- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (220 grams) pastry or cake flour, sifted 220 grams
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large pinch fine salt
- 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, room temperature
Cinnamon Apple Filling:
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 golden russet or golden delicious apples, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch thick slices
- 1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- zest & juice of 1 lemon
Egg Wash And Topping:
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 3/4 cups sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- Whisk the vanilla into the milk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Use a fork or your fingers to lightly mix the yeast into the milk. Then, in this order, add the flours, eggs, sugar, salt, and finally the butter in small pinches.
- Mix on the lowest speed, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, and to pull the dough off the hook as it accumulates there and break it apart so it mixes evenly, until the dough is well combined, about 2 minutes (it will not be smooth). If the dough is very dry, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time; if the dough looks wet, add more all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix until the dough is smooth and has good elasticity, 4 minutes.
- Stretch and fold the dough: Lightly dust your work surface with flour and turn the dough out on top; lightly dust the top of the dough and the interior of a large bowl with flour. Grab the top portion of the dough and stretch it away from you, tearing the dough. Then fold it on top of the middle of the dough. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the stretch, tear, and fold. Continue to do this until you can stretch a small piece of dough very thin without it tearing, about 5 minutes. Then use your hands to push and pull the dough against the work surface and in a circular motion to create a nice round of dough. Set the ball in the floured bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Chill the dough: Set the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and press it into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours before proceeding.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and beginning to caramelize, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the apples, cinnamon, and the vanilla bean, and cook, stirring often, until the apples become juicy, their liquid cooks off, and the apples begin to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the apples to a bowl, remove the vanilla bean, and stir in the lemon zest and juice.
- Set the bowl of apples aside to cool completely (if you can chill the apples for 30 minutes in the refrigerator it’s a good idea–in fact, the apple filling can be refrigerated for up to 5 days).
- Unwrap the cold babka dough and set it on a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half, return one piece to the refrigerator, and roll the other piece into 5 x 28 inch rectangle (it should be just shy of 1/4 inch thick) with a the long side facing you. Pull and shape the corners into a rectangle.
- Sprinkle half the apples evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border at the bottom, and then roll the dough from the top down, forming a tight cylinder. Pick up the cylinder, holding one end in each hand, and gently stretch it. Using a bread knife, slice the cylinder crosswise into two pieces. Repeat with the other piece of dough so you have a total of 4 filled segments.
- Take 2 pieces of dough, overlap one over the other to form an X, and twist the ends together like the threads on a screw so you have at least 2 twists on each side of the X. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
- Place each twisted babka in a loaf pan greased with butter or lined with parchment paper. Cover the pans with a dry kitchen towel and set them aside in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough rises 1 to 2 inches above the rim of the pan and is very soft and jiggly to the touch, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on how warm your room is.
- After the breads have proofed, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Make the egg wash by whisking the egg, water, and salt together in a small bowl. Brush each of the babkas with egg wash and then sprinkle them generously with almonds. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, loosely tenting them with aluminum foil if they begin to get too dark.
- Remove the pans from the oven and while the babkas are still hot, brush the tops with the maple syrup. Once the babkas are completely cooled, turn them out of the loaf pans, slice and serve.