This dairy free (parve) babka is a culmination in my efforts to replicate the babkas I grew up eating from Jewish bakeries in the greater Boston area. Using my standard Challah dough, I added in a cinnamon sugar filling and topped it with a delicious crumb. This Cinnamon Crumb Babka is soooooo good and easy to make. While the Challah dough does take some time to rise, I am going to tell you how to break up the preparation over two days.
How to Make Cinnamon Crumb Babka
1. Make the Challah Dough
Making Challah dough is very easy, especially if you have an electric mixer to do the kneading. I will not reiterate here all my tips for making the dough — you can get them by clicking the link to my Challah recipe. I will remind you that, if the dough is too sticky and not cleaning the sides of the bowl as you knead it, add one Tablespoon of bread flour. The measurements (by weight) for the dough recipe are generally accurate, but some accommodation may be necessary depending on the humidity in your kitchen.
2. Allow the Challah Dough to Rise
For the bulk fermentation (also called the first rise), you can cover the dough and allow it to rise, which will take approximately three hours. It takes several hours because this dough is very rich in egg yolks and sugar, which slows down the fermentation process. Alternatively, you can mix the dough, cover it and allow it to rise for just 1½ hours, then place it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove it from the refrigerator and immediately divide and shape it. I prefer this option because it means I can have Cinnamon Crumb Babka the next morning.
3. Divide and Roll the Challah Dough Out
Divide the dough in half by weight, covering one of the halves with plastic wrap or a tea towel while you work with the other half. Roll the dough into a rectangle, approximately 18 inches by 10 inches. If the dough becomes difficult to roll out and is pulling back, cover it loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes. After the rest, it should be much easier to roll the dough out.
4. Make the Cinnamon Crumb Babka Filling
The filling comes together super quickly. Beat an egg and brush a thin layer of it all over the dough, leaving a half-inch or so untouched at the top of the rectangle, meaning there will be a space of 10 inches by ½ an inch with no egg wash on it. Spread the filling all over it, using a rolling pin to press it into the dough a bit. This babka intentionally has thin layers of filling throughout because the dough itself is already sweet. If you like more filling, you can certainly increase the filling ingredients by 1.5 times.
5. Shape the Cinnamon Crumb Babka
Roll the dough up and attach the seams with the portion of the dough on which there is no egg wash. Slice the log in half and carefully place the two strands over each other to form an X. Starting in the middle, twist the strands two times. Return to the middle and twist the strands on the other side two times. Place into prepared pan, cover, and allow to rise 1½ -2 hours.
6. Make the Crumb Topping
The crumb topping is also super easy to make. I prefer to use refined coconut oil for it. (Refined coconut oil has no noticeable coconut flavor to it.) You can also use vegan butter or non-dairy margarine. Use a fork to mix all the ingredients together, then place it in the refrigerator.
7. Egg Wash, Add Crumbs, and Bake
Just before baking, apply egg wash to the tops of the babkas. Sprinkle half of the crumb mixture on each babka. Now, this is the best advice I can offer for this recipe: Lay a baking sheet or foil on the rack below where you will place the babkas in the oven. As the babkas bake, some of the crumbs will fall off the top as the babkas rise. Trust me, you don’t want to have to clean your oven after baking the babkas. (I might be speaking from experience here.) The babkas are done when the internal temperature is 205° F. Allow the babkas to cool on a wire rack for just 5 minutes. Then flip them out of the pans. More crumbs will fall off when you flip them over, but that is ok! Don’t sweat it. Once they cool, they make for a lovely snack while you wait for the babkas to cool.
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Cinnamon Crumb Babka
Should I use active dry yeast or instant yeast?
Approximately 25% of active dry yeast is usually dead, whereas 100% of instant yeast is alive. That said, for this recipe you can use either, and the recipe includes instructions for both.
What should I do with the leftover egg whites?
You can store the egg whites in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Use them to make egg white omelettes, meringues or macarons.
Why does the challah dough take 3 hours to rise?
This challah dough is enriched with many egg yolks as well as sugar and honey, all of which slow down the. yeast’s ability to make the dough rise.
Cinnamon Crumb Babka
- 235 grams warm water (1 cup)
- 7 grams active dry yeast or instant yeast (2¼ teaspoons or 1 envelope)
- 50 grams sugar (divided (¼ cup))
- 630 grams bread flour (4½ cups)
- 5 large egg yolks at room temperature
- 72 grams vegetable, canola, or any seed oil (⅓ cup)
- 113 grams honey (⅓ cup)
- 8 grams salt (1¼ teaspoons)
- 220 grams light brown sugar (1 cup)
- 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 113 grams all purpose flour (1 cup less 1 Tablespoon)
- 74 grams confectioner’s sugar (⅔ cup)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 57 grams refined coconut oil, vegan butter or non-dairy margarine, melted (4 Tablespoons)
- Dough. If using active dry yeast, pour water (should be generally between 105°F and 110°F) into mixing bowl of electric mixer. Sprinkle with yeast and about 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Stir gently to hydrate the yeast. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to get foamy. If using instant yeast, add it, together with the warm water, to the rest of the ingredients in step 2.
- Add the flour, rest of the sugar, yolks, oil, and honey. With the dough hook attachment, knead the mixture for about 3-5 minutes.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add the salt. Knead for an additional 2-3 minutes until the salt is fully absorbed and the dough passes the windowpane test.
- Place dough in ungreased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in warm area for about 3 hours. (Alternatively, allow the dough to rise for 1½ hours, then place it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove it from the refrigerator and continue immediately with Step 6.
- Prepare filling. While dough is rising, in a small mixing bowl, mix together the light brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. Set aside
- Shape dough. Gently deflate the dough by pulling a piece from the bottom and folding it over itself, turning the bowl so you can do four similar folds.
- Spray two 8½ inch by 4½ inch loaf pans. (Or just place parchment in them.)
- Beat the egg and set aside. Divide dough in half, preferably by weight. Cover one half with plastic wrap while working with the other half. Roll the dough out to a rectangle, approximately 18 inches by 10 inches. If the dough retracts too much, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest 5-10 minutes. Using a pastry brush, apply a liberal coating of the beaten egg , leaving approximately ½ inch untouched along one of the 10 inch long sides. Sprinkle the dough with half of the filling. Use a rolling pin or the palms of your hands to press the filling into the dough. Starting from the side where there Is filing along the bottom of the dough, tightly roll the dough into a log so that you have a log approximately 10 inches long. Press the ends of the top where there was no egg wash into the log. 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 1½ hours. Repeat with second mound of dough. Cover the remaining egg wash and refrigerate for the crumb topping.
- Prepare crumb topping. In a small bowl, use a fork to mix together all the crumb ingredients. They will form into crumbs. Cover and store in refrigerator.
- Preheat oven to 350° F. at the 1 hour mark.
- Sprinkle Crumb Topping. Just before you are ready to bake, remove the crumbs from the refrigerator. With a pastry brush, brush the remaining egg wash all over the top of the loaves, including where the filling is exposed. Sprinkle the crumbs on top and on the sides. Gently press them in. Line the rack under the rack on which you will bake the babkas with a large baking sheet or a large sheet of aluminum foil to catch any crumbs that fall off the tops of the babkas while they bake.
- Bake 50-70 minutes, until the inside temperature reaches 205° F.
- Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Use a metal spatula to release the babkas from the sides. Turn pans over to release the babkas. Some of the crumb topping will fall off, so just accept that. (It give you something to munch on while the babkas cool!) If the babkas are stuck in the pans, hold the bottom of the pan over a medium flame on your stovetop for just a few seconds. The heat should help you release the babkas from the pan. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.
- Either take your eggs out of the refrigerator an hour before you plan to make the dough or place them in a bowl of warm water for approximately ten minutes.
- I strongly advise weighing ingredients rather than measuring them. For more information, see my post Weighing vs. Measuring.
- Do not grease the bowl you place the dough into for the 3 hour bulk rise. Non-stick spray or oil will make it more difficult to work with the dough. In the unlikely event that the dough sticks to your bowl when you go to remove it at the end of the 3 hours, just use a bowl scraper or a rubber spatula to get it out of the bowl.
- The baked babkas will last at least several days wrapped in plastic wrap. They also freeze beautifully and can be defrosted at room temperature in about 15 minutes, or wrap in foil, place in oven, and turn oven on to 350° F. Within a few minutes of the oven getting to temperature, the loaves will be warm.
- Smart Hack: If freezing a whole loaf, cut it into halves or quarters, wrap each separately in plastic wrap, and freeze in a Ziplock freezer bag. You can then just take out smaller portions if you do not intend on eating the whole loaf.