This classic babka recipe is getting a delicious twist. Soft dough filled with sweet dates and crunchy walnuts makes a this a mouth-watering treat.
Date and walnut make one of the most delicious combos ever. We love our date cake with walnuts and granola bars: both are perfectly sweet and tasty. Today, I'm going to show you how to make babka with dates and walnuts.
What is babka?
Babka is a delicious brioche bread with a filling that can range from chocolate to dates and everything in between. This bread has a cake-y texture and is brushed with a simple syrup in the end. What makes babka unique is the braiding which may look very complicated but its actually very easy to make. This babka recipe has a little twist as it uses dates and walnut as a filling compared to the traditional chocolate one.
How to make babka dough
A traditional babka dough is made with flour, yeast, sugar, eggs, water and butter. In this easy babka recipe, I've added cinnamon and ginger to the dough which compliments the filling pretty well. Babka dough needs a few hours to rise which prolongs the process of making the bread, but it's absolutely worth it. To make the dough, start by mixing the flour, yeast, sugar, spices and water in the bowl of a stand mixer then add in eggs. Finish by adding the butter, one tablespoon at a time and mix until the dough comes together.
I find this dough very interesting because it rises in the fridge, which is not a warm place. I was doubtful about it and didn't have much hope for it to rise but it turned out to be perfect. It's such an easy dough to work with. I may have enjoyed working with it too much, but who wouldn't?
How to make the babka filling
The most common babka recipe is chocolate babka which has a delicious filling made with chocolate, cocoa powder, butter and sugar. For this babka recipe, I've made a date and walnut filling which is sweet, nutty and absolutely delicious.
For babka filling, I used this baking date filling that I found at a Middle Eastern grocery store - but if you cannot find this filling, you can use medjool dates. Make the filling by placing medjool dates in a bowl and pour ⅛ cup hot water on them, let them sit for 30 minutes and then make them into a paste using a food processor. There might be need for more hot water, if so, add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time because we don't want a runny mixture. We want a spreadable paste.
I used ½ cup chopped walnuts which always goes well with dates. Unless you have nut allergy, don't leave the walnuts out. Then comes the final addition of the filling, shredded coconut. This combination is a winner! It's so difficult to wait for the dough to rise, then roll it out, spread the filling, roll the dough and braid it and then wait again for it to rise and then finally bake it. But trust me, it's SO worth it!
How to store babka
Babka, like many other breads and baked goods, tend to go stale after a couple of days so it's best to cover it with a plastic wrap and use it within two days.
Can you freeze babka?
Babka does freeze very well. I have not frozen an unbaked babka but I have frozen a baked babka by wrapping it in a plastic wrap tightly and store it in the freezer. To eat, let the babka thaw in the fridge overnight and then wrap it in aluminum foil. Place it in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 200F. Wait for about 30 to 35 minutes and your babka will be all ready and warm!
Notes and tips for this babka recipe
- To make a chocolate babka recipe: prepare the dough as instructed. To make the filling, place 1 cup chocolate chips with ½ stick butter in a sauce pan to melt. Once melted, add in 3 tablespoons sugar with 4 tablespoons cocoa powder to the mixture and stir well until it forms a paste. Let it cool and use it on the dough.
- To make a cinnamon babka recipe: Use the same dough as instructed in the recipe. For the filling, mix 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, ¾ cup brown sugar and ¾ cup granulated sugar in a bowl and set aside. Spread one stick of melted butter on the rolled dough and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on top. Roll and proceed with the recipe.
- Make sure that the dough rises in the refrigerator for eight hours. Don't rush the dough otherwise you won't have a good babka.
- To shape the babka, roll out the dough into a rectangular shape then spread the filling over it evenly and start rolling from the longest side closest to you. Once you have a full roll, freeze it for fifteen minutes, this helps with cutting it. After fifteen minutes, cut it in half lengthwise, leaving a one inch at one end. Start placing one side on the other and form a twist.
- Don't skip the syrup at the end, it's not going to over sweeten the bread, it will moisten it a bit and keep it fresh for a longer time.
Recipe adapted from broma bakery.
Date Walnut Babka
- 2 cups + 2 tablespoon all purpose flour you will need more for dusting
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 packet instant yeast 2 ½ tsp
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 eggs room temperature
- ¼ cup water
- ⅓ cup almost 5 tablespoon unsalted butter
Date Walnut Filling:
- 13 oz Baking Date Filling see notes for a homemade version
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 3 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon rosewater optional, but it makes it more delicious
- Mix flour, sugar, instant yeast, cinnamon and ground ginger in the bowl of a stand mixer. Attach the dough hook, then add eggs and water and mix on low until the dough comes together. If the dough doesn't come together, add some more water, one tablespoon at a time.
- Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, and mix on low until fully incorporated. Then change the speed to medium and mix for 10 minutes until the dough is completely smooth. If the dough is too sticky, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour.
- Coat a large bowl with oil, place the dough in the bowl and coat it with oil. Cover and let it sit in the fridge for 6-8 hours (or overnight)
To make the babka:
- Take a loaf pan and coat it with nonstick spray, then cover the bottom with parchment paper, set aside.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a rough 10X10 inch square. Spread the date filling on the dough, leave one inch border. Then spread the chopped walnuts and shredded coconut. Brush the borders with water.
- Roll the dough tight and pinch both ends to seal. Place the roll in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Take the roll out of the freezer, cut it into half lengthwise, leave 1 inch at one end. Lay the cuts next to each other and lift one side over the other, forming a twist, try to keep the cut side outside.
- Transfer it into the loaf pan, it's ok if it twists a bit. Cover it with a damp towel and let it rise at room temperature for 1 ½ hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Once heated, bake the babka for 25 to 35 minutes. Check at 25 minutes by inserting a toothpick in the center, if there is no dough attached, it's ready. If not baked in the middle but brown on top, cover it with foil and bake it for 10 more minutes.
- Bring sugar and water to boil and let it boil for 5 - 8 minutes. Add in the rosewater and turn the heat off.
- Once the babka is baked, brush it with the syrup right away (use all the syrup, it's not too much) and then let it cool. Or just serve it warm!
How many dates do you use if you make your own paste?
This depends on the size of the dates and their texture. Usually between 15 to 20 medjool dates should work.
Just made this and it turned out beautiful! I actually only had half the amount of dates so I filled half of the babka with chocolate instead. The last time I made date stuffed bread, I got an unpleasant mentholy aroma that filled my mouth with every bite, I don't quite know how to describe it. It happened again this time, but in both halves of the babka. I'm thinking it could be the cinnamon I used in the dough, since that and the dates are the only common factor from both bakes. I know different brands of cinnamon can have different flavors. Do you think this could be it? Any input or suggestions? Thank you!
Hi Samira, yes, it's definitely the cinnamon. Not all cinnamon brands are the same, please look for one with great reviews and try ones from local Middle Eastern or Mediterranean shops.
This is such a great recipe for the holidays! It’s beautiful and so tasty!
This is such a great recipe for the holidays! It's so beautiful and it's delicious!
This babka is absolutely beautiful! And it's a great recipe.