Whew! Sorry to have gone so long between posts. We have been out of town—and we are about to go out of town again, so I apologize in advance if my posts are a little far and few between. Things will calm down after next weekend. The really frustrating thing is I have at least 3 different posts/recipes in my head right now—I just have not had time to write any of them.
So we will start with the most important, the one that actually has an expiration date, so to speak. When I was at my parents’ house this past week I made babka for this month’s Bread Baking Day, hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast. The theme is Spring Holiday Bread traditions (new or truly already in place). This was an easy pick for me, as we do indeed have a fledgling Easter bread tradition in my family—I make babka for my parents. We started just last year and I was already planning to do so again this year.
A little bit of background: my dad is half Polish and when he was growing up, there was a bakery in Wheeling, WV that sold really good babka (a Polish Easter yeasted cake). Although my Polish grandma did bake, she did not make babka, and so apparently my dad has been searching ever since for a babka recipe that tasted right to him. His number one complaint was that contemporary babka recipes were not rich enough—he insisted that they did not have enough egg yolk in particular. Fast forward to last year when my parents, my sister and I were at a Barnes and Noble, browsing through cookbooks (hey, it’s a family past time!). I was tossing around the idea of buying Nick Malgieri’s A Baker’s Tour: Nick Malgieri’s Favorite Baking Recipes from Around the World. I showed it to my dad, to get his opinion. It was March, babka must have been on his mind, so he immediately flipped to the recipe, counted the number of egg yolks (12!) and offered to buy it for me on the spot if I would make him the babka. A no brainer on both sides.
For those of you wondering, I asked Susan of Wild Yeast and we decided that while some consider babka a cake, some consider it a bread, and so it qualified for BBD. To me it is a very rich and sweet—but not too sweet—raisin bread. Honestly, I prefer it for breakfast as opposed to dessert as it just does not hit quite the right note of over the top indulgence, as does, say, cheesecake or chocolate anything.
This recipe makes enough for a 12 cup bundt pan. We did not have a 12 cup bundt pan but we did have 2 6 cup bundt pans. Despite using the right sized pans, one loaf did overflow. I think I may have beat the egg yolks too hard, so do be aware of that possibility. The bread was still delicious, and as you can see on the left, the bread looked ok when inverted (although not as nice as its twin, which did not overflow). .
Adapted from Nick Malgieri’s A Baker’s Tour
1 1/4 cups milk (preferably whole but I have made it with 1% successfully)
4 t active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 t salt
1 T grated lemon zest
2 t vanilla
12 large egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dark raisins (I used golden)
1 cup whole blanced almonds, cut into quarters (I left out)
For the sponge: In a medium saucepan, warm the milk over low heat until it is just lukewarm, about 110 F. Place the milk into a medium bowl and add yeast – whisk the two together. Stir in the flour; cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and salt until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add 6 egg yolks, one at a time, beating until smooth after each one.
Mix in about 1/3 of the flour, then 2 more egg yolks. Scrape down the bowl and beater. Add another 1/3 of the flour and 2 more yolks and scrape down again. Mix in the remaining flour and egg yolks.
Add the sponge mixture into the mixing bowl. Mix on low for 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Beat the dough on medium until it is smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes; the dough should be very soft. Add raisins and almonds (if using) and mix until combined.
Scoop the dough into a buttered 12 cup bundt pan. Cover and let the dough rise until it fills the pan, about 60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with the rack in the center of the oven, 15 minutes before the dough has completely risen.
Bake until well risen and very golden, about 40 to 45 minutes.I used a toothpick in the center of the bread to be certain it was done.
Remove and cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes. Then invert the babka onto a rack and cool completely.