Sourdough Cinnamon Sugar Babka

This Babka bread is decadent. It is filled with buttery cinnamon sugar. It is light, soft, tender and uses 100% sourdough to make a really delicious loaf of sweet bread. The sourdough has a bit of a learning curve that includes making a sweet leaven, but when you open the oven door and see two beautifully risen loaves of Babka, all the time is completely worth it. If you’ve never made a Babka before, this advanced sourdough cinnamon sugar babka recipe should make your list.

Jump to Sourdough Cinnamon Sugar Babka Recipe

What is babka?

Babka originated in Eastern Europe and is an enriched bread dough that is usually swirled with a sweet chocolate or cinnamon sugar filling. If you’re looking for a chocolate filling, try out this one I’ve used for a swirled brioche before. It would be delicious with this recipe. Pronounced “bahb-kah,” this bread has become very popular at bakeries and in home kitchens this past year with the beautiful swirl braids and outstanding flavor. I love that this recipe gives two loaves of Babka. If I’m going to trouble with a three day sourdough recipe, I always like to share a loaf or freeze one for later (or who am I kidding…eat the day after we eat the first loaf).

Sample Sourdough Cinnamon Sugar Babka Schedule

I find it personally helpful to see a sample schedule when making sourdough because it does take longer than a traditional dough using commercial yeast. This dough is enriched with a lot of eggs, butter and sugar which takes even a bit longer to rise. 

Day 1 (Make Sweet Leaven)
  • 8 AM: Mix sweet leaven, let rise and bubble
  • 8 PM: Take 120 grams of the sweet leaven and feed it again with the measurements in the recipe. Cover and let it rise and bubble until morning.
Day 2 (Mix Babka Dough, First Rise)
  • 8 AM: Mix together Babka dough ingredients (except salt and butter), rest. Add salt, mix, rest. Add butter a Tablespoon at a time and mix using stand mixer for 10 minutes.
  • 11 AM: First set of Coil Fold
  • 1 PM: Second set of Coil Folds
  • 2 PM: Cover dough and rest in refrigerator overnight (12-24 hours)
Day 3 (Assemble and Bake)
  • 8 AM: Roll out and shape Babka
  • 8:30-3PM: Let Babka rise (the rise time will vary depending on the warmth of your kitchen, but allow for at least 6-8 hours)
  • 3-4PM: Bake Babka

Sweet Leaven

One of the unique things about this sourdough recipe is making a sweet leaven before actually making the bread. Typically with sourdough, the longer the bread rises, the more tang you will taste from sourdough. I love the tang in this recipe in my Basic Country Artisan Loaf or my no-knead sourdough loaf but in a sweet babka, I don’t want to taste the tang. Making a sweet leaven helps temper the tang and mellows the flavors, letting the sweet cinnamon be the overpowering flavor. The addition of sugar to the leaven also helps temper the sour flavor. The taste of the Babka is sweet, light and delicious when using a sweet leaven. You can create this leaven directly from your current sourdough starter and through a series of power feeds (feeding it twice in a 24 hour period before using it), have it ready to mix your Babka in just 24 hours. Sweet leaven is also fairly stiff compared to a regular 100% hydration leaven. Due to the low water content, this stiff leaven ferments slowly and helps the bread keep its texture and maintain the gluten structure. This helps the bread rise slowly to keep the sweet flavor expected from a Babka.

Enriched Dough

Babka is made with an enriched dough. Lots of milk, butter, eggs and sugar go into this beautiful loaf. One of the keys to making a great Babka is the process of incorporating the butter. Once the leaven, flour, milk, eggs, sugar and salt have been mixed together to form a dough, it is time to add the butter. This takes a somewhat thick dough and turns it into a silky, smooth and a little bit sticky enriched dough. Cut the softened butter into chunks and add it to the center of the dough hook as the dough is mixing. Plan to knead the dough for about 10 minutes. I like to set a timer and let my dough get to work developing the gluten and incorporating the butter. I highly recommend using a stand mixer for this process. It can get very sticky and is difficult to knead for the length of time required with cold hands (so the butter doesn’t melt and leak everywhere)

Coil Fold

The coil fold is a technique of picking up the dough from the middle and letting the dough fall down onto and under itself, resulting in a coil. Wet your hands with water. Place your hands under the middle of the dough and pull up. The dough will stretch up (but should not tear) and release from the bottom of the bowl. Once the dough releases, let the dough fall back under itself. Repeat the process for both sides of dough. Then turn the container and repeat the coil fold. This process of folding the dough increases tension and strengthens the strands of gluten in the dough. If you skip this step, the dough can bake up flat because it lacks structure. Watch the coil fold process below to help visualize the process.

Refrigeration

Refrigerating the sourdough cinnamon sugar babka dough overnight or 12-24 hours (not much longer than that) chills the butter, enhances the sweet Babka flavor and makes the dough easy to work with when you pull it out in the morning to shape your Babka. The dough will not double in size and may not even look like it did much rising. Don’t worry! Once it comes back to room temperature it will rise again. When you pull the dough out of the refrigerator to roll out, it will be a little stiff and hard because it is cold. This chill actually makes it easier to work with the Babka dough. Add a little bit of flour on the bottom and on top of the Babka to help roll it out. 

Babka Filling

Babka can be filled with any kind of sweet (or sometimes savory) filling. When mixing the filling, use softened, room temperature butter to mix with the dough. If the butter is too cold, it will not incorporate fully into a paste. If it is melted, it will leak all over the dough and make the Babka difficult to shape. I also love the addition of a bit of flour to the filling. This keeps the filling sticking to the dough and not falling all over your pastry mat. Mix the ingredients together to form a thick paste and set it aside. I have also made this Babka into a strawberry flavored version, using white sugar and crushed up freeze dried strawberries, that was insanely delicious. Check the recipe notes for the full substitution.

How to Shape Babka

Flour a countertop or pastry mat and roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 14 by 18 inches. Spread half of the cinnamon sugar mixture on the dough and roll up cinnamon-roll style. Take a sharp knife and slice the Babka in half, length-wise. This will leave you with two long, open-faced pieces. Pinch together the ends and twist the dough around each other to form a swirled and braided loaf. Place into a parchment-lined loaf pan and let rise.

A Long Final Rise

I have made the mistake before with this recipe of being a bit impatient and baking the Babka too quickly. This results in a dense, gummy bread that is just not good. It can be hard to be patient with sourdough, but I promise the results are worth it. Wait until the bread has puffed up and mostly filled out the loaf tin which will take 6-8 hours. You can also lightly press the top of the Babka dough and watch as the dough springs back. If it springs back without any indentation, it needs to rise longer. If it springs back just a little and has been at least six hours, then you should be good to bake. The time will vary based on the warmth of your kitchen so it could rise faster or slower. My experience has been six to eight hours generally.

Simple Syrup

What better way to finish off a decadent bread than with some simple syrup, am I right?! To help keep the Babka fresh and moist, whip up this simple syrup while the Babka is baking. I make mine in the microwave, but you could use a pot on the stovetop as well. Mix together the sugar and water. Microwave on high in 1 minute increments until the sugar is dissolved and liquid is boiling. Stir together and let sit while waiting for the Babka to bake. The mixture will thicken as it cools. Pull the Babka out of the oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes in the pan. Then remove to a baking rack and brush the simple syrup over the top of the Babka. Use all of the simple syrup, even if it looks like it doesn’t need more.

It is hard to let the Babka cool and truthfully, I don’t always wait because it is so tempting! This Babka does slice best when it has cooled and even makes great french toast a day or two later if it lasts that long. Sourdough cinnamon sugar Babka is a showstopper recipe and it tastes even better than it looks! Enjoy!

Sourdough Cinnamon Sugar Babka

A rich and delicious cinnamon sugar babka bread made completely with sourdough
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 55 mins
Rise Time 1 d
Course Bread
Cuisine American, Polish, Ukrainian
Servings 2 loaves

Ingredients
  

Sweet Leaven (feed at least twice before making the Babka dough)

  • 120 grams sourdough starter 100% hydration see recipe notes
  • 100 grams all purpose flour
  • 25 grams granulated sugar
  • 40 grams water

Babka Dough

  • all of the leaven about 300 grams
  • 620 grams all purpose flour
  • 200 grams whole milk see recipe notes
  • 4 large eggs about 200 grams
  • 50 grams granulated sugar
  • 16 grams salt
  • 200 grams unsalted butter, softened about 14 Tablespoons

Babka Filing

  • 160 grams unsalted butter, softened 3/4 cup
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 160 grams brown sugar 2/3 cup
  • 2 teaspoons all purpose flour

Egg Wash

  • 1 teaspoon water

Simple Syrup for Babka

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions
 

Sweet Leaven (24 hours)

  • Mix together ripe sourdough starter, flour, granulated sugar and water. Cover and let sit for about 8-12 hours.
  • Take 120 grams of this new leaven and feed it with flour, sugar and water. Cover and let sit for 8-12 hours until bubbly, about doubled in size and passes the float test.

Babka Dough Day 1

  • Set the bowl of a stand mixer on a kitchen scale. Tare the scale and add all of the sweet leaven, flour, whole milk and eggs. Mix together with a spoon or dough whisk. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Add the dough hook to the bowl, sprinkle in the salt and mix for 6 minutes. Let the dough rest for 10-20 minutes.
  • Cut the butter into Tablespoon sized chunks. With the dough hook running, add the butter to the center of the dough. The butter will begin to incorporate into the dough. Continue adding chunks of butter until all the butter is added.
  • Knead for a total of ten minutes until the dough is smooth, sticky and silky.
  • Turn the dough out into a rectangular container (I use this 9 by 13 pan, affiliate link). The dough will be sticky. It can help to wet your hands before turning the dough out if it sticks to your fingers. Cover the dough and let rest at room temperature for 2 hours.
  • After 2 hours, wet your hands and perform one set of coil folds on the dough by lifting up in the middle of the dough and letting the sides pull up and fall under the dough. Repeat from the other direction. This is one set of coil folds. See video for how to perform a coil fold. Cover and let rest.
  • After another 2 hours, perform a second set of coil folds on the dough. Cover and let rest another hour.
  • Transfer the dough to a container, cover tightly and set in the fridge to chill overnight or 12-24 hours.

Babka Dough Day 2

  • Prepare two 9 by 5 loaf pans (affiliate link) with parchment paper.
  • The next morning, make the Babka filling. Mix together the softened butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour to make a thick paste. Set aside. See recipe notes for strawberry version.
  • Pull the dough out of the refrigerator. Lightly flour a pastry mat or silpat liner (affiliate link). Turn the dough out onto the mat and cut in half.
  • Lightly flour one piece of dough and roll into a 14 by 18 inch rectangle.
  • Divide the Babka paste in two. Use your fingers to spread half the cinnamon sugar mixture over the rectangle of dough. Once the dough is covered, roll the dough up cinnamon-roll style.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the roll in half; straight down the middle of the roll the long way. This will leave two long ropes of dough. Beginning on one end, squish the ends of the dough together and then twist the dough around each other forming the Babka loaf. Push the ends of the dough together and place the Babka in the prepared loaf pan. Repeat this process with the second loaf.
  • Cover the loaves and let rise 6-8 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen. This bread is made with 100% sourdough and will take much longer than a traditional loaf of bread to rise. Let it rise until it has mostly filled the loaf pan and gets light and puffy.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk together the egg and a teaspoon of water. Lightly brush the egg wash on top of the bread until covered.
  • Bake Babka for 50-55 minutes until baked all the way through.
  • While the Babka is baking, prepare the simple syrup for the top of the Babka. Mix together the granulated sugar and water in a microwave safe liquid measuring cup. Microwave on high a minute at a time until boiling and all the sugar is dissolved. Mix together with a spoon and let cool until the Babka is out of the oven. The simple syrup can also be made on the stovetop. Boil the sugar and water together for about 1 minute until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cool a bit while the Babka bakes.
  • Pull Babka out of the oven and let rest in the pan for about 5-10 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pans using the parchment paper and place on a cooling rack. Pour half of the simple syrup on one loaf and half on the other loaf, using a pastry brush as needed. Let it soak into the warm bread.
  • Let the bread cool before slicing and enjoy!

Notes

Sweet Leaven: I make this leaven with 100% hydration sourdough starter. If you don’t have 100% hydration starter, take a Tablespoon of sourdough starter and add equal weights of water and flour to it. Let it rise and then use it in the recipe for sweet leaven.
Whole Milk: If you don’t have whole milk, you can substitute 180 grams 2% milk and 20 grams heavy cream.
Strawberry Babka:  To make a strawberry filling, replace the brown sugar with white granulated sugar. Replace the cinnamon with 2 Tablespoons of crushed up freeze-dried strawberries. Combine white sugar, softened butter, crushed up freeze-dried strawberries and flour. Mix together into a paste and use in place of the cinnamon-sugar filling for a delicious strawberry flavored Babka.
Keyword babka, Cinnamon sugar

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Best Basic Banana Bread

You know how some recipes just seem elusive? I felt that way for a long time about cookies. I could make a good cookie, but the best? That was hard to find. Now I help my kids run a cookie business and after much trial and error we’ve baked our way into some pretty amazing cookies. I feel the same way about banana bread. I’ve always had good banana bread. Even very good banana bread, but I just keep trying recipes because I couldn’t find a recipe that I really loved. After tinkering around for years, I’ve finally come up with a recipe that I will be making again and again.

Jump to Best Basic Banana Bread Recipe

My Perfect Banana Bread

My perfect recipe makes a great loaf but could also be used for 24 muffins. It tastes of banana but not overpowering. It is light, tender and can hold up to some mini chocolate chips thrown in. I like a banana bread recipe best if I can use one bowl for easier cleanup and I especially love a recipe that all of my kids like. This banana bread hits all of those notes. Even my daughter who is not typically a fan has been begging me to make this recipe again…and again! It is delicious 

Combining Butter and Oil for the Perfect Bread

A lot of quick bread recipes call for just butter or just oil. I love using a combination of the two in this recipe. Both oil and butter bring different properties to banana bread. Butter brings a rich flavor and oil helps with a tender, moist and delicious crumb. I find a combination of the two results in the best loaf of bread.

Brown, Over-Ripe Bananas for the Best Flavor

Banana bread has the most flavor when the bananas are really brown…disgustingly brown…even black. The “riper” the banana, the more flavor your bread will have. If you want a milder flavor, use a more brown/yellow banana. I often keep bananas on my counter and whenever I have one that has gotten overripe and no one in my family will eat it, I’ll let it sit a little bit longer until the peel is pretty dark. Then I’ll make a batch of banana bread if I have enough of them, or I’ll peel the banana and pop it in the freezer until I’m ready to use it. To use frozen bananas, let the bananas thaw and then drain a little bit of the excess water before using.

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Makes Moist Banana Bread

I used to always use white sugar in my banana bread. Never again! Brown sugar adds the perfect moistness, sweetness and flavor. The yogurt in this recipe also helps increase the moistness in this bread. If you want to substitute Greek yogurt, you can. The batter will be a little bit thicker than a regular plain yogurt.

Banana Bread Mix-Ins

My kids love this recipe plain, but they really love it when I add some mini chocolate chips into the batter. In my younger years I used to put almost as many chocolate chips as cups of flour into the banana bread for a resulting baked good that tasted more like chocolate bread with a bit of banana. Over the years I’ve cut back, and I love the addition of little mini chocolate chips. They give the perfect pop of chocolate with the sweetness and compliment the banana bread flavor instead of trying to hide it. You could also add some chopped nuts instead of mini chips, or leave them out all together.

A Few Tips

This recipe works perfectly in one bowl. You can mix the dry ingredients together first, but more often that not I pour the flour on top of the liquid ingredients and then the salt and baking soda on top of that. Lightly combine the dry ingredients and then mix the whole thing together carefully. This results in fewer dishes for me and seriously yummy banana bread. Another trick to get a nice high domed top is to bake the bread at a high heat for the first few minutes. The high heat reacts with the baking soda in the recipe and give the tall, domed loaf that you would find at a bakery. I’ve used this technique with great results in these amazing chocolate chip muffins, this sourdough zucchini bread and our favorite applesauce bread.

Bread, Muffins and Mini Muffins

I love this recipe so much because it makes one loaf of bread or twenty-four regular-sized muffins. These muffin tins (affiliate link), are my favorite because they don’t need to be greased. If i’m being honest, we make banana bread muffins far more often than actual banana bread because they are so helpful for a quick breakfast or to stick in school lunches. I also love that this recipe makes perfect mini muffins for when you don’t want to eat an entire muffin. It’s just an all around perfect banana bread! If you’re looking for a stellar sourdough discard banana bread, check out my other favorite banana bread recipe that uses sourdough discard. You can’t go wrong with either one of these recipes. Enjoy!

Best Basic Banana Bread

The best basic banana bread recipe. Tender, full of banana flavor and easy to whip up. This recipe makes one loaf of banana bread or two dozen muffins.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course Bread, Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 1 loaf

Ingredients
  

  • 3 brown/black bananas mashed, about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or other neutral flavored oil
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt see recipe notes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips or other mix-in optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • To a liquid measuring cup, mash the brown bananas until you have about 1 1/2 cups of mashed banana. It's okay if you have a few little chunks of banana. Set aside.
  • To a medium-sized bowl, whip the softened butter with a hand mixer until creamy.
  • Add the brown sugar and mix again until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix again until completely incorporated.
  • Drizzle in the vegetable oil while mixing and add the yogurt and vanilla extract. Add the mashed banana and mix together.
  • Put the hand mixer away and pull out a wooden or large spoon. Add the flour to the bowl. Add the salt and baking soda right on top of the flour and carefully mix (not letting any of the baking soda or salt leave the bowl as you mix). Mix just until the flour is just incorporated and only a few dry streaks remain.
  • Add mini chocolate chips, chopped nuts or dried fruit and lightly mix.
  • Lightly grease or line with parchment paper a 9 by 5 pan, affiliate link (see recipe note for muffin instructions). Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  • Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. After ten minutes, lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 45-55 minutes until baked all the way through. Stick a sharp knife or toothpick into the center of the banana bread. If it comes out clean (with no batter sticking to it), it is ready to pull out of the oven.

Notes

Plain Yogurt: If you don’t have plain yogurt, you can substitute sour cream. Greek yogurt will make the batter a little thicker, but you can also substitute it for the plain yogurt if you don’t have anything else on hand.
Banana Muffins: Recipe makes about 24 muffins. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake muffins for 5 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 15-16 minutes until baked all the way through.
Mini Banana Muffins: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake mini muffins for 4 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 8-10 minutes until baked through.
Keyword banana, banana bread

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread, like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook or follow me on Pinterest for more baking ideas.

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake.

#sharealoaf

One of the driving forces I have in starting up this recipe blog is my desire to share my love and knowledge about baking and yummy food with you so that you can learn a new skill, improve your skills or share your baking expertise with others. I believe that anyone and everyone can learn to bake if they want to. All it takes is practice and finding the right information and recipes to help you be successful in the kitchen.

We have all been working on new skills during this pandemic

During this COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen people baking and in their kitchens even more than they normally would be. Most of us have had time to hone different skills and learn some new ones over the last few months. I have loved seeing the messages from old friends and new friends showing me the new recipes they’ve tried and their successes. I also love being able to help troubleshoot some failures. Thank you for reaching out to me. It has helped keep me “going” during this difficult time of social distancing and self-quarantine.

Baking builds bridges

I see baking as a natural bridge builder. In a time of social distancing and being physically apart from those we love, baking gives me a way to show others that I care about them and that they are not forgotten. I grew up always making “a little extra” so I could take a treat, a loaf of bread or a plate of brownies to a friend or a neighbor. To this day I like to make extra loaves of bread and give them away. Who doesn’t love a fresh loaf of bread or plate of warm cookies?

As restrictions begin lifting in many of our cities and states, I have been thinking of ways that we can all connect. Many places, Kentucky included (where I live), will have restrictions of gatherings of no more than ten people until July. While we are figuring out this “new normal,” I’ve decided to challenge myself to #sharealoaf. I will use some of the baking skills I’ve worked on or learned during this pandemic and help bless the lives of people around me by sharing and giving a loaf of bread or a yummy treat to friends, neighbors and acquaintances in my community. So many people are feeling down and facing deep challenges right now. It could be a friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance or even yourself. I find that for me, the best therapy for when I am feeling down is to do something for someone else, so I’m going to #sharealoaf.

If you want to join me, please do. I believe that it is the small, constant, simple things that turn into future great things.

So, here’s how it works

The next time you bake something, double your recipe. It’s a simple as that. It can be a plate of cookies, some toffee bars, a loaf of white bread or your own specialty. If you are short on time, have your kids run it to your next door neighbor or if you have more time, take a drive and drop it off at someone’s home that you haven’t connected with in a while. Porch delivery consistent with social distancing is great right now. I am planning to involve my kids and let them choose some people to drop some goodies off to. The whole idea of #sharealoaf is to bring a smile to someone’s face, to let them know that they are loved, that someone cares. I know that these small, simple acts of service go a long way.

#SHAREALOAF over the next two weeks

Over the next two weeks, I would love to see the loaves and treats you are sharing with others. Please tag me @amybakesbread and use the hashtag #sharealoaf so we can see how our small efforts can go a long way. I wish that I could #sharealoaf and bring it to your door, but hopefully my recipes will work instead.

Please share this post if you enjoyed it!

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread, like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook or follow me on Pinterest for more baking ideas.