The Washington Post

Old-Fashioned Cinnamon Babka

Old-Fashioned Cinnamon Babka 16.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Apr 4, 2016

This recipe produces the kind of dense and chewy babka found in Montreal bakeries. The two secrets to making it are no rise time -- a boon for busy home cooks -- and rolling the dough extremely thin. The rolled doughs won’t look like they are big enough to fill the pan, but they will bake up to a nice size.

You’ll need three 8-by-4 1/2–inch pans (for small loaves); two 9-by-5-inch pans (for medium loaves); or one 12-by-5-inch pan (for the large loaf, available via and other commercial bakers’ suppliers online). Use a conventional, not convection, oven.

Marcy Goldman uses a combination of different ground cinnamons: Saigon, cassis and Costco brand.

See the chocolate schmear VARIATION, below.

Make Ahead: Wrap the baked babka in wax paper and place it in an untied plastic bag; store at room temperature for up to 5 or 6 days. The babka (unbaked or baked) can be frozen for up to 3 months; defrost the unbaked babka overnight in the refrigerator.

16 - 20

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 16-20 servings; makes 3 small loaves, 2 medium loaves or one very large loaf

  • For the cinnamon schmear
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 5 tablespoons ground cinnamon (see headnote)
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Regular or low-fat milk, at room temperature, as needed
  • For the simple syrup
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • For the butter crumb topping
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • For the dough
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast, preferably SAF brand
  • 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour, or more as needed, plus more for the work surface
  • 5 large eggs, plus 1 beaten egg for brushing
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into chunks
  • 1 1/3 cups regular or low-fat milk, at room temperature


For the cinnamon schmear: Combine the granulated and confectioners’ sugars, the ground cinnamon, butter and egg yolks in a food processor; puree for 1 to 2 minutes to form a soft paste. If it’s too thick to spread easily, add the milk in small increments, as needed, and pulse to incorporate. Transfer to a bowl.

For the simple syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cook for 3 minutes without stirring. Let it cool.

For the butter crumb topping: Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and flour in a mixing bowl. Use a fork or your clean fingers to work the butter into the flour mixture until it is clumpy or has the consistency of a rough crumb topping, with big and little pieces.

For the dough: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Stack two rimmed baking sheets, then line the top one with parchment paper. Generously grease the loaf pan(s) with cooking oil spray and line with parchment paper, if desired, then place the pan(s) on the top baking sheet.

Whisk together the water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cover completely with 2 cups of the flour, then add the eggs, granulated sugar, salt, butter, milk and half of the remaining flour. Beat on low speed to form a thick, sticky mass, then switch to a dough hook. Beat on the lowest speed for 6 to 8 minutes, adding enough of the remaining flour to form a soft, sticky dough. (You'll have used about two-thirds of the flour by this point). Let it rest for 10 minutes in the bowl.

After it rests, beat again on low speed for 6 to 8 minutes, adding the remaining flour as needed to form a smooth, elastic dough that holds together and mostly gathers around the dough hook.

Generously flour a work surface. Divide the dough in half. Roll out one portion to a very thin, almost strudel-like square measuring 20 to 24 inches on all sides.

Check the spreadability of the cinnamon schmear; if it has firmed up, stir in enough milk to make it easy to spread. Gently spread half of the schmear evenly over the rolled-out dough, to the edges. Very carefully, as if you were tightly rolling up a sleeping bag, begin pushing the edge of the dough that’s closest to you, jelly-roll style; you’re aiming for 12 to 14 rotations. Repeat with the remaining portion of dough and the remaining schmear.

Use a very sharp knife to cut each long roll into the number of portions appropriate for to the pans you are using: 6 equal sections for 3 small loaves; 4 equal sections for 2 medium loaves or in half for 1 large loaf. Cut each section lengthwise almost all the way through. Twist each pair of rolls (per loaf pan) and fit them into the pan(s). Or shape each roll into a horseshoe, twist each roll slightly before placing in the pan; the dough will be squished in but that’s okay.

Brush the top of each babka with the beaten egg, then scatter the butter crumb topping evenly over the tops. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes (for small loaves); 55 to 65 minutes (for medium loaves) and 75 to 90 minutes (for the large loaf), until the bread is well browned and seems solid to the touch. A tester inserted into the center of the babka might have soft cinnamon on it but should not have unbaked dough on it.

Brush or drizzle the simple syrup over the warm babka(s); let rest for 1 hour before dislodging from the pan to slice or store.

VARIATION: To create a chocolate schmear, combine 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips, 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter at room temperature, 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 large egg yolk in a food processor. Puree to form a soft paste; if it’s too thick to spread, add the milk (as directed above).

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Recipe Source

From Montreal cookbook author Marcy Goldman.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (based on 20, using low-fat milk and 6 1/2 cups flour): 590

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 23g 35%

Saturated Fat: 14g 70%

Cholesterol: 120mg 40%

Sodium: 110mg 5%

Total Carbohydrates: 89g 30%

Dietary Fiber: 2g 8%

Sugar: 54g

Protein: 8g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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