Turning wine into bread is easy & delicious with Cranberry Wine Babka. Made with a cranberry wine reduction, it's sweet-tart goodness!
Turning wine into bread
So, you get wine as a gift…do you drink it? I suspect that the vast majority do just that. However, if you’re a baker, maybe, just maybe, you think like I do and start dreaming up ways to bake with it, especially if it’s a semi-sweet fruit wine. After all, there’s concentrated flavor there…
What would I bake? How about a Cranberry Wine Babka?
Babka for breakfast, brunch and dessert
Babka is in essence an egg-enriched bread that’s spread with a filling and rolled up like a cinnamon roll (or cinnamon roll cookies, perhaps?). It’s then split, twisted, and shoved into a loaf pan to bake into dreamy dessert-bread.
Babka is also versatile, and with different filling options (Apricot! Chocolate! Apples & Honey!), it can be served at almost any meal.
How to create a recipe for babka
It starts with a thought...
What if I reduced the cranberry wine to a syrup and spread it on the dough for the filling?
Wait, what if I soaked dried cranberries in the wine first and sprinkled them on top? An idea for Cranberry Wine Babka was forming.
I have an excellent recipe for challah that I’ve been making for years, and I loved the idea of cinnamon-spiked brown sugar to sweeten the wine syrup.
I had also previously tried a Splendid Table recipe for Chocolate Cinnamon Babka that had excellent, detailed instructions and more validation about the direction I was going. The dough in that recipe looked almost identical to my challah except for the addition of vanilla extract and milk was substituted for water.
Ok, now you have a glimpse into my thought processes…sorry about the mess. Let’s get baking.
[Side note: I didn’t initially use raspberry wine jelly in the recipe (that’s why it’s not in the ingredient photo below), but added it on my second attempt. It helped to counter the cranberry wine tartness. Experimentation is good, people.]
When bread dough doesn't rise, try again
It was my challah dough that failed me.
Oh, not the recipe (that’s tried and true). No, my first batch of dough didn’t rise, just sat there like a sad lump of wanna-be-bread, probably because I killed the yeast when I heated the milk too hot...rookie mistake.
I tried again…uhm…my second batch also didn’t rise. Maybe the yeast I was using was dead? I called the King Arthur Hotline (1-855-371-2253...a wonderful resource, to be sure). I thought maybe using milk instead of water was the problem? It wasn't, so they suggested I try again with fresh, new yeast.
The third time was the charm…I opened a new bag of yeast, measured the milk temperature carefully. And...
Then I noticed my KitchenAid Precise Heat Mixing Bowl (the same device I use to temper chocolate) wasn’t getting warm. Really?? That was the problem?!? Luckily, the good people at KitchenAid replaced it under warranty, so all was better there.
Also, I guess the second time had been the charm, because when I put that batch of dough in the oven with just the light on, it rose beautifully. So now I had two batches of challah dough…an abundance of riches.
A really tasty idea
My Cranberry Wine Babka has a sweet and eggy bread base, just like always (with no perceptible difference from the milk).
The brown sugar added crunch, but it was the sweet tartness from the cranberries with a hint of wine that stole the show. The wine reduction added a deep flavor of tart cranberries and dark cherries, sticky and rich.
On my second try I spread raspberry wine jam along with the wine reduction for the filling.
Also, this time having a drizzle of wine syrup on top of the slice added a burst of sweet cranberry tartness. Wonderful.
It was a fun way to serve wine as bread, a fun exercise in creativity, and a learning experience into the ways of bread dough. Oh, and yummy, too!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Recipes for shaped bread
I love to bake shaped bread, especially using sourdough starter discard. Here are some shaped bread recipes to try...
Cranberry Wine Babka with cinnamon
- parchment paper
For the dough
- ¾ cup milk, warmed between 100°F to 110°F
- ¼ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 2¼ tsp yeast, instant or rapid rise, see Recipe Notes
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup canola oil
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1½ tsp kosher salt
For the filling
- 1½ cups cranberry wine, or another sweet fruit wine
- ½ cup dried cranberries, sweetened
- ½ cup raspberry wine jelly, or raspberry jam
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ⅛ tsp kosher salt
- Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to incorporate. Add the flour, the remaining sugar, and the salt and mix on low speed until the flour is incorporated into the liquid and a sticky dough forms.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on medium speed until a smooth and slightly sticky dough forms, about 5 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: While the dough is resting, heat the wine in the microwave for 1 minute on High. Soak the dried cranberries in the warmed wine for at least an hour. Strain the wine into a small saucepan, and set the cranberries aside.
- Bring the wine to boil over medium-high heat and reduce to ½ cup (about 15 minutes). Keep an eye on it so the wine doesn’t reduce too fast and burn. It will have a slightly thickened texture and will coat the back of a spoon (it will firm up upon chilling). Pour into a small bowl and chill until ready to use.
- Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.
- Once the dough has doubled, lightly dust a clean surface with flour and roll the dough out to a rectangle roughly 15- x 17-inches, with a long side facing you. Spread the jelly over the surface of the dough, using a small offset spatula then drizzle some the cooled wine syrup and spread it over the jelly (reserving the rest of the wine syrup for later). Sprinkle the sugar mixture to lightly cover the spread (you’ll have some left over). Finally, sprinkle reserved cranberries evenly over everything.
- Tightly roll the dough up from the bottom, making a 17-inch rope. Slice the dough in half lengthwise with a bench scraper, making two 17-inch long pieces. The dough might start to fall apart because of the cranberries. Twist each long piece individually so the cranberries are trapped inside the dough, tucking in any that have fallen out. Then twist and wrap the two ropes of dough together.
- Squish the twisted dough together and transfer it to the prepared loaf pan, tucking in any stray cranberries and dough. Sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture over the top of the dough (again, you may not use it all) and then cover with a piece of plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
- 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. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue to bake until the top of the babka is deep brown, about 15 minutes more.
- Let the babka cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then use the parchment paper to lift it out of the pan and transfer it to a wire cooling rack. Let it cool to room temperature. When ready to serve, warm the babka or serve at room temperature. Slice thickly and drizzle the reserved wine syrup. Enjoy!