My Italian husband was reading an online article that mentioned babka, an Eastern Europe spongy, brioche-like cake from my mother’s homeland Poland. He asked me, what is babka? I was taken back a bit with the notion that someone in my family didn’t know what babka was. Wasn’t it the butt of joke on old episodes of Seinfeld? How did he not know?? So I took it upon myself to educate him on the traditional sweet cake that has been a part of my life since childhood.
The style I was brought up on looked similar to this.
However I have come across many variations over the years and thought I’d share some with you.
I guess some of the more traditional style would start with chocolate babka (that’s what the Seinfeld episode was all about!).
(Courtesy of Epicurious)
- 3/4 cup warm milk (105–115°F)
- 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
- 3 teaspoons active dry yeast (from two 1/4-oz packages)
- 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
- 2 whole large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
For egg wash
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk
For chocolate filling
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, well softened
- 2 (3 ½ – to 4-oz) bars fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
- 1/4 cup sugar
Special equipment: a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment; 2 (8 ¾ – by 4 ½ by 2 ¾ -inch) loaf pans; parchment paper
- Stir together warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in bowl of mixer. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
- Add 1/2 cup flour to yeast mixture and beat at medium speed until combined. Add whole eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low, then mix in remaining 2 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium, then beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to beat until dough is shiny and forms strands from paddle to bowl, about 4 minutes. (Dough will be very soft and sticky.)
- Scrape dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Assemble babkas with filling:
- Line each loaf pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper (1 lengthwise and 1 crosswise).
- Punch down dough with a lightly oiled rubber spatula, then halve dough. Roll out 1 piece of dough on a well-floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into an 18- by 10-inch rectangle and arrange with a long side nearest you.
- Beat together yolk and cream. Spread 2 1/2 tablespoons softened butter on dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Brush some of egg wash on long border nearest you.
- Sprinkle half of chocolate evenly over buttered dough, then sprinkle with half of sugar (2 tablespoons). Starting with long side farthest from you, roll dough into a snug log, pinching firmly along egg-washed seam to seal. Bring ends of log together to form a ring, pinching to seal. Twist entire ring twice to form a double figure 8 and fit into one of lined loaf pans.
- Make another babka with remaining dough, some of egg wash, and remaining butter and chocolate in same manner. Chill remaining egg wash, covered, to use later. Loosely cover pans with buttered plastic wrap (buttered side down) and let babkas rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until dough reaches top of pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Alternatively, let dough rise in pans in refrigerator 8 to 12 hours; bring to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours, before baking.)
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
- Brush tops of dough with remaining egg wash. Bake until tops are deep golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped (when loaves are removed from pans), about 40 minutes. Transfer loaves to a rack and cool to room temperature.
Sour Cream Babka
(Courtesy of My Recipes)
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoon amaretto (almond-flavored liqueur)
- 1 cup evaporated fat-free milk
- 1 (8-ounce) carton low-fat sour cream
- 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- Cooking spray
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup evaporated fat-free milk
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- To prepare dough, combine cranberries and amaretto in a small bowl; set aside. Heat milk over medium-high heat in a small, heavy saucepan to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Remove from heat; stir in sour cream. Cool to room temperature.
- Dissolve yeast in warm water, and let stand 5 minutes. Place 1/2 cup granulated sugar, eggs, and egg yolks in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until thick and pale (about 2 minutes). Add milk mixture, yeast mixture, 1 teaspoon almond extract, and salt; beat until well blended.
- Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 5 1/2 cups flour to egg mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).
- Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 10 minutes.
- Coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; dust with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Knead cranberry mixture, raisins, and almonds into dough. With floured hands, pat dough into an 8-inch circle. Form a 2-inch hole in center of dough; place dough in prepared pan, allowing center of Bundt pan to emerge through hole in dough. Gently press the dough into pan. Lightly coat top of dough with cooking spray; cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Uncover dough. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack.
- To prepare icing, combine powdered sugar, 1/4 cup milk, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, stirring with a whisk. Remove babka from pan, and place on a serving platter. Drizzle with icing; cool completely.
(Courtesy of Martha Stewart)
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for bowl
- 2 envelopes (2 tablespoons) dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 4 large eggs
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Zest of 2 oranges
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur
- 9 cups sifted unbleached flour, plus more for work surface
- 1 cup slivered almonds, chopped
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (optional)
- 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar mixed with 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 teaspoon water, for glaze
- In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, scald milk. Add butter and stir until melted. Remove pan from heat and let mixture cool to lukewarm.
- In a small bowl, stir yeast into warm water; let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, or until foamy.
- In a large bowl, beat eggs, yolks, and sugar until thick. Add salt, zests, vanilla, and liqueur. Stir to combine. Stir in milk mixture, then yeast.
- Add flour, a cupful at a time, until dough is moist but not sticky, mixing with a wooden spoon or your hands. Stir in almonds and raisins.
- Knead dough on a floured board, adding more flour if dough is too sticky, until dough comes away from your hands, about 6 minutes. Place dough in a very large buttered bowl.
- Cover dough with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down and let rise again until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 9- or 10-inch kugelhopf or angel-food cake pans. Sprinkle pans with a tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar, if desired. Divide dough into 3 portions; arrange in pans and cover loosely. Let dough rise to tops of pans, about 30 minutes.
- Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until cakes are golden brown and tops make a hollow sound when tapped with knuckles. Cool for 5 minutes in pans; turn out onto racks and cool for 20 minutes more.
- Spoon glaze onto babka, allowing it to drip over sides.
Polish Rum-Soaked Babka
(Courtesy of About.com)
- 1 cup warm milk (no hotter than 110 degrees)
- 2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- Pinch salt
- 11 tablespoons (1 stick + 3 tablespoons) melted and cooled butter
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup water
- 7 ounces / 200 g superfine sugar
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup dark rum
- To make the sponge: Heat the milk. Add yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and mix with a fork. Set aside in a warm place to become foamy, about 15 minutes.
- To make the batter: In a separate bowl, whip together eggs, 1 cup sugar and pinch of salt for about 3 minutes. Add the melted and cooled butter and yeast mixture, combining well. Add 2 3/4 cups flour and, using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or the regular beaters on a hand-held mixer, beat until well combined, about 5 minutes. The dough will be loose. Scrape down the sides. Cover and let rise in the same bowl in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- To bake: Place rack in middle of oven and heat to 325 degrees. Coat a large babka pan or 10-inch Bundt pan (or 2 smaller pans) with cooking spray and fill with batter. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes. Bake 30 minutes. Allow to cool 15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the rum syrup: Boil 1 cup water with superfine sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. When sugar is completely dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the rum. Poke holes all over the cake with a toothpick and saturate the cake with the rum syrup. Decorate with jelly beans or other candy Easter eggs.
(Courtesy of Country Living)
- 1 envelope(s) Dry Active Yeast
- 1/2 cup(s) Warm Milk
- 1 tablespoon(s) Warm Milk
- 1 teaspoon(s) Sugar
- 1/3 cup(s) Sugar, plus more for sprinkling
- 2 stick(s) Unsalted Butter, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon(s) Salt
- 1/8 teaspoon(s) Salt
- 4 Eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup(s) Sour Cream
- 4 cup(s) All-Purpose Flour
- 1 cup(s) Dried Cherries
- 1 1/2 cup(s) Slivered Almonds, toasted
- 1/2 cup(s) Light Brown Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon(s) Vanilla Extract
- 1/4 teaspoon(s) Almond Extract
- Stir yeast, 1/2 cup milk, and 1 teaspoon sugar together and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, beat 1 stick butter with remaining 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt until creamy. Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, followed by yeast mixture and sour cream. Add flour by cup (using either a heavy-duty mixer with bread hook, or by hand with a wooden spoon), until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until silky and smooth. Transfer to a buttered bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap over dough surface, and let rise until doubled in bulk.
- To make the filling, cover dried cherries, if hard, with hot water until softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry and set aside. Finely grind almonds and set aside. Cream remaining 1 stick butter and light brown sugar until smooth, then add an egg, vanilla, almond extract, and ground almonds. Set aside.
- Punch down dough, then roll it into a rectangle approximately 12 by 24 inches. Spread on almond filling, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border, scatter with cherries, and roll dough up into a tight log. Transfer to a lightly buttered cookie sheet and form into a crescent. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Beat remaining egg, 1tablespoon milk, and 1/8 teaspoon salt together. Lightly brush dough with mixture, sprinkle generously with sugar, and bake on middle rack until golden brown and cooked through, about 1 hour. (If babka starts to get too dark while baking, cover it loosely with foil.) Remove from oven and cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve warm.
(Courtesy of Food Network)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 envelope yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 ½ to 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Butter or vegetable oil or spray, for bowl
- 1/4 pound unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 cup toasted and chopped hazelnuts
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup hazelnut liqueur
- 1/2 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
- Make the sponge by mixing ingredients in bowl and letting sit for 1/2 hour.
- In a standing mixer, fitted with a dough hook, add the sponge. Add in the flour, egg, egg yolks, salt, and sugar. Add any additional flour to make smooth dough. Place in oiled bowl, cover and set aside until doubled in volume. Punch down and let rise (covered) again.
- Punch down and roll out into a rough triangular shape that is about 1 1/2 feet and 1/2-inch thick. Paint with melted butter. Mix together sugar, cinnamon and hazelnuts. Sprinkle on. Roll up and press into well-buttered bundt pan. Let rise until doubled.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool then remove from pan. Cook together butter, sugar, honey, and liqueur. Paint on top. Sprinkle with nuts.