Babka with cranberry filling is one of those recipes that has a real ‘wow’ factor. It looks incredible, tastes amazing and makes you feel pride in your baking abilities. You can swap cranberries for chocolate ganache, for an even sweeter more indulgent babka.
I’m not going to lie. I’m pretty bad at planning my bakes and recipes. I’d love to achieve that level of organisation when you have everything written down in your notebook a month before the photoshoot. However, the reality is on Saturday morning I’ll scan my fridge and notice all the products that have to be used over the weekend.
This is how this recipe was created. Before Christmas, I bought a box of cranberries. Due to getting covid and having zero energy for almost two weeks, I ended up not using them. Every time I opened my fridge, they looked so sad and I knew I had to use them as soon as possible.
One of the most obvious solutions was to make a jam and store it for later. However, the moment I started stirring cranberries in a saucepan I thought this could be an amazing filling for a proper bake. A beautiful, fluffy dough with a sharp and zingy filling. Heaven!
Tips for the perfect babka
With over 20 steps on this recipe, I’m aware it can seem a little intimidating. Don’t worry though! It’s not as difficult as you might think, as long as you nail the basics.
Here are my top tips to achieve the perfect babka:
- Use room temperature ingredients (eggs and butter). In winter months when the temperature is lower, I like to take the ingredients out of the fridge the night before baking.
- Your milk should be a little warmer than room temperature (around 30-40 degrees). If you don’t have a thermometer, it’s not a problem. Just dip your finger into a jug with milk and if the temperature is comfortable to hold your finger for a minute – it’s good.
- Always mix your dry ingredients before adding yeast. Yeast hates salt and the moment it touches it, the yeast stops doing its job. By mixing the dry ingredients, you’ll avoid this.
- I always rinse my bowl with hot water before adding the dough for proving. It creates a warm environment and speeds-up the process.
- Don’t let the dough rest for too long. The moment you notice it’s risen and doubled in size, it’s enough (if it’s a hot day, this might take just 40 minutes).
I hope you enjoy this recipe and happy baking!
7g dried yeast
350g plain flour
25g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons caster sugar
2 oranges (juice)
100g caster sugar
Make the dough:
1. Warm the milk to reach around 40 degrees and add the yeast. Wait for 5-10 minutes until you can see some bubbles forming on top.
2. Add the flour, caster sugar and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Mix the ingredients and add the milk mixture with the eggs. Mix everything together until it’s combined (if the dough is too wet, add another tablespoon of flour). Knead the dough for a couple of minutes until it’s smooth.
3. Cut the room temperature butter into small cubes. Divide them into three groups.
4. Pat the dough into a disk and add the first third of the butter cubes. Fold the dough over the butter and knead for a couple of minutes until the butter is fully incorporated. Repeat the process with the remaining two parts. You’re supposed to end up with a smooth, silky, yellowy dough.
5. Lightly oil a clean bowl and put the dough in it. Cover and leave at room temperature for an hour.
Make the filling:
6. Add the cranberries, juice of the two oranges and sugar into a saucepan. Heat it over low heat. Start breaking the cranberries using the spatula.
7. Heat the jam for around 10 minutes until the berries are fully broken and the jam is glossy and shiny.
8. Leave the jam aside and let it cool completely.
9. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and butter your loaf tin.
Arrange the babka:
10. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface. Place the dough on top of it.
11. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a big rectangle (around 30 or 35cm long and 5mm thick).
12. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving 1cm around the edges.
13. Using your hands, roll up the dough tightly (like you do for cinnamon buns). Trim the ends of the roll if you want a tidy babka.
14. Using a sharp knife and starting at the end furthest from you, cut through the middle, down the full length, dividing the roll into two long pieces.
15. Turn each piece so that the cut side faces upwards.
16. Gently press the top ends of the two halves together to seal. Then, lift the right half over the left half, followed by the left half over the right half, repeating the process to make a two-stranded plait. When you get to the bottom, gently press the bottom ends together to seal (a video on how to arrange the babka).
17. Lift the babka into the prepared loaf tin, squishing the length to fit if necessary. Cover and leave at room temperature for 40 minutes to rise.
19. Bake the babka at 190 degrees for 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to 170 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes.
Make the syrup:
20. Pour the water and sugar into a saucepan. Bring the syrup to a boil and then lower the heat and leave it to simmer for 5 minutes.
21. Let the syrup cool for around 10-20 minutes.
Arrange the babka:
22. After the babka is baked, take it out of the oven.
23. Brush the syrup over the babka (use all the syrup – you can just pour it over).
24. Leave the babka in the tin to cool completely and then serve.