Fresh herbs and a blend of cheeses create a bread ready for a spring brunch with friends or a weekend dinner with family.

Cheese-Herb Babka

Yield: 1 large bread loaf (serves 10 to 12)

Prep Time: 40-55 minutes

Inactive Time: 13-20 hours

Bake Time: 40-50 minutes

Tools Needed: Food scale, small pot, large bowl, spoon, plastic dough scraper, parchment paper, loaf pan, rolling pin, serrated bread knife


For The Starter:

15 grams sourdough starter (1 tablespoon) or 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
110 grams water (1/2 cup)
110 grams all-purpose flour (3/4 cup)

For The Dough:

130 grams milk (5 tablespoons)
70 grams warm water, divided (1/4 cup plus 31/2 tablespoons)
5 grams white cane sugar (1 teaspoon)

For The Filling:

30 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature (2 tablespoons)
125 grams mozzarella cheese, grated, plus more for topping (11/2 cups, loosely filled) 25 grams Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more for topping (1/2 cup, loosely filled)
6 grams fresh chives, minced (2 tablespoons)
2 grams fresh rosemary, minced (1 teaspoon)
2 grams fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, minced (1 teaspoon)


1. MAKE THE STARTER: About 8 to 12 hours before mixing your dough, combine the starter or yeast, water, and flour in a bowl. Mix well, cover, and leave at room temperature to allow the yeast to activate. It will become bubbly and double in volume.

2. WARM THE MILK: Heat the milk until it reaches a temperature of 115 °F (46 °C) to 120 °F (49 °C).

3. WEIGH THE INGREDIENTS: Making sure to tare your mixing bowl on the scale after addition, combine 110 grams of warm milk, 60 grams of warm water, the sugar, and the instant yeast. Allow the yeast to dissolve. Add the butter, 200 grams of starter, the all-purpose flour, and the whole-wheat flour.

4. MIX: Mix the ingredients together until a shaggy dough is formed, then add the salt and the remaining 10 grams of water. Mix to combine.

5. KNEAD: Turn the dough out and knead for 10 to 15 minutes by hand or 3 to 8 minutes on low speed in a stand mixer, until the dough is smooth, is no longer sticky, and releases easily from the bowl or work surface.

6. BULK FERMENT: Cover the dough and allow to ferment for 1.5 to 2 hours, until doubled in volume.

7. PREPARE THE LOAF PAN: Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.

8. SHAPE: On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough with a rolling pin into an 11-by-18-inch rectangle. Spread the butter over the dough with a spatula until completely covered. Evenly sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the butter, then sprinkle the chives, rosemary, and parsley evenly over the cheeses. Starting at the short end, roll the dough up into a log. The final rolled dough will have lots of spiraled layers and will be 11 inches wide. Use a bread knife to cut through the log from end to end, splitting it in half longways. The lines of rolled dough, cheese, and herbs will show inside the cut. Carefully intertwine the two pieces two or three times, making sure that the layers of dough, cheese, and herbs face up. Handle the dough gently to help prevent the cheese and herbs from falling out. Carefully transfer the twisted dough into the parchment paper–lined loaf pan with the exposed layers facing up. Add extra mozzarella and Parmesan cheese to the top, if desired.

9. PROOF: Cover and proof in a warm place for 45 to 60 minutes, until the layers appear puffy.

10. PREHEAT: Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C).

11. BAKE: Place the proofed babka in the preheated oven. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the top has a golden, toasted look.

12. COOL: Let cool for at least 20 minutes.

TIP: Fresh herbs can be substituted depending on preference and availability.

Excerpt from Celebrate with Bread Baking: Essential Recipes for Special Occasions, by Jenny Prior, published by Rockridge Press. Copyright © 2020 by Callisto Media, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Photo: Laura Flippen

About Celebrate With Bread Baking

There are dozens of holidays and special occasions across the world that are honoured with bread – and creating your own beautifully baked, golden loaf is a wonderful way to honour your culture and community and share a tradition passed down through generations. This bread cookbook has everything you need to celebrate your favourite holidays and biggest milestones – and bring everyone together with a slice of homemade bread.

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