As you’re reading this, I’m likely knee-deep in tulle, place settings, and cake frosting. It’s currently Tuesday, but I’m writing this post in advance, because we’re anticipating the arrival of friends and family for an intimate, last-minute wedding at our home. There’s lots to do, but the beauty of this particular event is that no one has an agenda- everyone is eager to hear the vows and celebrate the bride and groom. Even though there’s threat of weather and the many “what if’s” that come with at-home/DIY weddings, I’m happy to know there’s 100% chance of marriage. That’s our happy ending.
Naturally, my freezer is loaded with goodies to share with our guests this weekend, many of which you’ll be seeing on this site in the coming months! Today’s recipe for pecan babka is probably my favorite from the lineup: a buttery, lightly sweetened yeast bread filled with cinnamon sugar swirl and chopped toasted pecans, this bread is tender, rich, and absolutely to die for. I’ll be serving it this weekend with schmears of cinnamon butter and hot coffee, but I also love this for desserts and snacks too. With fall upon us, this is just the kind of recipe you’re going to want to make. Let me tell you how to do it yourself.
Yeast bread is an intimidating this for newcomers, particularly when there is braiding involved. This pecan babka is no exception, and I won’t sugarcoat it: it’s a process. The beauty of it all is that this bread is very forgiving, so even if your braid looks sloppy or the filling seeps out the side, it’s still going to be crazy-delicious. Scout’s honor. To make it, we start with the dough. Instant yeast, milk, eggs, and sugar come together with the dry ingredients and loads of softened butter. We paddle the mixture in a stand mixer until it becomes a tacky, stringy dough, and then we set it aside to rise. After about an hour and a half (or an overnight rest in the fridge!) the dough is ready to be rolled out and filled. Here, melted butter, brown sugar, pecans, and spice are spread over each dough half and then it’s rolled, twisted, and set aside for a final rise. Once puffed, the pecan babka is baked in the oven and allowed to cool.
A Few Things to Know:
This process from start to finish is time consuming. Be sure to read through the instructions and set aside ample time. There’s not much active prep time, but there is quite a bit of waiting in between each rise. Second, because this dough has a bit of sugar, the loaves are prone to darkening too soon. I like to cover the loaves 30 minutes into bake time to allow them to continue cooking without browning. This will all differ from oven to oven. Finally, these loaves freeze really well! If you don’t plan on eating both within two days, I’d recommend freezing until you’re ready to dive in.
Pray for me this weekend! I’m so excited for the wedding, but I want the day to go smoothly for the bride and groom who deserve a really special day. I hope you have wonderful things in store for yourselves, and if you looking for something to do, maybe I’ve convinced you to consider this pecan babka. Happy Friday y’all and happy baking!
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This pecan babka makes two tender and butter loaves with a cinnamon sugar swirl and toasted pecans.
- Prep Time: 45
- Cook Time: 45
- Total Time: 360
- Yield: 2 Loaves
- Category: Bread
For the dough:
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 teaspoons instant yeast
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 1/3 cups (about 1 lb) all-purpose flour, with more for flouring surfaces
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the filling:
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans
To prepare the dough:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir to combine the milk, eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Add the sugar, yeast, and salt, and beat the mixture on medium speed until combined. On low speed, add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Increase to medium speed (I use speed number 4 on my Kitchen Aid stand mixer) and begin adding the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl and then continue beating for an additional 4 minutes. If the dough remains very soft and does not pull on the beaters in strands of dough, add an additional 2 tablespoons of flour. Lightly grease a large bowl and place the sticky dough inside, covering it tightly with a piece of plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest in a warm spot of your kitchen until it has approximately doubled in size, about 1-1/2-2 hours* (see notes). Alternatively, you can pop it in the fridge to rise overnight. Once the dough has nearly doubled in size, prepare the filling.
To prepare the filling:
- Combine the cooled, melted butter, sugars, cinnamon, and salt, stirring until combined. You will use approximately ½ cup of filling for each loaf.
To prepare the loaves:
- Once the dough has doubled in size, lightly grease 2 loaf pans (8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ x 2 3/4″) with baking spray. Generously flour your work surface and rolling pin. Gently punch the dough down into the bowl once and divide it in half. Take one half of the dough and lay it on your floured surface. Generously dust the top of the dough with flour as well. Using your rolling pin, roll your first piece of dough as evenly as possible into a 13″x16″ rectangle. You may need to re-flour your work surface if the dough begins to stick. Spread half of the filling on top of the dough, leaving a 1” border around the perimeter of dough. Sprinkle half of the pecans over the filling.
- Standing with one of the short edges closest to you, begin to tightly roll your dough away from you, forming a 13” log of dough. Gently pinch the dough together at the seam to seal the filling inside the roll. With the seam facing down, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the dough log in half lengthwise and face the innards up. Quickly twist the two pieces of dough around each other, and place your braided loaf in one of the prepared pans. Repeat the entire process with the remaining half of dough. Once both loaves have been formed, cover again with plastic wrap and allow to rise again for about 1-1/2-2 hours. The dough should rise about 1/2-1″ over the top of the pans. Do not let them over-rise.
- When the dough is nearly risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 180 degrees Fahrenheit. If you notice the tops of the loaves begin to look too dark t about 30 minutes before they’re done, you can cover with a loose sheet of aluminum foil. Allow to cool in the pans on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes and then remove from the pan to cool completely.
- I find this dough is easiest to work with while chilled. If you don’t allow it to rise in the fridge overnight, I’d recommend a quick pop in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour after the initial rise.