Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Mozzarella Babka

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Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Mozzarella Babka
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Mozzarella Babka
Please note: This post has been sponsored by Calphalon. All opinions are our own.

Fancy bougie breads are everything this spring, and we of course had to combine some of our favorite flavors in this delicious savory cheese-filled babka for you! The Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Mozzarella Babka gives you all the buttery bread goodness of the sweet version, but it is packed with so many vibrant flavors that you won’t be able to stop at one slice!

If there is one thing that many people have learned over the past year of quarantine it’s that making bread at home, from sourdough to brioche donuts, is not only better than anything you can buy, but also quite easy for anyone who can follow a recipe.

We have been making our own bread for quite some time, so we are here to enable your bread-making addiction! Now it’s time to up the bread game with fancy loaves packed with flavor!

What is a babka?

Babka is a type of bread made with an enriched dough, meaning, you add butter and/or milk to the dough resulting in a soft, fluffy and buttery texture. The enriched dough is then filled and twisted resulting in a beautifully swirled and tasty loaf.

Babka’s origins are within Jewish communities throughout Eastern Europe and traditionally consist of a slightly sweet dough with even sweeter fillings such as chocolate, cinnamon, or fruit spreads. Over the last decade, babka’s have become very popular in the US and now you can find thousands of recipes for sweet and savory varieties.

How to Make this Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Mozzarella Babka

This babka is made in a very similar fashion to a traditional sweet babka, but with less sugar added to the dough mix. Our savory babka also has Italian herbs mixed in to the actual dough in addition to the filling of Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Mozzarella cheese to give the dough a more savory flavor overall.

The Italian herbs complement the flavors of the pesto, as well, making this babka perfect to have alongside whatever you are having for dinner – especially with things like roasted meats or lighter main dishes.

Twisted bread with pesto and mozzarella
Babkas may seem challenging, but twisting the bread is actually quite simple!

To make the savory babka dough…

First you need to mix the dough ingredients together. This is a yeasted dough, and we use active dry yeast. Active dry yeast needs about 5-10 minutes to “bloom” prior to mixing the dough, so make sure you give it this time.

If using instant yeast, this first step is not necessary.

You will need to warm the milk a little for the best environment for the yeast to bloom. We heat it up in the microwave or in a saucepan on low until it’s just warm to the touch.

Be careful when heating the milk, though. If the milk is warmer than about 110-115°F then it could kill the yeast, so make sure your milk is not too hot before adding the sugar and yeast to it.

Mix the dough

To mix the dough, we use a stand mixer fitter with a dough hook. If you do not own such equipment, you can do this by hand instead. To mix by hand, you will first mix the ingredients in a bowl until they are combined, then dump them out onto a countertop or other hard surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.

The goal is for the dough to be smooth and slightly shiny, but not sticky. You want to knead the dough long enough to develop the gluten. If you can stretch it without the dough tearing, then you should be good to go.

Proof the dough

To develop the flavor of the dough fully, we recommend first allowing the dough to sit covered in a bowl in a warm, draft free spot until about doubled in size. We place the dough in an oven with the light on, but during the summer you can keep the dough on the counter. The dough should double in size after about 1.5-2 hours.

Punch the air out of the dough

Next you want to literally take your fist and punch the air out of the dough. Go ahead, take out all that pent-up anger! Once the excess air is out, we cover it again and place it in the fridge to finish developing the flavor overnight.

Roll out the dough, add the filling, and shape

Roll the babka into a tube
Once you add your filling, you will roll the dough into a tube before cutting and twisting the dough.

Now comes the fun part! If you have ever felt intimidated by making braided or twisted loaves in the past, well, no need to worry!

Creating that twisted look the babka is known for is actually quite simple. You will need to first roll out the dough on a floured work surface into a large rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Then spread your fillings on the dough, but leave about a half-inch without the filling around the edge .

Next, roll the dough into a tube starting with one of the shorter sides of you rectangle. Once you finish, pinch the ends of the dough to keep the filling inside.

To shape, you will first take a sharp knife and cut the dough down the middle of the tube lengthwise entirely to make two pieces and to expose the filling. Then lay the two sides next to each other cut side up.

The last step here is to form the loaf. Start at one end and simply twist the two sides around each other, one over the other attempting to keep the cut side facing the top. When you get to the end, pinch the dough together, then take your hands at each end and gently scrunch it together to about the size of your loaf pan, and place it directly in your loaf pan.

If you are using the Calphalon Nonstick Bakeware Medium Loaf Pan like us, you will not have to grease the pan or line it with parchment.

Final Proof

The last proof will take about 1-1.5 hours. Cover and place the loaf pan back in the oven with the light on during this time. Your dough will fill out the loaf pan a bit, but you shouldn’t expect your dough to double in size during this final proof stage.

Bake

The closing and most exciting step is to bake your babka! Here you want to make sure your oven rack is in the middle and you preheat your oven to 350°F. We typically turn the oven on at about the 1 hour mark of the final proof. Before placing it in the oven brush it with a little egg wash so the dough will be shiny when it’s fully baked.

The loaf will take approximately 50 minutes to bake, but you are looking for the top of the dough to be golden brown, so add some time if needed but check at 45 minutes as oven temperatures vary quite a bit. We have found that 50 minutes is the minimum time it takes for ours to be perfect and 55 minutes is the most time we’ve needed. But that is OUR oven! Your oven will be different.

Savory Babka
Simply cut the tube in half lengthwise and twist the two halves together with the filling facing up.

Let’s talk about that Roasted Red Pepper Pesto!

So, this pesto is one of our newest favorite recipes! We used it in this loaf but have also blended it further to make a fantastic pasta sauce, we’ve spread it on toast or in sandwiches or wraps, topped chicken with it, and used it as a dip for vegetables or a number of things.

The recipe for this pesto makes about 2.5-3 cups. It lasts in your fridge for about 2 weeks, so we highly recommend making the full recipe, but you only use about 1/2 cup for the actual babka. We can’t stop eating this pesto when it’s in our house, so we guarantee this won’t go to waste! We haven’t tried to freeze it, but there is no apparent reason why it wouldn’t be a good candidate to freeze.

The pesto can be adjusted with a variety of flavors as well. For example, you can add different colored bell peppers for a slightly different color (and flavor) profile or add a jalapeño to give it a touch of heat. You can also add different nuts or different types of basil.

Have fun with it! But if you start out with this recipe, you may not want to ever try a different version!

Perfectly Swirled Slices of Babka
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Mozzarella Babka

A note about our bakeware

We recently became part of the Calphalon Ambassador team and we are thrilled to share some of our favorite Calphalon bakeware items with you in this post today and many more to come! For this particular recipe, we used the Calphalon Nonstick Bakeware Medium Loaf Pan and cooling rack.

We love the 10-piece Calphalon Nonstick Bakeware set with these pieces for so many reasons in addition to how easy they are to use for this recipe.

In addition to the loaf pan and cooling rack, this set comes with the following:

  • 12-Cup Muffin Pan
  • 12×17-in. Baking Sheet
  • Medium Loaf Pan
  • Two 9-in. Round Cake Pans
  • 14×17-in. Cookie Sheet
  • 9×13-in. Brownie Pan
  • 9×13-in. Covered Cake Pan

You will never experience any warping, sticking, or hot spots with this set, AND even better, it is all dishwasher safe, so no hassle when it comes time to clean.

Check out more of our favorite items from this set in upcoming recipes!

Enjoy!

We hope you enjoy this recipe for our Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Mozzarella Babka! If you give it a try, leave us a comment below or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!

If you like this recipe, check out some of our other popular recipes below!

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Mozzarella Babka

Recipe by Angela and Mark Course: SidesCuisine: EuropeanDifficulty: Easy
Servings

8

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

45

minutes
Dough Prep/Resting time

24

hours
Total time

1

hour 

15

minutes

Ingredients

  • Babka Dough
  • 1 cup warm milk (approx 105-110°F)

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 pack) Active Dry Yeast

  • 3 cups bread flour

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tbsp Italian herbs

  • 4 tbsp butter, room temp

  • 1 egg

  • Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
  • 4-6 red bell peppers (depending on size of peppers)

  • 1/2 cup packed chopped fresh basil

  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt

  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

  • 1/2 cup quality grated parmesan

  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts

  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar

  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

  • Filling
  • 1/2 cup Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

  • 4-6 oz mozzarella

  • 1 egg + 1 tbsp water mixed for egg wash

Directions

  • Babka Dough
  • In a large bowl of the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together warm milk and sugar, then sprinkle yeast on top. Allow yeast to bloom for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Once yeast is ready, add all remaining ingredients to the bowl EXCEPT butter and mix on medium until the dough begins to gather around the hook.
  • Add butter 1 tbsp at a time until incorporated fully. Mix on medium for about 8-10 minutes, or until the dough looks smooth and shiny and does not easily tear when stretched.
  • Remove dough to a lightly buttered or oiled large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm draft-free place for about 1.5-2 hours until doubled in size.
  • Once doubled, punch the dough down to remove excess gas, then cover and place in the fridge overnight.
  • Make your pesto (below) and keep in the fridge while the dough rests overnight in the fridge.
  • Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
  • Cut the peppers in half, and remove the stem, seeds and veins. Cut the peppers into flat strips so that they can lay as flat as possible.
  • Place peppers skin skid up on a sheet tray and put the tray in the oven on the top rack on broil for 6-10 minutes. The peppers are done once the skin has charred almost completely. The skins should be black. Remove from the oven and place in a zipper bag or airtight container for about 10 minutes.
  • Once cool, remove the peppers from the bag and peel off as much of the charred skin as possible. The skin should come off fairly easily at this point.
  • Add two cups of roasted peppers to a food processor and pulse to chop into pieces.
  • Add the basil to the food processor and pulse a few more times. Then add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the olive oil and process on high until combined and chopped into small pieces.
  • Finally, process on low and drizzle the olive oil in slowly and continue to process for about 20-30 seconds longer. Taste at this point and add additional salt if needed. The texture should not be smooth and creamy, but not very chunky, either – somewhere in-between is perfect.
  • Enjoy now or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
  • Fill, Shape and Bake Babka
  • The following day, remove the dough from the fridge and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
  • Roll out dough into a large rectangular shape about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Add about 1/2 cup of pesto to the surface of the dough leaving about 1/2 inch of space along the sides. Rip or chop your mozzarella into quarter sized pieces and sprinkle them evenly over your dough.
  • Starting with one of the short sides, roll your dough into a tube. Once rolled, pinch the ends to close in the ingredients, then take a sharp knife and cut your rolled dough tube down the middle exposing the filling layers. Turn each half of the tube so that the cut side is facing up, then twist them together, one over the other. Do your best to keep the cut side facing up during this process. Pinch the ends together.
  • With both hands, push the ends towards the middle until the twisted dough is about the size of your loaf pan, then place the dough into the pan with the filling on top.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free spot for 1.5 hours.
  • At the one-hour mark, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • After 1.5 hours, mix together one egg and 1 tbsp water and brush on the exposed dough. Then place in the oven for 45-55 minutes. Once done, the dough will be golden brown on top.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly in the pan (5-10 minutes) before removing to a wire rack. Slice and serve!

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