Poppy Seed Babka
Delicious, buttery babka filled with mellow and nutty poppy seed filling. A real treat!
Poppy seed filling is a real delicacy in Eastern European and Jewish cuisines. I remember from my childhood that all festive seasons had this filling in some form or shape: poppy seed babka, poppy seed roll cake, cheesecake or rugelachs.
This babka and the poppy seed filling are a little baking project. It's not a quick fix bake. However, it does pay off with excellent flavours. Buttery, nutty, mellow, sweet.
We created this recipe in a way that Babka keeps fresh for about 5 days. This is thanks to enriched dough (more cake-y than bread-y - even though it's kneaded and yeasted) but mainly due to moist and rich poppy seed filling which keeps this Babka fresh for longer.
In this recipe we are using sweet enriched dough. Thanks to high number of egg yolks (whites are used in the filling) and sour cream, the dough is light, airy and keeps fresh for longer. First rise is short (only 1 hour), the dough is easy to handle and roll out. For best result here the second rise should be fairly long (2.5 hours). To fill this dough we are using our traditional poppy seed filling recipe. The recipe for the filling, together with egg whites and few other hints included below will give you thick, moist and very visible stripes of poppy seed filling. Instant dry yeast (in sachets) will work in this recipe but highly recommend using active bulk dry yeast (fresh) for best result.
Poppy Seed Babka Recipe
Yield: 2 Babkas
Time: 30min prep + 1hr rest (1st rise) + 20min shape + 2hr 30min rest (2nd rise) + 50min bake
+ start 1 day before to prepare the filling
Tin: 2x 10cmx20cm or 2x 10cmx38cm
Poppy seed filling:
- 1 poppy seed filling from this recipe
For yeast proofing:
- 75ml water
- 14g active dry yeast or 50g active bulk dry yeast (fresh)
- 5g (1 tsp) sugar
- 20g (2 Tbsps) all-purpose flour
For the dough:
- 1 large egg + 4 egg yolks, room temperature (reserve egg whites for the filling)
- 45g caster sugar
- 15g vanilla sugar (or caster sugar and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 500g all-purpose flour
- 150g unsalted butter, melted and at room temperature
- 60g (4 Tbsps) sour cream, room temperature
- 1 egg mixed with 1 Tbsp milk
1. Proof the yeast: In a small pot mix water with flour and sugar. Warm up to 40C. Remove from the heat and add yeast, stir. Cover the mixture with dry kitchen towel or cling film and let rest for 15 minutes. After that time the mixture should become bubbly/foamy. If it is not - start again (the temperature might have been too high/too low, check BBE date on yeast).
2. Prepare the dough: In your main mixing bowl beat 1 egg and egg yolks with sugar, vanilla sugar and salt (use whisk attachment) until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add proofed yeast (from Step 1) and half of flour and knead for 1 minute (medium speed if using stand mixer, dough hook attachment). Add melted butter, sour cream and the rest of flour and knead for another 7-10 minutes (low-medium speed). After that time you should get well formed, yellow and shiny dough which easily pulls away from your hand not leaving any sticky marks. Don't add more flour. Cover the bowl with clean kitchen towel or cling film and let rest in warm place (21-24C) for 1 hour. In a meantime complete Step 3.
3. Prepare the poppy seed filling: Use this recipe (best to start 1 day before to let it rest overnight).
4. Shape: When ready, gently degas the dough and knead for few seconds. Split the dough into 2 equal parts and roll out into rectangle shape (0.3cm thin). Beat leftover egg whites until stiff. Gently fold in 3/4th of egg whites into poppy seed filling, reserve 1/4th. Use reserved egg whites to brush rectangle. Spread poppy seed filling on top of egg white layer, leaving some 2cm edge each side, uncovered. Roll it into a log shape. Cut each log horizontally and twist tightly each half around, expose the poppy seed dough strands, close off the edges. Brush the tin with butter and place shaped babka. Cover with dry kitchen towel and let rest for 2hrs 30 min (21C - 24C).
5. Bake: Some 30 minutes before baking preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan forced), just before baking brush babka with egg wash (mix egg with milk) and bake for about 50min. Always check with the skewer if fully baked through. Once baked - leave in the tin for 10-15min then run thin knife around the edges and transfer gently onto the cooling rack. Let babka cool for at least 2 hours before serving (for the crumb and filling to set). Store in cold and dry place wrapped in dry cotton kitchen towel or cling film. Babka will stay fresh and enjoyable for about 5 days.