Honey Apple Babka
Full of cinnamon and honey, this Apple Babka is perfect for Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving, or any fall celebration. It’s sweet, sticky, and equally delicious for breakfast and dessert!
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is right around the corner. On Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to eat apples dipped in honey for a sweet and fruitful new year.
As I discussed in my first “Babka of the Year” post, The Best Chocolate Babka, babka is Eastern European Jewish in origin.
It only seemed fitting to combine the two and turn September’s Babka of the Month into an apple and honey-themed babka to celebrate Rosh Hashanah!
But even if you don’t celebrate, this is a perfect fall babka. Apples, simmered in honey and cinnamon, rolled up in delicious rich, thick babka dough, covered in a honey-based simple syrup. It’s as if apple pie turned into a slice of bread and was somehow appropriate for breakfast (this is a very good thing, in case that’s not clear).
Basically, what I’m saying is: you need this apple babka in your life!
Baking with Honey
To pull on the apples and honey theme of Rosh Hashanah, we’re going to simmer the apples in honey to soften them before rolling them up in the filling. But wait! You just pulled out your jar of honey from the back of the cabinet and found that it’s crystallized into a solid. Is it bad? Can you still use it? What the heck happened?
It’s time for my favorite subject…. kitchen chemistry!
Honey is a super-saturated sugar solution, containing over 70% sugar and less than 20% water – in other words, the water contains more sugar than it should naturally hold, and is thus unstable. Exposure to oxygen pushes the honey into a crystallized state, which is normal, and not indicative of spoilage. Slow exposure to heat will return the honey to a liquid state.
The best way to return your honey to a liquid state? Place the jar of honey in a pot of hot water and let it sit for a few minutes. Another option: scoop the honey into a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds at 50% power (do not microwave directly in the jar!), then slowly stir.
(Pro tip: if your honey is in a plastic jar – do not — I repeat do not — microwave the honey in the container in an attempt to warm it, even on 10% power. Just don’t do it. Scoop the honey out first. You have been warned.)
Steps Involved in Making Apple Babka
Like all the other babka recipes I’ve shared this year, we’ll have to let the dough rise. We’ll do this in two steps: a room-temperature rise, and then a refrigerator rise.
First, we’ll make the dough — either with a stand mixer or kneading by hand. The dough will rise for an hour in a warm, dark place; I use the ‘proof’ setting on my oven for this.
You can also fill a roasting pan with boiling water and set it in the bottom of your oven along with your dough to trap a little extra warm, moist heat for the same effect.
Now that it’s getting chillier outside, you might find you need an hour and a half to two hours on the counter for the dough to rise to 1.75-ish times in size on the counter.
After this first step, we’ll move the dough to the refrigerator. The yeast will continue to work in the cold and the dough will still rise, but the whole process is slowed down.
For the honey apple babka filling, bring the honey to a very low simmer. Add in the chopped apples, salt, and cinnamon, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the apples are soft and coated with the honey.
After baking the babka, we’ll also brush the finished loaf with simple syrup. Because this is a honey apple babka, we’ll make our simple syrup with honey instead of sugar! It makes the final product a little sticky – which also makes it extra delicious!
Storing Honey Apple Babka
Like all my babka recipes, this apple babka recipe makes two loaves. The recipe is easy to halve if you just want one (no splitting an egg in half), but I always recommend making two.
You can use a different filling for one if you want, or you can make two of the same and freeze one. (We enjoyed eating one of these honey apple babkas last month, and have the other in the freezer waiting for Rosh Hashanah!)
Slices of babka can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days (if they last that long!)
An entire loaf of babka can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight at room temperature before enjoying.
You can also freeze the proofed, unbaked dough and bake it fresh before enjoying it if you want fresh baked apple babka at a later date! Prepare the babka up through rolling and filling it, twisting it, and placing it into the loaf pan. Cover tightly with several layers of aluminum foil, then place the entire loaf pan in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to bake, defrost overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature the next day for 2 hours, and then bake!
Recommended Tools to Make Apple Babka
- Instant Yeast: Saf Gold is specifically designed for use in sweetened yeast bread.
- Stand Mixer: My trusty stand mixer comes with a dough hook.
- Rolling Pin: Includes guides to keep the dough at an exact thickness.
- Loaf Pan: Metal loaf pans are the best conductors of heat.
- 3 Quart Sauce Pan: A heavy-bottomed saute pan prevents any of the apple and honey mixture from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Pastry Brush: Use a pastry brush to brush the honey simple syrup all over the freshly-baked apple babka.
Tips and Tricks for The Best Honey Apple Babka
- If you’re new to baking babka, visit this “The Best Chocolate Babka” post for step-by-step photos of how to shape babka dough.
- Refrigerate the babka dough for the second part of the first rise. This makes the dough much easier to roll with no need for extra flour.
- Use apples specifically cultivated for baking for the best texture and flavor — varieties like Granny Smith, Jonagold, Golden Delicious, Winesap, Braeburn, or Honeycrisp.
- To make cleanup easy after measuring out honey, spray your measuring cup with cooking spray. The honey will easily slide right out when you pour it.
- If you don’t want to make the babka all in one day, refrigerate the dough for up to 36 hours during the first rise.
- Use a thermometer to determine when the babka is done. When an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf hits 190 °F, your babka is fully cooked!
More Apple Dessert Recipes:
- Caramel Apple Cheesecake
- Jewish Apple Cake
- Apple Bread with Cinnamon Crumble
- Caramel Apple Cake
- Apple Cider Donut Cake
2019 Babka of the Month Series
For the Dough:
- 1 cup (227 grams) whole milk, room temperature or slightly warmed
- 1 tablespoon (9 grams) instant yeast, preferably SAF Gold
- 1/2 cup (99 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 1/2 cups (540 grams) all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 12 tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 12 pieces
For the Apple Filling:
- 1/2 cup (168 grams) honey
- 1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) apples, chopped (approx. 4 medium-large apples)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 /2 teaspoon cinnamon
For the Simple Syrup:
- 1/2 cup (168 grams) honey
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) water
- Prepare the dough. Whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook or a large glass mixing bowl. On low speed, beat in the milk, eggs, and vanilla extract, mixing just until the dough comes together, 2-3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low and add the butter one piece at a time, beating after each addition until all pieces have been added. Continue mixing with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, whisk together ingredients by hand until combined; knead by hand for 10 minutes until dough is soft and smooth.)
- Transfer the dough to a large lightly greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Set aside to rise at room temperature for 1 hour. After 1 hour, transfer the bowl to the refrigerator, still covered, and set aside for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size and is firm to the touch.
- Prepare the filling. While the babka is rising in the refrigerator, prepare the apple filling. Core and chop the apples into small pieces. Pour the honey into a small saucepan and bring to a slow simmer. Add in the apples, salt, and cinnamon and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Shape the babka. Grease two 9x5-inch loaf pans. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and gently punch it down. Cut the dough in half; remove half from the bowl, re-cover the other half, and set aside.
- Roll the dough into a roughly 9-inch by 18-inch rectangle. Spread half the filling over the dough, leaving a slight border along the edges. Spread half of the apple filling across the dough. Working from the long side of the dough, roll the dough into a long cylinder. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half long-ways down the length of the cylinder to expose the apple filling, creating two logs of dough. Twist these two logs together. Fold in half one more time, twisting again, and place dough in the prepared loaf pan. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover both loaf pans with plastic wrap or a dish towel and set aside to rise again at room temperature, for another hour. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
- Make the honey simple syrup. Combine the honey and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
- Bake the babka. Bake the loaves at 350 °F for 40 to 50 minutes, until the top of the loaf is golden brown and the inside registers 190 °F using an instant-read thermometer. As soon as the babkas are done baking and come out of the oven, use a long skewer or knife to poke holes all over the bread, pushing all the way down to the bottom. Brush the simple syrup on top, equally dividing between the two loaves. Allow the breads to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.
- For best results, use SAF Gold instant yeast, which is specifically designed for sweet breads.
- If you are using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, proof the yeast before starting. Combine the yeast, warm milk, and 1 tablespoon of sugar and set aside for 5-10 minutes until frothy. Proceed with the rest of the recipe, adding this to the other ingredients and mixing.
- Babka can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze, wrap the fully cooled loaf in aluminum foil and place it inside a plastic freezer bag.
- Unbaked babka can be prepared up and frozen in the loaf pan before baking. Fill the babka with the apple filling, shape and twist, and place in the loaf pan. Cover with several layers of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw for 24 hours in the refrigerator, then let stand at room temperature for 2 hours before baking.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 229Total Fat: 6.8gNet Carbohydrates: 39.7gProtein: 3.6g