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!Adapted from King Arthur Flour and Jamie Geller
Prepare the dough: Heat the milk until it’s warm to the touch, about 100 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!
Try to find apples that will hold their shape while baking. Several examples include Granny Smith (a classic, but a bit tart in this application, if you ask me), Paula Reds (crisp and sweet, won’t discolor after being cut), or Jazz (what I had on hand and worked quite well). Other suggestions would be Pink Lady, Jonagold, or Golden Delicious. Feel free to combine apple varieties as well.A serrated peeler will make quick work of peeling the apples. Using a mandolin slicer speeds up the work and insures uniform slices. Just be careful with the sharp blade...make sure you use the food guard!If you’d rather not use the apple glaze, you can just sprinkle some course sugar on the egg-washed babka before putting it in the oven to add sweetness and crunch (but really…no glaze?).