Babka

by Cathy Pollak
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babkaBabka (cake) is a big part of my childhood memories.  If you don't know what babka is, I guess the best way to describe it is a very spongy, brioche-like yeast cake.  It's sweet and usually has a fruit filling such as golden raisins.  It's a very dense cake and the dough can be very finicky and easily over-mixed.

My grandmother and my mother always had a babka marathon leading up to Easter Sunday.  A recipe only makes a few loaves and it seemed 10 or 12 were always needed for family, friends and church bake sales.

Babka is definitely not for the novice baker.  It helps to make it a few times with someone who is used to working with the dough.  It's one of those doughs that benefits from a familiar touch of knowing when to stop mixing or to add more flour.

My mom had been using the same babka recipe for years, but recently we were treated to a babka made my friend's mother Sharon.  The babka was fantastic.  It was the perfect texture and sweetness and just really stood out as an excellent example of what a good Polish babka could be. 

There are so many versions of babka out there depending on your culture and even religion.  But this recipe is outstanding.  If you've eaten as many babka's as I have, you just know.  Take it from a babka expert...this is so good.

Of course we couldn't wait to recreate the recipe, which was passed to Sharon from her mother-in-law many years ago.  How lucky we are to have it and hopefully pass it on to the next generation.

Babka
From Sharon via her mother-in-law

Yeast dough:
1 cup whole milk
2 packages dry yeast
1-1/2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar

Scald milk, remove from heat and cool.  When cool, add yeast, flour and sugar.  Mix well and set aside.

Next part of dough:
1-1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup butter
12 egg yolks
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6-1/2 cups flour
1 cup golden raisins

Scald milk with butter. Set aside to cool.  In a large bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar until light and fluffy (use a kitchen aid mixer with a whisk attachment if you can).  Add salt and vanilla.  Add flour, 1 cup at a time, alternately with cooled milk-butter mixture (switch to dough hook).  After you have added 4 cups of flour, add the cooled milk-yeast mixture from earlier.  Add raisins.  Set a handful of dough aside for the topping.

Let the dough rise until double in size.  Punch down and put in 2 or 3 greased loaf pans (depending on size).  Add crumbled topping (recipe below) and rise again until double.  Bake at 350o for about 25-30 minutes.

Topping:
Handful of dough
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, room temperature

Hopefully many of you have been making babka and this recipe will give you something new to try.

- Recipe courtesy of Cathy Pollak

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