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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: Beautiful Babka

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Beautiful Babka

I thought I'd stick with my theme of ethnic cuisine and visit another recipe I tried this past weekend, for the very first time.

I have always been a great lover of babka.  Babka is very light bread, generally made with several to many egg yolks depending on which recipe you're following, which may or may not be filled with dried fruit and/or sweet cheese.

Some recipes call for up to 15 egg yolks.  I have an idea.  Just punch me in the chest and save me the time, because that's pretty much what will happen to my heart if I eat anything with that many egg yolks at once.

What I didn't know until recently is that there's a "Jewish" babka and a "Polish" babka.  I made the Polish variety for obvious reasons.  Namely...I'm Polish.  Come to think of it I'm sure there's a bunch more varieties depending on which corner of Europe you visit...

I adapted this recipe from one I found on Recipezaar.  There were a few elements which I knew I could do without - namely the addition of saffron, lemon flavoring and zest, and various fruits other than raisins.

Here's how the babka went down...

The first thing to do is to scald (heat to juuuust below boiling) 1 cup of milk, and allow it to cool to lukewarm.  This will take a little while so you might just wanna do this in advance.  In the meantime you can also allow your butter and egg yolks to come to room temperature.

When it's time to get the party started, dissolve a .25 oz packet of yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water.  Incidentally, I am finding that I'm getting better at gauging the correct temperature of water for this without a thermometer (because I broke mine - there, I said it).  It needs to be just around 110 degrees, any hotter and you'll kill the yeast.

While waiting for the yeast to bloom, cream together 10 tablespoons of softened butter and 1/2 cup of sugar.

Then take 4 room temperature egg yolks and add 1 teaspoon of salt, and beat them up with either a whisk or a fork until they get thicker.

That's three bowls of stuff happening at once.  You following so far?

Add your egg yolks to the butter/sugar creaminess and mix them in.

Add your yeast and water, which by this time have become beautiful and foamy, to the mix.

Add 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.

Then it's time to alternately add 5 cups of flour and your cup of lukewarm milk to the bowl.

Once everything has been beaten smooth, toss in 1 cup of golden raisins and mix them in as well.  This is, of course, where a stand mixer with a dough hook comes in handy.  Otherwise you could knead them in by hand - either way, work the dough until it is nice and smooth.

Now you need to cover the dough and leave it in a warm place for 1 to 1/2 hours.  I found that within 1 hour the dough had *almost* doubled in size, and being short on time that was good enough for me.  So I punched it down and let it rise for yet another hour.

Once that second hour was up, I made my cream cheese filling.  Mmmmmmm......

It's very simple.  You mix together 12 ounces of room temperature cream cheese, 1 egg yolk and 1/3 cup of sugar until they're all creamy and wonderful.

Now comes the sliiiiightly tricky part, and it's not even all that tricky.  You need to divide the dough in half (after you've punched it down a second time).  I used a cake pan to bake the babka in, so the first half went into the bottom of the pan just so I could get a feel for the size.  Remember that this is going to rise again, too, so leaving a tad bit of room around the edges would not be a bad idea.

Can you tell that I didn't do that?

Anyway, dump that dough out onto your work surface and spread the cream cheese filling on top.  Then repeat the sizing process with the other half of the dough.  What you want to do is make a sandwich, basically, and seal the edges as best you can so the cheese doesn't ooze out.

Because you really wanna be able to enjoy all of it.  Trust me.

Then put the entire dough-cream cheese sandwich back into the cake pan and let it rise for, you guessed it, another hour.  Honestly, I didn't think mine rose very much the last time and I was really depressed - all that work, all that time.  But I figured what the heck, might as well see it through.

Just before putting it in the 350 degree oven, brush the top with an egg yolk mixed with a splash of water.  It makes the end product all glisteny and wonderful.

The into your 350 degree oven it goes for 45 - 60 minutes.  Mine was ready in 50.

And look what happened to it!

Amazing! And to think I was all but ready to throw in the towel!

Here's another angle:

I love how it got all cracked and interesting looking.

Let me warn you, though: You need to GENEROUSLY butter your pan prior to baking this.  I had a heck of a time getting in out - again, leave a bit of room for that third rise!!

The taste? Like cinnamon raisin bread, but lighter, with a sweet cheese filling.  It was moist, it was flavorful, it was decadent.  And as of the typing of this last line...

It's all gone.  *wipes crumbs from mouth*

You have to give this a shot.  Seriously, it's just too good to not be experienced.


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Anonymous redkathy said...

Jen this sounds fabulous! You know I've tried a few recipes from Recipezaar and each recipe seemed to be missing something. Looks like you found a good one!

April 7, 2010 at 12:58 AM

Blogger A Year on the Grill said...

Jen, I am making bread as we speak (making comments while bread is fermenting is my favorite time). This is so spectacular!!! Love the idea of cream cheese filling. I am new to bread baking (3 months), and am fascinated everytime I see the first rise. Will be saving this, and hope to make it soon

Loving your blog!

April 7, 2010 at 11:12 AM

Anonymous Courtney said...

Jen, thanks for your comment on Pizzazzerie, I LOVE your blog! cream cheese filling? holy yum. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

April 7, 2010 at 12:17 PM

Blogger Jessica said...

Love, love, love the food! We're always looking for interesting recipes, I'll be browsing here for some good ones, thanks!

From a SITSta!

April 7, 2010 at 1:07 PM

Blogger Mama Llama said...

YUM! though I cannot even fathom making anything with so many steps/ingredients these days. (unless I have the recipe memorized) having to think while cooking is not possible with my 3 little llamas...or i am bound to make a BIG blunder. Thanks for stopping by Little Llamas today!

April 7, 2010 at 3:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jen, I just can't have too much bread. Ever. Delish!

April 7, 2010 at 3:35 PM

Anonymous Megan (Best of Fates) said...

I've never heard of babka, but it looks/sounds delicious!

April 7, 2010 at 4:34 PM

Blogger alicia said...

This looks beautiful. Does it taste as good as it looks? I wish I had the patience for such things. I'm working on it though. Thanks for stopping by my blog. SITS is amazing!!

April 7, 2010 at 5:24 PM

Anonymous Deana Birks said...

First of all, thanks for stopping by my blog earlier, Jen.

That looks so yummy! I am a little scared of breads. I mean, I like to bake, but I've had a few brick loaves in my time and I've had a few loaves that were wet in the middle. And it makes me a little nervous to try again. But if I were going to make a bread, I would try this. I'm going to bookmark it in Delicious.

April 7, 2010 at 8:21 PM

Blogger Kathleen said...

Looks good! DH is Ukrainian so he makes it every Easter. I love the Cheese Babka!

April 9, 2010 at 2:43 PM

Blogger Jerri said...

Looks delicious! Thanks for linking up for Friday Favorites!

April 13, 2010 at 11:05 PM


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