Rich, buttery brioche bread with swirling ribbons of caramel sauce and crunchy pecans throughout makes this Caramel Brioche Babka Wreath a thing of beauty. Soft, light, sweet, gooey, crunchy, it has it all. Perfect for every occasion!
Made with an enriched yeasted dough, brioche forms the backbone of this beautiful babka wreath. I've written all about how to make brioche dough in my Brioche Bread guide as I desperately want to debunk the myth that it's hard to make.
Yes, it's time-consuming, but you'll find that most of the time is hands-off time with the dough rising or baking. You can even split the process over two days to make it easier for you.
With the confidence I give you, you'll be able to make this impressive-looking babka brioche and wow your family and friends. The caramel swirls throughout add the perfect sweetness along with the crunchy pecans providing nuttiness.
❓What is Babka Brioche?
Babka originates from the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, predominantly Poland, and Ukraine. It's a cross between bread and a cake and its Slavic origins derive from an 'Easter' bread that all grandmothers would make.
It's also popular in Israel where babka is made using challah dough, also known as an enriched yeasted bread.
Its made with a yeasted dough that's then rolled out, layered with a sweet or savoury filling such as chocolate, cinnamon, fruit, or cheese, rolled, sliced, and then braided and baked in a loaf tin so that you can see all the beautiful layers of the dough.
In our recipe today, we're using brioche dough, which is a sweetened enriched dough to make this brioche babka. Rather than making loaves, we're shaping the babka into an eye-catching, beautiful wreath!
🌟 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Uses basic ingredients. There's nothing out of the ordinary in this ingredients list. All are basic ingredients you'll find in your pantry or local grocery store.
- Tastes unreal. The brioche is rich, buttery, and ever so soft, the caramel is perfectly sweet ribboned through the dough, and the pecans provide the perfect crunch.
- Can be made into two loaves rather than a wreath. I'll give you notes on how to make this simple change.
- I'll guide you through the recipe. You may feel intimidated by the look of this recipe, but with my process images, st-by-step instructions, and useful tips, I'm giving you all the confidence to succeed.
- Can make it overnight. Imagine waking up to homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Dreamy right?! I give you instructions to do just that.
🧾 Ingredients Needed
Whilst the ingredients may be simple, there are a couple of pointers worth noting below.
The Brioche Dough
- Active dry yeast. This recipe calls for active dry yeast, so you must follow the steps to activate it by soaking it as per the instructions. If you don't, you'll have little yeast balls in the dough, and the dough won't rise. Also worth mentioning is that if the yeast doesn't bubble, then it means that it's expired.
- Flour. Use plain (all-purpose) flour in this recipe. The yeast provides the lift so that we don't need a leavening agent like baking powder found in self-raising flour.
- Eggs. Brioche dough wouldn't be enriched without the eggs and butter. Ensure the eggs are at room temperature (placing them for ten minutes in warm water will do the trick).
- Butter should be unsalted as I like to control the amount of salt in my recipes. There is lots of lovely butter in this recipe - hence the reputation for being a rich, melt-in-your-mouth dough, so buy the best quality that you can.
- Vanilla bean paste. This adds flavour and sweetness. I use the paste as I find the flavour more intense and love seeing the flecks in the dough, but vanilla extract is fine to use too.
The Caramel Sauce
I prefer to make my own caramel sauce and have a whole post dedicated to Salted Caramel Sauce as I find the flavour is unrivalled to store-bought.
However, I fully understand that sometimes homemade is not an option. Use the best quality store-bought sauce that you can find.
- Butter and Cream. Unsalted butter and full-fat cream are what I prefer for my homemade caramel sauce to provide taste and richness. Make sure both are at room temperature, otherwise your caramel will split.
- Pecans. If you can, toast them before chopping them up finely. This accentuates the nutty flavour. Simply lay them on a baking tray and toast in a 180C/350F oven for 7-10 minutes until they smell nutty and are lightly browned.
Substitute for any other nut you prefer such as walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds.
- Chocolate Nutella Brioche Babka: Substitute the caramel for Nutella and pecans for hazelnuts. You'll have real Ferrero Rocher vibes!
- Espresso Caramel Brioche Babka: Add Espresso Powder into the caramel, as I've done in my Espresso Millionaires Shortbread Recipe. This makes the perfect breakfast recipe!
- Strawberry Brioche Babka: Using the same concept as my Strawberry Scrolls, Fill the Brioche dough with strawberry jam. (Chopped almonds instead of pecans is a good substitute.) After baking, brush the outside with melted butter and sprinkle strawberry sugar over the whole top!
- Cinnamon Brioche Babka: Turn your much-loved Cinnamon Rolls into a wreath. Fill with the brown sugar cinnamon filling and once baked, spoon brown butter cream cheese frosting whilst it's still warm. Goodness me, this would be amazing!
👩🏻🍳 How to Make
I've made this an overnight babka recipe and the timeline looks like this:
- Day 1 (late afternoon/early evening): Make the dough, overnight first rise, and make the caramel.
- Day 2 (morning): Shape and fill the dough, the second rise, then bake.
However, if you'd prefer to make it all in the same day, then I've got notes in this section on how to do that.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
Make The Brioche Dough
I recommend casting your eye over my post for brioche bread as we use the same dough to make this brioche babka. That post goes into more detail about making the dough which may prove useful to you.
STEP 1: Activate yeast and mix in dry then wet ingredients (minus the butter). Add the yeast to half the milk and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Leave for 15 minutes until bubbly (Image 1). Add flour, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough attachment and mix.
Add yeast mixture, eggs, and milk and mix together until a dough forms (Image 2).
STEP 2. Add the butter. Whilst beating on medium speed, add the butter, one tablespoon at a time (Image 3). Beat until well incorporated before adding the next tablespoon. Once fully added, beat for 10-15 minutes until the dough forms a tornado around the dough hook attachment and pulls away from the side of the bowl (Image 4)
TIP: The window pane test
This is how you'll know if the dough is ready.
Roll a small ball of dough and then using oiled fingers and thumbs, stretch the dough apart. If you can see the light through it without it tearing, it's' perfect. If it tears, then carry on kneading in the mixer and try again.
STEP 3: Place in a bowl and refrigerate for the first rise. Knead the dough a couple of times on a lightly oiled surface and form into a ball. It should be shiny, elastic, and strong. Place in an oiled bowl (Image 5), and cover with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate overnight (Image 6). In the morning the dough will have doubled in size. (Note: use a bigger bowl than mine in the photo above- I used it so that you could see how much the dough will rise).
TIP: Why do an overnight cold proof?
- Firstly it helps the flavour develop.
- Secondly, if doing the first rise at room temperature, once you've punched down the dough, filled it, rolled it, and come to cut and braid it, it's super soft. And trying to work with soft dough makes for one red hot mess. Cold dough is far easier to work with and shape into the wreath.
NOTE: If you prefer to make the brioche babka wreath so that it's fresh from the oven at, for example, 3.45 pm in the afternoon, then here's what I would do:
- 10.30 am Make the dough.
- 10.45 am Cover and refrigerate the dough for the first rise (cold-proof). Make the caramel and let it cool to room temperature then refrigerate until needed. Toast pecans.
- 1.45 pm Punch down dough, roll out, fill with caramel and pecans, roll, cut, braid and shape.
- 2.00 pm Second rise in a warm spot (could take 1.5 hours)
- 3.00 pm Bake
- 3.45 pm Serve warm Caramel Brioche Babka Wreath
Make the Caramel Sauce
STEP 4. Melt sugar in a heavy-based saucepan. Stirring continuously, heat the sugar on low heat, in a large saucepan until it starts to melt (Images 6.1)
Stop stirring once all the clumps have melted and continue to swirl the golden sugar in the pan as it continues to cook and turn lovely and golden brown (Image 6.2). Keep an eagle eye on it at this point so that it doesn't burn.
STEP 5. Add in butter, then cream. Remove the pan from the heat and add in butter (Image 6.3). It will bubble up, but keep stirring back on the heat until fully melted. Add in cream and whisk until fully combined (Image 6.4). Keep on the heat, stirring all the time until the caramel thickens. Then remove and stir in the vanilla bean paste.
Pour into a large bowl and bring to room temperature, then refrigerate until needed (Image 6.5).
STEP 6. Roll out the dough and fill. The next morning, remove the bowl from the fridge and punch down the dough. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a rectangle.
Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to approximately 30x48cm (12 x 18 inches). Cover the dough evenly with ¾ of the caramel sauce using an offset spatula (Image 7). Sprinkle on ¾ of the chopped pecans (Image 8).
STEP 7. Roll the dough. On the long edge, roll the dough up without pulling or stretching the dough (Image 9). Pinch the seam closed all the way along with your fingertips. (This stops the roll from unravelling once you've cut it (Image 10). Flip the roll over so the seam is on the underside.
STEP 8: Cut, braid and shape the dough. Using a sharp knife, leave a 2.5cm (1 inch) gap from the top, and slice the roll in half all the way down (Image 11). Turn both halves so the inside layers are facing up (Image 12).
Lift the right-sided strand over the left crossing it over the top (Image 13). Repeat this all the way down the strands to the bottom (Image 14).
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lift the braid onto the paper. Shape it into a circle and tuck the two ends into each other to create the wreath. Add an oiled glass into the centre. (Oiled- so the dough doesn't stick to it when you pull it out later)
TIP: Bake in a pan
As you can see in image 15, I've formed the dough on a baking tray where it will rise and then be baked like this. In all honesty, I actually prefer baking this in a pan. I usually do, but for my shoot, I baked it on a tray as I'd seen others doing the same. Whilst it baked beautifully and looked great, the caramel did leak out.
When baked in a pan (I recommend a 26cm/10-inch cake pan), lined with parchment paper, some caramel did seep out but was contained within the pan to create a gooey layer on the base!
STEP 9. Let the dough rise. Once on the tray or in a pan, place it in a warm place for 1 to 1.5 hours. Whisk the egg wash with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the dough, then sprinkle the remaining chopped pecans over the top.
STEP 10. Bake in preheated 170C (345F) oven for 25- 30 minutes until golden brown. Tent with aluminium halfway through if your brioche babka is browning too quickly (Images 18 & 19). Once baked, remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
🥣 How To Serve
This Caramel Brioche Babka has to be served warm. That's at its ultimate best!! Drizzle the remaining caramel sauce over the bread before serving. What you'll bite into is pure luxury!
The inside of the bread is like biting down it a cloud. Albeit a rich, buttery, flavoursome bread cloud. It's soft, light and sweet but only just. Pull it apart with your fingers to unearth the ribbons of caramel throughout and the suprise pockets of crunch from the pecans.
The outside, in contrast, is golden, crisp and crunchy. the perfect juxtaposition to the inside. Can you tell I love this Brioche Babka?! It's worth all the effort!!
💭 Recipe Pro Tips
- Use soft butter for the dough. It will incorporate into the dough much easier if soft. (Not melted though- that'll just result in a greasy dough!)
- Windowpane test. To ensure the dough has been kneaded enough in the mixer and the gluten has been developed enough, the windowpane test is a quick and easy trick!
- Check your dough has been proofed sufficiently. Under or over-proofing can ruin all your hard work. Simply push an indent into the dough with your finger and let the results tell.
- Ensure the caramel is at room temperature. As the caramel cools, it thickens up. This helps when spreading over the dough. If you need to refrigerate it to thicken up then do so.
- Eggwash the braid. Don't skip this part- it ensures that you'll get that signature golden colour on the outside once baked.
📋 Recipe FAQs
Whilst they are both egg-enriched bread, there are a couple of main differences. Challah is associated with many Jewish traditions, whereas Brioche stems from France. Challah also contains oil as its fat, whereas Brioche contains butter and lots of it!
Absolutely you can. With instant/dry yeast, it's ready for use the minute you open the packet. There's no activation needed prior to using it. So, in this recipe add the yeast into the dough at the same time as the flour.
It's best served warm alongside your favourite coffee of tea! You can re warm the babka brioche in the oven, or microwave a slice for a couple of seconds.
This recipe actually makes two loaves. After the overnight proof, punch the dough down, shape into a rectangle and cut the dough in half. Roll out one half, fill with caramel & pecans, roll, cut and braid as per the recipe. Place braid in a lined 2lb loaf tin tucking the ends under. Repeat with second portion of dough.
❄️ Storage and Freezer Instructions
To store: This Brioche Babka is best eaten on the same day at its freshest. But if you don't finish the wreath, then store it in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. Or refrigerate for up to one week.
To freeze: Wrap brioche babka tightly in plastic wrap and store it in a freezer-proof container. Freeze for up to two months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and ‘refresh’ the bread by warming it in the oven.
🍞 More Breakfast Recipes
If you tried this Caramel Brioche Babka Wreath recipe or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. I love hearing from you!
Caramel Brioche Babka Wreath Recipe
- 10 g active dry yeast
- 240 ml whole milk, lukewarm
- 65 g granulated sugar
- 545 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- 1½ teaspoon fine salt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
- 140 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 egg, whisked, for egg wash
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 200 g granulated sugar
- 80 g unsalted butter, finely chopped
- 180 ml double cream (heavy cream)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 120 g pecans, toasted, finely chopped
- Activate yeast and mix in dry then wet ingredients (minus the butter). Add the yeast, milk, and 1 tablespoon of sugar into a small bowl and mix well. Set to one side for 15 minutes until foamy.Add dry ingredients and mix. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the flour, remaining sugar, and salt. Quickly mix them together. Add wet ingredients (except the butter). Add the foaming yeast mixture, eggs, and vanilla bean paste and mix on low for 5 minutes until the dough comes together.
- Add butter and knead in the mixer. Add the butter gradually, whilst the mixer is running on medium, and once incorporated, turn the mixer up and knead for ten minutes. The dough should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl but have formed a ‘tornado’ around the dough hook. It should smooth and shiny and elastic when stretched.
- Knead by hand then cold proof. Tip the dough onto a lightly greased worktop and do the stretch and fold method. Pull each corner out and fold it back over itself into the center. Turn the dough over so that the seams are underneath and place the dough ball in a lightly greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
Make the Caramel Sauce
- Melt sugar in a heavy-based saucepan. Stirring continuously, heat the sugar on low heat, in a large saucepan until it starts to melt. Stop stirring once all the clumps have melted and continue to swirl the golden sugar in the pan as it continues to cook and turn lovely and golden brown. Keep an eagle eye on it at this point so that it doesn't burn.
- Add in butter, then cream. Remove the pan from the heat and add in butter. It will bubble up, but keep stirring back on the heat until fully melted. Add in cream and whisk until fully combined. Keep on the heat, stirring all the time until the caramel thickens. Then remove and stir in the vanilla bean paste.Pour into a bowl and bring to room temperature, then refrigerate until needed.
Shape and Fill the Dough
- Roll out the dough and fill. The next morning, remove the bowl from the fridge and punch down the dough. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a rectangle. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to approximately 30x48cm (12 x 18 inches). Cover the dough evenly with ¾ of the caramel sauce using an offset spatula. Sprinkle on ¾ of the chopped pecans.
- Roll up the dough. On the long edge, roll the dough up without pulling or stretching the dough. Pinch the seam closed all the way along with your fingertips. (This stops the roll from unravelling once you've cut it). Flip the roll over so the seam is on the underside.
- Cut, braid and shape the dough. Using a sharp knife, leave a 2.5cm (1 inch) gap from the top, and slice the roll in half all the way down. Turn both halves so the inside layers are facing up. (Images in blog post)Lift the right-sided strand over the left crossing it over the top. Repeat this all the way down the strands to the bottomLine a baking tray with parchment paper and lift the braid onto the paper. Shape it into a circle and tuck the two ends into each other to create the wreath. Add an oiled glass into the centre. (Oiled- so the dough doesn't stick to it when you pull it out later). Alternatively, place the dough ring in a lined high-sided cake pan (25cm/10 inch). It contains the dough more.
- Let the dough rise. Once on the tray or in a pan, place it in a warm place for 1 to 1.5 hours. Preheat your oven to 170°C (345°F). Whisk the egg wash with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the dough, then sprinkle the remaining chopped pecans over the top. Remove the glass.
- Bake in preheated oven for 25- 30 minutes until golden brown. Tent with aluminium halfway though if it's browning too quickly. Once baked, remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving with an extra drizzle of caramel.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.