Inspired by Serious Eats’ quest to find the best babka in NYC, I decided to try my hand at making babka. I’m going to New York at the end of the month and will seek out the best babkas for comparison.
Although I love chocolate, cinnamon holds a special place in my heart (and stomach). My rabbit is even named after my favorite spice, and whenever I use it, it’s often close to excess (is that possible?).
The babka was an indulgent, rich dessert bread filled with a creamy cinnamon filling. The toasted walnut pieces and raisins were a nice touch, but definitely optional if you don’t like that sort of thing in your breads or desserts. As with most bread doughs, this recipe is time consuming. The results were worth it, but make sure you leave yourself enough time before you want to serve it.
Extra Cinnamon Babka
- 1/2 C butter, softened
- 1/2 C sugar, plus 1/2 t (divided)
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1/4 C warm water
- 1/2 t vanilla extract
- 1 tsalt
- 1 C milk
- 4 C flour
- 1 egg (for egg wash)
- 1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional)
- 3 T + 1 T ground cinnamon (divided)
- 1 C sugar
- 1/2 C butter
- 1 egg
- 2 T milk
- 1 C flour
- 1/4 C raisins (optional)
Cream the butter and 1/2 C sugar until smooth and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the yeast in warm water with ½ t of sugar. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks until they become creamy. Once the yeast mixture thickens, add it to the creamy egg yolks, along with the vanilla and salt.
Combine the milk and creamed butter and sugar to the egg yolk mixture. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, until it becomes a soft dough. Knead the dough by hand or with a dough hook attachment until it is no longer sticky.
Cover the bowl of dough and place it in a warm place to rise (a turned off oven works well). Allow to rise for 2-5 hours, until it has doubled in size. (It only took mine 2 hours.)
Butter a 3 quarter casserole pan and flatten the dough into it. Let the down rise again for 2 hours in the pan.
To make the filling, first toast the walnuts by baking them at 350° for 8-10 minutes, then set aside. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the cinnamon. Mix in the egg, milk and flour until combined.
Preheat oven to 350°. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12″x20″ rectangle. Sprinkle extra cinnamon over dough then spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1″ margin around the edges. Sprinkle toasted walnuts, raisins and more cinnamon evenly over the filling.
Starting at the long end, roll babka up tightly. Cut in half and place each half in a bread pan. Beat 1 egg and brush on top of both loaves. Bake for around 30-40 minutes, or until browned.
By the way, the title of this post comes from an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and Elaine want a chocolate babka but the bakery is sold out. They then discover the existence of cinnamon babka, which Elaine dubs the “lesser babka.” Jerry’s rebuttal:
“Cinnamon takes a back seat to no babka. People love cinnamon. It should be on tables at restaurants along with salt and pepper. Anytime anyone says, “Oh this is so good, what’s in it?” The answer invariably comes back, “Cinnamon.” “Cinnamon.” Again and again. Lesser babka?? I think not.”