Can two words be life-changing? We think so, and for us, those two words are Pizza Babka. You heard us right—we took a beloved sweet bread, usually swirled with cinnamon-sugar or chocolate (sometimes both!), and put a savory twist on it by adding traditional pizza toppings in place of the sweet filling.
You can use a stand mixer to make the dough, but try it with the hand mixing instructions, if you're game. Unlike machines, only your hands can feel when the dough is ready. As you make yeasted breads more often, you'll understand more of what your dough should look like, so you can switch to a stand mixer for for future bakes.
When it comes to filling your babka, less is best in terms of sauce. You want a light coating, but not so much that it spills out as you try to roll and shape your pizza babka. Serve a warm slice of pizza babka as a snack, appetizer, or side for your next meal.
- For the Dough:
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons oil or melted butter
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2/3 cup hot tap water (105 F to 110 F, not boiling)
- 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided; plus more to knead dough
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- For the Filling:
- 1 cup (4-ounce) shredded mozzarella
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil (or Italian spice or dried oregano)
- 1/3 cup marinara sauce
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- Olive oil, for brushing
Gather the ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, honey, water, and yeast.
Add 3 cups of the flour and salt to the bowl, then use a wooden spoon to stir until combined into a scraggly-looking dough (you can also use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment).
Sprinkle half of the remaining flour onto a clean work surface or cutting board.
Scrape the dough onto the counter, reserving the bowl. Knead the dough, adding more of the remaining flour a little at a time, as needed, until smooth and tacky, but no longer sticking to your hands (you may need to add an additional few tablespoons of flour), about 10 minutes. (Alternately, you can use a stand mixer with a dough hook for this step).
Return dough to the reserved bowl, then cover tightly with plastic film (see tip below). Set aside in a warm spot until doubled in volume, about 1 to 2 hours.
Once dough is proofed, transfer to a counter (do not flour!) and roll out into an 11-x 16-inch rectangle.
Spread sauce over dough, leaving a 1-inch border, then sprinkle the basil, half of the Parmesan, and all of the mozzarella over top (this is the time to add any toppings, if desired—see tip below).
Starting at the long end of the dough closest to you, roll up into a long cylinder, pinching seams on the long side of the roll closed.
Transfer dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill in fridge for 20 to 30 minutes until dough is firms to the touch (this helps the babka dough and filling set before cutting and shaping).
Line an 8-inch by 4-inch loaf pan with a piece of parchment paper long enough to hang over sides (this helps easily lift the bread from pan after baking).
Remove rolled dough from fridge, then use a very sharp knife to cut the dough lengthwise, making 2 filled strips.
Twist strips together into a braid, then twist again into a figure 8 and transfer shaped dough into the prepared loaf pan.
Cover pan with a towel (or see tip below) and let sit in a warm spot until it is puffed and risen to the rim of the pan, 60 to 75 minutes. About 20 minutes before the second rise is done, preheat the oven to 350 F with an oven rack in the center.
When the dough is risen, brush the top with olive oil, then sprinkle remaining Parmesan over top.
Bake the pizza babka on the center oven rack until deep golden and an instant-read thermometer register 190 F, about 1 hour (cover top with foil if browning too quickly).
Let the pizza babka cool completely in the pan before cutting and serving. Enjoy!
Working with Yeast
- Kneading works the gluten proteins and adds elasticity to your dough.
- Most recipes call for a specific amount of kneading time, but that doesn't really tell you if the glutens in the dough have sufficiently stretched to create the spring you want in the finished bread.
- You'll know your dough is ready to proof when it's a smooth ball and bounces back slowly when pressed with your finger. If the dough stays indented, keep kneading.
- Time is a hidden ingredient in yeast-based recipes, so plan accordingly.
- How long it takes for dough to rise varies, depending on the temperature and humidity level in your kitchen. On hot, humid summer days, dough rises quickly. On cold, dry winter days, rising times are longer.
- The more you bake yeasted recipes, the more you'll understand your kitchen environment and how to time your dough for each stage of proofing.
- You know those disposable shower caps? They make great reusable bowl covers for proofing dough instead if using plastic film.
- A great way to know when your dough is doubled in volume is to take a photo with your phone of the dough before covering to proof. The photo then becomes your base level to compare the progress of your dough as it rises.
Make It a Meat Lovers
- Add thinly sliced pepperoni, prosciutto, or crumbled cooked meatballs or sausage over the filling before shaping the babka.
- Finely chop your favorite veggies (we love peppers and onions) and spread them over the filling before shaping your babka.
How to Store
- The only thing we love more than pizza babka is leftover pizza babka. Store leftovers (if you have any) wrapped in foil. Enjoy it the next day at room temperature or pop slices into the toaster to warm it up slightly.