I love baking babka. And I don’t use my challah dough when baking a giant batch. Nope, instead I make a buttery (or fake buttery) dough that’s soft, fluffy, and all around delicious, ready for the filling of chocolate, cinnamon, or in this case cheese! I’ve made this recipe a whole bunch of times until I perfected it. And I found that this dough is just perfect for babka. It’s sweet, soft, and delicate, and everyone just loves it. If you’re making a brunch (like we did here) it’s the perfect addition to the meal. The plus side is that there are so many different ways to serve this. As individual rolls, in a big bundt pan, or rolled like a regular babka. Plus, it freezes well, so you can always bake one for tomorrow and save the other for your next party.
The filling is a danish filling. Which is what makes it so delicious! And the dough, while not the easiest thing in the world to make, is a whole lot easier than all those folds and rolls of making danishes. Not that I don’t love doing that, too. But look how pretty these are! No one will miss the danish dough. And I know from experience that people love these babkas (I made about 4 batches in a month, so I shared with all my colleagues, family, and friends. Yeah, everyone loved them).
Cheese Babka, makes 2:
For the dough:
- 3/4 cup warm whole milk
- 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
- 3 teaspoons active dry yeast (or two 1/4-oz packages)
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
- 2 whole large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) butter, cut into pieces and softened
For the filling:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Make the dough: First mix the milk with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes, or until it foams.
- Combine 1/2 cup of flour to the yeast in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Add the eggs, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and beat at medium speed until combined.
- Reduce speed to low and slowly mix in the remaining 2 3/4 cups of flour.
- Increase speed to medium and beat in butter, a few pieces at a time. Let it beat until the dough is shiny and stringy, about 4 minutes.
- Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until doubled.
- Make the filling: Combine all filling ingredients in a stand mixer and beat until smooth.
- Assemble babkas: Grease and flour two loaf pans, or line them with parchment paper.
- Punch down the dough and cut it in half.
- Roll out one half onto a floured surface, and roll it out into a 10 x 18-inch rectangle, with a long side facing you.
- Spread half the filling over the dough.
- Roll the babka: Starting from the long side farthest from you, roll the dough into a tight log. Make sure to pinch the edges to seal.
- Now you can either shape the babka into logs (as seen here) or following these directions for individual babka rolls, or put them all together for an interesting looking swirly babka cake.
- Cut the roll into 12 pieces.
- Place into individual muffin tins – or – spread each slice individually around a bundt pan.
- Cover babkas loosely with greased plastic wrap.
- Let rise at room temperature for 2 hours, or until the dough reaches the top of the pan. You can also let them rise in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours, but make sure to bring to room temperature for 3-4 hours before baking.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes for the big cake and 20-25 minutes for the individuals.