Like everyone else on the internet, I’ve been playing around with wild yeast and baking sourdough. I just finished baking my third loaf (each loaf is getting better and better!) and I thought I’d try my hand at some other sourdough goods, like sourdough babka.
Did you know that there are TWO kinds of babka out there? Everyone is in love with with chocolate babka, thanks to a very old episode of Seinfeld where he and Elaine agreed that cinnamon babka was the “lesser babka.” To be honest, I don’t watch Seinfeld, so that tidbit comes to you thanks to Mike, who also isn’t a Seinfeld fan but somehow also manages to know all the Seinfeld-y memes like the soup nazi and the chicken roaster neon sign.
Anyway, Seinfeld aside, there are two types of babka, chocolate and the lesser babka, cinnamon. Actually, do we need to back up and talk about what babka is? If you haven’t had it before it’s a super rich buttery enriched dough that’s spread with chocolate (or cinnamon), rolled up, twisted, and baked into a lovely loaf of bread-y sweet deliciousness. Babka is everywhere and those beautiful glossy twists of bread made me want to try too.
I settled on trying out the sourdough babka recipe from The Perfect Loaf because I tried his sourdough recipe a couple of years ago and it was solid. I did make a couple of changes though, namely using my Kitchen Aid mixer to do more kneading so I didn’t have to do any stretch and folds. Oh, and I also divided the recipe in half because there’s only two of us and a giant babka is a dangerous thing.
I probably should have chosen a better pan size (Mike thought I should have just used a regular loaf) but I wanted to bake in my pullman loaf pan and get super square sides. Unfortunately that didn’t quite work the way I thought it would because there wasn’t enough dough for the base and the sides didn’t really come out the way I was envisioning. It ended up more like a babka cake rather than a babka loaf.
Looks aside, this was delicious! Sweet, sticky, ribbons of cinnamon all streamed through a soft and fluffy dough. I think I’m addicted to babka baking. Now I just need to figure out the right proportions for my favorite pan. Oh, and I am probably going to work on a chocolate babka, since, you know, this is the lesser babka.
Happy babka baking friends! And happy Easter too. Hopefully it’s sweet and safe at home.
PS – I have a sourdough starter guide coming soon so all you people who don’t have starter pets, this babka can soon be yours!
Small Batch Mini Cinnamon Sourdough Babka Loaf
- 187.5 grams all purpose flour
- 53.5 grams whole milk
- 53.5 grams egg about 1 egg
- 4 grams salt
- 14.5 grams sugar
- 23 grams sourdough starter young but mature
- 50 grams unsalted butter at room temp, cut into small pieces
Cinnamon Sugar Filling
- 100 grams brown sugar
- 1.5 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 7.5 grams all purpose flour
- 1.5 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp boiling water
- In the morning, build a levain: When your starter is mature, mix together 23 grams warm water (80°-85°F), 23 grams all purpose flour, and 23 grams starter. Let rest, covered for 3-4 hours, or until mature, in a warm spot.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, milk, eggs, salt, sugar, and 23 grams young mature levain. Use a dough hook and mix on low until incorporated. Let rest, uncovered for 30 minutes. After the rest, turn the mixer up to medium and mix until the dough starts to pull away from the sides.
- With the mixer still at medium, add the room temperature butter, a bit at a time, kneading until the butter is completely absorbed before adding the next bit. After all the butter is incorporated, continue to mix until the dough clings to the dough hook and passes the windowpane test. The dough should be smooth and shiny. Shape into a rough ball and transfer to a clean bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp for 2 hours. The dough will expand but not double. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
- The next day: Mix together the filling ingredients and set aside.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and tip out onto a floured work surface. Lightly flour the top and roll out into a long rectangle, with the short side closest to your body. Spread the filling evenly on the dough, leaving a 1 inch gap on the edge farthest from you. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll up into a very tight roll, sealing the edge. Place on a lined baking sheet and pop into the freezer for 10 minutes.
- While the babka is in the freezer, line the baking pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang so you can pull your loaf out after it’s baked. I used a 4.7 inch square pullman pan that ended up being a bit big for the size of the dough. The dough will fit in a regular sized loaf pan but just note, it’ll be a short babka, not a tall one.
- When the babka roll is slightly frozen, remove and slice in half. Pinch two of the ends together, braid, then pinch the ends together. Place in your prepared pan, cover and let proof in a warm spot for about 4-6 hours, or as long as needed – enriched doughs take a particularly long time to proof. The dough should double.
- Heat the oven to 350°F. When the babka is fully proofed, place the pan on a baking sheet (in case of overflow). Brush with an egg wash (one egg lightly whisked with 1 tablespoon water) then bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden and the center of the babka reaches 200°F. If the top starts browning too quickly, lower the temperature to 325°F or cover with a piece of foil.
- While the babka is baking, make a quick simple syrup by mixing together 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of boiling water. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and let cool.
- When the babka is baked through, place the pan on a wire rack. Use an offset spatula to loosen the sides then brush on a thin layer of simple syrup. Let the babka rest for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove immediately by using the parchment overhang. Let rest on a wire rack until cool to the touch, then slice and enjoy!