Apple pie meets tender brioche dough in this braided bread topped with a buttery cinnamon glaze. Eat plain, serve warm with ice cream, or use as the most amazing baked french toast!
What is babka?
Babka’s origins start from the early 1800’s in the Polish Jewish communities. The people would use leftover dough from their traditional Challah bread and wrap it with flavors like jams or cinnamon.
In recent years, we’ve taken a much sweeter take on the traditional babka bread and fill it with just about anything – sweet or savory.
I love this version using a homemade chocolate filling. It’s decadent without being overly sweet. Amazing plain, toasted, or as french toast. I ate my way through New York City last fall and scouted out some of the best recommended babka in the area. I tried a $5 slice with raving reviews, and was both disappointed and happy to taste that my version at home was definitely just as good or better. So here’s to making an amazing bakery style loaf in your own home, and at a much better price!
How to make babka
While it looks intimidating, this bread is easier than it looks when you follow a few simple steps! You can also spread out some steps over a couple days if that’s easier. The filling can be made up to a week in advance (and even frozen) and the dough can be made 1-2 days ahead of time before assembling as well.
Here’s the overview:
1. Make the dough + rise
2. Make filling
3. Roll out dough, fill, and roll up into a log
4. Chill dough (optional, but helps create a neater braid)
5. Cut the log into two pieces vertically and twist the two pieces together
6. Rise, bake, & glaze
Saute the apples with butter and spices to soften.
Mix together butter & sugar mixture.
Roll out dough to about 10×12″ rectangle. Layer with sugar & apples.
Roll up into a tight log from the longest edge.
Cut log open vertically. Layer both pieces like an “X”. Then twist the top and the bottom for one long twisted log.
Transfer to parchment lined loaf pan. Let rise, then bake.
More ways to use babka dough
This recipe makes two loaves. You can do so and devour both, freeze one (it freezes really well!), give one away, OR my personal favorite – use the second portion of dough to make a second flavor.
You could opt to not braid it and just make a standard loaf of bread (which would make amazing french toast because it’s so tender). But you could also half the filling recipe and half another filling recipe to have two flavors. Feel free to experiment and go sweet or savory. Our family favorites are filling with a garlic butter and cheese filling, chocolate, red pepper pesto, or a jam like this homemade raspberry version. For holidays, you can also dye the dough and create a really fun effect like I’ve done in our Valentine’s Swirl Babka.
More bread recipes you'll love...
If you make this recipe, make sure you tag @loskitchenco on Instagram and leave a comment below! You can also save for later by clicking the ‘Pin Recipe’ button on the recipe card. Happy baking!
Apple Cinnamon Babka
- 1 cup warm whole milk (other milk % will work too)
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 tsp salt
- About 4 cups bread flour *see note
- 3 cups (350 grams) apples (peeled, sliced, & diced thin) I use a mix of granny smith with fuji or honeycrisp
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp butter salted or unsalted is fine
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
Brown Sugar Filling
- 6 tbsp butter, melted salted or unsalted is fine
- 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup (60 grams) all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup (120 grams) powdered sugar
- ~ 1 tbsp milk
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste can sub for 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp butter, melted if using unsalted, add a pinch of salt too
- Add warm milk, yeast, and sugar to a stand mixer with a dough hook. A large bowl will also work if making by hand.
- Add 2 cups of flour, eggs, and salt. Let mix well. Then while mixer is running, slowly add the softened butter. Slowly add remaining flour. Depending on your moisture level, it may be slightly more or less flour. Dough should be soft and smooth, but not too wet or sticky. If it's tough and dense, you've added too much flour. When you feel you're getting close, turn off the mixer and pinch the dough with floured fingertips. If it's soft and tacky, it's enough flour.
- Let mixer knead the dough for 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, put in oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. You can also put in the fridge to rest overnight.
- Optional step: After the dough has risen, place it in the freezer for a half hour. Cold dough helps in assembly to assist in keeping in all the filling.
- Peel 3-4 apples. Thinly slice and dice enough for about 3 cups, or 350 grams worth. Place in a skillet over the stove and toss with lemon juice.
- Add butter and turn stove on medium low. Toss until butter has melted and coated all the apples.
- Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Continue to occasionally toss for about 3-4 minutes until the apples have started to soften. Set aside.
Brown Sugar Filling
- Melt 6 tbsp of butter in a heatproof bowl. Add the remaining brown sugar filling ingredients and using a fork, toss together until full combined. Set aside.
- Once dough has risen, prepare 2 loaf pans lined with parchment paper (or sprayed, but the parchment paper makes it much easier to remove after baking).
- Split the dough into two even sections. Using the first section, roll out to about a 10x12" rectangle, leaving the dough about 1/4" thick. Spread an even layer of the brown sugar filling on the dough, leaving about 1/4 inch border of dough around the edges. It's okay if the sugar is crumbled on. Repeat this process with the second section.
- Add an even layer of the cooked apples on top of the sugar filling.
- Using the long end of the rectangle, roll up into a tight log like a cinnamon roll.
- If you have time, I recommend popping into the freezer for about 10 minutes to help the dough hold shape in prep for the next step.
- Once the dough is slightly chilled, remove the logs from the freezer and using a sharp serrated knife, cut down the middle of the first log lengthwise, exposing the inside.
- Carefully twist the two pieces together. You can do this easily by making an "X" with the two pieces and then twisting the top, then the bottom. Place in your loaf pans, cover, and let rise until the loaf has almost doubled and dough is soft and puffy - usually about 30-45 minutes.
- While babka is rising, preheat oven to 350° F. Bake for about 35-40 minutes. If your oven browns the tops quickly, you can put a piece of foil on the top about 20 minutes in. It's done when the interior of the dough has reached about 200℉. Bottoms are a dark golden brown and layers look fully cooked.
- Make the glaze by simply whisking together all glaze ingredients in a bowl. You can add more powdered sugar or milk to get to desired consistency - a nice thick glaze.
- When bread is done, let it rest for about 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack. You can either wait for it to cool to drizzle the glaze, or apply warm for a melted glaze effect.
- It's amazing a little warm! Reheat a slice in the microwave if desired. Eat plain, serve warm with a scoop of ice cream, or use as the most amazing baked french toast! Enjoy!