Lemon Babka

Lemon curd and I are having a life long love affair. Except when I say lifelong, I mean adult life because I was a sheltered child who was never exposed to lemon curd. I wasn’t actually sheltered and if I had been introduced I probably would have not liked it like a psychopath. Fun fact, I didn’t like pesto as a child. Did I even have taste buds? No. I did not. So, I’m making up for lost time and trying to put lemon curd on everything. Doesn’t lemon curd babka just sound like things that belong together?

Babka is such a great vehicle for almost anything. You can make them both sweet and savory. I’m not a cake person so is this how people feel about cake? If so.. I get it. If you’ve never had a babka, if you ever had cinnamon swirl bread as a kid.. it’s like that but one MILLION times better. It’s a soft sweet bread, that is filled. Traditional fillings are cinnamon or chocolate (there’s a whole Seinfeld episode about one being the lesser babka but honestly both are delicious).

I have made this babka quite a few times in my journey to making it on the blog. I have made it with both regular lemon curd and Meyer lemon curd. I’ve made it with and without the Mascarpone. Meyer lemons are a little bit sweeter and less acidic. Once it’s baked you probably won’t be able to tell a huge difference.

Now, if you’ve made a babka or seen the inside of one you know they are famous for having a beautiful swirl. This one, it’s not going to be too obvious. It’s there, but it’s subtle. But that doesn’t mean you did it wrong. If you try to put too much curd it will spill out when rolling and you will have a GIANT mess.

Key Ingredients

  • Lemon Curd – You can use store bought or home made. I vote for homemade though as it’s not difficult to make, and sooo much more delicious. I also advocate for freezing your curd and spreading it while frozen as it will be easier to roll your dough. Here is the link to my lemon curd recipe: Lemon Curd
  • Mascarpone cheese – Cream cheese’s Italian cousin. This adds a little creaminess and tang (different than that of the lemon) that is wonderful. This babka CAN be made without it, but I personally found the addition to make the perfect bite.
  • Lemon Extract – Because the curd is not overpowering when just used in the filling, this helped the overall lemony taste.
  • Lemon Zest – Fresh zest will always add something that extract or juice cannot

Lemon Babka

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Prep: 30 minutes
Bake: 45 minutes
Proofing Time: 3 hours

Ingredients

Dough

  • 275 g AP Flour ~2 ¼ cups
  • 2 large Eggs room temp
  • 2 ¼ tsp Instant yeast
  • 3 tbsp Granulated sugar
  • ¾ tsp Salt
  • ¼ cup Water room temp to lukewarm
  • 1 Lemon, zest of
  • 1 tsp Lemon extract
  • 3 tbsp Unsalted butter soft

Filling

Instructions

  • In the bowl of your stand mixer, add in all dough ingredients with the exception of the butter. Mix with dough hook until a rough shaggy dough starts forming.
  • Add in half of the soft butter, letting it be fully incorporated before adding the rest.
  • Let dough mix on low (on my kitchenaid it is speed 2) for about 20 minutes. I personally take the dough out about halfway through and knead it a few times by hand, do a windowpane test and put back in the mixer.
  • Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and let rise in a warm spot for about 2 hours. Dough will have doubled in size.
  • Prepare a loaf pan with parchment or greasing.
  • Roll dough out to about 12×16 inches. Spread mascarpone in a thin layer over the dough, leaving about a ½ inch border. Spread lemon curd on top of mascarpone.
  • Starting on the short side, roll dough up into a log.
  • Cut dough down the center, so you have two pieces the same length as the original roll, with the inner layers exposed.
  • Take one piece of the dough and cross over the other creating an X. Twist the two pieces together on either end, then place in prepared loaf pan. Cover, and let rise for about 1 hour.
  • Preheat your oven towards the end of your proof time to 375°F
  • Bake babka for about 45 minutes on center rack. Check after about 20 to make sure the top is not burning. Due to the exposed curd, some points are likely to brown very quickly. Cover with tin foil for the remainder of bake if the top begins to get too brown.
  • Bread is done when thermometer inserted into center reads 190°F
  • Let cool in pan for about 5-10 minutes and then move to a cooling rack. Let bread cool for at least an hour before cutting into it.

Notes

  • Link to my lemon curd recipe is linked on the ingredient list. You can use store bought or your favorite lemon curd but the linked curd is what was used when developing this recipe.
  • Spread curd onto dough while frozen to help prevent filling from spilling and leaking out everywhere. Homemade curd will not set completely in the freezer, and will still be spreadable like a thick peanut butter. 
  • If your dough is too soft once rolled, place it in the freezer for about 15 minutes to firm up. It will make cutting easier, however it will add a little time to your second rise.
  • This bread goes stale fairly quickly and is best right after cooled, but keeps pretty well for about 36-48 hours after baking if stored in an air tight container.
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