Poppy Seed and Apricot Babka

Ever since I tasted grey poppy seeds in Austria (a specialty from an area called Waldviertel) they are my favorite kind but but they are hard to find; black poppy seeds work just as well. Poppy seeds turn rancid very quickly so grind them just before using, unless you have a source for freshly ground poppy seeds. Use only high-quality, soft dried apricots. Blenheim apricots which are grown in California are hands-down the best.

Prep Time:
1 hr
Cook Time:
50 mins
Additional Time:
2 hrs 55 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs 45 mins
1 babka



  • cup poppy seeds

  • ½ cup whole almonds with skins

  • ½ cup milk

  • ¼ cup white sugar

  • 1 cup dried pitted apricots

  • 3 pods cardamom, ground

  • 4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened

  • 2 tablespoons white sugar

  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  • ½ cup milk

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1 large egg

  • 3 tablespoons white sugar

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 2 medium dried pitted apricots

  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream, or as needed

  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds, or to taste


  1. Finely grind the poppy seeds for filling using a coffee grinder.

  2. Toast the almonds in a non-greased frying pan over medium-low heat until they are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Let cool, about 5 minutes. Reserve about 1 dozen for the topping and finely grind the rest in a food processor.

  3. Combine ground poppy seeds, ground almonds, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/4 cup sugar in a saucepan. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring often. Cook until it starts to thicken, about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Stir in apricots and cardamom and let cool, then refrigerate until using.

  4. Whisk cream cheese, 2 tablespoons sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla together in a bowl until smooth. Refrigerate until using.

  5. Make the yeast dough: Heat milk and and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in yeast and let stand until it becomes frothy, about 5 minutes.

  6. Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add egg, sugar, vanilla, and yeast mixture. Knead for 4 to 5 minutes on low speed, until the dough is elastic and detaches from the bowl.

  7. Drizzle with a little vegetable oil and turn the dough over so it is lightly oiled all around. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and a large plate and let rise in a warm place for 60 to 90 minutes.

  8. Punch down the dough and roll it out on a silicone baking mat to a square about 1/4 inch thick. Evenly spread with cream cheese mixture and leave 2 inches free at the far end. Spread with an even layer of the poppy seed filling. Roll it up tightly using the baking mat, and fold in the two sides as you go. Pinch the seems together with your fingertips to seal. Place the roll on a large plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm it up.

  9. Place the roll on a large cutting board and cut it in half lengthwise with a sharp, large knife, dipping it in warm water a few times so the filling won't stick.

  10. Gently separate the roll into two strands. With the cut sides inwards, twist the two strands around each other. Seal the ends by pinching with your fingertips. Grease a loaf pan and line with parchment. Place the babka in the pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until visibly risen, 60 to 75 minutes.

  11. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coarsely chop the remaining almonds. Cut apricots into thick strips.

  12. Brush the dough parts with heavy cream. Place the apricot strips along the seams and sprinkle the dough parts with almonds and poppy seeds.

  13. Bake on the center rack of the preheated oven until nicely browned, 40 to 50 minutes. If the top browns before the time is up, cover it with a large sheet of parchment paper. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Gently unmold onto a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

310 Calories
16g Fat
37g Carbs
7g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 12
Calories 310
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 16g 20%
Saturated Fat 7g 35%
Cholesterol 45mg 15%
Sodium 144mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 37g 13%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Total Sugars 18g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 137mg 11%
Iron 2mg 13%
Potassium 306mg 7%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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