Strawberry Sourdough Babka Buns

I love a good sourdough babka – soft, tender and enriched dough swirled up with a delicious filling. It’s one of my favorite sourdough bakes, so much so that I decided to try a take on my favorite babka recipe and make these strawberry sourdough babka buns. Buttery and delicious, I fill these buns with a sweet strawberry filling. I think you’re going to love these buns as a sweet breakfast pastry or to bake for some loved ones. If you haven’t tried a sourdough babka before, you’ve got to try one. I hope you love these!

What are Strawberry Sourdough Babka Buns?

Babka originated in Eastern Europe and is an enriched bread dough that is usually swirled with a sweet chocolate or cinnamon sugar filling. 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 this traditional sourdough babka recipe but decided to make a handheld strawberry version for spring. Enter: Strawberry Sourdough Babka Buns!

Sample Strawberry Sourdough Babka Schedule

I find it 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 means it can take even longer to rise.  To stay on schedule, keep your dough in the 78-80ºF range throughout the whole process.

Day 1Mix Stiff Sweet Levain
8:00 PMMix stiff, sweet levain. Let rise at 78ºF for about 10-12 hours.
Day 2Mix Babka Dough/Bulk Fermentation/Cold Bulk Fermentation
8:00 AMMix Babka Dough
8:30 AMBegin Bulk Fermentation at 76-78 degrees F
9:30 AM1 set of coil folds
10:30 AM1 set of coil folds
12:30 PMCover dough and begin Cold Bulk Fermentation in refrigerator overnight (12-24 hours).
Day 3Shape/Rise/Bake
8:00 AMShape Babka Buns
8:30 AM – 11:30AMLet Babka rise between 78-80ºF (the rise time will vary depending on the temperature of your kitchen, but allow for at least 3-4 hours and do not bake until buns are puffed up and risen)
11:30 AMBake Sourdough Strawberry Babka Buns

Stiff Sweet Levain for Strawberry Sourdough Babka Buns

One of the unique things about this sourdough recipe is making a sweet, stiff levain before actually making the bread. Click here to read more about the relationship between levain and sourdough starter. Typically with sourdough, the longer the bread rises, the more tang you will taste from sourdough. I love the little bit of tang in my Sourdough Artisan Bread or my no-knead sourdough loaf but in a sweet babka, I don’t want to taste the tang. Making a stiff, sweet levain helps temper the tang and mellows the flavors, letting the sweet cinnamon be the overpowering flavor. The taste of these strawberry sourdough babka buns is sweet, light and delicious. Read a few more tips below:

  • Mix together the ripe sourdough starter, water, sugar and flour. Knead together until it forms a ball.
  • Cover stiff, sweet levain and let sit 12 hours before using in this recipe.
  • Levain will double in size, have many bubbles and dome at the top when it’s ready to use.
  • Stiff, sweet levain is fairly stiff compared to a regular 100% hydration levain. Due to the low water content, this stiff levain 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.

Mixing the Strawberry Babka Bun Dough

Babka is an enriched dough. Lots of milk, butter, eggs and sugar go into these beautiful buns. One of the keys to making great Babka is the process of incorporating the butter. The levain, flour, milk, eggs, sugar and salt are mixed together to form a dough. This dough is kneaded for 6-8 minutes until the gluten has been sufficiently developed and the dough is elastic. Developing the dough to pass the windowpane test (see video below) is very important when enriching dough with a lot of butter. Butter inhibits the development of gluten. Developing the gluten before adding the butter gives you the best loaf of bread. You can watch the process here.

After the initial dough is mixed, 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 until it looks silky and feels light and airy. It should also pass the windowpane test again. I like to set a timer and let my dough get to work incorporating the butter. I highly recommend using a stand mixer for this process. It can get very sticky and when kneading by hand, it is difficult to avoid overly warming the dough, which can cause the butter to melt and leak everywhere. 

Bulk Fermentation and Coil Folds

After the dough has been mixed together, the Bulk Fermentation stage will begin. This is a time where you cover the dough and let it rest at a warm temperature between 78-80ºF.

During the bulk fermentation, perform two series of coil folds. A coil fold is a technique of picking up the dough from the middle and letting the dough fall down onto and under itself, resembling 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 a coil fold video here.

Cold Bulk Fermentation

Refrigerating strawberry sourdough babka buns overnight or up to 48 hours, 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 buns. 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 sourdough babka dough.

Strawberry Babka Filling

I love using freeze dried strawberries to get a fresh strawberry flavor in different baked goods. To make the strawberry babka filling mix together:

  • 80 grams unsalted butter, melted about 6 Tablespoons
  • 80 grams granulated sugar about 1/3 cup
  • 4 grams CRUSHED freeze dried strawberries about 1 Tablespoon
  • 4 grams all purpose flour about 1 teaspoon

Shaping Babka Buns

Separate the dough into 8 pieces. Roll a piece of dough into a small rectangle.

Spread strawberry filling on top of the rectangle of dough. Roll up and pinch the seam together. Let the dough rest while you roll out the rest of the buns.

Gently roll a piece of dough. Using a dough scraper or sharp knife, cut the dough in half, leaving the top part attached. Cut straight down the middle of the roll, the long way. This will leave two ropes of dough attached at the top. Beginning on one end, squish the ends of the dough together and then twist the dough around each other.

Roll the twisted dough up into a circle.

Place the Babka bun on the prepared parchment paper and repeat with additional dough.

Proof and Bake Strawberry Sourdough Babka Buns

I have made the mistake before of being a bit impatient and baking the Babka before it had risen completely. 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 feels very light and airy if you poke your finger gently into the bun. If proved at 76-78 degrees F, the buns should take about 3-4 hours to rise. Read here for more information on how temperature affects sourdough. Press the top of a Babka bun with your finger 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 three hours, then you should be good to bake. Whisk up a quick egg wash and top the buns with the egg wash. Bake the babka buns in a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 20-25 minutes until baked all the way through and golden on the top. If desired you can pour a simple syrup over the top of the buns for added decadence and shine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make the babka buns without the refrigerated cold bulk fermentation?

Yes. This dough is difficult to shape if not chilled, so I recommend putting the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour to chill before shaping. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as written.

The filling spilled out all over my baking sheet. Is that normal?

Yes. Due to the way they are shaped, babka buns tend to loose some of their filling. This particular filling will spill out and crystalize on the parchment paper. Make sure to cover your pan with good quality parchment paper so the pan doesn’t get ruined from the crystalized sugar.

How do I store leftover strawberry sourdough babka buns?

Store in an airtight container on the counter for up to 24 hours. After 24 hours, place any extra buns in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Strawberry Sourdough Babka Buns

Strawberry Sourdough Babka Buns

Light and sweet, these strawberry babka buns are perfect for a weekend brunch or sweet morning treat. Made with 100% sourdough/natural yeast, these buns take a little time (mostly hands off) and are worth the wait. Sweet strawberry flavor meets soft and fluffy sourdough bun.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Fermentation Time 1 day 8 hours
Total Time 1 day 9 hours 10 minutes
Course Bread, Breakfast, brunch, Sourdough
Cuisine American, Polish
Servings 8 buns


Day 1: Stiff Sweet Levain

  • 80 grams all purpose flour
  • 44 grams water
  • 20 grams granulated sugar
  • 8 grams ripe sourdough starter

Strawberry Babka Bun Dough

  • 120 grams levain
  • 310 grams bread flour see recipe notes
  • 100 grams whole milk can substitute 2%
  • 25 grams granulated sugar about 2 Tablespoons
  • 2 large eggs about 100 grams
  • 8 grams salt
  • 100 grams unsalted butter, softened about 7 Tablespoons

Day 2 Babka Filling

  • 80 grams unsalted butter, melted about 6 Tablespoons
  • 80 grams granulated sugar about 1/3 cup
  • 4 grams freeze dried strawberries about 1 Tablespoon
  • 4 grams all purpose flour about 1 teaspoon

Egg Wash

  • 1 egg
  • a splash of water

Simple Syrup (if desired)

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water


Stiff Sweet Levain (12 hours)

  • Mix together 100% hydration ripe sourdough starter with flour, sugar and water. This will be thick and you may need to knead the starter a little bit to incorporate all the sugar and flour. Cover and let sit for about 12 hours at 76-78 degrees F.
  • Levain is ready to be used when the dough is domed at the top.

Babka Dough Day 1

  • Set the bowl of a stand mixer on a kitchen scale. Tare the scale and add 120 grams of levain. Add flour, whole milk, sugar and eggs. Mix together with a spoon or dough whisk. Add the salt and use the stand mixer to mix together for about 6 minutes until the dough is elastic and strong, passing the windowpane test.
  • Cut the softened 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 (I love these plastic shower caps) and set in a warm 76-78 degree F place for 1 hour.
  • After 1 hour, 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 hour, perform a second set of coil folds on the dough. Cover and let rest for 2 more hours.
  • Transfer the dough to a container, cover tightly and set in the fridge to chill overnight or 12-24 hours.

Babka Buns Day 2

  • Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. A rimmed baking pan is important because the bun filling will spill out onto the baking sheet and it helps keep the drippings contained.
  • Make the Babka filling. Mix together the softened butter, sugar, crushed freeze dried strawberries and flour to make a thick paste. Set aside.
  • Pull the dough out of the refrigerator. Lightly flour a pastry mat or silpat liner. Turn the dough out onto the mat and cut into 8 equal pieces.
  • Flatten out one piece of dough into a small rectangle. Spread about a Tablespoon of filling over the dough. Roll up cinnamon-roll style. See pictures in the post for visual help.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the roll in half leaving the top attached. Cut 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 and roll into a circle. Place the Babka bun on the prepared parchment paper and repeat with additional dough.
  • Cover the babka buns and let rise at 76-78 degrees F for about 3-4 hours until puffed up, soft and airy.
  • 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 buns until each bun is covered.
  • Bake babka buns for about 20-25 minutes until baked all the way through and golden on top.
  • Optional: While the buns are 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. Pour or brush simple syrup on the buns and let soak into warm bread. 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.
  • Let the buns cool or enjoy warm!


Bread Flour: I like using bread flour in this recipe for increased elasticity in the dough, better oven spring and a better overall bread. You can substitute all purpose flour
Keyword best homemade bread, natrual yeast recipe, natural yeast babka, natural yeast bread, natural yeast enriched bread, sourdough babka, sourdough strawberry buns, strawberry babka, strawberry babka buns, strawberry bread, strawberry buns, strawberry flavored bread
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One Comment

  1. What a delicious treat this is! Looks SO delicious!! Thanks for sharing!! 👩‍🍳🍞🍓😋