Pimiento Cheese Babka


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes



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When I flew home for the holidays from New York, two Zabar’s babkas were typically my ticket in the door, one for my mom, and one for our friend Marshy. The chocolaty crumbly coffee cakes packed like bricks in my suitcase and they withstood all the smooshing that happens in an airplane pretty darn well. Slowly over the course of my time home we’d pick at it and dunk it in our coffee.

Now whenever I visit New York, I always make it a point to visit Breads Bakery in Union Square, where the smell of fresh babka engulfs the place and hypnotizes me into buying way too many treats. Everything there is amazing, but their babka, made with layers of laminated dough and finished with a brush of syrup, glows from the shelf.

Here on the farm, I take a squishier savory approach to babka using my basic challah dough and filling it with the Southern staple, pimiento cheese. My knowledge of the South may be limited, but what I do know is that mayonnaise and cheese were a match made in guilty-pleasure heaven and it astounds me that it’s not more popular in the Midwest. So rather than calling this a Pimiento Cheese Babka, it might attract more people at my parties if I called it Cheesy Swirly Bread; but then it’ll all get eaten and there won’t be any leftovers for me, so where is the fun in that?

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  • ½ recipe dough from Basic Challah, completed through first rising


  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 jar (2 ounces) diced pimientos
  • ¼ small onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Egg wash: 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water


Grease a 9×4- or 5-inch loaf pan. When the dough is finished rising, roll it out into a 10×14-inch rectangle. Spread on the mayo in an even layer, leaving a 1-inch border along one of the long edges. Sprinkle on the cheddar, pimientos, onion, paprika, cayenne, a good pinch of salt or two, and a few turns of black pepper. Starting at the long end opposite to where you left the border, roll up the dough to make a long jelly roll and pinch the edges to seal them shut. Use a serrated knife to cut the roll lengthwise down the center so that you have 2 long skinny pieces of dough. Position them so that the opening is facing up (so the filling doesn’t all fall out) and then twist the two pieces around one another. Fold the dough in half, place it in the loaf pan, cover it, and let it rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Brush the top of the dough with the egg wash. Bake until the top is golden brown and the loaf has an internal temperature of 190ºF. Begin checking for doneness at 35 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and enjoy.