Updated: Sep 8, 2019
Soft, fluffy and feather-like dough wrapped around aromatic cinnamon and cardamom swirls. Simple brown sugar glaze adds a little shine and caramel notes to the flavour.
This Babka is a little baking project but it does pay off with beautiful texture! It stays fresh for 2 to 3 days. Added bonus - your house will smell amazing and will be filled in with the aroma of freshly baked sweet bread, earthy cardamom, cinnamon and caramel notes coming from the filling and simple (but so rewarding in flavour) brown sugar glaze! Can’t beat that!
If you are a frequent reader of our blog you know that we avoid blogger's fluff at all expense. Here though, we want to talk a little bit about the dough! It took a while to get the recipe we wanted. We knew what texture my granny's Babkas had. There was no recipe though that would give us just that. Granny used thick and high in fat content soured cream - straight from the farm. There was no milk or butter in that dough! This was the main challenge. We tested few options until we finally found the dough and the technique we were happy with, using easily available ingredients. No wonder we had to try few different options, dough mixes and techniques, as at the end, there are few points which make for a great and light bake here. This Babka is all about the light texture and aromatic, spicy and caramel flavours.
If you are going after clear and visual aspects of well defined swirls you may want to read a little note to this bake. On the outside - you will get just that - clearly visible, well defined swirls. On the inside - this Babka is fluffy and airy, hence the swirls are not as visible and clear as in tighter and more dense doughs. If you are after texture and taste though - this one is definitely a rewarding baking project for you! On top of that - Babka from this recipe stays fresh for longer. Granny baked babkas and drozdzowkas once or twice a week only - as the expectation was that it will stay fresh until the next bake (or at least, will still be enjoyable with a splash of butter and jam on day 2 and 3).
Few words on why it works. To achieve soft and fluffy texture we are starting with yeast proofing using old-style technique of releasing additional starch. By cooking flour with small amount of sugar and milk a sound base for yeast proofing is created. This will pay off with softer texture in the dough. You won't be adding any more sugar than that - we are going for lightly sweetened dough, where only 3 Tbsps of sugar are used to kick start the yeast. The sweetness will come from the filling and brown sugar glaze. Cracking few additional eggs and using egg yolks adds to the softness of the dough. Sparkling water further aerates the dough and increases hydration. Slowly working in softened butter (alternating between quick and energetic kneading and few short rest phases) will pay back with the most fluffy texture and light buttery flavour.
After first rest phase (approx 1hr 30 min) Babka dough needs to be refrigerated overnight. This is done for three reasons:
- the dough will develop more complex flavour,
- the rest will contribute to the airy texture,
- babka will be easier to shape.
On day 2 - when you are ready to shape, you don't need to be brining the dough back to the room temperature. Babka is easier to shape when the dough is still cold. You will be rolling it out into rectangle shape, brushing with melted butter (which is cooked shortly with spices to release its aroma), sprinkling generously with demerara sugar, rolling into log shape (same as for cinnamon buns). Once you have the log shape formed you are ready to cut it horizontally in half and twist tightly each half around, exposing the cinnamon-cardamom dough strands. Second rest is really important for the final texture. Shaped babka needs to double in size (approx 2 hours) before baking. Baking time is quite important here too - extend it by 5 minutes and you will end up with overly dry, sweet bread. Get your skewer ready to check if the dough is baked through to capture that optimal moment - the time indicated in the recipe should give you just that.
We usually cut both ends to even out Babka shape - we highly recommend you do that too. Those ends make for the softest and most delicious cinnamon-cardamom buns. If you have some special occasion and want to prepare super fluffy cinnamon roll - use this enriched dough and kneading technique. Additionally, this will ensure your Babka bakes through evenly.
This Babka is a real treat for bread lovers! Soft, fluffy and full of flavour!
Now - enough of waffle, down to the recipe and to you - hope you will enjoy this little baking project!
Cinnamon and Cardamom Babka with Brown Sugar Glaze Recipe
Yield: 1 long babka OR 2 smaller OR 1 bundt babka (12-cup bundt tin)
Time: 30min prep + 1hr 30min (1st rest) + overnight rest (2nd rest) + 20 min prep + 2hr (3rd rest) + 40-45 min baking
Tin: 1x 12cmx38cm OR 2x 10cmx20cm loaf tin (2lb each) OR 1 x 12-cup bundt form
For yeast proofing:
- 200ml (4/5 cup*) full-fat milk
- 3 Tbsps (45g) sugar
- 3 Tbsps (30g) flour
- 7g active dry yeast (1 sachet) or 25g active bulk dry yeast
For the dough:
- 550g (3 and 2/3 cup*) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 large egg, room temp
- 4 egg yolks (from large eggs), room temp
- 83ml (1/3 cup) sparkling water, room temp
- 150g unsalted butter, soft and cut into small pieces
- 100g butter melted
- 2 Tbsps cinnamon
- 18 cardamom pods (or 2 tsps ground cardamom)
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 Tbsp (15g) vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract)
- 150g demerara (3/4 cup) or light brown sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dutch cocoa (optional - for colour)
- 1 egg white mixed with 2 Tbsps (30ml) milk
Brown sugar glaze:
- 3 Tbsps (45g) demerara sugar
- 80ml water
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract, or seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
*cup =250ml cup
1. Proof the yeast: In a small pot mix 200ml milk with 3 Tbsps sugar and 3 Tbsps flour. Warm up to 42C, making sure the sugar and flour are fully dissolved. Take off the heat and add yeast. Cover tightly and move to warm place for 15min. After that time the mixture should bubble up and is ready to use. If this does not happen - start again (the temperature was too high/too low, check bbe date on yeast).
2. Prepare the dough: In a small bowl whisk 1 full egg and 4 egg yolks. Sift flour into your main mixing bowl, add proofed yeast (mixture from step 1), whisked eggs, sparkling water and start kneading. If you knead by hand - kneading here is simply patting the dough remembering to rotate the bowl every so often to aerate the dough from every side. Use pincer method at first (think of your index finger and thumb as a pincer) and work through the dough to mix well all ingredients. First stage of kneading should take approx. 7min. If you knead using stand mixer - knead on low speed with dough hook attachment for 7min. After all ingredients are well mixed in leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes then start adding soft butter (in 3 turns) - knead on slow speed or slowly work in the butter if kneading by hand. This part will take approx. 10min. You may opt to give the dough a rest for 2-4 min each time you add one portion of butter (the dough will be easier to work with and more elastic).
Once all butter is worked in, increase speed to low-medium and knead for 1 more minute. When done, transfer the dough into lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with cling film and let rest for 1hr 30min. The dough will about double in size (can be a little bit less and that's ok). When ready, knead for 30 seconds, cover tightly with cling film and refrigerate overnight.
3. Prepare cinnamon-cardamom filling: Mill cardamom seeds with cinnamon and 1 Tbsp demerara sugar. In a small pot melt butter, add cinnamon-cardamom mixture (and cocoa if using), vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract) and cook on medium heat for 30 seconds. Set aside to cool. In a small bowl mix sugar with salt.
4. Shape babka: Transfer the dough onto lightly floured work surface and knead gently for 1 minute (not excessively as you don’t want to melt the butter). When ready, sprinkle the surface lightly with flour and roll out the dough into rectangle - 30cm x45cm, 0.5cm thin. Spread cinnamon-cardamom spiced butter (use brush), sprinkle evenly with demerara sugar mixed with salt and roll into log shape. From this portion you can bake two babkas (two 10x20cm), one long babka (12x38cm) or 1 babka baked in 12-cup bundt cake form (leave in log shape if baking in bundt form). You may opt to refrigerate the log for half an hour before cutting (for easier shaping) or immediately cut horizontally in half. Twist tightly each half around, expose the cinnamon-cardamom dough strands, close off the edges (don’t worry here - you may work on that when babka is already in the tin). Brush the tin with butter and place shaped babka. Cover with dry kitchen towel and let rest for 1hr 30 min - 2 hrs (babka should about double in size). You may opt to take off the kitchen towel for the last 20min of proofing (to allow babka to expand freely).
5. Bake: Preheat oven to 180C, just before baking brush babka with egg wash (mix 1 egg white with milk) and bake for about 40min. If you are baking two smaller babkas - start checking after 35min. Always check with the skewer if fully baked through. Don’t bake longer than 45min (babka will be dry). Once baked - leave in the form for 10-15min then run thin knife around the edges and transfer gently onto the cooling rack. Brush Babka with Brown Sugar Glaze when still warm.
6. Brown Sugar Glaze: In a small pot bring water to boil, add sugar and vanilla bean paste and cook on medium heat for 1 minute until the mixture comes to boil. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, until the glaze reduces slightly. The glaze will resemble syrup consistency (liquid and not sticky, it will set when applied on warm Babka).
1) Babka from this recipe stays fresh for about 3 days. Store your Babka at room temperature, covered with dry kitchen towel.
2) We have tested this babka with sour cream - splitting milk and cream in half. The texture was great (extra light and fluffy). Babka did not stay fresh for too long though. If you plan to serve it all at once it could be an option though (140ml full-fat milk, 140ml sour cream).
3) You can find few general hints on Baking with Yeast in this post.