This apple-stuffed babka is sweetened only with honey and boiled apple cider for a burst of apple flavor. Apples and Honey Babka is perfect for breakfast, brunch, or after your festive Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) meal!
Why this recipe works
- Full of apple flavor from boiled apple cider both in the filling and in the glaze
- Clear step by step instructions for shaping babka
- Impressive for breakfast, brunch, or after a Rosh Hashanah meal
We've talked about how challah, an egg-enriched bread, can be braided and shaped in so many different ways. Another egg-enriched bread is brioche, a bread that has copious amounts of egg and butter that really elevate it to another level.
Babka is bread that falls in between challah and brioche. It’s egg and butter enriched, but not so much as to overpower the filling. Babka is also shaped (like a challah) with its filling rolled up inside double spirals twisted together (think DNA...science in the kitchen!).
The upshot is when you slice into a babka, you see the veins of filling swirling about, complemented by the bread itself. My Cranberry Wine Babka is a good example.
Apples & Honey as symbols
Apples and honey feature prominently in celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Traditionally, apples are dipped in honey to represent the wish to have a sweet year.
Desserts that feature apples or honey figure prominently as well. Honey Cake is another traditional dessert served after the celebratory meal. Another delicious example is an Apple Galette in Phyllo Dough.
What you need
This babka features apples for rich autumn flavor, and uses my homemade boiled apple cider as a key ingredient.
To fully represent the holiday symbolism in this apple babka recipe, I substitute honey for the sugar in my basic challah recipe. Butter is used instead of oil to add richness and flavor, and milk gives the dough a softer texture.
The baked babka is topped with a glaze featuring boiled apple cider (similar to the maple glaze used on the Maple Walnut Scones).
Apples & honey for the win!
How to make a babka
Step 1: Prepare the dough
The difference between making a babka dough and challah dough is the use of butter and milk instead of oil and water. So instead of mixing all the ingredients together like in a challah, softened butter is slowly added after all the rest of the ingredients have been combined.
Then let dough rest in a warm place, covered, until it has doubled in size.
Step 2: Prepare the filling
Peeling and slicing the apples can be a chore, and some people use an Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer.
I use a serrated peeler to peel the apples, a melon baller to core them, and a mandolin slicer to thinly slice them (photo 1). I definitely use the food guard on the mandolin...I want to keep all my fingers!
Cooking up the apples doesn't take long at all. You're just softening the apples with butter and honey, adding even more apple flavor with the boiled apple cider (photo 2).
Step 3: Shape the babka
Press out the dough like you're making cinnamon rolls (or maybe cinnamon roll cookies). You want a 10- x 14-inches rectangle, about ¼-inch thick, with a long side facing you (photo 3).
Spread the apples onto the dough, leaving a 1-inch strip at the top. Starting on the long side facing you, tightly roll up the dough (photo 4).
It's good to chill the rope for at least 30 minutes. This helps the dough hold its shape while you twist it.
Slice the rope in half lengthwise using a bench scraper making two 14-inch long pieces. Twist each long piece individually so the apples are trapped inside the dough, tucking in any apples that may have fallen out (photo 5).
Twist and wrap the two ropes of dough together in the opposite direction from the way you twisted the individual pieces. Squish the twisted dough together (photo 6).
Tuck the ends under and put the whole thing into a standard loaf pan. It's messy, and you'll have to tuck in any escaping apples (photo 7). This is messy business but worth it in the end!
Brush the babka with an egg mixed with a tablespoon of water, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes while you heat the oven.
Step 4: Bake the babka
Brush the babka with the egg wash once more, then bake at 350°F for 45 minutes. Cover the top with foil after about 30 minutes if it's getting too dark.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue to bake until the top of the babka is deep brown, about 15 minutes more, and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the top. The babka will be fully baked when the center reads at least 190°F.
Step 5: Glaze the babka
Melt the butter and boiled apple cider together In a small saucepan over low heat, whisking occasionally. Once the butter has melted, remove from heat and whisk in the sifted powdered sugar.
Drizzle the glaze over the babka just before serving, letting it set about 5 minutes (photo 8). Apple nirvana awaits!
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions you might have...
Not a lot! A brioche recipe contains more butter and milk and will be richer than babka. And while a babka recipe can contain butter and milk, it can also be made with oil and water, giving it a drier texture than brioche.
Because babka is sweet, it's generally served warmed or at room temperature for breakfast, brunch, as an afternoon snack, or dessert. Babka also is great in french toast bread pudding!
Think of boiled cider as the apple equivalent of maple syrup. Apple cider is boiled down until it's got the same consistency as honey. It's easy to make, or you can find ready-made boiled cider.
Babka worthy of a holiday
A baked Apples and Honey Babka is incredibly tasty. Think apple pie filling stuffed into challah.
Unlike an Apple Cinnamon babka, there is intense apple flavor that's not spiced, just sweet.
Once you bake an Apples and Honey Babka, you can make other varieties like a Chocolate Babka with a fudge filling or the aforementioned Cranberry Wine Babka. Use your imagination!
And for those celebrating Rosh Hashanah, I wish you a sweet and prosperous New Year!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
I love to bake shaped bread, especially using sourdough starter discard. Here are some shaped bread recipes to try...
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Apples and Honey Babka with Boiled Apple Cider Glaze
For the dough
- ½ cup milk, warmed between 100°F to 110°F
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons instant yeast, or rapid rise
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup honey
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
For the filling
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cups apples, about 4 medium apples, see Recipe Notes
- ⅓ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons boiled apple cider, homemade or store bought
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon water
For the glaze
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons boiled apple cider, homemade or store bought
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- Prepare the dough: Heat the milk until it’s warm to the touch, about 100 °F to 110 °F as read on a digital thermometer. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the sugar, then sprinkle the yeast over the milk and set aside to proof for about 5 minutes or until bubbles form on the surface of the milk.
- Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the egg, honey, and vanilla, then mix on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add the flour and the salt and mix on low speed until a sticky dough forms. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix in thoroughly before adding in another tablespoon.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on medium speed until a smooth and slightly sticky dough forms, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add more flour in 1 tablespoon increments as needed to make the dough the right consistency.
- Gather the dough into a ball, stretching it so the top of the ball is smooth. Spray a large bowl with canola oil spray and place the dough ball in smooth side down to wipe it with oil. Turn the dough with the gathered rough part of the dough down and the smooth surface of the ball facing up. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. The inside of a cool oven with the light on works well.
- Make the Filling: Peel the apples with a serrated peeler, then remove the core with a melon baller. Slice the apples thinly, about ⅛-inch thick. I like using a mandolin slicer, but be very careful to use the food guard.
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook apples in butter until starting to soften (about 5 to 7 minutes), then add honey, boiled apple cider, and vanilla.
- Reduce heat and simmer until sauce has thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. (Can be made up to 5 days ahead, just bring to room temperature before using).
- Assemble the babka: Coat a standard loaf pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving an 2-inch overhand on the long sides. Set aside.
- Dust a clean surface with flour and roll the chilled dough out to a rectangle roughly 10- x 14-inches, about ¼-inch thick, with a long side facing you (landscape orientation). Using a large offset spatula, spread the cooled apples over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch strip bare along the long side away from you.
- Tightly roll the dough up from the long side facing you, making a 14-inch rope. Chill the rope for at least 30 minutes (chilling helps the dough hold its shape while you twist it).
- Slice the rope in half lengthwise using a bench scraper, making two 14-inch long pieces. Twist each long piece individually so the apples are trapped inside the dough, tucking in any apples that may have fallen out.
- Twist and wrap the two ropes of dough together in the opposite direction from the way you twisted the individual pieces. Squish the twisted dough together and transfer it to the prepared loaf pan, tucking in any stray pieces of apples and dough. This is messy business but worth it in the end!
- Whisk together the beaten egg with the water to make an egg wash. Brush the egg wash over the top of the dough in the pan, then cover with a piece of greased plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Once the dough has rested (it won’t have risen much, just a tiny bit), brush with the egg wash again.
- Bake the babka: While the babka loaf is resting, preheat the oven to 350 °F. Place the loaf pan on a quarter sheet baking pan and bake for 45 minutes. Cover the top with foil after about 30 minutes if it's getting too dark.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325 °F and continue to bake until the top of the babka is deep brown, about 15 minutes more, and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the top. The babka will be fully baked when the center reads at least 190 °F.
- Let babka cool in the pan for 15 minutes on a wire cooling rack, then use the parchment paper to lift the babka out of the pan and transfer it to back to the wire cooling rack. Let cool.
- Make the glaze: Melt the butter and boiled apple cider together In a small saucepan over low heat, whisking occasionally. Once the butter has melted, remove from heat and whisk in the sifted powdered sugar.
- Drizzle the glaze over the babka just before serving, letting it set about 5 minutes (if you can wait that long!). Serve & enjoy!
- The babka will keep well wrapped or in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days. You an also slice it thick and use it for Apple French Toast. Delicious!