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Cinnamon Babka
December/January 2012

By its very definition, babka is a rich, tender dough. But go too far in that direction and the dough will collapse under the weight of the cinnamon-sugar filling, leaving large holes in the bread. To add richness yet preserve the loaf’s structural integrity, we cut back on the butter and substituted two egg yolks for one whole egg.

Serves 8

Once you’ve added the butter in step 3, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl after five minutes of mixing, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of extra flour. The test kitchen’s favorite loaf pan measures 8½ by 4½ inches; if you use a standard 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking the babka for doneness after 40 minutes.

1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk, heated to 110 degrees
2 large egg yolks plus 1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened
1. FOR THE FILLING: Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Set aside 1 tablespoon filling.
2. FOR THE DOUGH: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Grease large bowl. Whisk milk, egg yolks, and vanilla together in 1-cup liquid measuring cup.
3. Using stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed until combined. Slowly add milk mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium-low and add butter, 1 piece at a time, until incorporated, about 1 minute. Continue to mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer dough to prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in turned-off oven until dough has risen slightly, about 1 hour. Place in refrigerator until dough is firm and has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.
4. Line 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over edges. Punch down dough on lightly floured counter. Roll out dough to 20 by 14-inch rectangle. Spread all but 1 tablespoon reserved filling over dough, leaving ½-inch border around edges. Working from short side, roll dough into cylinder and pinch along seam to seal. Position cylinder seam side up and roll back and forth until stretched to 18-inch length. Spread reserved filling over top of cylinder. Fold cylinder on top of itself and pinch ends to seal. Gently twist double cylinder twice to form double figure eight. Place shaped dough seam side down in prepared pan, cover loosely with plastic, and let rise in turned-off oven until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
5. Lightly beat whole egg in bowl. Remove loaf from oven and discard plastic. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush loaf with beaten egg. Bake until deep golden brown and loaf registers 190 degrees, about 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and cool completely, about 2 hours. Serve.
TO MAKE AHEAD: Instead of letting dough rise in step 4, cover shaped loaf with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Let dough sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking.

1. Roll out the chilled dough into a 20 by 14-inch rectangle and spread all but 1 tablespoon of filling over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges.

2. Starting at a short edge, roll the filled dough into a tight cylinder and pinch to seal the seam. Stretch log to 18 inches by gently rolling it back and forth with seam side up.

3. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon of filling over the top of the cylinder and fold the cylinder on top of itself, pinching the ends together to seal.

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