Melty cheese, fresh herbs and pillowy bread are MFEO in this cheesy babka recipe with Gruyere and sage. This savory twist on a classic babka loaf is made with enriched dough that bakes up soft and fluffy with ribbons of herb-flecked melted cheese, garlic and black pepper throughout. Enjoy it on its own, as a killer sandwich or on the side of a cozy soup or stew.
Do you ever wonder what is the recipe you will be remembered for making? I think about this a lot, actually. Because in my family, my great-grandmother was known for her Black Forest cherry cake, my grandma is known for her dumpling soup, my mom is known for her homemade spaghetti sauce and my dad is known for his beef chili. Me? I’d like to be known for this cheesy babka recipe. It’s THAT good.
HOW TO MAKE THIS CHEESY BABKA RECIPE
OK so first, have you ever tried babka? I’ve made it before (you may recall this Nutella-filled variation that I still dream about) in its more classically sweet form, but this time, I decided to go savory and you know what? I may never go back. At the very least, I need to have a regular rotation of both sweet and savory babkas in my life. It’s just the right thing to do.
Here’s the situation: This babka recipe is not all that different from a traditional babka, save the fillings. The dough itself is basically the same — that soft, fluffy dough made with eggs and milk and butter that makes me want to sleep on it like a pillow — but instead of adding chocolate swirls, we add shredded Gruyere cheese, chopped fresh sage and parsley and a hearty sprinkle of black pepper and fresh garlic. HOLD ME.
When it’s all baked, the cheese melts delicately between the layers of fluffy dough, leaving ribbons of herb-flecked cheesy goodness. I almost shed a tear of joy when I cut into it, if I’m being honest.
TIPS FOR THE BEST BABKA BREAD
Here are my tips for baking the best-ever babka:
1. Be sure to thoroughly knead the dough so the butter gets evenly incorporated. I much prefer to use my stand mixer to knead this dough because it does the heavy-lifting for me in terms of working the butter into the dough, but you can also knead it by hand.
2. Make sure to let the dough rise! Sometimes for me, enriched dough will rise like crazy and be ready for shaping in just under an hour. Other times (especially in the colder months), it takes its time. Be patient! When you let the dough rise completely, not only does it help with oven spring (aka when the dough rises as it bakes in the oven) but it results in a lighter, fluffier texture. My favorite place to let dough rise is covered in an oven (turned OFF) with just the oven light on. It’s the perfect temperature for proofing.
3. I highly recommend splurging for Gruyere cheese to make this bread as I think the flavor is ideal in this recipe, but you can make your own variations — swap some or all of the Gruyere for Swiss cheese, or Gouda, or even cheddar. I mean, when it comes to cheese, it’s not really fair to pick a favorite.
So my friends, if you could choose one recipe to leave as your legacy, what would it be? You can make it this cheesy babka recipe, if you want. I’m happy to share. Just maybe mail me a slice or two any time you make it, K?
- ½ cup milk (preferably 2 percent or whole), heated to 110-115F
- 2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting and shaping
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh sage leaves
- 2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
- Black pepper
- 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water (for egg wash)
- In a small bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk milk and yeast until well combined. Let stand 10 minutes or until mixture is slightly foamy.
- In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt and sugar until well combined. Add yeast mixture (or add flour mixture to the stand mixer bowl). Add eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms; OR, in stand mixer, stir with dough hook attachment on low speed until a shaggy dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding butter to dough one cube at a time, 10-15 minutes until dough is smooth, soft, elastic and only slightly sticky (add more flour 1 teaspoon at a time if needed). If using a stand mixer, knead dough with dough hook attachment on medium speed, adding butter one cube at a time, 7-10 minutes until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and is smooth, soft, elastic and only slightly sticky (add more flour 1 teaspoon at a time if needed).
- Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased large bowl; turn once to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 to 1½ hours.
- Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper (with enough on each end to form "handles"), then spray parchment with cooking spray.
- Meanwhile, make the filling: In a small bowl, combine garlic and lemon juice. When dough is risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Press into a 16x10-inch rectangle, with the longer side facing you. Brush garlic-lemon mixture evenly over dough. Sprinkle evenly with herbs, then cheese, then generously season with black pepper. Roll up dough away from you, pulling lightly to form a tight, evenly thick log.
- Use a serrated knife to cut log in half lengthwise, turning each half so layers of cheese and herbs are facing cut side up. Arrange halves side by side, then place one half over the other to form a narrow X. Twist the two ends on one side twice, then repeat on the opposite side to form four total twists.
- Compress twisted dough gently and transfer to prepared loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled, about 1 to 1½ hours.
- Heat oven to 375F. Brush top of loaf with egg wash. Bake 30-35 minutes until top of loaf is a deep golden brown. Cool loaf in pan on a cooling rack 15 minutes, then use parchment handles to remove loaf from pan. Cool completely on cooling rack before slicing.