This easy bread recipe will teach you how to make a beautiful homemade loaf of basil pesto babka. This savory Italian twist on this Eastern European bread will make a family meal extra special.
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (60g)
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk (250 ml)
- 4 cups bread flour (500g)
- 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
- 2 teaspoons fine salt (10g)
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar (50g)
- 1 large egg (55g)
- 3/4 cup basil pesto, with extra oil removed (188g)
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt (1.5g)
Making the Dough
- Milk & Butter: Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then add the milk and heat it gently to about 115°F.
- Dry Ingredients: Pour the bread flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl, then stir in each one with your finger. Blend in the sugar.
- Wet Ingredients: Dump in the egg and half of the warm milk and butter mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough begins to come together, then trickle in the remaining milk as needed to create a soft, slightly sticky dough.
- Knead: Switch attachments to the dough hook and knead for 3 minutes on medium-low speed. The dough should be soft and smooth with a glossy sheen. Use the windowpane test to see if the dough is kneaded enough by breaking off a lump of dough and gently stretching it. The dough should stretch thin enough until it's translucent without tearing; if not, knead for a minute longer and check again.
- Prove #1: Shape the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to prove until at least doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hour.
Shaping the Babka
- Prep Pan: Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
- Drain Pesto: While the dough is proving, measure out the pesto. Drain off any excess oil, then pour the pesto into a mesh sieve and push out as much oil as you can with the back of a spoon. You should have 3/4 cup (188g) of drained and squeezed pesto.
- Roll Out: Turn out the proved dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch it down all over to knock out gas pockets. Roll it out to a rectangle 9 inches wide and at least 20 inches long, lifting the dough occasionally to relax the gluten. If the dough is shrinking back a lot when you roll it out, let the dough rest for a few minutes, then try again.
- Roll Up: Spread the pesto evenly over the bread, getting within an inch of the edge, then roll up the bread tightly from a short end. Pinch all the seams and ends to seal.
- Shape: Slice the log of dough in half lengthwise, then twist the two lengths together, keeping the filling side up as you twist.
- Prove #2: Place the babka in the loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to prove until the dough has crowned about an inch over the top of the pan and springs back quickly when gently prodded with a fingertip, about 45 minutes.
- Preheat: About 20 minutes before the babka is done proving, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Bake: Sprinkle the babka with the coarse salt, then bake at 400°F for 10 minutes. Check the loaf after 5-10 minutes and cover it with aluminum foil if it's getting too dark. Lower the temperature to 375°F and bake for another 25-30 minutes, until the center of the loaf has an internal temperature of 190°F on a meat thermometer.
- Cool: Let the babka cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving, about 1 hour.
- Only use bread flour, not all-purpose, for this recipe. You won't have the same rise or texture with all-purpose.
- Store leftover babka on the counter in an airtight container or zip-top bag, or freeze for up to 1 month. Keeping it in the fridge will make it go stale much more quickly.
- Leftover sliced pesto babka makes fantastic grilled cheese sandwiches!
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Proving Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: babka dough, babka recipe