You’ll fall in love with each layer of deliciously sweet and addictive Nutella babka. It’s beautifully swirled and topped with buttery cinnamon crumbles. Make this New York bakery favorite in your own kitchen! Follow my step-by-step photos and helpful tips for best results.
Let’s travel deep into the layers of babka today. Located somewhere between bread and decadent dessert, this irresistible treat uses the dough from my homemade cinnamon rolls recipe as the base, is filled with Nutella, and topped with buttery cinnamon crumbles.
Babka has a rich history. When I read more about the treat as I worked on this 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 a delicious chocolate babka recipe—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.
Tell Me About This Nutella Babka
I include lots of step-by-step babka pictures showing you how approachable homemade babka truly is. (If you’ve ever made my raspberry twist bread, cinnamon crunch bread, or homemade cheese bread, you’re already familiar with the shaping method.) This is a fun starting point for yeast baking—just wait until you see how it all comes together. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that babka is totally something you can (and should) pull off!! Nothing to fear, I promise.
There are many ways to make babka, and today we’re using dough based off of my homemade cinnamon rolls. This babka recipe makes 2 loaves—freeze one or gift it to someone special. Trust me, someone will want this gift!
While babka may look a little intimidating, follow these simple steps for perfect babka every time. Let’s review:
- Make the dough. This is a soft, rich, puffy, and very buttery yeast dough—we’ll review the dough below. If you need extra help with the kneading step, see my detailed video tutorial on How to Knead Dough.
- Let the dough rise. Let the babka dough rise in a warm environment until (roughly) doubled in size, about 90ish minutes. I use my oven to help with rising—it’s very simple. Preheat your oven to 200°F (93°C) then turn the oven off and place the dough inside the warm-ish oven. Leave the oven door slightly cracked open. Leave it alone, watch it grow!
- Punch down the dough. This helps release the air bubbles. You’ll be left with super soft and supple dough.
- Divide dough into 2 pieces.
- Roll them out. Spread with Nutella. You can also fill babka with a homemade chocolate filling—or really anything at all—but I reached for Nutella. I want today’s main focus to be on the dough and process, so let’s use a little shortcut for the filling. Bonus that it’s NUTELLA and it’s fabulous.
- Shape the babka, then let it rest.
- Add with crumble topping. I know what you’re thinking. Is the cinnamon crumble really necessary? The answer is YES. Isn’t cinnamon crumble always necessary? You’ll just need some brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter.
- Bake. The only thing better than eating babka is smelling babka as it bakes—just wait until you experience that.
- Enjoy. And get lost in the layers!!! Some recipes instruct you to brush the baked babka with sugar syrup when it comes out of the oven, but I skipped this step. It ensures a super crisp crust, but I liked the babka without it, too.
Baking with Yeast Guide
Reference this Baking with Yeast Guide whenever you work with baker’s yeast. I include practical answers to all of your common yeast questions.
Nutella Babka Uses a Rich Dough
We use a rich dough for homemade babka, which means that it’s prepared with fat like milk, butter, and eggs. Rich doughs make soft breads such as monkey bread, dinner rolls, and glazed doughnuts. Lean doughs, on the other hand, are made without much fat and produce crusty bread such as homemade bagels and pizza dough.
Today’s babka dough is egg rich, butter rich, calorie rich. It comes together with 7 basic ingredients: milk, yeast, sugar, butter, eggs, salt, and flour. You likely have them all in your kitchen now. Let’s review the importance of each babka ingredient:
- Milk: Liquid activates the yeast. Whole milk or even buttermilk is ideal for this dough. You can get away with 2% or 1%, but I do not recommend skim.
- Yeast: You can use an instant or active dry yeast—the rise time will be a little longer if you choose the latter.
- Sugar: Sugar feeds the yeast, increases its activity, and tenderizes the dough.
- Butter: Butter promises a rich and flavorful dough.
- Eggs: Eggs provide structure and flavor.
- Salt: Salt adds flavor.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is the structure of the dough.
It’s a little messy, but don’t all of the best foods need a little clean up? Place the twists into loaf pans, cover them up, and set them aside as you make a cinnamon crumble topping. This gives the dough time to rest before baking. Brush the babka with beaten egg white + milk (egg wash), then top with your cinnamon crumble.
Want to know why this Nutella babka is so irresistible? Because each bite is different. Some bites are overflowing with gooey Nutella and others are full of soft flaky dough and cinnamon crumbles. Each twist and turn is unique, no loaf will look the same, and the whole thing stays moist for days. Good luck with it in your house!
Do you have a favorite babka recipe? How do you usually fill yours?
More Nutella Favorites
- Nutella Swirl Pound Cake
- Nutella Crinkle Cookies
- Nutella Tart
- Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Nutella Brownies
Deliciously sweet and addictive bread swirled with Nutella and topped with buttery cinnamon crumbles!
- 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons (270ml) whole milk, divided*
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast (1 standard size packet)*
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp; 113g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into 4 pieces
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature and divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 and 1/4 cups (531g) all-purpose flour, (spooned & leveled) plus more for dusting/rolling
- 2 cups (600g) Nutella, divided
- 1/4 cup (50g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (31g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp; 56g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- Make the dough: Heat 1 cup of milk to about 95°F (35°C). You can use the microwave or stovetop. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment (or you can use a handheld mixer or no mixer, but a stand mixer is ideal). Manually whisk in the yeast and 2 teaspoons of the granulated sugar. Cover the bowl with a clean towel. The mixture should be frothy and foamy after 5 minutes.
- On low speed, beat in the remaining sugar and the softened butter until butter is slightly broken up. Next beat in 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk (reserve the egg white) and the salt. The butter won’t really be mixing in, so don’t be alarmed if it stays in pieces. On low speed, gradually add the flour. Once it is all added, beat on medium speed until a soft dough forms, about 1 minute.
- Knead the dough: Keep the dough in the mixer and beat for an additional 6-8 full minutes, or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 6-8 full minutes. (If you’re new to bread-baking, my How to Knead Dough video tutorial can help here.) If the dough becomes too sticky during the kneading process, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of flour at a time on the dough or on the work surface/in the bowl to make a soft, slightly tacky dough. Do not add more flour than you need because you do not want a dry dough. After kneading, the dough should still feel a little soft. Poke it with your finger—if it slowly bounces back, your dough is ready to rise. You can also do a “windowpane test” to see if your dough has been kneaded long enough: tear off a small (roughly golfball-size) piece of dough and gently stretch it out until it’s thin enough for light to pass through it. Hold it up to a window or light. Does light pass through the stretched dough without the dough tearing first? If so, your dough has been kneaded long enough and is ready to rise. If not, keep kneading until it passes the windowpane test.
- Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball. Place into a large greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. (I just use the same mixing bowl that I made the dough in—remove the dough, grease it with nonstick spray or olive oil, put the dough back in.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm environment to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes. For this warm environment, I preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C) then turn the oven off and place the bowl inside the warm-ish oven. Leave the oven door cracked a bit.
- Once doubled in size, punch down the dough to release any air bubbles. Remove dough from the bowl and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Punch down again to release any more air bubbles if needed. Using a sharp knife or dough scraper, cut dough in half. Work with only half of the dough at a time. Place a clean towel over the dough you aren’t working with.
- Generously grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans with butter or nonstick spray.
- On slightly floured work surface, roll one dough half out into a 9×13-inch rectangle (approximately). Spread with 1 cup of Nutella, leaving a 1/2 inch border uncovered.
- Tightly roll the dough into a 13-inch log. Place the log on its seam. Using a sharp knife, cut the log in half lengthwise. I find a serrated knife works best. Criss-cross one half, cut side down, on top of the other half, forming an X. Twist the two together. Place in prepared loaf pan and cover with a clean towel. Repeat with 2nd half of dough. This step can get a little messy! (If you need a visual for this step, see the video tutorial for homemade cheese bread starting at the 2:54 mark.)
- Allow both shaped (and covered) loaves to rest for 20-30 minutes as you prepare the crumble topping and preheat the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Make the crumble topping: Mix the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the brown sugar mixture until coarse crumbs are formed. Set aside.
- Whisk the remaining 2 Tablespoons of milk with the leftover egg white. This is your egg wash. Using a pastry brush, brush the babka loaves with egg wash. Do the best you can as some Nutella is exposed. Top each loaf with crumble topping.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes or until babka is golden brown on top. Gently tap the loaves—if they sound hollow, the bread is done. Remove from the oven, place each pan on a wire rack, and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Cover and store leftover babka at room temperature for a couple days or in the refrigerator for 1 week. (It won’t last that long!!) You can also freeze the baked babka for up to 3 months, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. Or warm it up in the oven.
- Make Ahead Instructions: After dough has risen two hours in step 4, punch down the dough inside the mixing bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days, then remove from the refrigerator and continue with step 5. OR freeze for up to 2 months, then allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and continue with step 5.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Stand Mixer | Whisk | Dough Scraper | 9×5-inch Loaf Pan | Rolling Pin | Pastry Brush | Glass Mixing Bowl | Pastry Cutter
- Milk: Whole milk or even buttermilk is ideal for this dough. You can get away with 2% or 1%, but I do not recommend skim. You’ll need 1 cup in the dough and you’ll use the other 2 Tablespoons for the egg wash in step 12.
- Yeast: Active dry or instant yeast work—if using instant yeast (such as Red Star Platinum) the 1st rise time will be a little shorter. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
- Filling: Instead of Nutella you can try a homemade chocolate fudge filling. This one is excellent. But I really love how the Nutella tastes in this!
Keywords: babka, nutella babka