Traditional Cinnamon Babka Recipe

Babka, which originated in Eastern Europe and came to the U.S. via Ashkenazic Jewish immigrants, refers to a dense, mildly-flavored bread hat has been plaited with a sweet, sticky filling, according to Tablet Magazine. Recipe developer Jaime Bachtell-Shelbert had always been a fan of babka, having seen it — and smelled its intoxicating, sweet aroma — at various Jewish bakeries over the years. But she came to be a baker of babka because of her babka-loving husband, whose lineage traces back to Poland. And now, she's gracing us with her own rendition of a cinnamon babka, and it is truly rich, warm, and delicious.

When it comes to this recipe for traditional cinnamon babka, Shelbert was going for a kind of "brioche meets cinnamon roll" vibe. Of course the best part, as Shelbert tells Tasting Table, is "how it makes your kitchen smell! It will smell like a bakery. There's also nothing like the finished product of pulling out this beautiful bread and serving it to your loved ones." Indeed, this sweet, cinnamon pastry looks good, smells good, and tastes good — so let's dive right in!

Gather your ingredients for cinnamon babka

To make Shelbert's recipe for cinnamon babka, you'll need some essential baking ingredients. First things first, you'll need some active dry yeast, sugar, and water — make sure that you're using warm water when activating the yeast. The other ingredients are all-purpose flour, salt, a large egg, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and ¼ cup water. Not too bad, right? The simple sweetness of sugar and warmth of the cinnamon go a long way in adding flavor to this babka!

Start by making the babka dough

Start this recipe by greasing a 9x5-inch pan. To proof the yeast, mix it with ½ teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Add ⅓ cup warm water and stir, and let it sit for 10 minutes. It should be nice and puffy by the end of 10 minutes. Now, add the flour, 3 tablespoons sugar and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk to combine. Add the egg, 6 ½ tablespoons of melted butter, and the yeast/water mixture to the flour mixture. With the dough hook attached to the mixer, mix on low for 10 minutes. Remove the dough and add to a bowl that has been greased with oil. Top with a towel and set aside to rise for about two hours.

Make the filling and glaze

While the dough is rising, you can turn to two of the simpler tasks that remain. One is making the sugar syrup that will be brushed on the babka at the end. The other is to make the cinnamon filling for the babka. Make the sugar syrup by adding the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar and the remaining ¼ cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Then, remove it from the heat and set aside. Make the cinnamon filling by mixing the remaining ⅓ cup of butter, softened, the brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Mix until a grainy, spreadable paste is formed. 

Fill and braid your cinnamon babka dough

After your dough has risen to double in size, it's time to assemble your cinnamon babka. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, and roll out to an approximately 8x12-inch rectangle. Using a spatula, spread the cinnamon filling over the dough, covering it entirely. With a long end nearest you, roll the dough into a log ending at the opposite long side. Press to seal the ends and rest the dough on its seam.

Using a serrated knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise, exposing the cinnamon filling. Now, place the two halves with the filling side facing up spread lengthwise in front of you. Press the two ends together. Lift the right piece over the left, and then lift the left piece over the right and continue forming a simple plait. Press the ends together when finished. "My biggest tip is that it doesn't have to be perfect," Shelbert says of this step. "After you braid the bread it doesn't quite fit in the pan and that's ok! Just do a little squishing at the ends to get it to fit and it will still turn out beautifully."

One last rise, and then it's time to bake your babka

Gently lift the braided, filled bread into the prepared pan. Cover it loosely with a cloth and allow it to rise for one hour more. While you're waiting for the dough to rise this one last time, preheat your oven to 350 F. When the dough has risen and the oven has preheated, bake the cinnamon babka for 35 to 40 minutes, until the edges are slightly brown and the top is golden. Then, while the babka is still warm, brush the top with the sugar syrup. 

Allow the babka to cool for 10 minutes. Then remove it from the pan, and serve warm or at room temperature. And if you love your cinnamon babka, you're going to need to try some of these equally compelling traditional Jewish foods to round out the meal!

Traditional Cinnamon Babka Recipe
5 from 26 ratings
This traditional cinnamon babka is warm, decadent, and loaded with sweet cinnamon flavor.
Prep Time
40
minutes
Cook Time
40
minutes
Servings
8
Slices
cinnamon babka slices
Total time: 80 minutes
Ingredients
  • ½ tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 7 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon sugar, divided
  • ⅓ cup + ¼ cup water, divided
  • 1 ¾ cups + 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup + 6 ½ tablespoons butter divided
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Directions
  1. Place the yeast, ½ teaspoon of sugar, and ⅓ cup of warm water in a small bowl. Stir, and let sit for 10 minutes to proof yeast.
  2. Add the flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk to combine. Add the egg, 6 ½ tablespoons of melted butter, and the yeast/water mixture to the flour mixture. With the dough hook attached to the mixer, mix on low for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the dough and add to a bowl that has been greased with oil. Top with a towel and set aside for 1 ½ to 2 hours to rise.
  4. Make the sugar syrup by adding the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar and the remaining ¼ cup of water in a small saucepan, bringing it to a boil over medium heat, and whisking until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Make the cinnamon filling by mixing the remaining ⅓ cup of butter, softened, the brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl, until a grainy, spreadable paste is formed.
  6. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, and roll out to a roughly 8x12-inch rectangle.
  8. Using a spatula, spread the cinnamon filling over the dough, covering it entirely.
  9. With a long end nearest you, roll the dough into a log, ending at the opposite long side. Press to seal the ends and rest the dough on its seam.
  10. Using a serrated knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise, exposing the cinnamon filling.
  11. Place the 2 halves with the filling side facing up lengthwise in front of you. Press the 2 ends together of the 2 halves together. Lift the right piece over the left, and then lift the left piece over the right and continue forming a simple plait. Press the ends together when finished.
  12. Gently lift the bread into the prepared pan. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise for 1 hour more.
  13. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  14. Bake the babka for 35 to 40 minutes, until the edges are slightly brown and the top is golden.
  15. Brush the top of the babka with the sugar syrup. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan.
  16. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 347
Total Fat 17.9 g
Saturated Fat 11.0 g
Trans Fat 0.7 g
Cholesterol 65.1 mg
Total Carbohydrates 43.6 g
Dietary Fiber 1.5 g
Total Sugars 20.1 g
Sodium 159.7 mg
Protein 4.2 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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