Sweet, delicious, and well worth the effort, this vegan babka is super impressive in looks and flavor. This enriched bread is filled with chocolate, tahini, and pecans, and magically disappears!
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Hey Internet, I’m back today with more vegan baked goods for you. Today I’m bringing you babka, another taste of the recipes available in my new book: Plant-Based Jewish Recipes!
Babka, originating in Poland and Ukraine, is a sweet twisted bread made from a soft enriched dough (like brioche). It is now quite popular in the Jewish diaspora, especially in places with a large Jewish population like Israel… and New York City!
Traditional babka filling is usually cinnamon, brown sugar, walnuts or pecans, and a fat like (vegan) butter or you could use coconut cream.
While you can use any filling you like, I’m partial to chocolate and tahini, basically my kryptonite.
This recipe DOES use nuts (pecans!) but just omit them, or use ground oats or seeds instead if you have a nut allergy. Additionally, this recipe is not written as gluten-free, but I’d venture to guess you could use a good quality gluten-free flour blend and it would work.
Babka is an intimidating looking bread. Whether you saw the contestants struggle with it on the Great British Baking Show, you might feel nervous about baking a babka, especially if you’re not an experienced bread maker.
I knew I had to make one for my book, so I summoned all the courage I could muster and attempted this delicious but complex-sounding recipe.
And it worked.
It wasn’t even that hard. It’s a lot of steps, kind of like vegan challah, but the result is delicious and it’s completely worth it. SO much better than store-bought (especially considering how hard it is to find a pre-made VEGAN babka).
What’s even better is that this recipe makes two babka--one to freeze and one to eat. Or you can eat them both in like 2 days… no judgement.
Alright, let’s get onto the baking so we can get into the noshing.
What You’ll Need
Let’s talk about the ingredients for dough itself.
For the basic dough, you’ll of course need flour. I used all purpose flour, since we don’t want as firm of a bread that bread flour produces, unlike the vegan bagels I recently published.
Make sure your yeast is relatively new--we’ll proof it before we use it though, so if you’re unsure now, you’ll know before we go to the trouble of mixing the dough. I always proof my yeast for exactly this reason.
To enrich the vegan babka dough, I’ve used coconut milk, Bob’s Red Mill Vegan Egg Replacer, and a little pure vanilla extract for flavor. You could use another egg replacement like flax eggs if you like (just mix 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoon water per egg).
For the filling, I mentioned above it can be pretty much anything you like, just keep the ratios or texture similar. We’re looking for a thick but pourable paste, and it helps to have something dry-ish (like ground nuts) to sprinkle over top.
Finally, this is optional but traditional, a simple sugar syrup is poured over the hot babka, fresh from the oven. This not only sweetens and provides a nice shine to the outside of the babka, but acts as a sealant, helping it stay fresh.
All you need to make a sugar syrup is organic cane sugar and water. I say organic because non-organic sugar can be sometimes filtered with animal bone char, making it not vegan.
How to Properly Measure Flour
We want to measure our flour by weight, not by volume. When you scoop flour out of a bag or tin with a measuring cup, you're packing it in there and not necessarily getting the same amount each time.
What's better is to use a food scale with a tare function (allowing you to zero out the scale after you've put the bowl on it so your bowl isn't playing a factor in your equation).
Working in grams, put your bowl on the scale and zero it out. Scoop the flour into the bowl until you reach the desired measurement.
Tips for Making Vegan Babka
I’m going to divide the instructions up into sections so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. This also helps you not lose your place!
Making the Dough
Note: Babka dough requires a LOT of kneading, so I highly recommend a stand mixer with a dough hook for this. It’s a worthwhile investment for anyone who plans to bake bread or anything requiring dough (even pastry) at home. You CAN do it by hand though, but you may want someone to help you.
- In a small bowl, combine ¾ cup lukewarm coconut milk, 2 tablespoon sugar, and the yeast. Mix well and let sit for about 10 minutes or until foamy. If it does not get foamy, your yeast may be inactive and should be replaced (at this point, go buy more and repeat this step to test the new yeast).
- Prep your replacement eggs while that is activating, and whisk your flour, remaining sugar, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl).
- Now add the foamy yeast mixture, replacement eggs and vanilla extract. Mix on low for about 3 minutes. The dough will look a little dry right now but that will change soon.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix for about 8-10 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth. Now decrease the speed to low again, and add your 2-4 tablespoon of coconut milk a half tablespoon at a time, waiting until it is fully incorporated before adding more each time. This takes about 4-5 minutes.
- Now increase the speed back to medium and knead for another 5 minutes until the dough is super soft and smooth.
- Grease a bowl with coconut milk or cream (or oil) and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let it do a cool rise in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Make the Filling and Prepare the Babka
At this point, you’ll want to make sure you have room for a half sheet pan in your fridge--unless it’s winter and you happen to have a very cold garage!
- At the end of the 3 hours (or after), first make the filling. Blitz the pecans in a food processor until they’re evenly and very finely chopped (but not yet a meal/flour). Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together the tahini, cocoa powder, and maple syrup until it is a thick but pourable paste. Set aside.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and make sure there’s room in your fridge for the sheet to lie flat.
- Roll out your dough into roughly a 16” by 25” rectangle about ⅛” thick. You may need to work in batches if you have a small workspace like I do.
- I rolled each one out to about 12” x 18”ish. They worked out fine for me.
- Trim the edges of your rectangle with a knife or bench scraper so you have straight lines. This made a difference in how nice my babka looked (I inadvertently skipped this step the first time and the babka looked a little misshapen).
- Spread your chocolate filling across the rectangle (leaving a half inch border), then sprinkle the ground nuts over the entire rectangle, not touching the border. If you are working in batches of two, use only half the filling for each rectangle.
- Running along the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough up in a tight spiral. If you did NOT work in batches of two, cut the log in half with a sharp knife.
- Place the rolled up dough logs on your lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for one hour.
Twist and Rise the Loaves
- Prepare two loaf pans by lining them with parchment paper. I like to clip the edges of the pans with binder clips while I fill them (just remove before baking).
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator after an hour and cut each piece in half lengthwise. Working with one split log at a time, cross the split pieces once, then once or twice more on the bottom and then the top.
- Place into one of your lined loaf pans, tucking in the ends if needed or squishing it so it’s shorter and will fit. Repeat with the other log of babka.
- Cover the two tins with a kitchen towel and place in the oven with the light on.
- Rise about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the dough springs back when pressed lightly.
Bake and Enjoy
- Bake in the oven at 350° Fahrenheit (177° Celsius) for about 35 - 40 minutes or until golden brown.
- While the loaves bake, prepare a sugar syrup from ½ cup organic cane sugar and ⅓ cup water. Boil the water and dissolve the sugar, then remove from heat.
- After the loaves come out, brush them immediately with the sugar syrup while hot.
- Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then remove and cool on a cooling rack completely before slicing. This is essential to achieve the optimal crumb. You can heat it back up if you like your babka warm!
- Slice the babka with a serrated blade, gently sawing back and forth. Sometimes other knives can squish the bread. Serve babka with coffee, tea, or anything you like.
- Store your vegan babka in an airtight container (I just use my cake carrier) for up to 4 days, or wrap in plastic wrap and then freezer paper and freeze up to 3 months.
Want More Jewish Recipes?
I grew up eating a ton of awesome Jewish foods. However, I haven't had many of them since going vegan 3 years ago. So I've set out to veganize my favorites!
My Plant-Based Jewish Recipes e-book is now available for purchase and has 36 vegan Jewish recipes perfect for Chanukah, Passover, Rosh Hashanah and more.
Purchase and immediately receive your e-book that you can read digitally or print out and make tons of delicious Jewish comfort food recipes such as latkes, kugel, knishes, lox (!), black and white cookies, babka, and more! This book contains over 20 exclusive recipes that will never be released on the blog.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you I’ve got one more thing to tell you about this book. Over the next year or so, I’ll be releasing new versions of the book with new recipes for each major Jewish holiday (think Hamantaschen for Purim and flourless cake for Passover) and if you’ve already purchased my Plant-Based Jewish Recipes e-book, you’ll automatically get an updated version free of charge. Yup.
Click here to purchase or read more about the book.
More Vegan Baking Recipes
I have fallen in love with baking over the past two years, and though I am not good at baking everything yet, I am learning!
I found that the idea of baking my own babka was way harder than actually baking them. Now I get regular requests to make them for my husband and neighbors (who enjoyed the many tests I did when developing this recipe)!
Here’s a few more awesome from-scratch baking recipes you can try.
- Vegan Challah
- Vegan Bagels
- Matcha Pound Cake
- Easy Pie Crust - try with my Vegan Pumpkin Pie
- Coconut Cake
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Scones
- Cranberry Chocolate Chip Jumbo Muffins
- Banana Bread
- Easy Thick Crust Pizza Dough
As always, I hope you love this recipe--I know I do, and Mr. Zardyplants does too.
These vegan babka are:
- Soft but chewy
- Tender with a light crust
- And perfect for breakfast or dessert, impressing guests or family!
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!