Steam-Baked Babka with Pesto, Ricotta, and Roasted Garlic

Emily Rhodes
Emily Rhodes
December 1, 2021
In this recipe, babka gets a non-traditional savoury spin, swirled with aromatic basil pesto, creamy ricotta, and roasted garlic. This recipe makes two loaves; they are fantastic as a snack or a side dish to soups and stews, and they freeze well in single slices. Although there are a lot of steps, this bread is quite straightforward to make and much of the prep time is hands free. Note: You'll need to roast a whole head of garlic for the babka filling — do this ahead of time in the Anova Precision Oven by setting the oven to 356°F (180°C) with 50% steam and the rear element enabled. Place the whole head, unpeeled, in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. The roasted garlic will keep in the fridge for several days.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Steam-Baked Babka with Pesto, Ricotta, and Roasted Garlic
4.5 (2)
545 g (3 2/3 cups)
all-purpose flour
250 ml (1 cup)
lukewarm whole milk
3 large
eggs, at room temperature, divided
2 Tbsp
granulated sugar
10 g (2 tsp)
active dry yeast
1 tsp
90 g (6 1/2 Tbsp)
unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 head
roasted garlic (see note)
250 g (about 1 cup)
full-fat ricotta cheese
120 g (2/3 cup)
prepared basil pesto
Flaky salt

1. Mix the Dough

Combine the flour, milk, 2 eggs, sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together, 2 to 3 minutes. If it looks very dry and crumbly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water, just enough to bring the dough into a single mass. Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is soft and smooth, about 5 minutes.
Mix the Dough

2. Add Butter

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the butter, a couple of teaspoons at a time, mixing to incorporate it fully before adding the next piece. Once all the butter has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is very soft and elastic, about 5 minutes.
Add Butter

3. First Proof

Form the dough into a ball and place in a clean bowl (no need to cover). Put the bowl into the oven. Turn the oven on and let proof for 1 hour.
First Proof
Sous Vide Mode: On
Steam: 60%
Temp: 82.4°F
Heat: Rear
01:00 Timer

4. Flatten and Chill

Remove the proofed dough from the oven and turn it onto a clean counter. Gently knock it back and shape into a rectangle about 4cm (1 1/2 inches) thick. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, place onto a baking sheet and freeze until firm.
Flatten and Chill

5. Make the Filling

While the dough chills, make the filling. Squeeze the cloves of roasted garlic into a medium bowl and roughly mash. Add the ricotta and pesto and mix to form a slightly chunky paste. Refrigerate until the dough is ready to fill.
Make the Filling

6. Roll and Fill

Remove the chilled dough from the freezer and unwrap. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle measuring approximately 60 by 40cm (24 by 16 inches). Spread the filling all over the dough. (I prefer an offset spatula to spread as it's fast and even.)
Roll and Fill

7. Roll and Cut

Starting at a wide edge, tightly roll up the filled dough. This is easiest to do by rolling away from yourself rather than towards. Cut the finished log in half with a sharp knife to give two logs, each around 30cm (12 inches) long.
Roll and Cut

8. Assemble

Cut lengthways through the middle of each log to reveal the stripy layers of dough and filling. Take two of the four pieces and, starting at one end by putting one piece on top of the other at a 90 degree angle, make a twist, trying to keep the cut sides of the dough facing upwards as you go. Repeat with the other two pieces of dough so you have two babkas. Line two loaf pans with parchment paper and carefully put the twists into them, tucking the ends downwards to give a neat shape.

9. Second Proof

Transfer the assembled babkas to the oven. Let proof until increased in size by about half to two-thirds, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Sous Vide Mode: On
Steam: 60%
Temp: 82.4°F
Heat: Rear
00:40 Timer

10. Adjust the Oven for Baking

Sous Vide Mode: Off
Steam: 40%
Temp: 356°F
Heat: Rear

11. Glaze

While the oven heats, beat the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Brush the egg mixture all over both loaves. Sprinkle with flaky salt.

12. Bake

Return to the oven and bake until the loaves are golden brown, glossy, and puffed, about 30 minutes.
Sous Vide Mode: Off
Steam: 40%
Temp: 356°F
Heat: Rear
00:30 Timer

13. Cool and Serve

Let the babkas cool in their pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. The babka will keep, covered, at room temperature for a day or two; store any leftovers, sliced and wrapped well, in the freezer.
Cool and Serve
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