When I think of Babka, I think of a soft brioche like yeast cake, filled with a juicy chocolate, cinnamon or nutty filling, that almost drips on your fingers as you eat a bite. The smell is heavenly of yeast with chocolate or cinnamon and you almost peel the dough a part while eating. It is a cake to be eaten with your fingers, no doubt.
It is a wonderful cake and no wonder that it has many origins. From The Polish King Leszczynski, who is believed to have invented it while in exile, through an Eastern European Christian tradition, for Easter Sunday cake.
I bake Babka from the Eastern European Jewish tradition, where it is usually baked in a long bread loaf and as I said filled with chocolate or cinnamon and not with fruit as in the other versions. It is the Israeli Babka, and I make it baked “inside-out” meaning the filling is actually braided outwards so it is sweet, moist and fun to eat.
I think Babka is the ultimate HOME cake. It represents family, house, its smell is inviting and calming. I almost always hear people say “it reminds me of my grandmother….” or “it reminds me of my childhood” or a childhood friend when they taste Babka.
Babka can only be made with love. It is not an afterthought or a mix it all and throw in a pan kind of cake. You need to make the dough, knead it in your hands and enjoy this soft wonderful dough, let it rise, knead it again and then roll it out, fill it, cut it, shape it, bake it and be proud of your creation.
What is great is that it is still as moist and delicious the day after. And if anything is left, the day following as well….
The dough is based on a recipe by the Israeli Baker Karin Goren, with my variations and adaptations:
4.5 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
30 gram (oz) dry yeast (40-45 gram, 1.4 oz, fresh yeast)
200 gram (7oz) Fleischmann’s Margarine (if you prefer dairy, use unsalted butter)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup rice milk (can be substituted with coconut milk or regular milk)
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp. vanilla paste
Place the flour, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl. In a small bowl melt and cool the margarine and add the 1/2 cup rice milk.
In a separate bowl place the dry yeast 1/2 cup warm water and 1 tbsp. sugar. Even with dry yeast, in this cake, I like to dissolve them and not place them straight in the dough. To get them going…..
Let the yeast stand for a couple of minutes until it starts to form bubbles on top.
Add the yeast mix, eggs and melted margarine mix into the flour and mix on low speed for 5 minutes. Once the dough starts to come together, increase the speed for another 10 minutes. The final dough should be VERY soft, but not sticky. You might need to add a bit of flour. If it is too dry, add a bit of water. The dough is soft and really nice. I like to add a bit of kneading by hand before returning it to the bowl to rest.
Let the dough rise, cover the bowl with a cloth, for about 45 minutes (should double).
After it has risen, knead a bit and then cut into 3 equal parts.
Ideas for filling:
* Always a winner - spread Nutella or Shahar Chocolate Spread (no dairy).
* Runner up – Melt 1/3 stick of margarine (40gram) add 5-6 tbsp. sugar and 2 tbsp. cinnamon to the melted margarine and spread.
* Melt 100 gram (3.5oz) dark chocolate with 100 gram margarine, add a quarter cup cocoa, 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon, coffee or coffee liquor and spread.
* Sprinkle fine-cut almonds over the chocolate spread or a thin layer of marzipan.
* Poppy seeds, Sliced Apples with Cinnamon and many more options you can try.
After you fill the rectangle, you roll it into a log. You can place it as is in the pan, or cut it in the middle along the log and braid the 2 strips of dough to get the inside-out effect ):
Place the Babka in a pre-oiled loaf pan or cover the pan with baking paper (this is what I usually do and then there is no need for additional fats).
I have used this dough as the basis for cinnamon rolls as well- same process, just cut the dough once it is shaped into a long log into 10-15 round swirls, bake for about 18-22 minutes and spread cream-cheese frosting or powdered sugar frosting on top when ready, while still warm.
Enjoy while warm with tea or coffee, and also the day after for breakfast (and afternoon snack….).
I always love hearing from you!