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.
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
- Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm milk and set aside for about 5 minutes.
- In a mixer, cream together the sugar and Filippo Berio Classico Olive Oil until smooth.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Line and grease 2x 1kg loaf tin with baking parchment so that it comes up the sides.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spread the walnut and fig mixture onto each. Pinch the seams to seal it, then roll up tightly like a swiss roll.
- 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.
- Glaze the babka with egg yolk. Transfer to the lined loaf tins.
- Cover with greased cling film and prove for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F and bake for 35-40 minutes.
- 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 tipsChef’s tips: the bread stays fresh for 2-3 days in an airtight box.