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Almond Cinnamon Babka Star Bread is an elegant, pull-apart sweet bread, intensely flavored with cinnamon, almonds, and raisins. Soft and tender, and addictive.
A special occasion bread that’s easier to make than you might think.
While there are several steps and the inevitable rising time, the dough comes together easily and beautifully.
One of the characteristics that make babka irresistible is the contrast between the layers of bread and dark swirls of its filling. The bread is both light and dense. And suberbly delicious.
This recipe is a classic sweet bread dough made with yeast. But this dough, in particular, is incredibly easy to work with. Elastic and forgiving in the best possible ways.
What is Babka?
Babka is a sweet, braided or twisted bread or cake made with yeast. The swirls, braids and twists are particularly beautiful as they are filled with sweet fillings like chocolate, cinnamon, fruit, and even cheese.
Often made into a twisted loaf and topped with streusel, it’s a bread highly favored especially on America’s East Coast. In fact, it’s been called New York City’s most iconic dessert.
When is Babka Served?
While babka is a delicious option any day of the week, month, or year; I particularly love it during the holidays.
With my German from Russia roots, sweetbreads and cakes at Easter have become a tradition in our family. Growing up, I often heard the story of how my Great Grandmother Julia Schell would make her specialty bread for the children at Easter.
“It’s an Easter favorite that often takes pride of place in a swięcone basket that is taken to church to be blessed on Easter Saturday. In fact, every Eastern European country has its own traditional Easter bread.”
Origins of Babka
Originally invented in Poland, traditional babka is made from a doubled, twisted length of yeast dough. Polish babka is most often filled with cinnamon and/or chocolate.
Ari Weinzweig’s history of babka reveals that babka, which means “little grandmother” in Ukrainian, Russian, and Eastern European Yiddish, has always been popular where those languages are spoken.
It wasn’t until Eastern European Jews arrived in New York with Krantz cake, that chocolate was added to the babka. Chocolate was affordable and readily available so innovating cooks found that it made a delicious and rich babka filling. Cinnamon and almonds also were a popular spread and filling for babka.
- 3 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 1 cup flour, granulated sugar, yeast, and salt.
- Microwave or in a saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk and the butter until it's lukewarm, about 120 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add the egg and the vanilla extract and continue to mix until combined.
- Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer and gradually add the remaining 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour. Continue to mix and knead on medium speed until all of the flour is incorporated and a sticky dough forms. Add flour 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary.
- Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Line a half-sheet baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Lightly punch down the risen dough and let rest for 5 minutes. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide evenly into 4 portions. Shape into a ball and let sit covered for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the filling: In a saucepan or microwavable bowl, melt the butter. Then combine the sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Add the melted butter, chopped nuts, and raisins; stir until combined. Set aside. If the mixture isn't spreadable by the time you are ready to spread, microwave it for a few seconds to soften.
- Roll the Dough: Roll each ball into an 11-inch circle and carefully place it on the prepared pan. Spread 1/3 of the filling onto the dough circle, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Repeat the process twice. Then roll the final dough ball into an 11-inch circle and place it on top.
- Cutting the Dough: Find the center of the dough circle and mark it. I like to use a round 1-inch biscuit cutter for a visual. Using a sharp knife make 16 evenly spaced cuts from the center to the edge of the dough. It's easiest to start with 4 quadrants. Inside of each quarter, you will make three more cuts for a total of 4 wedges in each quarter.
- Making the Babka Star: Grasp 1 wedge in each, twist the wedges outward and away from each other twice; then pinch the ends firmly together to make one twisted wedge. Repeat with remaining cut wedges. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size; 30 to 45 minutes. Pinch ends together again if necessary.
- Baking the Babka: While the babka is rising for the second time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a small bowl whisk together 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the top of the babka with the egg wash; sprinkle with sugar if desired. Bake until the Babka is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center is at least 190 degrees F; 16 to 22 minutes. Cover with foil to prevent excess browning if necessary. Let cool completely on the pan.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 302Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 557mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 2gSugar: 25gProtein: 4g