This apple cinnamon babka features sweet apples and a thick cinnamon filling twisted inside a rich and buttery yeasted dough. Finish the indulgent loaf with a buttery brown sugar cinnamon crumble topping and bake until golden brown. This is a must-try recipe and it’s impossible not to love!
This recipe is brought to you in partnership with Red Star Yeast.
What Is Babka?
Babka has a rich history. When I read more about the treat as I worked on today’s recipe, I learned that it originated in the early 1800s with the Polish Jewish community. Leftover challah dough was filled with jam or cinnamon, rolled up, and baked. The babka we see all over the place today, I read, is much richer and sweeter than its ancestor. You can find it filled with chocolate or almond paste—this is my favorite chocolate version—or the newer babka variations with pizza fillings, Nutella, pesto, and more. Food52 has an in-depth article all about babka if you want to read more about its history and popularity today.
I first tried my hand at homemade babka a couple years ago. Who’s made the Nutella babka recipe before? If you loved it, you’re in for a treat today. If you’re not a fan of Nutella, you’re also in for a treat today. I revamped the dough so it’s (1) even richer (2) even flakier and (3) only yields 1 loaf instead of 2. In terms of taste and texture, it’s more like a brioche loaf than croissant bread. We’re filling it with a thick layer of sweet cinnamon and you can use your favorite variety of apples. If I’m being honest, this apple cinnamon babka has to be one of the best things I’ve made all year. Between all the recipe testing, today’s photos, the video, and making it for a few friends, I’ve baked about 12 loaves by now. And there’s NEVER a crumb leftover.
In case you’re wondering, our self control is stuck inside one of those apple cinnamon swirls. I’m positive you’re going to obsess over it too.
Apple Cinnamon Babka Video Tutorial
Detailed Overview: How to Make Apple Cinnamon Babka
The full written recipe is below, but let me walk you through the steps so you can understand the process before starting.
- The dough. You need milk, yeast, sugar, butter, egg yolks, salt, and flour. Why only egg yolks? They make the richest tasting dough. We’re not wasting the egg whites, though—we’ll use one in the filling and one to brush on the dough before adding the topping. The dough is very soft, supple, and almost creamy-feeling. After the dough is prepared, it’s time to knead it. You can knead the dough with your mixer or by hand. You can watch me knead the dough in the video tutorial above. Add additional flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to your work surface.
- Extended rise time. Allow the prepared dough to rise in a relatively warm environment for 3–4 hours or until nearly double in size. This dough is rich with fat, so it takes longer than other doughs to rise. Don’t be nervous if it’s closer to 4–5 hours—it’s a heavy dough and needs extra time to rise.
- The apple cinnamon filling. First, soften the apples on the stove with a little butter. (Step 5 in the recipe below.) Second, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla extract until crumbly and combined. Stir in one of the leftover egg whites. The egg white helps solidify the cinnamon filling, so it’s extra thick and crumbly inside. Like cinnamon crunch bread and cinnamon swirl quick bread, this babka is heavy on the cinnamon. We really want it to stand out!
- Shape the babka dough: As noted in the written recipe below, punch down the dough then roll it out into a 12×16-inch rectangle. Gently spread the brown sugar cinnamon filling all over the dough, then top with the apples. We’re shaping today’s babka a little differently than the Nutella babka. In that recipe, you slice the rolled dough down the center to expose the Nutella inside. That proved to be very difficult here, as all the apples spilled out. Instead, tightly roll up the dough to form a 16-inch log. Fold in half, then twist it to form a figure 8. Use the video tutorial above for a visual and detailed directions below as your guide.
- 2nd rise: Let the shaped babka rise in a greased loaf pan for about 1–1.5 hours.
- Crumble topping: The crumble topping is totally optional. But it uses some of the same ingredients you need for the dough and filling, so why not? Mix a little brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together. Add cold butter and using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut it into the brown sugar mixture until crumbles form.
- Finish it off before baking: Remember that other egg white? We’ll use it here. Carefully brush the surface of the babka with the last remaining egg white. Using a toothpick, poke 10–12 holes all over the top of the loaf. Why are you doing this? It actually allows steam to escape from inside the loaf so the layers don’t separate. I learned this trick from Food52. Finally, sprinkle the crumble topping on top.
- Time to bake: The bread takes about 1 hour, give or take. If you notice the top browning too quickly, loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil.
Serving/Slicing Tip: For neat slices, I recommend cooling the babka completely before slicing. The bread has so much filling that it will fall apart if sliced warm.
Here is the dough after you mix the dough ingredients together:
Here is the dough after it rises and then after you punch it down:
Soften the apples on the stove and make the cinnamon filling:
Spread cinnamon filling on rolled out dough and top with apples:
Roll it up into a log:
Left photo below (before 2nd rise): Fold log in half, then twist into a figure 8. Place into your greased loaf pan, then let it rise until puffy, about 1 hour.
Right photo below (after 2nd rise): Dough is nice and puffy. Brush with egg white, poke holes in the loaf to prevent separation, then top with crumble topping.
Bake until golden brown. The brown sugar cinnamon topping melts down, some apple cinnamon filling may seep out creating jammy-like edges and crevices, and the entire kitchen smells like fall. This is SO GOOD:
In Short, This Apple Cinnamon Babka Is:
- Extra flaky
- Buttery, moist, and overflowing with apple cinnamon filling
- Mesmerizing with all those delicious swirls
- Topped with buttery brown sugar cinnamon crumbles
- Irresistible & addictive (we COULDN’T STOP EATING THIS)
- Satisfying, especially on a cool rainy day
- Worth all the effort, trust me!
This apple cinnamon babka features sweet apples and a thick cinnamon filling twisted inside a rich and buttery yeasted dough. See recipe notes for freezing and overnight instructions.
- 2/3 cup (160ml) whole milk, warmed to about 110°F (43°C)
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons (7g) Platinum Yeast from Red Star (1 standard packet)*
- 1/3 cup (62g) granulated sugar, divided
- 5 Tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, sliced into 1 Tbsp-size pieces and softened to room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks (reserve 2 egg whites for filling and topping)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 and 2/3 cups (334g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled), plus more as needed and extra for work surface and hands
- 3 Tablespoons (43g) unsalted butter, divided
- 2 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced into bite-size pieces (2–2.5 cups, or 250–313g)*
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar (or a mix of both)
- 1/4 cup (31g) all-purpose flour
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg white (reserved from dough)
Crumble Topping (Optional)
- 2 Tablespoons (25g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (15g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 Tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
Brush on Assembled Loaf
- 1 egg white (reserved from dough)
- Prepare the dough: Whisk the warm milk, yeast, and 1 Tablespoon of sugar together in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or paddle attachment. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes. *If you don’t have a stand mixer, use a handheld mixer or mix the dough by hand using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.*
- Add the remaining sugar, the butter, egg yolks, salt, and 1 cup (125g) flour. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add another 1 cup of flour. Beat on medium speed until relatively incorporated (there may still be chunks of butter). Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add 1/2 cup of flour and beat on medium speed until the dough begins to come together. As the mixer runs, add another 2–4 Tablespoons of flour depending on how wet the dough looks. (I usually add another 2 Tbsp, which makes it about 2 and 2/3 cups of flour total.) This should be a very soft and almost creamy-feeling dough. Do not add more flour than you need.
- Knead the dough: Keep the dough in the mixer and beat for an additional 3 minutes or knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 3 minutes. Add additional flour as you knead it, as needed to prevent it from sticking to the work surface. The dough is very buttery and soft. (See video tutorial above if you need a visual of kneading dough by hand.)
- 1st Rise: Lightly grease a large bowl with nonstick spray. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a relatively warm environment for 3–4 hours or until nearly double in size. This dough is rich with fat, so it takes longer than other doughs to rise. (If desired, use my warm oven trick for rising. See my answer to Where Should Dough Rise? in my Baking with Yeast Guide.)
- Towards the end of rise time, you can prepare the filling: Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in a large skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add the apples. Stir and cook until the apples are slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice to help prevent browning. Set aside. For the rest of the filling in this step, make sure you don’t prepare it too far in advance because the butter will solidify and spreading onto the dough will be difficult. Melt remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter in a medium heatproof bowl in the microwave (or use the stove). Stir in brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla extract until crumbly and combined. Stir in the egg white. Set aside.
- Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
- Shape the dough: When the dough is ready, punch it down to release the air. Flour a work surface, your hands, and a rolling pin. Roll the dough out into a 12×16-inch rectangle. Carefully and slowly spread the cinnamon filling mixture on top. (The dough is quite soft underneath and you don’t want to tear it.) Add the apples in a single layer. Using floured hands, tightly roll up the dough to form a 16-inch long log. If any parts of the dough feel soft as you roll it up, add a sprinkle of flour as I do in the video above. Place the log on its seam. Fold in half, then twist it to form a figure 8. Pinch the ends together. Use the video tutorial and photos above as a visual. Place in prepared loaf pan.
- 2nd Rise: Cover shaped babka with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise until it’s puffy and nearly reaches the top of the loaf pan, about 1–1.5 hours.
- Towards the end of rise time, you can prepare the crumble topping: Mix the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together. Add the cold butter and using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut butter into the brown sugar mixture until pea-size crumbles form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Place a baking sheet on a lower oven rack to catch any juices or crumbles that may drip/drop down. (Has only happened to me once!)
- Carefully brush the surface of the babka with last remaining egg white. Using a toothpick, poke 10–12 holes all over the top of the loaf. This allows steam to escape from inside the loaf so the layers don’t separate. Sprinkle with crumble topping.
- Bake: Bake for 60–65 minutes or until golden brown on top. If you gently tap on the loaf, it should sound hollow. If you notice the top browning too quickly, loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil. (I usually add aluminum foil over the loaf around the 25-minute mark.) Remove from the oven and allow bread to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. For neat slices as pictured above, I recommend cooling completely before slicing. A serrated knife is best for slicing.
- Cover leftover babka tightly and store at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Freezing Instructions: Baked babka freezes wonderfully. Wrap the cooled loaf in plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw wrapped loaf overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then warm to your liking. You can also freeze the dough. After punching down the dough in step 7, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then punch the dough down again to release any air bubbles. Continue with the rest of step 7.
- Overnight Instructions: Prepare the dough through step 3. Place into a greased bowl (use nonstick spray to grease). Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the dough to come to room temperature, then let it rise until doubled in size, about 3 hours. Continue with step 5. I don’t recommend shaping the bread the night before as it will puff up too much overnight.
- Yeast: Platinum Yeast from Red Star is an instant yeast. Any instant yeast works. You can use a 1:1 substitution of active dry yeast instead with no changes to the recipe. Rise times will be slightly longer if using active dry yeast. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
- Apples: Use your favorite variety of apple. I typically use Granny Smith, Fuji, or Honeycrisp.
Keywords: apple cinnamon babka, apple bread