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French Onion Babka Wreath
Like the soup, but make it bread.
To wrap up our Countdown to Easter series, I’ve got something special for you. I used all the savory flavors of French Onion Soup to fill buttery, enriched dough that’s then braided and wrapped like a wreath. Voila!
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Cinnamon bun and sweet roll-adjacent, you are going to love this French Onion Babka. While not your typical dessert, working with familiar ingredients like cheese helps bridge together different types of baking.
Love making sticky buns? Enjoy kneading enriched doughs? Give this savory version a try!
The babka is best when the center is still slightly warm. I understand that the timing can be tricky when trying to meet a mealtime deadline, like Easter brunch. Thankfully, there are options for chilling overnight (see Baker’s Notes). Plus, it easily reheats!
Want to step up your dinner roll situation? Not only is the babka full of flavor, the wreath shape is stunning and perfect for sharing.
Roll up a filling of caramelized onions, butter, Dijon, and cheese. Instead of slicing crosswise like cinnamon rolls, cut through the length of the roll to create two long strips of dough. Each strip will have layers of filling and buttery, yeasted dough.
Braid the strips then twist them up to form a wreath. Top with an egg wash and poppy seeds for a little extra crunch.
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French Onion Babka
¼ cup (60ml) milk
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 ¼ cups (405g) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
3 large eggs
8 tablespoons (113g) butter, melted and cooled
Gently heat the milk to 100 to 110°F (about 30 seconds in the microwave usually does it). It should feel warm to the touch. Stir in the yeast and the granulated sugar. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes until the yeast dissolves, bubbles to the top and becomes foamy.
Meanwhile, mix together the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs. Once the yeast mixture is foamy and ready, stir it into the eggs. Add all of the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until mostly combined.
Using the dough hook, begin kneading the dough on low speed. Slowly pour in the butter. It will take some time and effort for the butter to fully incorporate.
Continue kneading the dough on low speed until smooth, soft and stretchy, about 5 minutes. Most of the dough should wrap itself around the hook. If too much of the wet dough remains on the sides of the bowl, then add a little flour. It is okay if the dough is slightly sticky.
Lightly grease a large bowl. Gently form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in size, about 90 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the filling (recipe to follow).
Once the dough has ballooned up and doubled in size, punch it down to slightly deflate. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a 13 x 18-inch rectangle.
Stir together the softened butter, Dijon mustard, and ½ teaspoon salt together until smooth. Dollop the butter mixture onto the dough. Spread it out until smooth with an offset spatula, leaving a ½-inch border on one of the long sides. Sprinkle the dough with the caramelized onions and cheese.
Starting with the long edge without the border, tightly roll up the dough into a log. Use the edge without the filling to pinch and seal the spiral.
Move the dough to a large piece of parchment paper. Use a long serrated knife to slice the log in half lengthwise. You will have two long pieces of dough.
Starting in the middle, cross the two pieces of dough over/under the other. Continue to weave the length of the dough like a two-strand braid.
Take the two ends and bring them together to form a wreath. If you’d like, weave the ends together and press to seal. Move the dough wreath along with the parchment paper to a baking sheet. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof for 30 to 45 minutes. The dough won’t double but should be visibly puffed.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.
When ready to bake, mix together the egg yolk and cream/milk. Brush over the dough and sprinkle the non-onion part with poppy seeds.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the inside reaches an internal temperature of 190°F.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.
Caramelized Onion Filling
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
4 tablespoons (56g) butter, softened
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup (100g) shredded white cheese
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cream or milk
Poppy seeds for sprinkling
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced onions along with ½ teaspoon salt and cook.
Once the onions begin to soften, turn the heat down to low and cook until golden and caramelized. Stir intermittently to keep them from burning and add more oil as needed. This whole process will take 20 to 30 minutes.
Near the end of cooking, add the brown sugar. Cook until the sugar dissolves and onions are brown and slightly sticky. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Serving and Storage:
Allow to cool, then slice the babka as you would a pizza. The recipe will yield 8 to 10 wedges.
Store covered in plastic or foil at room temperature until serving. Leftovers can be placed in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Cover in foil and reheat slices at 300°F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until warmed through.
I tested this recipe with both shredded mozzarella and Monterey jack cheese. You could also use gruyere, comté or Swiss, like those typically found on French onion soup.
Working with yeasted dough means planning around proofing times. If you want to serve in the morning, you can do the first proof in the evening, fill and shape the dough, then pop it into the refrigerator overnight. Come morning, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about an hour before adding the egg wash and baking.
I made a timeline for the first proof to be overnight in the refrigerator at the end of this cinnamon roll recipe. The same could apply for the babka.
Find all my best tips for baking with yeast.
Dough not cooperating? Read Part 2 for Tips and Troubleshooting: