October 12, 2022| By

Cheese Babka

Prep Time: 2 hrs
Cook Time: 40 mins
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This savory herb and cheese babka is made with a buttery brioche dough and filled with fresh herbs, garlic, and cheese for a delicious baked treat that's unforgettable! If you love savory baked recipes, this recipe is for you. This cheese babka is unforgettable, it's the ultimate cheesy treat!

For more buttery bread recipes, try these brioche dinner rolls. For more babka recipes, try this fruity cherry cream cheese babka!

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a cheese babka on a cutting board.
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What is a babka?

Babkas originated in Jewish communities in Eastern Europe where they'd use leftover Challah to make this twisted dough! If you've never heard of a babka, also known as a krantz cake, it's an enriched yeast dough, akin to brioche, that usually has a jam or cream cheese filling or cinnamon sugar filling. It's a sweet braided bread or cake that's rolled into a log, twisted, and baked.

For this babka recipe, I did a buttery cheesy filling with fresh garlic and herbs. It's a soft, buttery bread swirled with a delicious garlic and herb spread with cheese sprinkled on top - if that sounds good to you, you MUST make this Cheese Babka.

Get your floured work surface ready, let's bake!

Ingredients to make a Cheese Babka

cheese babka on a cooling rack with a kitchen towel.
  • All purpose flour - you'll need just under three cups of flour for this recipe, but make sure to keep additional flour on hand to add to your work surface.
  • 2 whole eggs - this is to enrich the babka dough along with the butter.
  • Active dry yeast
  • Milk - I used whole milk but you can use any kind of milk you'd like. You can even use water, just make sure it's warm water to ensure that the yeast will bloom.
  • Sugar - unlike most Polish babkas, this is not a sweet enriched bread. We're only using sugar for the yeast mixture to kick start the yeast into "activating". You'll only need a teaspoon.
  • Fresh herbs - I used rosemary and thyme to flavor the dough.
  • Unsalted butter - if you've been making my recipes, I typically use salted butter - but because the cheese is salty on it's own. I'm using unsalted for this one!

Babka Filling

  • More fresh herbs - yep, more rosemary, thyme, sage, and basil for the filling too!
  • Unsalted butter - make sure the butter is at room temperature. Trying to smear cold butter across a soft dough will cause the dough to tear. I used Plugra Butter for this recipe! I partnered with Dairy Farmers of America to share how butter that comes from DFA farms (like Plugrá in this recipe) is bettering recipes AND the planet! DFA’s Nerd Herd is making dairy more sustainable by using farming practices that trap carbon in the soil & prevent it from entering the atmosphere. Healthier soil + happy Earth = butter you can feel extra good about.
  • Garlic - diced finely!
  • Cheeses - you'll need mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Mozzarella for a nice cheese pull and cheddar cheese for flava!

Egg Wash

The egg wash allows the top of the babka to become golden brown in the oven while baking. Simply whisk the two ingredients together and brush on top of the babka just before putting in the oven.

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsps milk

Tips

  • If you'd like to make your cheese babka the following day, you can allow the dough to rise and then punch it down and place it in the refrigerator for up to 18-24 hours. Doing this will slow the rising process and also add a lot of flavor to the dough! This isn't mandatory, but it is an option if you'd like to prep this recipe ahead of time.
  • If you have a cooler house, turn the light of the oven on and let the dough proof in the warm oven. Do not turn on the oven, just turn the light on. You don't want to bake it, you want it to be just warm enough so that it'll rise!
  • Add a pinch of lemon zest to the filling if you'd like a zing of citrus flavor!

Substitutions

  • You can use any type of cheese that you'd like. This includes, pepper jack cheese, farmers cheese, colby jack, parmesan etc.
  • If you don't have any milk, you can use water.
  • You can use salted butter for this recipe, however, I omit adding kosher salt to the dough. Cheese is naturally salty so any additional salt may make this unpalatable.

How to make a Cheese Babka

sliced cheese babka on a cooling rack.

Make the Dough

  • Start by making blooming the yeast. Heat whole milk in the microwave for 30 seconds and add active dry yeast and a teaspoon of sugar and give it a gentle whisk. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes, until the mixture become foamy and bubbly.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, add yeast mixture, flour, eggs, kosher salt, rosemary, and thyme. Start on low speed and gradually increase to medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until a cohesive dough forms and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Increase the mixer speed to high and begin adding room temperature soft butter, one tablespoon at a time. Once all of the butter is added, continue mixing the dough for 8 minutes. Do the window pane test - take a piece of the dough and stretch it into a square until it's thin enough that you can see through it. It the dough breaks, continue kneading the dough for another 2-3 minutes. If it stays intact, roll the dough into a smooth ball and move onto the next step.

Let the dough rise

  • Spray a large bowl with oil. Add the dough to the greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1-1 ½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.
  • While the dough is rising, make the filling. Combine room temperature butter, thyme, sa,ge rosemary, basil, and garlic in a bowl and mix together. Set aside.
  • Once the dough has risen, punch the dough to deflate it and place onto a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 10x14 inch rectangle. 

Assemble the Babka

  • Spread the butter filling all over the dough, then sprinkle the mozzarella and cheddar cheese on top.
  • Roll the dough tightly into a log and pinch the seam to seal in the filling. Cut off any excess dough on the ends.
  • Just below the top of the log, cut the log in half lengthwise with a sharp knife, leaving the top connected.
  • Wrap pieces of the log around each other and pinch the bottom to seal.
  • Place in a 9x5 loaf pan and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Allow it to rise again for about an hour, until it becomes puffy. (second rise)

Bake!

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make the egg wash by mixing together egg yolk and milk. Brush the top of the babka with egg wash and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the tops are golden.

What to eat with a Cheese Babka

This cheese babka is perfect for a snack, light breakfast, or even toasted with soup. You can enjoy it with coffee, tea, milk, or even soup. I love having this recipe with my creamy heirloom tomato soup with garlic croutons and roasted red pepper and pumpkin soup.

Recipe FAQs

Is babka a breakfast food?

A babka can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack - whenever you want!

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sliced cheese babka on a cooling rack.

Cheese Babka

This savory herb and cheese babka is made with a buttery brioche dough and filled with fresh herbs, garlic, and cheese for a delicious baked treat that's unforgettable!
Serving: 10 slices
Prep Time: 2 hrs
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 2 hrs 40 mins
Calories: 328kcal

Equipment

  • 9x5 loaf pan
  • Stand Mixer
  • Rolling Pin

Ingredients

Babka

  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ½ tsp active dry yeast 
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 ¾ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 large  eggs
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary , diced 
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme , diced 
  • 4 tbsps unsalted butter , room temperature

Herb and Cheese Filling

  • 4 tbsps unsalted butter , room temperature
  • 1 tsp thyme , diced
  • 1 tsp sage, diced , diced
  • 1 tbsp rosemary , diced
  • 2 tsp basil , chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic , diced
  • 1 cup mozzarella , shredded
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese , shredded

Egg Wash

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp whole milk

Directions

  • Start by making blooming the yeast. Heat whole milk in the microwave for 30 seconds and add active dry yeast and a teaspoon of sugar and give it a gentle whisk. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes, until the mixture become foamy and bubbly.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, add yeast mixture, flour, eggs, kosher salt, rosemary, and thyme. Start on low speed and gradually increase to medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until a cohesive dough forms and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Increase the mixer speed to high and begin adding room temperature soft butter, one tablespoon at a time. Once all of the butter is added, continue mixing the dough for 8 minutes. Do the window pane test - take a piece of the dough and stretch it into a square until it's thin enough that you can see through it. It the dough breaks, continue kneading the dough for another 2-3 minutes. If it stays intact, roll the dough into a smooth ball and move onto the next step.
  • Spray a large bowl with oil. Add the dough to the greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1-1 ½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.
  • While the dough is rising, make the filling. Combine room temperature butter, thyme, sage rosemary, basil, and garlic in a bowl and mix together. Set aside.
  • Once the dough has risen, punch the dough to deflate it and place onto a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 10x14 inch rectangle. Spread the butter filling all over the dough, then sprinkle the mozzarella and cheddar cheese on top.
  • Roll the dough tightly into a log and pinch the seam to seal in the filling. Cut off any excess dough on the ends.
  • Just below the top of the log, cut the log in half lengthwise with a sharp knife, leaving the top connected.
  • Wrap pieces of the log around each other and pinch the bottom to seal.Place in a 9x5 loaf pan and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Allow it to rise again for about an hour, until it becomes puffy. (second rise)
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make the egg wash by mixing together egg yolk and milk. Brush the top of the babka with egg wash and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the tops are golden.

Notes

Tips
  • If you'd like to make your cheese babka the following day, you can allow the dough to rise and then punch it down and place it in the refrigerator for up to 18-24 hours. Doing this will slow the rising process and also add a lot of flavor to the dough! This isn't mandatory, but it is an option if you'd like to prep this recipe ahead of time.
  • If you have a cooler house, turn the light of the oven on and let the dough proof in the warm oven. Do not turn on the oven, just turn the light on. You don't want to bake it, you want it to be just warm enough so that it'll rise!
  • Add a pinch of lemon zest to the filling if you'd like a zing of citrus flavor!
Substitutions
  • You can use any type of cheese that you'd like. This includes, pepper jack cheese, farmers cheese, colby jack, parmesan etc.
  • If you don't have any milk, you can use water.
  • You can use salted butter for this recipe, however, I omit adding kosher salt to the dough. Cheese is naturally salty so any additional salt may make this unpalatable.

Nutrition

Calories: 328kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 103mg | Sodium: 236mg | Potassium: 122mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 625IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 180mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Anytime, Bread, Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: Jewish, Polish

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