Who doesn’t love a Babka? Chocolate Babka is obviously amazing, but have you ever considered a Pistachio Babka?
My pistachio babka is seriously addicting! It’s sweet without being too sweet, and has the most amazing textures between the creamy filling, fluffy bread, crunchy nuts and crispy exterior. I really can’t explain why a Pistachio Babka came to mind, but I’m so glad that it did. The beautiful green color immediately makes me think SPRING, which is why I think it’s just the right time for this post.
Now, I’ll have to admit this recipe didn’t exactly come easy for me. I tested it four times so I’m confident to say it is good. Really good. So the first time I attempted this recipe, I made a completely different filling. I made my own mix of pistachios and honey. It was sticky and gooey and actually really tasty, but just not what I was imagining. The color was definitely off too. It wasn’t that pistachio-green.
Next try, I decided to use store bought pistachio cream. See the notes in my recipe for more information. It’s the texture and sweetness of Nutella, but it’s pistachio! It’s something I’ve tasted while working for the chef/food photographer and really fell in love with. I’ll spread that on my morning toast any day. It also made things a lot easier than making it from scratch like I usually would, but there are recipes out there for homemade versions if you have the ambition to try. Anyway, the issue with this attempt was that I didn’t use enough filling and it was a bit dry. Also, I didn’t use sugar syrup on top and was missing that sweet finish. Oh and did I mention it completely over-browned? Not only should I have tented the babka in my first attempt to decrease the browning, but this time I’m pretty sure my oven was much hotter than 350°F. My oven is not actually calibrated properly, so I’m always using my oven thermometer. I have a hunch that I didn’t let it heat up entirely before putting the bread in. Whoops.
Third attempt, I got the filling perfect and finished it off with the simple syrup, which I loved. I even made a very attractive braid shape. Great color too. Problem? I screwed up and didn’t let it rise enough so it was super dense! It was actually still delicious, but it was NOT babka.
Fourth and final attempt, filling and glaze were perfect, and I figured out the best method for letting it rise! A warm (~90°F) but turned off oven did the trick. YAY.
I was really happy with these results. It also went over very well at Easter. My family actually devoured the entire loaf! I hope you give this one a try!
- ½ cup milk
- 1 packet (2 ¼ tsp) dry active yeast
- ¼ cup granulated sugar, plus 1 pinch
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 7 tbsp unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, cut into ½ inch slices, plus more for bowl
- ½ cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
- 1 cup (~9oz) store bought pistachio cream*
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp of water, for egg wash
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- Activate yeast: Warm milk to 107-112°F. Sprinkle yeast over top and add a pinch of sugar. Allow to sit 5-10 minutes, until foamy.
- Mix wet ingredients: Whisk together whole egg, yolk and sugar. When yeast is activated, whisk milk mixture into egg mixture.
- Mix wet and dry: Add flour and salt to the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a dough hook attachment. Slowly add wet ingredients into flour and mix on low until completely incorporated.
- Add butter and beat: While mixing over medium speed, add butter to dough, one slice at a time. Continue to beat for 10-12 minutes or until dough becomes very smooth and elastic. It will be slightly tacky to the touch.
- Rise: Lightly butter a large, clean bowl. Form dough into a ball and roll around in bowl to coat with butter. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for 1-2 hours in a warm draft-free place (such as the inside of a turned-off oven**). The dough should puff and rise, although it may not quite double in bulk.
- Chill: Punch down the dough and recover the bowl. Refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours to allow the flavors to develop.
- Toast and chop nuts: Preheat oven to 325°F. Place pistachios on a parchment lined baking sheet, lightly sprinkle with salt and bake approximately 8-10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool. Finely chop by hand or in a food processor. Store until ready to use.
- Prepare pan: Butter a 9-inch loaf pan. Line with parchment overhanging on the sides. Butter parchment. The overhanging edges will be used to lift the bread out of the pan.
- Roll dough: Remove dough from fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 18 x 16 inch rectangle. Spread with the filling all the way to the edges, using an offset spatula or plastic bench scraper. Sprinkle over chopped nuts. With the longer side facing you, roll the dough into a tight coiled shape.
- Chill and shape: Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Remove from freezer, place on a lightly floured surface and slice in half length-wise. With the cut sides up, make an ‘X’ using the two halves. On one side, working from the center outwards, cross the pieces once over each other and once again, as if braiding. Repeat on opposite side. Lightly pinch and tuck under ends.
- Rise again: Gently squoosh dough so it’s short enough to fit into the prepared pan. Carefully lift and transfer into pan. Loosely cover with a clean towel and rise in a warm, draft free place for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until puffy. See note for proofing suggestion.
- Make syrup: While bread rises, add sugar and ¼ cup of water to a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a bowl to cool. This can also be made a day ahead and refrigerated.***
- Heat oven and bake: When the dough is almost done rising, transfer dough to the top of the oven (if it was rising inside), and preheat oven to 350°F. Uncover dough and brush with egg wash. Bake on the center rack of the oven for a total of 40-50 minutes. After 20-30 minutes or when golden brown, tent with foil to avoid overbrowning. The bread is done when a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. An instant read thermometer will read between 185-200°F. The bread will also sound hollow after unmolding when you tap the bottom.
- Add syrup, cool and serve: Place babka over a wire rack to cool. Brush immediately with sugar syrup. After 15 minutes, lift the bread out of the pan, using the overhanging edges of parchment. Carefully peel away parchment and allow to cool directly on rack. Brush newly exposed sides with sugar syrup. When completely cool, slice and enjoy.