Wouldn't you know it--my two favorite episodes of Seinfeld are about bread! (My name is Jean, and I'm a breadaholic.) Marble rye and babka. If you recall, Jerry and Elaine stopped at a bakery on the way to a dinner party to pick up a babka, but the people in front of them got the last chocolate babka and Elaine was not pleased to have to settle for a cinnamon babka. But I agree with Jerry: "[Cinnamon a] lesser babka? I think not!" Not a huge fan of chocolate anything, I much prefer the cinnamon and always intended to make one.
Well, years went by. Then I read the post The Cake that Makes Our Family by Lila Byock on Gilt Taste. She tells the heartwarming story of her grandfather Sy's babka. And you know how I feel about family food stories. She doesn't make it herself, considering it her mother's job for now. My own family is not a babka-making family, but I was so taken with Lila's that I sent her the message: You can be sure that when this shiksa gets around to making one, it will be Sy's! (Thought of calling the post Shiksa Babka but was afraid too many people would be expecting skewered meat!)
But I can never make anything strictly by a recipe. Not even if it's my first attempt at something I've never even eaten! I took so many liberties with the recipe, it can no longer be called Sy's. But he was my inspiration, and I will think of him and his granddaughter Lila every time I make it. And I will be making it again! It goes wonderfully well with a cup of tea (which seems to be a requirement for everything I make!).
So tell me, do you have strong opinions about babka? Chocolate or cinnamon? Or both? Nuts? Raisins? Streusel topping or glaze? Is there a particular food that "makes" your family?
The Dough3 1/2 packed cups (17.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant (RapidRise) yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup milk (I use 2%)
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
The Filling1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
The Glaze1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons very hot water
1 tablespoon real maple syrup
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 In 2-quart bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and yeast.
2 In heavy-bottomed 1-quart saucepan, scald milk, which simply means to heat the milk just until bubbles appear at the edge; do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until it is all melted.
3 In large bowl, beat egg and stir in vanilla and milk-butter mixture. With dough whisk or wooden spoon, stir in half the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in remaining flour about a half cup at a time. As the dough forms into a ball, work it against the sides of the bowl to get off all the dry flour. Rub a tiny bit of softened butter in a 2-quart bowl and place the ball of dough in it, rolling it around to coat it lightly with butter. Cover bowl tightly and refrigerate for anywhere from 24 hours to 3 days.
4 On the day you want to make the babka, set aside the butter to soften. Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 3 1/2 hours before you want it to go into the oven. In 1-quart bowl, combine chopped walnuts and chopped raisins with flour, making sure all the raisin pieces are separated. You might need to use 1 tablespoon of the flour while chopping the raisins. Stir in sugar and cinnamon.
5 On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half. Turn the bowl upside down and cover the two pieces of dough (or cover them with plastic wrap); let stand for 20 minutes. Butter well a 10-cup, 4-inch high, 8.5-inch diameter kugelhopf pan or a 3.75-inch high, 10-inch diameter Bundt or other fluted tube pan.
6 Roll one piece of dough into a 12x16-inch rectangle, with long edge toward you. Spread on half the softened butter and half the filling mixture. Starting with long edge, roll rather tightly and pinch the edge closed. Repeat with other half of dough. With the two rolls side by side, twist like a braid. Form a circle and pinch the ends together. Place in prepared pan, pressing it firmly into place. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 2 to 3 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
7 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn babka out onto wire rack and continue cooling for about 1 hour before slicing. In small bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar and hot water until smooth, then stir in other ingredients for glaze and drizzle over the babka while it is still warm.