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Basic Sweet Babka

Babka can seem daunting—how do you achieve those swirls? But once you know how simple it is to make, you will be experimenting with sweet and savory flavor combinations of your own.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Rising Time2 hrs
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: baking, bread
Servings: 3 babkas
Calories: 1516kcal
Author: Shannon Sarna



  • 1 tablespoon dry active yeast
  • cup + ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup lukewarm water
  • 4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ cup whole or 2% milk 
 or almond milk
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter (or margarine), melted (1 ½ sticks)
  • 2 eggs
  • Suggested fillings: 1 to 1 1/2 cups chocolate filling cinnamon sugar, or other filling of your choice


  • cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • For the dough: Place the yeast and ½ teaspoon sugar in a small bowl. Add the lukewarm water and stir gently to mix. Set aside until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together the flour, ⅓ cup sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
  • In a medium saucepan, scald the milk (bring almost to a boil, until milk is just simmering). Allow to sit for 1 minute to cool just slightly.
  • With mixer on low, add the water-​yeast mixture, milk, and melted butter. Add the eggs one at a time.
  • When the dough begins to come together, after 2 to 3 minutes, turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides. Raise the speed to hgh and mix for another 5 to 10 minutes until the dough is shiny, elastic, and smooth. It may seem like a long time to mix, but the result is worth the wait.
  • Place dough in a greased bowl with a damp towel on top. Allow to rise 1 to 2 hours.
  • Make the sugar syrup while the dough is rising: Combine the water, sugar, and vanilla in a small saucepan. Bring to a low boil until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside and cool. This syrup can be kept in the fridge for 2 to 3 months and makes enough for at least 2 batches of babka (6 medium babkas).
  • Prepare three 8 ½-by-4 ½-inch greased loaf pans. Note: you can also make two larger round babkas that can be baked on baking sheets.
  • Cut the dough into three equal parts (use a food scale for precision). Roll out one part into a rectangle. Spread one-third of the filling onto the rectangle and roll up along the shorter side (to create swirls inside).
    Babka set to roll
  • Once the dough is formed into a swirled log, cut it straight down the middle so the filling is exposed. 
    Babka roll cut in half
  • Cut ½ inch off each end. 
    Babka roll trim
  • Layer each cut piece on top of one another and twist. Place in a greased loaf pan.
    Babka twist for baking
  • Repeat with the other two pieces of babka dough. Lightly drape a kitchen towel over the top of the pans. Allow to rise another 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 3500F while the dough rises.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. Brush each babka with two layers of sugar syrup. Place back in the oven for approximately 15 minutes. The edges should be slightly brown and the middle should be slightly doughy.
    Babka ready for baking
  • When the babkas come out of the oven, immediately brush each with another 3 light layers of sugar syrup. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Using a butter knife, loosen the sides of the babka from the pan and place on top of wire rack to cool.