Polish Babka Bread – Sweet or Savory

Typically people think of Babka’s as a glazed Polish sweet bread often made with dried fruit and served as a dessert. My go to dessert Babka recipe is a bread soaked in rum and topped with an orange zested glaze, but we’re here to talk about Babkas as loaf bread, which in our recipe can be braided, shaped into a ring, or baked as a loaf. Polish babka bread is made with honey, milk, and butter that’s lathered with either a savory or sweet layer, rolled into a log, split and then braided. Between the butter and flavoring, there is a rich oil base providing smooth elasticity, while the milk and honey give it a firm but soft texture. This is a nice bread on its own, but the savory version works well as a starter for your next Italian dinner and the sweet version makes a nice breakfast roll. It is a bit more involved than standard breads, but worth the effort.


  • 275 g Bread flour (2 cups)
  • 180 g Whole milk – warmed (6 oz)
  • 53 g Butter (4 TBL) – divided
  • 49 g Honey (2 TBL)
  • 7 g Salt (1 tsp)
  • 4 g Yeast (1 tsp)
  • Chocolate Babka
    • 140 g Dark Chocolate (~5 oz)
    • 4 g Cinnamon (~1.5 tsp)
    • 67 g Sugar (~1/3rd cup)
    • 55 g Butter (~2 oz or 0.25 cups) – chilled
  • Cinnamon Babka
    • 100 g Sugar (~0.5 cups)
    • 16 g Cinnamon (~2 TBS)
  • Savory Babka
    • 60 g Pesto (4 TBL) – or make your own savory paste
    • 5 g Sesame seeds – toasted (1 tsp) – optional


  1. Mise en Place – measure and prepare your ingredients prior to starting.
  2. Pitch the Yeast
    1. Warm the milk to around 90 F (warm to the touch).
    2. Add honey and 2 TBL melted butter and mix well.
    3. Gently stir in yeast and let sit for ~10 mins. Yeast should be actively foaming.
  3. Mix and Knead Dough
    1. Add flour salt in stand mixer and stir (speed #1).
    2. Pour in yeast mixture and continue to stir for 4 mins.
    3. Increase speed to #4 and knead for 4 mins.
  4. First Proof
    1. Place dough in bowl, cover with film and let rise until doubled (~1.5 hrs).
    2. Punch down and cover with a damp cloth and allow to relax for 10 mins
  5. Shape Babka
    1. Dust your counter with flour and place dough on top.
    2. Roll out until ~3/8th” think and rectangular. You want width to be ~9.
    3. If roller sticks, lightly dust top, but try not to get dough too dry or it won’t stick while braiding.
    4. Fill
      1. Pesto: Smear top evenly with pesto, leaving about 3/4″ along edges clean.
      2. Cinnamon: Mix cinnamon with sugar and sprinkle 75% on dough, the rest is for sprinkling on top of the loaf before baking.
      3. Chocolate: Break chocolate into small pieces (put in freezer and then chop in food processor). Combine sugar, cinnamon. Mix 75% with cold butter. Knife butter in to mix like you do when making a pie crust. Add the chocolate and mix well. Sprinkle onto dough and lightly press. Use remaining cinnamon mix later.
    5. Starting at the long side edge, roll dough into a log. If the dough sticks to the counter, use a scraper to lift it. You want a tight roll
    6. Lightly dust the log.
    7. You can either decide to braid the loaf or bake at a single piece
      1. Single strand: Shape into a circle and using scissors or a sharp knife, cut slits every 1″
      2. Using a loaf pan: Shape dough into the pan dimensions and place inside.
      3. Braided: Use a pizza cutter to split the log in two even halves down length, stopping 1″ before end. Braid the two slices and pinch the ends together.
  6. Second Proof
    1. Place Babka on tray and cover with towel for 45 mins.
    2. Preheat oven during last 20 mins of proofing to 350F, (325 F fan).
  7. Bake Babka
    1. Brush remaining butter on top and sides of Babka.
      1. Pesto: Sprinkle top with toasted sesame seeds if you are using them and lightly press into dough.
      2. Cinnamon/Chocolate: Dust top with remaining cinnamon/sugar mixture
    2. Place Babka in middle of oven and bake for 30-40 mins (20-25 mins fan).
  8. Post Baking
    1. Cool Babka for at least 10 mins. Longer is better to give the dough and filling a chance to cool. If you slice the bread to early, the filling may run out. Also, filling can burn your guest’s mouths, and that never ends well for you.