Uri Scheft's Apple Babka

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apple babka

Excerpted from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2016. Photographs by Con Poulos.

Seasonal fresh fruit always complements babka—so you can try plums or apricots in place of apples and make this any time of the year. The dough is a simplified version of the one made at Breads Bakery and Lehamim Bakery, but it still makes a very rich and delicious babka. This recipe makes two babkas in two standard 9- x 5-inch loaf pans.

  • Duration
  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 2 LoavesServings

Ingredients

Dough:

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 120 grams (½ cup) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 20 grams (2½ tablespoons) fresh yeast, or 6 grams (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 280 grams (2¼ cups) all-purpose flour (11.7%), sifted, plus extra for dusting, kneading, and shaping
  • 220 grams (2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons) pastry or cake flour (8.5 to 9%), sifted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 75 grams (1/3 cup) sugar
  • Large pinch fine salt
  • 80 grams (5 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Filling:

  • 45 grams (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the pan
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 4 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored, and sliced ⅛-inch thick
  • ½ vanilla bean, halved lengthwise to expose the seeds
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon

Egg Wash and Topping:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Pinch of fine salt
  • 275 grams (2 ¾ cups) sliced almonds

Simple Syrup:

  • 160 grams (3/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) water

Preparation

Filling:

1. Cook the apples by melting butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once butter has melted, add sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and begins to caramelize, 2 to 3 minutes. 

2. Add apples and vanilla bean. Cook, stirring often, until apples become juicy, their liquid cooks off, and apples begin to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the apples to a bowl, remove vanilla bean, and stir in lemon zest and juice. Set the bowl of apples aside, and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Or, refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Dough:

1. Whisk vanilla into milk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Use a fork or your fingers to lightly mix the yeast into the milk. Add flours, eggs, sugar, salt, and butter in small pinches.

2. Mix on lowest speed, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, and to pull the dough off the hook as it accumulates. Break it apart so it mixes evenly, until the dough is well combined, for 2 minutes (it will not be smooth). If the dough is very dry, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time; if the dough looks wet, add more all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Increase mixer speed to medium, and mix until the dough is smooth and has good elasticity, 4 minutes.

3. To stretch and fold the dough, lightly dust your work surface with flour and turn dough out on top. Lightly dust the top of the dough and the interior of a large bowl with flour. Grab the top portion of the dough and stretch it away from you, tearing the dough. Then fold it on top of the middle of the dough. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the stretch, tear, and fold. Continue to do this for 5 minutes, until you can stretch a small piece of dough very thin without it tearing. Then use your hands to push and pull the dough against the work surface and in a circular motion to create a nice round of dough. Set the ball in the floured bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

4. Set dough on a piece of plastic wrap and press it into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours before proceeding with the recipe.

5. Lightly coat 2 standard loaf pans with room-temperature unsalted butter. Unwrap the cold babka dough and set it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the babka dough into a 9-x 24-inch rectangle.

6. Sprinkle apples evenly over dough, leaving a 1-inch border at the bottom, and then roll the dough from the top down, forming a tight cylinder. Pick up the cylinder, holding one end in each hand, and gently stretch it. Using a bread knife, slice the cylinder crosswise into quarters so you have a total of 4 filled segments.

7. Twist the strips to make the babkas: Take 2 pieces of dough, overlap one over the other to form an X, and twist the ends together like the threads on a screw so you have at least 2 twists on each side of the X. Repeat with the remaining pieces.

8. Let the babkas proof. Place each twisted babka in a prepared loaf pan. Cover the pans with a dry kitchen towel and set them aside in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough rises 1 to 2 inches above the rim of the pan and is very soft and jiggly to the touch, 1½ to 2 hours, depending on how warm your room is.

9. Preheat oven to 350°F.

10. Make the egg wash by whisking egg, water, and salt together in a small bowl. Brush each babka with egg wash, and sprinkle generously with almonds. Bake at 350°F until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Loosely tent them with aluminum foil if they begin to get too dark during baking.

Simple Syrup:

1. Meanwhile, make the simple syrup. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and set syrup aside to cool.

2. Remove pans from the oven and, while babkas are still hot, brush the tops with simple syrup. Once babkas are completely cooled, turn them out of the loaf pans, slice, and serve.