I'm the type of person who keeps lists. To-do lists, grocery lists, goal lists, and yes even a "foods to make" list. Whenever I see something I want to recreate or think of a dish I want to make, I add it to the list. One item that has been sitting on that list for some time is babka. Ever since I saw the beautiful chocolate swirls in the enriched bread, I wanted to try making it. And so, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I finally decided to make the bread. No there's no chocolate in this babka but trust me, the pistachios, hazelnuts, orange zest, and rosewater certainly make up for it!
- ½ cup milk (125 ml)
- 2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour (632 grams)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (50 grams)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks at room temperature
- ½ cup butter, cubed and softened (113 grams)
- 1 cup pistachios (120 grams)
- 1 cup hazelnuts (120 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon rosewater
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- zest of 1 orange
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar (133 grams)
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅓ cup butter, melted (75 grams)
- ¾ cup honey (252 grams)
- ¾ cup water (175 ml)
- Make the babka dough. Heat the milk in the microwave until it reaches 100 degrees F, about 30 seconds. Add the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar and let sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture is foamy.
- Combine the yeast mixture with the all-purpose flour, ¼ cup sugar, salt, vanilla, 2 eggs, and 2 yolks. Mix until the dough comes and knead for 2-3 minutes or until firm. Add the butter a little at a time, mixing well between each addition. Continue to knead the dough until smooth, about 7-8 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover, and let proof in a warm area for 1 hour. It may not double in size.
- Meanwhile, make the filling. In a food processor, pulse together the pistachios, hazelnuts, vanilla, rosewater, salt, and zest of 1 orange until the nuts are coarsely chopped. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
- Grease a tube pan and set it aside.
- Punch down the dough. Lightly dust a clean work counter with flour and roll out the dough until it's a 12x24 inch rectangle. Brush the dough with ⅓ cup melted butter, leaving a ½ inch border.
- Sprinkle the spiced sugar evenly on the buttered portion of the dough. Top with the chopped nut filling. Starting with the long side facing you, roll the dough into a tight rope. You should end up with a 24-inch long rope.
- Trim the ends of the log and cut it in half lengthwise. Flip the logs so that the cut sides are facing up. Gently pinch the ends of the top of the log together and start to twist the two logs together. Lift one side over the next to form a twist, keeping the cut sides facing up. Transfer the log to the prepared pan, shaping it into a circle. Tuck the ends together to enclose the circle. Sprinkle any of the nuts that may have fallen off on top. Cover the pan and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the honey syrup. Combine the honey with the water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat to low and continue to simmer the syrup for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake the babka for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat and pour the honey syrup on top. Let cool completely.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
What is babka? As Paul Hollywood described it, it's a bread made with enriched dough that's crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It has swirls of chocolate and nuts that run through the bread making it utterly delicious. Although in this case, we're taking out the chocolate and adding baklava ingredients. It's still utterly delicious, I promise you.
To make the baklava babka, you first have to make the dough. If you ever made brioche, this is the same method. Heat some milk and add the yeast and sugar to activate the yeast. Combine the yeast mixture with flour, eggs, egg yolks, salt, sugar, and vanilla. Once the dough starts to come together and firms up, add the butter a couple of pieces at a time. You don't want to add all of the butter at the same time or the dough will be one greasy mess.
Let the dough proof for one hour in a warm spot. It may not double in size but that's okay because it will have a chance to proof again later.
While the dough is rising, make the filling. Baklava is made with a variety of nuts but I chose pistachios and hazelnuts for this bread because, well, they're my favorite. Choose what you like, adding an equal amount of each into the filling. Pulse the ingredients together until the nuts are coarsely chopped. You can also chop the nuts by hand and combine it with the remaining ingredients. Mix the sugar with the spices and set it aside.
Now it's time to assemble the babka. Roll out the dough fairly thin into a 12x24 inch rectangle. Brush on the butter, sprinkle on the sugar, and top with the nuts. Roll up the dough into a 24-inch log; don't worry if the nuts fall out. We're going to save them and top the bread later on.
Cut the log in half so that it's two 24 inch long logs. Flip the cut sides so that they're facing up and twist the two logs together by flipping one side over the other.
Now comes the tricky part. Transfer the twisted log into your greased pan to form a circle. I didn't have a tube pan so I used a cheesecake pan and put an oven-safe ramekin in the center. Pinch the ends together to enclose the circle and sprinkle the top with the nuts that fell out. Cover the pan and let the babka rise for 45 minutes.
While the babka is proofing again, make the honey syrup. Simply simmer together equal parts honey and water until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Let it cool completely.
Alas, it's finally time to bake the bread! Pop the babka in the oven and bake until browned and the internal temperature is 180 degrees F, about 30-40 minutes.
Now get that honey syrup and pour it all over the bread. It seems like a lot of syrup but we're making baklava babka so it's totally appropriate. If you want it less sweet, just pour less syrup and serve the extra on the side. Now comes the hard part, waiting for the bread to cool.
I literally was standing around waiting for this baklava babka to cool so that I could have a taste. One look into the inside and I was in love. But then I took a bite of the bread and I fell head over heels. This babka was incredible, filled to the brim with pistachios and hazelnuts with the perfect hint of orange and a subtle taste of rosewater. It was everything I wanted and more.
For more sweet bread inspiration check out these black sesame rolls!
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