I love this recipe because it's beautiful, delicious and lends itself to so many fillings it can be customized to your heart's desire. It's a foolproof, fluffy babka that can accommodate whatever you have in your pantry, sweet or savory. Chicken, olives, halva, meat, or chocolate can all make their way into a babka.
Technique tip: Every temperature aspect is crucial and when it comes to yeast doughs. Warm water helps the yeast dough activate. Room temperature eggs help dough come together and allowing dough to rise at room temperature is key too. If your kitchen is cool (air conditioner is blasting or in cooler winter months) turn up the oven and allow dough to hang out near the warm oven.
Swap option: If you're short on time use store-bought pizza dough. Also, don't be scared to experiment with sweet and savory fillings. Pulled brisket babka and sautéed onion and cheese babka are both delish!
For the babka:1.
Mix water, yeast, 1 cup of flour, and salt in a bowl. Cover with a towel and let stand until the surface is spongy and foamy.2.
In a separate bowl, whisk 3 whole eggs, egg yolks, honey, and olive oil.3.
Once yeast mixture is foamy, pour into a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add egg mixture and beat on low speed. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing for 30 seconds until incorporated. Change to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes until it forms a smooth, soft dough that's slightly tacky when squeezed.4.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few turns until smooth. Grease a large bowl with olive oil. Place dough in bowl, and turn dough to coat with oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.5.
After dough has risen, generously grease three 9- by 5-inch loaf pans and line them with parchment paper.6.
In a small bowl, whisk remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water; set egg wash aside. Punch back the dough, and transfer to a clean surface. Let rest 5 minutes.7.
Cut into 3 equal pieces. Keep 2 pieces covered with plastic wrap while working with the remaining piece. On a generously floured surface, roll dough out into a 16-inch square that's 1/8-inch thick.8.
Smear filling of choice on rolled dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border clear of filling around the edges. Roll up dough tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch ends together to seal. Slice filled dough rope in half lengthwise and twist 5 or 6 turns and fit into prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of dough and remaining filling.9.
Preheat oven to 350°F.10.
Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash. Loosely cover each pan with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place for 30 minutes.11.
After the second rise, place loaves in oven to bake for 45-55 minutes, rotating loaves halfway through.12.
Lower oven temperature to 325°F degrees and bake 15 to 20 minutes more, until babkas are deep golden. Remove from oven, and transfer to wire racks until cool. Remove from pans; serve. Babkas freeze well for up to 1 month.
Babka Filling Options
For the cranberry-orange filling:
In a sauce pot with heat set to medium, simmer cranberries, sugar, orange juice, and salt until cranberries pop and become soft.
Continue cooking, stirring almost constantly until the mixture is thick and a jelly consistency. Fold in orange zest and dried cranberries. Cool completely.
For the blueberry filling:
Cook 2 cups of berries with 1/4 cup water, granulated sugar and brown sugar until a thick puree. Cool slightly and fold in remaining berries. Add cinnamon and zest if using. Cool completely.
For the chocolate-hazelnut filling:
Combine cocoa, sugar, salt and espresso. Smear babka with hazelnut spread and sprinkle with cocoa mixture.
For the mixed olive filling:
Pulse olives, garlic, tomatoes, rosemary, olive oil, red pepper, salt and pepper in a food processor until it forms a coarse puree. Store covered in the fridge for a week.