I struggle writing an introduction to this recipe because I worry any words I may stutter out will pale in comparison to the magnificence that is this Caramel Apple Babka. So I'll keep it short (like me!)- there are no words when devouring heaven. Notes of beautifully bright apple, sultry caramel, nutty browned butter, and spiced vanilla. Textures of pillowy brioche, plump shreds of fruit, and slightly chewy and slightly crispy caramels.
In a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer
6 1/4 cups (750g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (37g) powdered milk
1 1/4 cups (283g) warm water
2 tablespoons instant yeast
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (99g) granulated sugar
10 tablespoons (142g) butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
In a medium bowl
1 bag (97g) freeze-dried apple slices, pureed
1/2 cup (99g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (24g) shredded apple, pressed between a few paper towels
5 tablespoons (71g) butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups (250g) chopped caramel bits
In a small bowl
1 splash of vanilla extract
Mix all the ingredients- from the flour to the butter and vanilla- in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer- until the dough comes together. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth, elastic, and soft.
Lightly grease a large bowl. Move the dough to the bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rest for about two hours until it is quite puffy and doubled in volume. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured countertop and divide it in half.
In a medium bowl, mix together the filling ingredients- from the dehydrated apples to the caramel bits. If you can't find or don't have caramel bits, feel free to swap them out for butterscotch chips.
Roll both pieces of dough into large rectangles- about 10 inches wide and 18 inches long. Spread each rectangle with half the spread to about an inch from the edges.
Beginning from the short end, roll each rectangular tightly. Once it forms a log, pinch together the seams to seal it.
Using a sharp knife, gently slice lengthwise down the center of each log to form two separate halves of the same log. Pinch the ends of each log at one end, and twist the pieces together so it looks like a braid (like a Kindergarten-attempted braid). Pinch together the ends of the two logs after making the braid.
Lightly grease two 9-inch loaf pans. Carefully move each braided log into the pans. Whisk together egg and vanilla extract, and lightly brush the tops of each braided log. Let the babkas rise for another 2 hours.
Toward the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the loaves on a center rack for about 35 minutes. Remove the loaves, lightly tent the pans with foil, and continue baking for another 25 minutes. The loaves should be deeply golden brown.
Remove the loaves from the oven and run a small knife around the perimeters of the loaves. Let them cool in their pans for about 20 minutes, and then turn them out of their pans to continue cooling on a rack. Wait a few hours before cutting into them to make sure they're fully set.
Babka freezes quite well, so if you have a lot of leftovers, pop them in the freezer well-wrapped.