Goat Cheese and Herb Babka Recipe

When I lived in California, Saturday mornings saw me driving to the farmers market as bright and early as I possibly could, to get my fill of gorgeous produce and crisp morning air.

I would stroll around from favorite stall to favorite stall, including the cornucopian mushroom stand we still talk about with stars in our eyes. And when I was done with my “need” purchases — you know, grownup stuff like fruits and vegetables and bread and eggs — I would start weighing my “want” options.

The market treat that most frequently got my vote came from the little Russian pastry table that stood in one corner of the market. The woman there sold a marvellous poppy seed pastry that was all dark swirls and golden, sticky crests. Back home, I would slice it thinly and eat it with tea, checking my teeth for stray poppy seeds when I was done.

Despite moving home to Paris, I never could get that pastry out of my head. Alas, I did not know the name for it — it was always a point-and-smile kind of transaction — and my research led me nowhere. It was not a rugelach, it was not a kolache, it was not a makovník… but what was it?

And then, our blessed Internet did its magic. Through its grapevine and Pinterest (follow me there!) I learned of something that was gaining incredible popularity: the chocolate babka or krantz cake, a yeasted cake of Eastern European Jewish origin that is rolled up and twisted to form multiple layers of attraction.

Goat Cheese and Herb Babka

The chocolate babkas I saw looked eerily familiar. Wait. What if…?

What if you replaced the chocolate filling with a poppyseed filling? Wouldn’t it then be my long-lost delicacy? And indeed it was! The poppy seed babka is definitely a thing too — one that predates the chocolate babka by a few generations, since Ashkenazi Jews were more likely to use fruit jams, nuts, and seeds in theirs.

Now. Because my baker’s mind works in mysterious ways, I haven’t (yet!) attempted to bake the poppy seed babka of my California days. What I have done, however, is create a savory babka that is an Eastern European cousin of my über popular feta and fresh herb quick bread. (Seriously, that recipe took off like I never imagined it would!).

I garnish my savory babka with goat cheese and mixed herbs, and twist it into a braid for an extra wowing presentation. It’s fun and easy to make — I’ve included step-by-step pictures for you — and the resulting loaf looks dashing.

Goat Cheese and Herb Babka

In the spirit of that famed quick bread, I cut the savory babka in thick slices, moist and flavorsome enough to devour on their own, the fluffy insides contrasting with the crisp crust. It’s also the perfect bread to serve with a salad or a soup, to mop up whatever needs mopping up in your plate or bowl.

I originally developed the recipe last summer (hence the tomatoes in the photo above!) as part of a collaboration with KitchenAid*. I wanted to share it with you now because it’s a festive, elegant offering that will easily find its place on your holiday table, whether you’re hosting or contributing a dish to the spread.

Share your best babka stories!

Have you ever had or made babka of any kind? Perhaps you grew up eating your dear old Nana’s? (I’ve always wanted a Jewish grandmother all my own.) How about a savory babka — have you ever seen anything like it? Will you work it into your holiday menus this year?

PS: This feta and fresh herb quick bread, this flourless poppy seed cake, and these goat cheese truffles.

PPS: Follow my babka board on Pinterest !

* This post, however, is not sponsored.

Tag your pics with #cnzrecipes

Want to try this? Please share your pics on Instagram and Twitter -- I can't wait to see them!

Goat Cheese and Herb Babka Recipe

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours

Serves 6.

Goat Cheese and Herb Babka Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 160 ml (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) water, at body temperature (if you dip your finger in, you shouldn't feel a temperature difference)
  • 260 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) fresh goat cheese
  • 20 grams (1 cup, loosely packed) mixed fresh herbs (such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil, basil, mint, chives...), roughly chopped

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, combine the yeast with the water and stir to dissolve. Allow to stand for 10 minutes, until a thin foamy layer forms at the surface. If it doesn't, start again with a fresh packet of yeast.
  2. Put the flour, salt, and olive oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
  3. Add in the yeast and water, and knead at medium speed for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (You can also knead it by hand on the counter for 8 to 10 minutes.)
  4. Goat Cheese and Herb Babka
  5. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in size.
  6. In a bowl, mash the goat cheese and the herbs together with a fork.
  7. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Stretch it with your hands to form a rough 40-cm (16-inch) square. Spread the goat cheese mixture onto the square, leaving a 5-cm (2-inch) margin on the left-hand side.
  8. Goat Cheese and Herb Babka
  9. Roll up the dough snugly starting from the right-hand side. Place the roll on a cookie sheet or a tray, and place it in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to firm up.
  10. Slice the roll in two lengthwise to get two long "ropes”.
  11. Goat Cheese and Herb Babka
  12. Pinch the ropes together on one end, then braid the two ropes together, keeping their cut sides up.
  13. Goat Cheese and Herb Babka
  14. Transfer the braided dough to a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  15. Goat Cheese and Herb Babka
  16. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Bake the babka for 35 to 40 minutes, until risen and golden brown.
  17. Lift from the pan and place on a rack to cool. Brush the top with olive oil for shine and serve, slightly warm or at room temperature.
http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/bread-brioche/cheese-herb-babka-recipe/

cheese_herb_babka-6

  • Laurie Fleming

    If you wanted to travel with this could you freeze the braided loaves and bake them later or will the baked loaves keep a few days (in the refrigerator maybe?). Or is this really best enjoyed the day it’s made? Thanks!

    • How long will you be traveling for? I think the safest thing would be to freeze the loaves after baking, then allow them to thaw during your travels. It keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge, and you could pop it back into a hot oven for 5 minutes to revive the freshness.

  • Andreas

    This looks gorgeous, Clothilde!! I remember a very similar one from my childhood days in Germany, which was not baked in a tin, and made with nuts – and oh so delicious!! The baker who made it has since died, so unfortunately I can’t get it any more. Your post has brought back some delicious memories – thank you!

    • Was it chocolate and nuts, or just nuts? And what kind of nuts? And was the baker a family member of yours? I want to know everything! :)

      • Andreas

        it was just nuts, I think it would have been either just hazelnuts or a mixture of hazelnuts and almonds – both ground and some coarsely chopped. There was a sugar glaze on it, and it was wonderfully chewy, with crunchy edges. The baker was a professional, who retired and unfortunately died not long afterwards. I can just picture them in my mind!!

        • Thank you! Now I picture it in my mind’s eye — and want a slice too. :)

  • NancyB

    Looks wonderful! Could you give a size on the loaf pan you used?

    • I use a pan that is the French standard and is 10 by 30 cm, which is about 4 x 12 inch. But you can definitely use any loaf pan you have, including the standard American one, 5 x 9 inch.

  • Annabel Smyth

    That looks gorgeous! Definitely on my must-try-soon list.

    Out of interest, why do you use plain flour rather than a strong bread flour?

    • We don’t really have bread flour in France! I always use plain flour to make bread.

      • Annabel Smyth

        Strange, because there are so many delicious bread mixes available, with or without added yeast (one of the things I stock up on when visiting French supermarkets). You’d think they’d sell ordinary bread flour!

        • I believe those mixes just use regular flour, as there is no such thing as bread flour in France. :)

  • Rebeca

    This looks so good, Clotilde! I’ve made chocolate bakba before, but never a savoury version. You’ve made me want to make it right away, alas, I’m without a stand mixer and recovering from a tendonitis, so it’ll have to wait. I’m thinking some sun-dried tomatoes could be a nice addition – I’ve been a bit obsessed with them lately!

    • Sorry to hear about the tendonitis! I’m pretty sure this could be adapted into a no-knead bread kind of dough…

      • Rebeca

        My boyfriend surprised me and made it today! So, so GOOD.

  • Funnily enough I just posted a recipe for chocolate babka (https://betterwithlemon.com/2016/11/12/chocolate-babka/ ) as a good way to deal with post-election blues here in the U.S. It’s such a perfect dessert/breakfast/snack. I have never tried a savory version but yours looks delicious.

    • Thanks for the link! What a beautiful loaf. We’re all going to need many of those.

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