Continue to mix the dough until it begins to transform into a smooth ball of dough and pull away from the sides of the bowl. With the mixer running, begin to add the small cubes of butter individually and slowly, allowing each cube to be smashed against the side of the bowl by the dough before the dough seems to absorb the butter. Should the dough break, or fall apart, during this process, don’t panic. Simply stop adding butter and allow the machine to knead the dough until it is again a smooth, elastic ball of dough. Add the cubes of butter until they have all been incorporated. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth and shiny, approximately 5 to 8 minutes. If you prefer, you can perform the final kneading by hand. At the end of kneading, the dough should pass the windowpane test.
If you are unfamiliar with the windowpane test, the technique is quite simple but incredibly helpful when making a loaf of bread. This windowpane test will help you to determine if your dough has been kneaded sufficiently to yield a wonderful finished loaf. By using this technique, you will be certain that your homemade bread dough will produce a beautiful loaf of bread.
Conducting the windowpane test is simple. After you have kneaded the dough to the point when you think that it is ready to be shaped into loaves, take a small ball of dough and stretch it between your fingers until it is thin and translucent (much like a window). If the dough stretches without breaking, it has been kneaded long enough to develop the gluten and is ready to prepare for its rise. If the dough breaks, continue kneading until it passes the test.
Once your dough passes the windowpane test, form the dough into a ball and place it in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Place this bowl in your proofer or another warm, draft free spot in your kitchen. Allow the dough to rest and rise for approximately one hour. To determine if the dough is ready to proceed, simply poke your finger into the dough until it touches the bottom of the bowl. Remove your finger and observe the ball of dough. The indentation made by your finger should remain. If it does, proceed to the next step. If not, allow the dough to rest and rise for another 30 minutes before attempting this test again.
In a small bowl, combine the softened butter and cinnamon. Stir to make a smooth paste. Measure the brown sugar and set aside. Prepare a loaf pan by applying a thin coat of butter, oil, or pan spray.
When the dough is ready, place it on a dough mat or a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle that is approximately 10 x 20 inches in size. Using an offset spatula, gently spread the cinnamon butter over the surface of the dough taking care not to stretch or tear the underlying dough. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the cinnamon butter.
Using both hands, begin to roll the dough from the long side, keeping the dough taught. If you have ever rolled a batch of cinnamon rolls, this is the same technique. Continue to roll the dough and filling, keeping the roll as tight as possible.
Once the dough is in an even roll, form it into an “s” shape. Using your hands, roll this “s” towards you, pressing the dough together. Pick up the ends of the roll and twist the dough several times before placing it in the prepared loaf pan. Place the pan in your proofer or warm, draft free location. Allow the bread to rise until it is approximately 1 inch above than the sides of the pan.
As the dough nears the end of its rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you have a pizza stone and oven thermometer, this is a great time to put them to use. I like to use stones when baking bread in order to deliver even heat to the bottom of the loaf as it bakes. I find that my loaves bake more evenly when I have the stones in the oven during preheating and baking. An oven thermometer allows me to ensure that my oven is heating to and holding the correct temperature.
Once the loaf has risen sufficiently and the oven has reached temperature, transfer the loaf to the oven. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, turning at the halfway mark to ensure even browning. When the loaf is fully baked, it will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and the surface of the loaf will be an even golden brown. Remove the fully baked loaf from the oven to a wire rack. Allow the loaf to cool for ten to fifteen minutes before removing it from the pan to cool completely before storing in a plastic bag or container.
Don’t miss my post about the best way to store fresh bread to learn how you should be storing your fresh loaf of bread.
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