Walnut & Fig Babka

Although, this is a traditional Ashkenazi recipe with Polish origins, it has now become one of the most popular pastries in Israel. The word ‘Babka’ in Polish literally means ‘grandmother’ ~ referring to the layers and shape of a grandmother’s traditional pleated skirts. This sweet dough resembles brioche and is twisted and baked in a loaf tin, often enhanced with a streusel topping.

As with many classic recipes there are many variations in both method and ingredients. Popular fillings include almond, cream cheese and chopped nuts but I love the walnut and fig combination made with Filippo Berio Classico Olive Oil.

Serves: makes 2 medium sized loaves Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 2 hours 45 minutes rising time Cooking time: 45 minutes

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Ingredients

For the Bread Dough

  • 2 sachets dried yeast
  • 200ml lukewarm milk / plant-based milk such as almond or oat milk
  • 85ml Filippo Berio Classico Olive Oil
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 600g strong white flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the filling

  • 200g dried figs – stalks removed, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes to soften, then drained but retain the water
  • 20ml retained ‘fig’ water
  • 150g walnuts – roasted
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks, for the glaze

For the topping

  • 2-3 tablespoons Filippo Berio Classico Olive Oil

Method

  1. Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm milk and set aside for about 5 minutes.
  2. In a mixer, cream together the sugar and Filippo Berio Classico Olive Oil until smooth.
  3. Add the yolks to the bowl, one at a time, mixing constantly for 30 seconds between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the flour and salt and continue to mix until it all comes together. Now add the milk and yeast mixture and combine until it forms a soft dough.
  5. Using an electric mixer, knead for another 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth and shiny. Leave the dough to rise for about 2 hours.
  6. Line and grease 2x 1kg loaf tin with baking parchment so that it comes up the sides.
  7. For the filling, place all the ingredients into the food processor until you have a paste. Add more water if required so that it resembles jam, which is easy to spread.
  8. Once the dough has risen, cut in half. Roll each piece out on to a lightly floured surface into a long rectangle of about 40cm with a thickness of 1-2cm.
  9. Spread the walnut and fig mixture onto each. Pinch the seams to seal it, then roll up tightly like a swiss roll.
  10. For the gorgeous twisty shape, cut the log down the middle lengthwise, making sure to keep the top end attached (so that it looks like an upside-down “v”. Twist the strands over each other to get the braided look.
  11. Glaze the babka with egg yolk. Transfer to the lined loaf tins.
  12. Cover with greased cling film and prove for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
  13. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F and bake for 35-40 minutes.
  14. Cool on a rack for about 15 minutes before removing from the tin and slicing it with a serrated knife. For a final shiny topping, using a pastry brush, glaze with a little extra Filippo Berio Classico Olive Oil.

Cooks tips

Chef’s tips: the bread stays fresh for 2-3 days in an airtight box.

Cook with:

Classico Olive Oil

This versatile all-purpose Olive Oil is excellent for sautéing, grilling and roasting or as a base for sauces. It's ideal with everything from meat and poultry to your favourite vegetables.

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