When I was really little, we would go to my grandparents house for Easter. At breakfast, they always had this really good bread called babka. I had forgotten all about it until a few years ago, when something triggered the memory. I went searching for some, but I could only find one bakery that had them and it was way more than I wanted to pay. Ever since, I’ve looked for them each year at Easter to no avail. This year, I decided I would just make my own already. A quick search of the internet showed me that this was easier said than done — recipes were few and far between, they seemed to have crazy differences (some had tons of sugar and few eggs, others few eggs and tons of sugar), and most recipes seemed like they would feed an army.
A little research showed me that there are actually two types of Babka – an Eastern European/Polish kind and a Jewish kind. The Polish babka is an eggy bread that is traditionally served at Easter, while the Jewish version is closer to a cake with a streusel topping. The Polish version was definitely what I was looking for, so I sent out a twitter message asking if anyone knew of any good recipes for it. It actually turned out that Cheryl from Backseat Gourmet was baking Babka that day too, and we shared out progress as we went along. It didn’t take long to realize that the recipe I was using was no good — my dough wasn’t rising at all! Hers was successful though, so she very kindly emailed me the recipe that she used. I gave it another try the next day, with much more success. The resulting bread was light and fluffy, with an eggy and slightly sweet dough that is similar to brioche. I filled my bread with chocolate and cheese, which I thought I remembered from my grandparents, but I think I actually remember it from when I was a little older and we bought babkas at the grocery store. When I read her post about eating raisin-studded babka slathered with butter, I remembered that’s how we ate it back then. Either way thought is delicious, and this would be a special treat on Easter morning.
I don’t have a bundt or tube pan so I made a makeshift one using a spring-form pan and a ramekin. I just set the ramekin upside down in the center of the pan and twisted the bread dough around it. It worked just fine, so I’m glad I didn’t go out and buy a special pan for this.
Chocolate Cheese BabkaTraditionally, babka contains dried fruit like raisins but more modern versions often include chocolate or cheese. I used both, but you can play with whatever fillings you like. The dough is lightly sweet like a cross between white bread and a danish. Thee rises mean that the bread is very soft and fluffy – I actually prefer it the second day when it becomes a little firmer. Enjoy this bred with tea for Easter breakfast, or as a dessert or afternoon snack any time!
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 1 package yeast (2 tsp)
- 3 whole eggs
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1 cup warm milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4-5 cups flour
For chocolate filling:
- 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
- 2 Tbs cream
- 1/2 brick cream cheese (reduced fat is fine)
For cheese filling:
- 1/2 brick cream cheese (reduced fat is fine)
- 1 egg
- zest from 1 lemon
Dissolve 1 tsp sugar in warm water. Add yeast and let stand for 10 minutes. The mixture should bubble up and look doughy. If it doesn’t discard, and start over with new yeas.
Beat the eggs and yolks until light and fluffy. Add remaining sugar, and beat for another minute. Stir in the butter, milk, salt, vanilla, and yeast mixture.
Mix in 4 cups of the flour, then add additional flour 1/4 up at a time, until a smooth dough is formed.
Knead for 5 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a bowl, cover, and let rest in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let rise a second time.
Melt the chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the cream and keep warm. In a separate bowl, combine the cream cheese, egg, and lemon zest.
Divide the dough in half. Roll one half into a large rectangle, about 1/2-inch thick. Spread the rectangle with the chocolate mixture, then roll jelly roll style, starting with the long edge. Repeat with the remaining dough, filling with the cheese mixture. Twist the two rolls around each other like a braid, and arrange in a bundt or tube pan. The dough should fill the pan about 3/4 of the way. Cover and let rise for one hour.
Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when you tap on it.
Congratulations to Linda from One Scoop at a Time, you’re the winner of my Le Crueset birthday giveaway!! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll have your prize sent to you. I can’t wait to hear what you make with it first!