Challah-like bread made with ripe bananas to yield a soft, flavorful bread. This yeasted banana bread is swirled with a brown sugar cinnamon filling: A cross between babka, french toast and banana bread is this a sure winner at any breakfast, tea or dessert table.
Enriched bread made with ripe bananas to yield a soft, flavorful bread. This yeasted banana bread is swirled with a brown sugar cinnamon filling: A cross between babka, french toast and banana bread is this a sure winner at any breakfast, tea or dessert table.
During the height of grocery shortages and banana baking frenzy of 2020, my husband suggested I try making a banana babka. I thought about his idea, considered slicing bananas, tossing them with cinnamon sugar for a filling in a plain babka, but I don’t personally love the taste of roasted bananas. It wasn’t until I saw this banana nutella roll recipe, which was based on this yeasted banana bread recipe, that I began playing with the idea of using the banana IN the dough. I finally gave it a go and… just, wow.
One thing: this is going to be a sticky dough that is not very easy to work with. I’m sorry! It will work out though, you’ll see the dough rise nicely twice, and it will be difficult to roll out and spread the filling over. Feel free to liberally use flour when you do. The result is absolutely worth it: it’s SO soft and tender!
And that filling? Oh my. It’s cinnamon roll filling and combined with the banana it tastes like banana french toast – it’s incredible.
The dough itself is not like a traditional chocolate babka or a challah due to the added banana and lack of eggs. I call it a babka because of how it is shaped; according to My Jewish Learning, “In its most traditional form, babka is made by twisting a yeast-based dough swathed in different fillings around itself into a tortuous loaf that is baked at medium heat for around an hour.” There is truly nothing like that amazing twist that is signature to babka, a bread that originated in Eastern European Jewish communities: “in the early 1800s, when housewives would spread extra challah dough with jam or cinnamon, roll it up, and bake it alongside the bread,” (Food52). With the cinnamon filling, I couldn’t think to call it anything else without honoring the origins of the idea.
How to make Cinnamon Banana Babka
Make the dough: prove the yeast, throw everything into a bowl and let the dough hook do the work.
Sleep: no seriously, the dough needs to rise overnight in the fridge. It’ll be impossible to work with unless it’s cold!
Make the filling: very similar to a cinnamon roll filling.
Shape the dough: like a cinnamon roll but with two logs and a twist.
Ingredients for Cinnamon Banana Babka
Bananas: Ripe & brown! The kind of bananas you’d use for banana bread.
Bread flour: A flour that’s got a higher protein content, so at least 11% will yield a chewier bread. If you can’t find it use all purpose but get one with a higher protein content.
Sugar: granulated sugar. I don’t like using brown sugar in my doughs because it doesn’t always dissolve well.
Yeast: fast acting or instant yeast. If you use active dry add ¼ teaspoon more. I dissolve both types of yeast in milk before adding to the dough.
Canola oil: You can also use any neutral tasting oil like grapeseed or vegetable.
Milk: whole milk or 2% at least. The milk makes the bread very tender.
Salt & vanilla: I always add both to my doughs to give it flavor. Don’t skip the salt.
Butter: This is for the filling and you can either brown it or melt it (see below in FAQ).
Brown sugar: Light or dark is fine. You could use granulated as well but you’ll miss that caramel-like flavor.
Turbinado sugar: Raw sugar, I love this sugar here. It gives a really nice crunchy top to the bread which contrasts so well with the gooey filling and soft bread. If you can’t find it you can just skip it.
Eggwash: If you don’t want to crack an egg just for the egg wash you can brush on heavy cream or milk. This will help the turbinado sugar adhere to the dough and give it a nice shiny top.
FAQ for Cinnamon Banana Babka
Sam, this dough is ridiculously sticky. I hate it.
I know! It was annoying even for me to work with and I’m used to sticky doughs. You can add a bit more flour to the mixer when the dough is kneading. And while rolling, feel free to use as much flour as you need (but don’t over do it). Remember: sticky dough = supersoft bread.
Can I brown the butter for the filling? Also how do I brown butter?
Yes. You’ll want to brown a bit more than listed because a lot of moisture evaporates. So for the ⅔ cup listed you’ll want to brown around 1 cup, and measure after its browned. To brown: In a saucepan, melt the butter on low. Cook it as it sputters and spits and once it goes a bit silent and you see bits of brown, transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Let it cool a bit before you add the sugar.
Can I halve the recipe to make just one loaf?
Yes. It won’t change much – just half of everything below. For the yeast go with a slightly heaped teaspoon.
Can I make this babka recipe into cinnamon rolls?
Yes, once the dough is in a log, slice them and place in a prepared 13×9” cake pan. Bake time will be 350 F for about 25 minutes – go by eye.
Can I make this all the night before and bake the next day?
I think you could but the rolls should come to room temperature before you bake them. And make sure they are ready, even at room temperature: do the press check. Does the dough hold an indentation? Then it’s okay to go into the oven. If not, give it more time to rise.
Cinnamon Banana Babka Recipe
Yeasted banana bread swirled with a cinnamon sugar filling.
1/2cupbutter152g, either melted or browned (if browned, measure after browning see notes up top)
½teaspoonfine sea salt
1teaspoonpure vanilla extract
The night before, make the dough:
Heat the milk so it’s lukewarm and add the yeast to it, stir and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the rest of the dough ingredients and the milk & yeast mixture. Turn the mixer on low for a couple of minutes, then to medium and knead for a full ten minutes. The dough will be very sticky at first but it will start to come together a bit more toward the end of the ten minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge overnight.
The next morning:
Remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature until it doubles in size, about 30-50 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen. It should still be a bit cold when you start working with it.
Make the filling by first browning or melting the butter, then stirring the sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla. If you’ve browned the butter and the mixture is quite hot, set it in the freezer to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Prepare two loaf pans by greasing and lining them with a parchment sling. Use metal clips to hold the parchment in place if you have them.
Divide the dough into two equal halves. Set one aside, sprinkle some flour over it so it doesn’t dry out.
Roll out the first half to about 16×10 inches. Spread half of the filing over the dough, leaving a 1 inch border on one of the shorter sides. Roll up the dough from the other short side into a log then, using a sharp knife, slice it in half lengthwise. Twist the two halves around each other and place in prepared pan. Repeat with second half. Set the pans in a warm area and let rise until puffy. Preheat the oven to 350 F. The loaves are ready for the oven when the dough is pressed and the indentation doesn’t spring back very quickly (about an hour). Brush with eggwash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
Bake the loaves for about 40 minutes, covering with foil if they are browning too quickly. To know if your bread is fully baked in the center use an oven thermometer, it should register 190 F.
can i use all purpose flour?
Move over banana bread, this is now my go-to whenever we have overripe bananas. It is so so good and although it looks like it should be a finicky bake with the folding, it’s super easy and comes together fast and is so delicious. I’m not a banana person, though the rest of my family is, but this we can agree on. These don’t stay in our house long.
Can the first fridge rise be almost 24 hrs or is that too long? I want to make the dough tonight and not bake until tomorrow night. Would that work?
Hmm it could work – I worry it will exhaust the yeast too early so keep an eye on it! Alternatively, you could do the rise in the afternoon and just do a room temp rise for 2 hours.
Made this into 1 loaf and 9 cinnamon rolls. It was amazing and we couldn’t help but eat it right out of the oven. I ended up kneading it by hand because my stand mixer has been making weird noises, so it is totally possible to do it that way, but it does take about 20 minutes in case anyone was wondering. The dough is really sticky before chilling, but is really soft and easy to work with the next morning! Overall, a really amazing and creative recipe!
This recipe is absolutely heavenly, maybe my favorite babka I’ve made. Sam warned us, but I actually found the dough to be a joy to work with. I used EXTREMELY overripe bananas that had been frozen and defrosted. The flavours were beautifully balanced and comforting, and the bread stayed fresh longer than most babkas I’ve made, almost like a tangzhong. Also, my loaves were some of the most incredibly photogenic bakes I’ve done.
BTW, you will see many shaping techniques out there for babkaa, not standardized at all. Because this makes two loaves, I decided to try two different babka shaping techniques as an experiment. I can confirm that Sam’s method is by far the easiest to execute and the prettiest once baked. Thank you Sam!
Hi Sam! I made this recipe this morning and it was by far one of the best breads I have had! I swapped out the filling for melted chocolate and crushed oreos as I was out of brown sugar. Thank you again for a another perfect recipe!
Have made these multiple times and they’re always crowd pleasers. The recipe is super easy to follow and the loaves come out exactly as described. Thanks for sharing!
I made these this morning and yummy! Followed the recipe to the letter and the dough was wonderfully soft but not overly sticky which could have just been a result of not using a super super ripe banana. Halved the recipe so I had to use the paddle till the dough came together enough for the dough hook. I shaped them into twisted knots and put some chocolate glaze on ‘em. So fancy and a nice change of pace from cinnamon rolls.
This recipe is so unique and creative! Just made the dough and I’m going to fill it with a chocolate filling.
I made this today. I think there is too much butter in the filling recipe. 2/3 c. Of melted butter mixed with 1 c. Of dark brown sugar was very soupy and the butter didn’t all blend with the sugar. I added about 1/4 c. More sugar to the mixture and that helped, but as I rolled up the logs, there was extra butter leaking out. I’m hoping when I bake it I don’t have a butter mess in my oven from the butter melting out and spilling over. I had that happen with a very early Bake From Scratch babka recipe, where my intuition told me it was too much butter in the filling but I proceeded anyway with the recipe. Can’t wait to try the banana flavored bread.
Melissa, I think you are right – it should’ve been 1/2 cup butter not 2/3. I think I wrote 2/3 because that’s how much I’d brown to get about 1/2 cup browned butter. Thanks for the note – edited!
I made knotted buns out of the dough and they turned out amazing! Love the recipe! More eggless recipes please!
Hi! Just confirming what you meant by “loaf pans” (8×4? 9×5?)? Thanks!
Yup, either will work!
I am a bit confused about the instructions regarding overnight. If I make the dough and let it rise and then proceed through all the steps until it is ready to rise again, at that point can I put it into the ‘frig overnight and then do the bake in the morning?I am guessing I should not overnight the dough twice? The recipe looks to be super yummy and I really want to try it but would prefer making it one day and baking it off the next. Any advice would be very appreciated.
BTW…your roasted strawberry cheesecake square are probably the best cheesecake item I have ever tasted.
Hi Nancy. Woohoo, so glad you liked the cheesecake! For the babka, the recipe is not written to be in the fridge overnight twice – just for the first rise, as listed. I do say in the FAQ that you could do this all in one day then have just the second rise overnight. In this case you’ll do a room temperature first rise and then do the second overnight. Warning though: the dough will be difficult to shape if it isn’t cold (it’s very sticky!). But it can be done. And overall I’d say go by what you see and feel from the dough rather than specific timings; the first rise is ready when it doubles, it’s ready to go into the oven when you press it and the dough doesn’t spring back. Hope that helps!
Once again, you lead a very good idea we’ve all had but were too lazy to perfect to its logical, and best, conclusion. I have come to rely on this blog so much for its commitment to novel but ultimately very sensible ideas and variations executed to pleasurable perfection. I imagine there’re a lot of experiments abandoned in favor of sharing with us the best, so for that I thank you. Great stuff.