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Lemon Poppyseed Babka

Updated: May 19, 2023

There is this one salad at Portillo's (one of the local Hot Dog chains in Chicago) that is a spinach salad with chicken, strawberries, oranges, and poppyseed dressing. They only release it during the summer and it leaves the menu as soon as the first cool fall day hits.

I am not normally a fan of salads with fruit in it, or of anything that has too many poppyseeds, but something about this salad just gets everything right!

This lemon and poppyseed babka makes me think of those Chicago summer days. The bright and acidic lemon balances perfectly with the tender sweet babka dough while the poppyseeds provide the perfect crunch!


½ Cup milk, warmed

2 ½ Teaspoons instant yeast

1 Egg

1 Egg yolk

¼ Cup sugar

½ Teaspoon kosher salt

2 Cups flour

1 Teaspoon lemon zest

7 Tablespoons butter at room temperature


3/4 Cup poppyseeds

1 Egg white

2 Tablespoons melted butter, salted

1/2 Cup brown sugar

1/2 Teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons lemon zest

Whisk egg, egg yolk, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until smooth and slightly pale in color. Whisk in warmed milk and yeast until combined.


Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix in the flour and lemon zest until almost fully mixed. Add butter about 1 tablespoon at a time (make sure it’s at room temperature!) and mix until incorporated. The dough should be smooth and slightly sticky.


Turn out the dough and knead for just a few minutes until very smooth. Transfer to a greased bowl and let rise for 1 ½ - 2 hours until doubled.


Prepare the poppyseed filling by combining all of the ingredients in a bowl. Mix until combined.


Once the dough is done proofing, place on a floured surface and roll into a large rectangle. The dough should be as thin as you can get it. This ensures the most swirls inside the bread.


Using an offset spatula spread the filling over the dough in a thin layer. Starting on the edge closest to you begin to tightly roll the dough away from you until you run out of dough and are left with a log of dough. Pinch the ends together to ensure no filling leaks out while baking.


Fold in half and twist together to form a log.


Place the twisted babka in a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Allow to rise for another half an hour.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake for 35-45 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing.

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