Bobba’s Babka


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Falling Cloudberries

By Tessa Kiros

Published 2004

  • About

Babka is similar to Finnish buns. I remember this exaggerated puffed-up bread so well from the Jewish bakeries in South Africa and the homes of many friends. This is a recipe from Lisa’s gran (Bobba is Yiddish for grandma). The cinnamon just streaks through the babka and it is great alone, slightly warm, or spread with a little extra butter and jam. You can freeze the cooked bread and pull it out to thaw a couple of hours before serving.


  • 625 g (5 cups) cake or plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 80 g ( cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 25 g (1 oz) fresh yeast, crumbled, or 15 g (½ oz) dried yeast
  • 250 ml (1 cup) tepid milk
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 100 g ( oz) dark brown sugar
  • 60 g (2 oz) butter, softened
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons milk
  • 30 g (1 oz) brown sugar, to sprinkle


Mix together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Crumble the yeast into a smaller bowl, add the milk and oil and mix through. Leave for 10 minutes or so to begin activating, then pour the yeast into the flour mixture, scraping out the bowl well. Using an electric mixer with a dough hook, mix until well combined. Alternatively, mix with very well-floured hands.

Add the eggs and mix a little longer to combine. The dough should be thick and a little difficult to mix, even with the mixer. It will seem very sticky. Turn it out onto a floured work surface, incorporating more flour if necessary, so that it is still very sticky but not actually sticking to your hands. Work it around, kneading for about 10 minutes. Grease a large clean bowl with a little melted butter.

Put the dough in the greased bowl, turning it greased side up. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1½ hours, or until it is light and doubled in size. Divide the dough in half and roll out one half on a lightly floured surface. It will still feel quite sticky. Roll it out to make a 25 × 45 cm (10 × 18 inch) rectangle that is ½ cm (¼ inch) thick.

Mix the cinnamon with the brown sugar. Spread half the butter over the rolled out dough and scatter half of the cinnamon sugar over the surface. Roll up the dough into a long sausage along its longest edge. Set aside and do the same with the other half of the dough. Braid the two dough ropes together, pressing hard to seal the edges together. Twist the dough braid to tighten the loaf.

Put into a greased 30 cm (12 inch) loaf tin. Cover with plastic and leave in a warm place for another hour or so, until it puffs up again. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Mix the egg yolk with the milk and brush over the top of the babka, then sprinkle with brown sugar. Put the tin in the bottom third of the oven with no shelves above it and bake for 30–40 minutes. It will have risen more and be beautifully golden. A skewer inserted should come out clean and not have any dough sticking to it. If the ends look too brown but the dough doesn’t seem cooked, cover the ends with a bit of aluminium foil and cook for a little longer. Cool for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

This is a dream served just slightly warm but it is a little more difficult to cut. It will keep for 24 hours, or toast it lightly and spread with a little butter or even a citrus curd.