Why (and How) to Make Pizza Babka Right Now
When pizza meets babka, the result is supreme
This article is part of “The Pizza Issue”, our month-long dive into everyone’s* favorite food. We’re sharing playful new recipes, talking pizza tools and toppings, and answering all your burning (but hopefully not burnt) pizza questions. Join our pizza party by checking out this link for an overview of all our latest stories and recipes—and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for behind the scenes, extra pizza content, and so much more!
Pizza babka—a braided, yeasted bread with pizza-flavored fillings—first caught my eye while scrolling my food-trend-loaded Instagram feed. I was instantly curious, as my memory of our chocolate babka recipe is vivid: It was the winter of 2019 (what I now know marked the last of the “good old times”) and our chef Hanna kept delivering us (all at our desks in our real, far from home, office) fluffy pieces of delicious and beautiful chocolate babka. In one week, we had almost four of them, so rest assured it’s a tried and tested recipe.
To be honest, I had my doubts about whether pizza babka was, or is, really a trend, as it has yet to reach the viral status epitomized by Dalgona coffee in 2020. In any case, we decided to put our bets on it and play our part in helping this carb-y creation conquer your social media feeds.
So, what is pizza babka?
Let’s break it down. We know what pizza is; we’ve dedicated an entire month to our shared love of it. Babka is a yeasted, braided bread (alternatively called Krantz cake) that originated from Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, most notably Poland and Ukraine. They can be filled with cinnamon, apples, or sweet cheeses, but one of the most popular variations is the chocolate babka; it was made iconic by the 90’s sitcom Seinfeld and it’s still having a moment. Nonetheless, savory babkas have also been tried, tested, and loved. Pizza babka has popped up on various food blogs over the past years in different variations (like this one calling Sicilian scaccia a pizza babka), but it was at the beginning of this year, when chef and food writer Bill Clark brought it to the forefront through his newsletter A Piece of Cake.
When pizza and babka meet, the appeal is obvious: who wouldn’t love a combination of two magnificent comforting, bready foods. It takes our obsession with layered, swirled carbs to the extreme. It’s crusty on the outside, and soft inside with cheesy, fluffy, tomato-y swirls. Our pizza babka recipe is easy to make, although it takes some time (like most good breads). It’s a playful weekend project that can add a few new layers (get it?) to your ordinary pizza party; let people pull apart the babka by hand, dip, and nibble.
Check out the recipe video below and follow Devan’s step-by-step instructions!
What makes Devan’s pizza babka supreme special
When debating whether to call it a “pizza babka” or a “babka pizza”, a real “chicken or the egg” problem, we decided that since she used a basic pizza dough (just flour, water, yeast, salt, and olive oil), the recipe is essentially more pizza-like, therefore pizza should come before babka.
Adding “supreme” at the end, is not a boast (or is it?), but a popular pizza topping combo from the US—one that Devan used to hate growing up, but now holds in very high regard when it comes to the endless array of topping combinations. A supreme pizza includes red and green bell peppers, onions, olives, pepperoni, and Italian sausage, but Devan opted to keep her pizza babka supreme vegetarian, losing the pepperoni and sausage. This supreme combo gives the traditionally sweet babka a super savory turnover.
Let it rise (and shine)
The simple pizza dough for this recipe requires no special equipment (just your hands!), minimal kneading, and three stages of rising and resting: when the dough is formed, it should proof in the fridge overnight (or at room temperature for at least 4 hours). This ensures enough time for air to form in the dough and for the dough to develop flavor. Then when the dough is filled and rolled, Devan suggests freezing it briefly to make the braiding easier. The final proof is when the dough is braided and in it’s baking skillet; it should be left at room temperature for at least 2 hours or until the dough noticeably rises and reaches about two-thirds of the way up the pan’s edge. The first and last rises are the key to getting a fluffy texture in the dough and finished babka.
For more pizza dough tips, read our article on making great homemade pizza dough.
The more olive oil, the better
To get that appealing golden, crispy crust, olive oil is key. Brush some olive oil all over the babka before it goes into the oven. Then, when it’s hot out of the oven, brush over some more olive oil to give the dough a glossy sheen.
Get a dough scraper
Good tools make life easier, especially when it comes to baking. One thing I was convinced of after shooting this recipe was that I needed a bench scraper (also known as a dough or pastry scraper). It’s an all-rounder. You can transfer ingredients painlessly from cutting board to pan; clean any messes or dried up dough from a work surface; divide, trim, and scrape out sticky dough from a bowl; spread any paste evenly.
There’s more than one way to pizza babka
Although I personally love our pizz-y babka, there are lots of options you can take when making your own version. You can swap to a more traditional babka dough (just omit the sugar), for a soft, super fluffy, and buttery brioche-like dough. In addition to dough swaps, you could also play with the shape, no matter which dough you use. You could opt for the arguably more Instagramable, traditional babka loaf shape—to adapt Devan’s recipe, don’t divide the dough in step three, instead roll out the entire batch of dough, fill it, and follow the shaping and proofing method from our chocolate babka recipe. Depending on what you prefer (and what pans you have), you can braid the dough into other forms, too. You could even cut the log smaller and make pizza babka buns.
For filling your savory babka, you can incorporate most of your favorite pizza toppings. Try toppings like caramelized onions, blanched (and squeezed) spinach, small crumbles of cooked potatoes, browned Italian sausage, and different types of cheese. Pesto is also a great addition, like this recipe we tested for the article from The Kitchn. However, it’s important to be really careful with ingredients that have a lot of water in them. This can soak into the dough while it’s in its final stage of rising and make it hard for the dough to cook through or result in an unpleasant, soggy texture. So make sure any vegetables or raw meats are cooked well and drained, and be light with the amount of toppings, making sure not to overfill it, because all amazing things must have limits.
If you’ve never tried making your own pizza or babka at home, but are now craving them in this combination, this is your call to action and adventure! Have fun and let us know how it turns out!
More braided bread recipes you’ll love
Published on April 21, 2021