Polish Babka

Wesołego Alleluja, errbody!  Easter is upon us, and that means TREATS.  Now, you may not be able to tell (mainly because my enormous dome is never in pictures on the blog) but I am rather Polish.  To the point where hats don’t fit, and my brother suffers the same fate.  The Polish-American struggle is very, very real.  Now, Easter traditions in my family are…slightly different from what most people would consider traditional.  Easter for me always means at least 3 things – kielbasa and sauerkraut, and a viewing of Jesus Christ Superstar.  Occasionally if we were lucky we also got babka.  It’s a traditional Polish bread eaten at Easter and Christmas, usually.

Now, there are two kinds of babka – the Jewish version, which is more or less a braided coffee cake (and also delicious), and the Polish version, which is a sweet bread with golden raisins and (if you’re #blessed) brown sugar on top.  My paternal grandma always made it with brown sugar, and the goal was to get the slice with the most brown sugar on it because duh, sugar for breakfast.

And now it’s my turn!  Fiancébot and I will be getting married in ohhhh 3 WEEKS, CASUAL and he’s already had to sit through several viewings of JCSS – luckily, he enjoys a good musical and can really get down with Ted Neeley’s falsetto.  I’ve never made babka before, but I figured now is as good a time as any to start making it so eventually I will be able to make it from memory and be one of those mystical baking people that knows bread recipes by heart.  So, basically a grandma.

Onward!

Babka

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Difficulty: medium-hard
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6-7 cups AP flour (enough for a soft dough, you may need to add more)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (between 104 and 115°F)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 lb (4 oz.) butter
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs, beaten

    IMG_3136
    Don’t start this recipe at 6 pm…word of advice.

OPTIONAL:

  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a small saucepan, heat milk until warm.  Add the butter and heat until butter has melted completelyIMG_3168

    IMG_3172
    A little before and after action – literally buttered milk

     

  2. Pour the butter and milk mixture into a large bowl (such as the bowl to a stand mixer) and stir in the salt and sugar.  Let it cool until it is lukewarm.

    IMG_3169
    Lil action photog for ya.

     

  3. Stir the yeast into the warm water until it is dissolved and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

    IMG_3171
    Laser thermometer is bae

    IMG_3174
    You’re literally making yeast water.

    IMG_3175
    It will smell like it.

     

  4. Add the yeast and water to the milk mixture

    IMG_3173
    It will also smell weird.

     

  5. Stir in  the eggs and vanilla, then gradually start adding flour until you are able to start kneading.  If you knead by hand, it will take 30-45 minutes, but if you knead with a stand mixer it will take 15-20 minutes.  Once the dough no longer sticks to your hands, add the raisins and give it one final knead.

    IMG_3177
    Initial lumpy mess

    IMG_3178
    Magic, happening!

    IMG_3176
    Fear not a weirdly lumpy looking dough!

     

  6. Cover the bowl with a clean, dry towel and let the dough rise in a warm area without any drafts (like, I don’t know…a kitchen?) for an hour or until it has doubled in size.

    IMG_3181
    RISE, RISE!

     

  7. Punch the dough down and let it rise again, covered, for another hour.

    IMG_3195
    Falcon punched dough

    IMG_3193
    After another hour of rising! Movin’ on up.

     

  8. Separate the dough into halves, and place it into a.) 2 greased and floured 9×5 inch loaf pans b.) one round bundt pan without a tube or c.) mini loaf pans.  I did a combination of a and c because hey, kitchen toys!
  9. Whisk together 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of water and brush it over the tops of the bread.  Let the bread rise again, this time uncovered, until doubled, about 30-40 minutes.

    IMG_3191
    I promise, the waiting is almost over!

     

  10. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  If you are using the brown sugar topping, at this point mix together the 3 ingredients and sprinkle it over the top of your risen loaves

    IMG_3190
    You might think aw man, that doesn’t even look like bread, what did I just spend the last 3 hours doing?? Relax.  I got you.

     

  11. Let the loaves cook for 20-25 minutes for mini loaves, 30-35 for loaf pans or 40-50 for a large pan until the bread is golden and it sounds hollow if tapped on the bottom.

    IMG_3188
    SWEET MOTHER OF BREAD!

     

  12. Let the bread sit for 5 minutes in the pans, and remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.  Serve once cooled completely – I like it toasted slightly with a little bit of butter.

    IMG_3189
    Ta-Da!

There you have it, folks!  A LOT of time spent in the kitchen, but for an excellent payoff.  Babka is sweet, but can be used for so many different things including, methinks, French toast.  In a word?  Niesamowite.

-Nicole

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