Pizza Babka

This pizza babka is utterly luscious and delicious. There are ripples of cheese, tomato and pepperoni and soft babka dough along with a marinara or tomato dipping sauce! It's the only bread item that Mr NQN has asked me to re-make over and over again. This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!

So what is a babka? The first time I heard of babka was on Seinfeld. It is a sweet, braided bread popular in Jewish communities around the world. Originating in Eastern Europe (many credit it to Poland) in the 19th century it is also known as a krantz. In Poland and the Ukraine, the word Babka means grandmother. Babka was originally made with leftover challah dough by the Jewish people during Shabbat or the Sabbath.

Babka is usually sweet and has a distinct rippled look with a sweet, buttery yeasted brioche style dough. Popular fillings are chocolate or cinnamon sugar.

Babka became part of pop culture when the Seinfeld episode "The Dinner Party" featured Jerry and Elaine tried to procure a much wanted chocolate babka, instead settling for the "lesser babka" cinnamon.

Interestingly, there is also Polish babka that is baked in a round bundt style tin and is filled with sultanas served around Easter but this is more cake-like and similar to Pannettone.

Pizza Babka

Who created the pizza babka? More recently in January 2021, Bill Clark (chef and co-owner of now closed MeMe's Diner in Brooklyn, NY) created a recipe for pizza babka that went viral on social media. Monica sent it to me and I knew that I had to a) make it because b) I wanted to eat it.

I made up my own version of it. I know it is far from kosher to use pepperoni or in my case truffle salami (both pork products) in an essentially Jewish item. You can also use any of the alternative suggestions below.

Other Savoury Babka filling ideas:

Napolitana sauce and olives (vegan)

Crumbled sausage, spinach & garlic

Pepperoni slices, cheese and tomato with extra chilli

Nduja, ricotta and tomato

Four cheese (mozzarella, gorgonzola, parmesan and provolone)

Mozzarella, wild mushroom, Italian sausage and parmesan

Or make a sweet babka: Chocolate Hazelnut Babka, Gingerbread Babka or Blueberry Babka!

Pizza Babka

I am a big Seinfeld fan from way back. I know some people love Friends more but I like the biting wit of Seinfeld and I completely relate to characters like Elaine (haha not George). Some people say that the four characters were selfish but I argue that people can indeed be selfish. Maybe not all the time and only in certain circumstances but selfishness is a part of all of us. And that includes me.

One day Mr NQN and I were getting ready to go out to dinner. We have two vastly different approaches to getting ready to go out. I take exactly 30 minutes to get ready including a shower (40 minutes if I need to tong my hair).

Mr NQN sits on the couch on his phone until around 10 minutes before we are supposed to leave. Then he will, in an utter panic rush to have a shower and brush his teeth. It drives me crazy and we are pretty much always a bit late to everything. It's exasperating and I often find myself waiting for him.

"Can you put Teddy's food away?" he said while rushing around finally putting down his phone from where he had been playing a game. It is also his job to put away Teddy's food-he feeds him, he gets all the dog love and he puts the bowl away if he hasn't finished eating.

I was in the bathroom applying makeup and was firmly fixed to my schedule. It takes me not a minute more nor a minute less to get ready than my set time.

While applying eyeliner carefully I responded, "I can't. I'm on my own trajectory and path. I cannot assist."

So tell me Dear Reader, when did you first hear of babka? Are you Team Seinfeld or Friends?

Pizza Babka

Did you make this recipe? Share your creations by tagging @notquitenigella on Instagram with the hashtag #notquitenigella
Rated 5 out of 5 by 8 lovely readers. Share your rating:

An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 30 minutes plus 2 hours rising time

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 6

For dough:

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 80ml/2.8flozs. room temp water
  • 315g/11ozs. bread flour plus extra for rolling
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon instant dried yeast
  • 75g/2.6ozs. butter, cubed, room temperature
  • Oil for greasing

For filling:

  • 200ml/7ozs. tomato pasta sauce (I used an Arrabbiata sauce)
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 150g/5ozs. finely diced or thinly sliced pepperoni or your favourite salami
  • 1.5 cups/165g/5.8ozs. grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup/50g/1.7ozs. grated parmesan cheese
  • Beaten egg to glaze

Pizza Babka

Step 1 - Dissolve the salt into the water. Add the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer and then add the eggs and salt water. Then add the yeast. Stir to combine and then attach a dough hook and knead for a minute or two until it starts to come together. Add the butter cubes a few at a time, around 4-5 lots of them until they are incorporated into the dough and the dough is elastic. This can take up to 7-9 minutes or so.

Pizza Babka

Step 2 - Grease a large bowl and form the dough into a ball with no cracks on top and place in the bowl. Cover and place in a warm area and allow to rise until triple in size, around 1 hour or so. About 15 minutes before the dough is fully risen prepare the filling ingredients so that they're ready to use.

Pizza Babka

Step 3 - Punch down the dough. Flour a large work surface and roll out the dough to become a large rectangle around 25x45cms/9.8x17.7inches in size. Spread the tomato sauce, sprinkle the onion and garlic over this and then add the pepperoni and two cheeses.

Pizza Babka

Step 4 - Start rolling up the dough from the shorter end and roll up to the end. Place on a baking sheet and pop it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. This is to help with the next step which is the fun bit but also the tricky bit.

Pizza Babka
Splitting the log down the centre

Pizza Babka
Cross over plait, cut side up

Step 5 - Spray a loaf tin with oil. Remove the log of dough from the freezer. It should be firm but not frozen. Cut off the two ends (cook's treat!) and then cut the log down lengthways with a sharp serrated knife leaving the top inch attached. Turn the dough so that the cut side faces up and plait it by simply crossing each log over each other. Place in the oiled loaf tin and cover and allow to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour in a warm place.

Pizza Babka
Placing in the tin

Step 6 - Preheat oven to 180C/350F and brush the top of the bread with egg glaze and bake for 30 minutes. Then turn the heat down to 150C/300F and bake for another 15 minutes. Serve warm, with extra marinara sauce. I love you too ;)

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