I have been making a version of this blueberry babka for several years. Each one was delish, but I was not completely satisfied with it and knew it could be better. It finally morphed into this Blueberry Lemon Crumb Babka.
And now I’m here to say: Folks, I have created the blueberry lemon babka of my dreams!
Lemon Crumb Topping
I toyed with a lemon glaze or even a blueberry glaze but decided that was just too much. So I developed a lemon crumb topping. Um, YUM! (I have not yet done this, but you could probably toss a few blueberries in with the crumb topping as well…. Hmmmmm.)
One issue I was having with the crumb topping with my first couple of test batches was that they were not really sticking to the babka. Then it dawned on me that I had an unused egg white from the dough. So, I put that egg white to work, giving the tops of the babka an egg white wash, so that the crumbs would stick better to the top.
Making the Dough
Using a KitchenAid mixer makes this step seamless. Especially if you are using dry active yeast, the important thing here is to make sure that your eggs and butter are at room temperature. Forgot to take them out of the refrigerator and feeling so excited to get started that you do not want to wait 30-60 minutes for the eggs and butter to get to room temperature? No sweat. Check out my Getting to Room Temperature post. If you are using instant yeast, the eggs can go in directly from the refrigerator, although it is better to get them to room temperature first.
Check out the video here to see how the dough forms and how to know when it is fully kneaded.
Here are some visuals for shaping Blueberry Babka:
Here are some tips for this awesome summer (or all year around) blueberry babka:
I find it tons easier to make the dough the night before and the filling at least a day before. Doing this breaks up the work and makes it sooooo much easier to roll out the dough in the morning, spread the filling, and shape the babkas. You can also make the crumb topping the night before too, but there is plenty of time to make that while the babkas are rising.
It wouldn’t be a blueberry lemon babka without lemons! When making the dough, you’ll need the zest of, at most, one lemon. I generally use one medium lemon’s worth of zest for the dough. If I have a large lemon, I will reserve one teaspoon worth of the zest for the crumb topping by wrapping it in plastic wrap and refrigerating until making the crumb topping, and use the rest of the zest in the dough.
You may think that there is not enough filling when you start spreading it. Think again! You want to spread a thin layer of it. Remember, you are going to slice open the rolled up dough, exposing the filling. If the filling is too thick, it will weigh down the babka and collapse in the center when you remove it from the oven. If you make the filling in advance, store it in the refrigerator and just give it a quick stir before you start spreading it. To make sure you only use half the filling on the first babka, it is a wise idea to weigh the filling and weigh out half of that amount.
Ovens vary, so baking time varies. The best way to know that the babka is done is to take its temperature in the middle of the loaf. I highly recommend using a Thermapen thermometer from ThermoWorks. I have several of these thermometers and use them in baking and cooking.
Looking for other babka flavors? Try these!
- Chocolate Crumb Babka
- Cinnamon Toasted Pecan Babka
- Apple Honey Babka
- Cinnamon Oatmeal Babka
- Strawberry Fig Babka
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Blueberry Lemon Crumb Babka
Can I make any components of the babka in advance?
Yes. You can make all three of the components in advance. The blueberry filling can be made and refrigerated for up to one week, as can the crumb topping. You can also make the dough and refrigerate it overnight before rolling it out and spreading the blueberry filling on it.
How many lemons do I need for this babka recipe?
One medium lemon should be more than enough.
Blueberry Lemon Crumb Babka
- 7 grams active dry yeast (see Note if using instant yeast) (2¼ teaspoons or 1 envelope)
- 245 grams milk* (1 cup)
- 75 grams granulated sugar (⅓ cup plus 2 teaspoons)
- 1 large egg, at room temperature (at room temperature)
- 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature (reserve the white in a sealed container in the refrigerator to use with the crumb coating)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 480 grams all purpose flour (4 cups)
- 5 grams salt (1 teaspoon)
- 113 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature (8 Tablespoons or ½ cup)
- ½ pint blueberries, fresh or frozen (1 cup)
- 7 grams lemon juice (½ Tablespoon)
- 7 grams Instant Clear Jel (1 Tablespoon or 5 grams (½ Tablespoon) cornstarch)
- 34 grams sugar (3 Tablespoons)
- Pinch of salt
Lemon Crumb Topping:
- 113 grams all purpose flour (1 cup less 1 Tablespoon)
- 74 grams confectioner’s sugar (⅔ cup )
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 57 grams unsalted butter, melted (4 Tablespoons)
- Egg white (reserved from the dough)
- Prepare Dough. [If using instant yeast, skip to Step 3 and add the yeast and the milk (can be cold) with the rest of the ingredients.] In microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring after each interval, warm milk to body temperature, generally between 105°F and 110°F. Alternatively, you can heat the milk in a saucepan on a low flame, stirring constantly. Either way, do not let the milk get above 115°F. (If you do, just let it sit out at room temperature for a couple of minutes constantly checking it until it cools to body temperature.)
- Place warmed milk into bowl of electric mixer. Sprinkle yeast and approximately 1 teaspoon of the sugar over the milk. Using a fork, stir the mixture to distribute the sugar and hydrate the yeast granules. Allow to sit for approximately 3-5 minutes until the mixture gets foamy.
- Add the room temperature egg, the room temperature egg yolk, the lemon juice and the lemon zest to the mixture. Using the dough hook, turn the mixer on at a low speed and add the rest of the sugar. With the mixer running at the lowest speed, add the flour. As the flour starts to get absorbed by the liquid mixture, raise the mixer to a medium speed. You may need to turn the mixer off once or twice to wipe down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Allow to knead for approximately 3 minutes. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl. If it is too wet (sticking to the sides and bottom of the bowl), add some flour, no more than 1 tbsp. at a time. If the mixture is too dry, add a little milk, 1 teaspoon at a time.
- Lower the mixer speed to low (1 or 2 on the KitchenAid) and slowly add the salt, allowing it to knead into the dough, an additional 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and take a small piece (less than 1 teaspoon) of dough and stretch it between your fingers. It should form a “window pane”, meaning it should get thin enough that it is translucent without it ripping. If it is not at that point yet, continue kneading in the machine at 1 minute intervals. (It may just need an additional minute or two to reach the window pane stage.)
- With the mixer running at medium speed, add the butter. It is best to add it one piece at a time, waiting until it is fully integrated into the dough before adding the next piece. You may need to turn off the mixer from time to time to push the slab of butter back into the range of the dough and the hook. This process will take approximately 5 minutes. Once all the butter is incorporated, the dough will look shiny and be slightly sticky. (If, after several minutes, the butter is still not fully incorporated, do not panic. Just move to the next step – having some unincorporated butter is not problematic in this recipe. That said, the key to incorporating the butter is nothing more than patience.)
- Lightly grease a bowl with a little butter or nonstick cooking spray. Form dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Turn the dough over to coat it in the butter or nonstick cooking spray and cover tightly with plastic wrap.** Let the dough sit in a warm area on the counter until doubled in size, approximately one hour.
- Make the filling. Pour the berries into a small or medium size saucepan. Pour the lemon juice over. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch (or Clear Jel) and salt. Pour over the blueberries. Over medium heat, stir the mixture and cook until the juices on the bottom start to simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before using. (You can make the filling in advance and work with it directly from the refrigerator. Just give it a good stir before you spread it onto the babkas.)
- Prepare two loaf pans, 8 or 9 inches long, and 3 to 5 inches wide, by coating with nonstick cooking spray or butter. (Using butter imparts more flavor on the edges of your babkas.) For an even easier pan removal, use parchment paper on the bottom and/or sides of the pan, but be sure to coast the parchment with nonstick cooking spray or butter.
- Once dough has doubled in size, remove the plastic wrap and de-gas it by folding it over onto itself and knead it a few times by hand. Divide it in half, preferably by weight. Cover one half with plastic wrap until you are ready to work with it.
- Roll dough out to three inches longer than the length of your pan. (If you are using a 9 inch long pan, roll it out to 12 inches, to form a rectangle of 12 inches by approximately 16-18 inches. The dough should be approximately ⅛ inch thick.
- Leaving a border of ½ an inch on every side, spread ½ of the filling on the dough.
- Have the dough facing you the long way so that the side of the dough that is three inches longer than the length of your pan is facing you. For example, if your pan is 9 inches long, the side of the dough that is 12 inches long should be in front of you. Roll the dough upward so that you have a 12 inch long log. Trim ½ inch to an inch from both sides of the log. (Tip: Save these trimmings and bake in a separate greased pan with trimmings from second log. This is the “mini babka” you get to taste so you can present the two babkas to your guests and already know how good it tastes!)
- Slice the log down the middle in half, exposing the layers of filling. Form an X with the two pieces, and cross the two over each other starting from the middle going down towards you. Repeat from the middle going up. Place dough in prepared pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to sit until doubled in size, approximately one hour.
- Repeat steps 10-13 with second portion of dough from step 9.
- Make the crumb topping. In a small bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt. Add the zest and rub it into the sugar/flour/salt with your fingertips to release the oils in the zest. Add the lemon juice and melted butter. Stir to form crumbs. It should be the consistency of sand with some larger clumps. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Approximately 30 minutes into the second rise, preheat oven to 350° F.
- Once the babkas have doubled in size, use a pastry brush to brush the tops of the babkas with the reserved egg white. (You will not need all the egg white for this. Just use enough to coat the tops of the babkas.) Sprinkle the lemon crumbs on top and gently press them into the babka so that they stick to the egg white.
- Once the babkas have doubled in size, bake for 45-50 minutes. The babka is done once the top is golden brown. (Best to take the babka’s temperature. It is done when the internal temperature reaches 205° F).
- Cool babkas in pans for 10-15 minutes and then remove them from their pans onto a wire rack. (Use a metal spatula or flat knife against the sides of the pans before turning the pans over.)
- The babkas stay fresh for several days wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature. They also freeze beautifully, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 months.
- Yeast: If using instant yeast, reduce the amount of yeast to slightly more than 5 grams (1¾ teaspoons). Also, if using instant yeast, it may take less time for your babkas to rise.
- Make Components in Advance: It is actually easier to roll out the dough and shape it with the filling when it is cold. As mentioned in Step 6, you can place the covered bowl, before letting the dough rise, in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, continue with Step 7. The dough may not have doubled in size in the refrigerator, but that is not a problem. After you have shaped the babkas and placed them in the pans in Step 13, allow them to rise, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 1½ to 2 hours, rather than 1 hour. Likewise, you can make the blueberry filling the day before (or even several days in advance). Just give it a good stir before you spread it on the babka dough. The lemon crumb topping can also be made a day before and stored in the refrigerator until you spread it on top of the babkas.