I can describe my favorite thing about fall in two simple words… Apple. Season. If you find yourself with an abundance of delicious fall apples, you need to make this Apple Cinnamon Swirl Babka! Not only is it super easy to whip up, but it’s insanely delicious!
There’s cinnamon incorporated into the brioche dough, the sautéed apples are perfectly spiced before being encased in a cinnamon sugar swirl, and it’s topped off with a cinnamon glaze. This babka literally screams fall!
I developed this Apple Cinnamon Swirl Babka recipe for my friends over at Crate & Barrel to help celebrate and promote the launch of their new GORGEOUS slate blue bakeware set, which I’m obsessed with. The pans heat quickly & evenly and maintain consistent temperatures for perfectly baked goods every time. There’s also a double layer of silicone-based non-stick coating which ensures easy release and quick cleanup! Here’s the loaf pan I used for this babka; you’ll definitely see me using it again for future recipes!
Ingredients for Apple Cinnamon Swirl Babka
This apple cinnamon swirl babka recipe doesn’t require a ton of ingredients, just a little bit of patience! Here’s what you’ll need to make the best apple cinnamon babka:
Milk: I recommend whole milk, but know that almond milk will also work (I’ve tried it numerous times!)
Apples: The apples get sautéed (more on that below) until they’re soft and coated in spices. I like to use Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, or Granny Smith.
Granulated sugar: This is used to help activate the yeast and sweeten the babka dough.
Instant dry yeast: Use quick rise/instant yeast to help the babka rise faster. You can use active dry yeast, but the babka will take a little longer to rise.
Butter: A baker’s best friend. You’ll need it for the dough and the filling.
Egg: This recipe calls for one large egg for the perfect texture in the dough.
All-purpose flour: I’ve experimented with different flours and find that all-purpose consistently leads to the best results.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon is added straight to the dough for a fragrant note. And then obviously it’s used in the filling too.
Brown sugar: Personally, I use dark brown sugar 99% of the time for a more intense flavor, but light brown sugar will work too!
Salt: Don’t forget it or the babka will taste a little plain and your filling will be too sweet.
The cinnamon glaze is truly unforgettable too! Just powdered sugar, milk, and cinnamon; YES PLEASE.
What Kind of Apples Should You Bake With?
Selecting the right apples for this babka is half the battle, honestly. Generally speaking, you want apples that will hold their shape and not become a mushy mess in the heat of an oven. These types of apples are typically referred to as “baking apples” and include varieties like:
and Pink Lady
To add depth of flavor, try mixing a variety of baking apples. My favorite combination is Honeycrisp and Granny Smith.
How to Sauté Apples
Let’s walk through how to make the sautéed apple portion of the filling! They’re super easy but I like to make sure you know exactly how it’s done to ensure your culinary success!
Start by placing the peeled and diced apples into a nonstick fry pan along with the butter and spices. Stir to make sure the apples are evenly coated and then cook on medium-high until the apples start to release their juices and become nice and tender. It’ll take maybe 5-6 minutes! Then you can let the apples cool down in the pan until you’re ready to add them on top of the cinnamon sugar filling.
Apple Cinnamon Swirl Babka Recipe Troubleshooting & FAQ
APPLE CINNAMON SWIRL BABKA: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I use active dry yeast instead? Technically, yes! But you’ll need to add the yeast to the warmed milk and let sit for 5 minutes before proceeding with the recipe. Also, your babka will require longer rises overall.
Can I use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour for the dough? Sure! Just note that using bread flour will yield a slightly chewier babka due to the higher protein content! I occasionally like to replace about half of the called for all-purpose flour with bread flour, but feel free to replace all of it if you’d like!
Can I make the babka ahead of time? Absolutely. To make the night before serving, prepare the dough, roll, fill, & shape the babka and place into the prepared loaf pan. Cover the babka tightly and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. (16 hours max.) The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise on the counter for 1-2 hours before baking.
APPLE CINNAMON SWIRL BABKA: TROUBLESHOOTING
Help! My dough isn’t rising! What’s wrong? Yeast has a “use by” date. As it moves beyond that time, it loses its oomph. Check the date printed on the package to make sure it’s within its usable life.
If your yeast hasn’t expired, then you likely accidentally killed it by adding liquids that were too hot. The ideal temperature of the milk is between 115°F (46°C) and 125°F (52°C); I recommend getting an instant-read thermometer to ensure you don’t waste your ingredients!
Help! My dough is extremely sticky and difficult to knead! What did I do wrong? Dough that is too sticky is a very common problem but it is actually really easy to fix! Sticky dough is almost always caused by a dough that is too hydrated. This basically means that you have added too much milk to your dough. The fix is simply incorporating a little bit more flour (I recommend 1 tablespoon at a time)! The dough should be slightly tacky, but if you touch it with a clean, dry finger, the dough shouldn’t come off onto your finger.
Make the brioche dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, mix together the yeast with the milk. Add the egg, butter, flour, salt, sugar, and cinnamon and mix until the ingredients are just barely combined. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes so the flour has time to hydrate.
Using the hook attachment, beat on medium speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 6-8 minutes longer. *If you do not have a stand-mixer with a hook attachment, knead the dough by hand in this step.*
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap, a paper towel, or aluminum foil and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Make the sautéed apple filling: In a large nonstick skillet, add the apples, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom and stir until evenly coated. Cook over medium-high heat until the apples begin releasing their juices and are tender. Set aside to cool.
Make the cinnamon sugar filling: Add the softened butter, dark brown sugar, and cinnamon to a medium bowl and combine using a fork until a thick paste forms. Set aside.
Line a 9 x 5-inch pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the two long sides. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 12×16-inch rectangle. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick.
Spread the cinnamon sugar filling all over the dough, then spread the sautéed apples on top of the filling, gently patting them down into the filling. Starting with the shorter end, tightly roll up the dough to form a 12-inch-long log. Using a sharp knife, cut the log in half, lengthwise. Turn the dough slightly to ensure the cut sides are facing upwards on both pieces. Pinch the ends together on one side then gently twist the two pieces of dough, pinching the other ends together as well. Carefully push on both ends to compress the twisted strands of dough until they are about the length of your loaf pan. Using both hands, carefully place the babka into the prepared loaf pan, tucking the ends under slightly if needed. Cover and let proof somewhere warm for about 45-60 minutes, or until risen and puffy.
While the loaf is proofing, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Once risen, bake the babka for 40-45 minutes, until the babka is a deep, golden brown and measures 190°F (90°C) on an instant-read thermometer.
Make the cinnamon glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, milk, and cinnamon together in a small bowl until smooth and combined. If the icing is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar; if it's too thick, add more milk. Drizzle icing over warm babka. Cover leftover babka tightly and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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