This Cinnamon Apple Babka features sweet apples and cinnamon filling twisted inside the rich and buttery yeasted dough. Extra moist, crazy delicious, the Best Cinnamon babka recipe really with apple filling. It is my favorite comfort food during Fall and winter but can be a wonderful dessert or breakfast all year round.
📖 What is babka
A babka is a sweet braided bread that originated in the Jewish communities across the world like in Poland or Hungary where I grew up. It is prepared with a yeast-leavened dough (similar or the same as challah) that is rolled out and spread with a filling such as chocolate, cinnamon, fruit, poppy seed, etc. Then, rolled up and the filling twisted inside before baking.
Beginning in the 2010s the popularity of babka increased across the United States, especially in New York, where a popular Israeli bakery: Breads Bakery began to sell their babka filled with traditional fillings such as cinnamon, as well as non-traditional fillings such as Nutella, apple, cheesecake, etc. They became well known for their chocolate babka.
Making Cinnamon Apple babka is really hassle-free, and easy and it is mostly about waiting for the dough to proof. You can totally make it at home even if you are a beginner baker!
🌟 Why this is the best recipe
- It is super easy – No fancy ingredients are needed, the Cinnamon Apple babka recipe comes together really easily, a totally doable even if you are a beginner. Most of the work will be done by your mixer, then I will teach you the shaping and twisting process step by step
- It is not much effort, most of the time is just waiting for the dough to proof – The amount of effort making this babka is really minimal, however, you will have to rest the dough in between steps. Since Babka is a yeasted dough, you can´t really speed the process of proofing. However, the time you will spend in the kitchen itself is absolutely minimal
- It is super delicious – Imagine a delicious sweet apple-cinnamon swirl in soft, pillowy brioche dough. This Apple cinnamon babka recipe is one of the most delicious desserts you will ever make, totally addictive! A lovely sweet bread that will equally fill your heart and body. Read my secrets below about how to make the Babka super moist and shiny
- No special equipment is needed – A stand mixer is super handy when it comes to kneading the dough but apart from that, all you need is a loaf tin to bake the Cinnamon Apple babka and you are good to go! Having said that, you can totally knead the dough with your hands as my Mom does, and replace the gym with baking on that day!
- It is super versatile – The Cinnamon swirl Babka recipe can be made using different spices eg. cardamom, and tonka bean or you can easily turn it into Caramel Apple Babka, etc. You can also skip the apples and make a Cinnamon babka recipe instead or fill the brioche dough with Nutella. Make sure that you check my Nutella babka recipe!
📝 Ingredient notes
- Butter: Use always unsalted butter as you want to be in control of the quantity of the salt. I am using 82% fat content butter in all my recipes. In this recipe, the butter needs to be at room temperature so soft enough to be able to knead into the dough. Make sure that you avoid last-minute microwaving as melted butter won´t work
- Sugar: A small amount of white granulated sugar is used to make the babka dough. No need to use too much sugar as the filling will make this Babka sweet enough.
- Yeast: I am using fresh yeast in this Cinnamon Apple babka recipe however it can be made with dry yeast too. My instant dry yeast pack says that its 7 g yeast equals 25 g fresh yeast. I used 12,5 g of fresh yeast to make this recipe which is equal to 3,5 g dried yeast (approx. 1 teaspoon). Please check your local brand and calculate your yeast need accordingly and check my ultimate yeast guide for details on how to work with yeast
- Milk: Use room temperature whole milk
- Egg: Room temperature as always, 1 egg + 1 yolk to keep the Babka extra moist and delicious
- Flour: This Cinnamon Apple Babka is effectively a sweet bread similar to brioche or cinnamon roll. Make sure to use high protein content bread flour which contains more gluten and helps to achieve that lovely airy and chewy texture everyone loves. It might not be called bread flour in your country, so check the protein content and choose one that is higher. If you really can´t find bread flour, go with all purpose flour. If you want to be a Pro when it comes to deciding what type of flour to use in your baking, please read my flour guide
- Salt: An essential ingredient in most dessert recipes. Balances flavor and enhances other ingredients
- Syrup: Syrup makes this Cinnamon Apple Babka shiny and even moister. I am using a combination of sugar, water, and lemon juice simple syrup that makes the Babka extra special and less sweet than soaking it with simple sugar syrup
🛒 You’ll find detailed measurements for all Ingredients in the printable version of the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post
- Butter: Same as above, use unsalted butter. In the apple pie filling recipe, the butter will need to be melted so it is fine to use cold butter
- Apples: Almost any kind of apple can work to make the filling. After peeling, cut into small chunks
- Sugar: Brown sugar with beautiful molasses notes perfectly complements the apples. Alternatively, use granulated sugar and mixture of these
- Spices: Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves or pumpkin spice will bring wonderful flavor to this Apple Babka
+ Freshly squeezed lemon. I like to drizzle the apple slices with freshly squeezed lemon juice for two reasons. 1. It prevents the apple slices from browning 2. It wonderfully balances the sweetness and bring out the flavors
Check my caramelized apple recipe for more details on how to prepare the filling!
🛒 You’ll find detailed measurements for all Ingredients in the printable version of the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post
👩🍳 How to make this recipe
1. How to activate the yeast
I know a lot of you afraid of handling yeast, please don´t be scared! It is super easy if you follow some simple rules that are mainly related to temperature! I have a detailed baking guide about yeast, please read it for further details.
The process is easy: heat milk until lukewarm, mix half of the sugar in then sprinkle yeast on top (whether it is fresh or dry yeast), and wait 10 minutes until yeast starts to foam. The same process applies whether you are using fresh or dried yeast. The key here is that your milk is warm enough (lukewarm) but not too hot. Make sure that your kitchen is not too cold (above 20C / 68F). If yeast does not start bubbling after 10 minutes, chances are very low that the dough will rise. I recommend starting over again.
Start using the activated yeast after it foams, about 10 minutes. Leaving it on the kitchen counter for too long might result in yeast overflowing and eventually breaking.
💡 Top Tip: Please make sure you follow the quantity of the yeast. Your Cinnamon Apple Babka won´t get better or softer by adding more yeast! There is an exact science of adding leaving agent to baking products, and adding less or adding more is an equally bad choice.
2. How to knead the Babka dough
Cinnamon Apple babka is basically a sweet kind of bread, therefore the process of making it is similar to bread meaning it involves kneading.
- Once the yeast is foamy, place all the wet ingredients (the yeasty mixture + egg into the bowl of your Stand mixer and mix for a minute
- Add the dry ingredients (bread flour, rest of the sugar, salt) and start kneading with the help of the dough hook. First, it will look a bit messy but after a few minutes the dough will start to come together
- Start adding the butter in very small portions piece by piece while the mixer is on. Very important that butter is at room temperature and soft but not too soft or liquid which would make it impossible to mix that into the dough. Butter might not get mixed in immediately but keep your Stand mixer on and eventually it will all come together
- Once the dough comes together you will have to knead it for another approx. 10 minutes on medium-high speed up until the dough is is super shiny, elastic and achieves the gluten window! At this point, the dough should not stick at all.
- Form a ball and place the dough into a big enough bowl for the first rise
💡 Top Tip: Do not change this Cinnamon Apple babka recipe and add a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I promise the dough will come together in the process of kneading and does not require more flour or milk etc.
3. How long does it take for the Babka to rise
There are two alternatives for rising the Cinnamon Apple Babka dough: quickly at room temp or slower in the fridge.
Many would choose the lazy quick one and rise the Babka dough at room temp for 1-2 hours. It works, however for the perfect taste and texture I strongly suggest rising the dough overnight in the fridge.
So for the first rise, place the babka dough into a glass or plastic bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for min 12 hours (overnight). Alternatively, place it into a warm spot in your house but avoid direct sunshine or heat.
💡 Top Tip: The overnight rise in the fridge not just makes the Babka texture fluffier and softer, but also makes your life easier when it comes to shaping and twisting the dough.
4. How to fill and twist Babka
The filling and shaping process of your Cinnamon Apple Babka happens after the dough had its first rise.
Have you ever had a disastrous experience shaping a soft babka dough that melts while the filling is all over the kitchen counter? Most recipes fail to explain one thing: the importance of TEMPERATURE! while shaping Babka.
- Prepare the thick apple cinnamon sugar filling by peeling and cutting apples into small identical sizes. Sprinkle the apple slices with freshly squeezed lemon juice while working on the rest. Then, then cook the mixture for a few minutes with brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter until the apples soften a bit. Do not need to cook the filling all the way, just until the mixture thickens
- Chill the filling and make sure that you only use it cold. For a neat cut and shaping process, it is very important that the filling is cold and thick enough
- Prepare your loaf tin and place parchment paper inside
- Roll the Babka dough on Silicone baking mat in that way you do not need to add flour while rolling. I suggest rolling it into a rectangle of 42x30 cm / 16x12 inches. Alternatively, roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface
- Pop rolled out Babka dough into the freezer to chill for 3-5 minutes before filling
- Spread the cinnamon apple filling on the Babka dough evenly and smooth it with an Offset spatula
- Pop the Babka back into the freezer again for 3-5 minutes before rolling it up. You have to chill the dough so you will be able to roll it up neatly
- Roll the Babka up tightly and neatly from the longer end. Press to seal the end onto the roulade
- Pop the Babka back into the freezer for another 5 minutes to properly chill
- Now using a sharp enough knife cut the Babka into half lengthwise. Try to cut it exactly in the middle of the roulade
- Check whether Babka filling is firm enough to proceed with shaping. If too runny, pop Babka again back to the freezer for a few minutes to chill
- Place Babka log over each other with filling facing up and twist the dough with your hands on both sides
- Gently squeeze together the ends and carefully lift Babka into a prepared loaf pan
Now onto second proofing at room temperature, soon we are ready to bake!
💡 Top Tip: The most important part of shaping the Cinnamon Apple Babka is always working with a dough that is cold enough so that the process is more comfortable, and less of a mess. Of course, make sure you do not chill the dough to a point where it would be impossible to work with it because it is frozen.
5. How to bake
First of all how not to bake this Cinnamon Apple Babka? Never bake it without a second proofing!
With the second rise, we are looking for the dough to almost double and it might take 1-2h depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Cover your Babka so it does not dry out (I place it into a zip bag), and place it into a warm spot in your house yet not too hot as you also do not want the filling to melt.
During the end of the second rise pre-heat your oven to 190C / 374F ( no fan) then once Babka dough nicely risen place it into the oven, lower the temp to 180C / 356F (no fan) and bake for about 40 minutes.
Check the Apple Babka at 30 minutes and adjust the temperature, if needed.
Your Cinnamon Apple Babka is ready when the toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. It should be golden brown and well baked throughout.
💡 Top Tip: Invest into an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer to avoid under baked or burnt Babka especially if you typically have trouble with your oven.
✨ Secrets behind moist and shiny Babka
There is a moisturizing stage involved straight after baking, concretely you will have to pour some hot syrup over the Cinnamon Apple Babka immediately after it is out of the oven.
The syrup I am using is a mixture of water, sugar AND lemon juice that balances the sweetness of the Babka without making it overly sweet. It gives the perfect shine, while keeping the Babka extra moist and soft, you must try it!
💡 Top Tip: Let first the syrup sink in, and the Babka is slightly cool before removing it from the tin. I suggest moving it to a cooling rack when it is lukewarm so you won´t break it.
🥣 Equipment notes
Making this Cinnamon Apple Babka is really hassle-free, and easy and it is mostly about waiting. Regarding the equipment I suggest the following:
First and foremost make sure you measure the ingredients with the help of a Digital scale.
For kneading the dough a Stand mixer is super handy with the dough hook on, however, if you are strong like my Mom you can attempt doing it by hand, good luck!
Rolling pin is totally necessary to roll the Babka dough out then for spreading the filling an Offset spatula is very handy as you want to make sure that the filling is spread evenly and neatly. If you want to be a Pro, use Silicone baking mat to roll the dough out in that case dough will certainly not stick and no need to use extra flour.
For baking the Cinnamon Apple Babka you will need a Loaf pan, the quantity stated in the recipe makes a standard size 1 pound loaf tin that is 12x22cm / 5x8 inches. Make sure you place parchment paper inside so it will be easy to remove the baked Babka.
🎓 Expert tips
- Bread flour (high protein content flour) makes a huge difference when it comes to yeasted sweet bread like this babka
- Use high-quality 82% fat content European style butter for the best flavor
- When it comes to working with yeast, first always "activate" the yeast until it´s foamy
- When kneading the dough, make sure that the butter is soft enough but not melted or liquid as that won´t be able to get incorporated with the rest of the ingredients
- Consider overnight rise for the first fermentation. If in a rush, leave it in a warm place in your house for 1-2 hours instead, however, never ever try to speed up the rise using the oven
- For assembling and twisting the dough the key tip is to always work with a cold enough dough that does not stick. Filling should be also called, otherwise, it would melt the dough
- Do not skip the second rise before baking
- Consider using an oven thermometer for the best result, a digital scale is a must
- Feel free to experiment with different spices either in the dough or in the filling. Orange zest in the dough and cardamom in the filling for example would make a wonderfully delicious babka
Yes, you can however high protein content bread flour will provide a better texture and flavor. Remember, Cinnamon apple babka is a sweet bread, you also would not make bread with cake flour, would you?
Technically you can. Once you finish kneading the babka dough in your mixer, instead of the overnight proof, you can proof the dough for 1-2h at room temperature. Once the dough doubles in size, knock the air out of it and continue with rolling, filling, shaping, second proof then baking.
However, I strongly advise against "quick and dirty" proofing for a number of reasons: 1. depth of taste 2. texture 3. it is much harder to roll and shape the room temperature dough. Basically, with the overnight proofing, you will make your life easier as the dough will be much easier to handle
You should always use the yeast within the expiry date. Make sure that the temperature is correct for your yeast to get activated. Milk should be lukewarm, your kitchen should be also not too cold (above 20C / 68F). If yeast does not start bubbling after 10 minutes, chances are very low that the dough will rise at a later stage. I recommend not to waste the rest of the ingredients but start again with a new batch of yeast
It can be a combination is several reasons.
Either yeast was not activated properly, see point above. Or the second, room temperature proofing has not happened, or for not long enough. Perhaps the oven temperature was too low or the ingredients are not measured inaccurately
Most probably yes, you can, however, you can´t just leave out / change an ingredient without reformulating the entire recipe. When one ingredient changes, some other ingredients need to be changed too in order to keep the balance in the texture and flavor. Sadly, I am not able to provide substitutes for all sorts of allergies and diets.
Yes, you can, however, you will need to adjust the ingredient quantities and baking time accordingly.
This Cinnamon Apple Babka does not require a fridge, store it like you would store bread. In an air-tight container, it stays fresh for a few days not that it ever lasts that long
You can easily freeze Babka in air-tight container and enjoy it later whenever you feel like
🍞 Other Sweet Bread recipes
The Ultimate Cinnamon Apple Babka
Apple cinnamon Filling
- 60 g (¼ cups) Water
- 20 g (1 tablespoon) Lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 80 g (⅓ cups) Granulated sugar
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
First day - first proofing
- Start with mixing half of the sugar with lukewarm milk then sprinkle yeast on top. Make sure kitchen is nice and warm, and in 10 minute yeast should foam
- Mix in dry ingredients; bread flour, rest of the sugar, salt and start kneading until dough comes together
- Slowly start to add in room temp (soft) butter chunks by piece. Knead the dough for another 10 minutes on medium high speed until dough becomes elastic and shiny and not sticky any longer
- Move the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest and rise in the fridge overnight for 12 hours
Make the Apple Cinnamon filling
- Peel and cut apples into small identical pieces then with the rest of the ingredients cook it for about 10 minutes until apple slighly soften and mixture thickens
- Let filling completely cool before using
- Pop the Babka in and out of the freezer for a few minutes to chill between steps, make sure the dough is always cold enough to work with
- Spread Apple cinnamon filling on top with the help of an Offset spatula. Roll Babka dough up evenly and tightly from the longer end then press to seal the end onto the roll
- Grease your Loaf pan with butter or use parchment paper inside
- Cut the Babka into half lengthwise, then place the logs over each other with filling facing up and twist the logs with your hands on both sides. Gently squeeze together the ends and carefully lift Babka into a prepared Loaf pan. Make sure the dough is nice and chilled during the process, pop it back to the freezer for a few minutes if necessary between steps
- Proof Babka the second time now on room temp. Proofing might take 1-2h, wait until Babka doubled in size
- Pre-heat your oven to 190C / 374F then once Babka dough nicely risen place it into the oven, lower the temp to 180C / 356F and bake for about 40 minutes. Bake until skewer inserted comes out clean
- During the end of the baking time make the syrup: boil water, sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice together until mixture reaches a syrup consistency. Pour hot syrup over baked Babka immediately
- Let the syrup sink in and the Babka slightly cool before removing it from the tin to a cooling rack
- Store in air-tight container in room temperature
- Use always unsalted butter in baking, in this Babka recipe butter needs to be on room temperature so soft enough to be able to knead into the dough
- Fresh or Dried yeast can be both used. My instant dried yeast pack says that 25g fresh yeast equal to 7 g dried. I use 12,5 g fresh yeast to make this recipe that is equal to 3,5 g dried yeast (approx. 1 teaspoon). Please check your local brand and calculate your yeast need accordingly
- Use milk and egg on room temperature in order for the ingredients to properly emulsify
- Since Babka is effectively a sweet bread use high protein content bread flour
- For activating the yeast (whether it is dried or fresh), make sure that the milk is lukewarm and your kitchen is also nice and warm
- You will knead the dough for about 10 minutes in a stand mixer. The dough is ready when it is shiny, elastic and does not stick to your fingers any longer. Do not add more flour to the dough. If it sticks too much, continue kneading
- Overnight proofing is recommended for the best results. It is much easier to handle (roll, shape) a dough that is risen in chilled environment
- While cooking the filling pay attention not to overcook the apple. Also, make sure the mixture is thick enough to be able to fill it into your babka dough
- Filling must be chilled before using. Warm filling will would melt the dough immediately
- During the rolling, filling, shaping process try to work with chilled dough
- Second proofing is necessary for the perfect rise = fluffy texture
- Do not skip the syrup at the end. It will make your babka super shiny and moist