This Cheesecake-Filled Babka Banished All My Babka Baking Fears
Sometimes a two-day baking project is just what you need to build up your confidence!
Babkas have always terrified me. Not because they aren’t delicious — obviously they are. Making them just requires a lot of patience, which I can freely admit, I don't have much of. Not only do you need to make and wait for your yeasted dough to rise — only to punch it down and wait for it to rise again — you need to make your babka’s filling, spoon it inside your dough, roll the dough up into a tight log and braid it. And that all happens before you actually put it in the oven. Needless to say, making a babka from scratch is no easy feat, and I thought for sure I’d never willingly choose to make one with my own two hands. But Food Network Magazine’s Pumpkin Cheesecake Babka (pictured above) changed all that.
From the very start, you can tell there’s something truly special about this babka. Not only does its bold pumpkin flavor make it the optimal fall treat, but its sweet cheese cake filling also adds just the right amount of creaminess to perfectly offset the overall fluffiness of the babka’s yeasted dough. This might not sound like a really big deal at first, but as someone who’s had their fair share of dried out, brittle yeasted desserts, this addition is pretty major since it ensures that the babka stays adequately moist while baking in the oven. Additionally, the brown sugar pecan topping and filling adds an extra layer of luscious crunch and texture that you never really seem to find in other traditional chocolate or cinnamon babkas. Don’t judge yourself too harshly if you eat some of the indulgent nut mixture by the spoonful while you’re putting your babka loaves together — I did and it was totally worth the sugar rush.
Assembling this babka was also a lot more straightforward than I initially worried it would be. Though your babka will need to complete a second rise overnight in the refrigerator, doing so has a few added benefits. By placing your babka in a cold environment, you slow down its overall rise. This might sound like a negative thing, but it isn’t; it actually allows your babka dough to develop a deeper flavor, which will become evident after you take your very first pumpkin-y bite later on. This also allows you to break the process of making your homemade babka over a two-day period, which allows you to do other things with your day. A quick note on the dough: Don’t get nervous if it looks a lot wetter than other bread doughs you’ve made in the past; this is how it’s supposed to look!
The recipe also yields two — yes two! — beautifully baked babkas, so you’ll have more than enough to serve during your weekend brunch and later on in the day for dessert. You can even freeze your babka for up to three months and warm it up for later enjoyment, so it’s totally acceptable to eat one directly out of the oven and save the other one for a Halloween celebration or small family get-togethers. Though this babka is much more of a hands-on baking project than most desserts, the end result is totally worth the time you’ll spend in your kitchen over the course of two days. Just take it from me — after making my first two successful loaves, I waited a day and made two more!