Polish Babka

April 10, 2020

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Happy Good Friday everyone! Wait…can you say that? You hear a lot of “Happy Easter” but not really “Happy Good Friday”. Hmmm…well I’ll ask you to indulge me today because I am very happy today! My Apple Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns that I make every year ( you have to bake them on Good Friday or they don’t have all of the special powers) are well under way!

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I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make them this year what with all of the quarantining shortages in the stores, but luckily I was able to score some flour and sugar. Hoooray! And not only am I making the traditional Hot Cross Buns today, but I am also going to share a great Easter bread recipe with you: Polish Babka!

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When you hear “Babka” you might think of the Jewish version of the bread, which is often a twisted bread filled with chocolate or cinnamon and topped with a streusel. That is definitely tasty, but not the treat I’m talking about today. Today we look to Poland.

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Polish Babka is a rich, buttery bread which is shot through with rum soaked fruit, brushed with a rum syrup and dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

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Traditionally served on Easter in Poland, there are many different versions of this recipe, with each family claiming the bread made by their “Babka” which means grandmother in Polish, is the best!

IMG_9760Folks in many countries around the world have a special bread that they bake for the Easter holidays. I have shared quite a few of these recipes with you over the years. Last year was Cozonac – Romanian Easter Bread.IMG_8091

 

And prior to that was Italian Easter Bread:

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Then there was this Tsoureki from Greece:

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Don’t forget that Slovak Paska:

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And the impressive Russian Kulich:

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That’s a lot of Easter breads huh?!! But let me get back to talking about this Polish Babka. This Babka is a cross between a bread and a cake in a way. You do start with a sponge, which boosts the rise that you get from the yeast, but you don’t have to knead it all, so it is a bit like a batter bread.

IMG_9792A loaf of Babka is often included in the swiecone basket that Polish families take to church with them on Easter Saturday to be blessed. The basket contains food such as meat, eggs, cake and breads, which will be eaten at the Easter meal after Mass. Each of the food items in the basket are symbolic. For example eggs represent new life and the yeast bread represents the risen Lord.IMG_9798

 

If you hadn’t guessed, I love bread. I love baking it and I love eating it. Guess that’s why I could not stick with the South Beach diet! This bread was pretty easy to make and will be a fantastic Easter treat.

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Now you can make a rum icing to drizzle over the Babka if you wish. I have included it in the recipe. Since the Husband really isn’t a fan of super sweet desserts, I chose to just dust our Babka lightly with confectioner’s sugar. But you should do whatever you prefer.

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With its tender crumb and rich rum soaked fruit I’m also looking forward to the French Toast I will be making soon as well.

IMG_9802Hope everyone has a Happy Easter!

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Polish Babka

  • Servings: 1 cake with 12 -16 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: King Arthur Flour (I have incorporated a lot of the advice from the reviews of this recipe from bakers on the KAF site.)

Ingredients:

For the Starter Sponge:

  • 60 grams (1/2 cup) All-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 113 grams (1/2 cup) lukewarm (95°F) milk

For the Babka:

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 57 grams (4 tablespoons, 1/4 cup) softened butter
  • 181 grams All-Purpose Flour (if you do not wish to do the sponge – it is 241 grams (2 cups flour)
  • 43 grams (1/4 cup ) currants or raisins (golden raisins preferred)
  • 43 grams (1/4 cup) candied mixed fruit or candied mixed peel, or mixed dried fruit, chopped

For the Rum Syrup:

  • 99 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 57 grams (1/4 cup) water*
  • 14 grams to 28 grams (1 to 2 tablespoons) rum*

*If you prefer not to use Rum you could substitute apple juice for the water and rum mixture.

For the Icing (Optional – you can just go with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar):

  • 113 grams (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 28 grams (2 tablespoons) milk, or a combination of milk and rum or apple juice

Directions:

Begin by making a starter sponge:  In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix 60 grams of the flour and two teaspoons instant yeast with 113 grams of the lukewarm milk. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to let rise for 1 hour.

Place the raisins and candied mixed fruit in a small bowl and cover with rum. Allow to soak while the sponge is rising.

After on hour, add the rest of the remaining ingredients, except the fruit, to the mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed until cohesive. Increase your mixer’s speed to high, and beat for 2 minutes.

Add the rum soaked fruit, beating gently just to combine.

Cover the bowl, and let the dough/thick batter rest/rise for 60 minutes; it won’t appear to do too much.

Scoop the batter into a greased 10-cup Bundt Pan. (If you don’t have a Bundt pan you can also bake the bread in an 8 1/2″ X 4 1/2″ loaf pan). Cover the pan, and let the dough rest/rise for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake the babka for 35 to 40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads at least 190°F.

While the babka is baking, prepare the rum syrup. Combine all of the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil, swirling the liquid in the pan, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.

Remove the babka from the oven. Poke it all over gently with a toothpick or fork, and slowly pour the syrup over the babka’s surface.

When the syrup is fully absorbed (about 20 minutes or so), carefully loosen the Babka’s edges, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack.

If you choose to use the icing: Mix all of the ingredients together, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over completely cool Babka.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Polish Babka:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks

SAF Instant Yeast

Baker’s Fruit Blend

Nordic Ware Bundt Pan


Slovak Paska (Easter Bread)

April 3, 2015

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Is it really Good Friday already?!! Where has the time gone? It seems that I just finished writing about Malted Scáiltín Cupcakes on the last day of my St. Patrick’s Day blog-a-polooza. I guess my little blogging vacation is over. Time to get back in the kitchen! And on this Good Friday I’d like to tell you all about a delicious bread, Paska, which is traditionally enjoyed at Easter in many Eastern European countries.

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Baking bread around Easter is certainly not new for me. Every Good Friday you will find me in the kitchen baking up a batch of Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns. These buns are delicious and because I am always very careful to bake them on Good Friday, they have some magical powers.

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It’s true. I always save at least one bun from my yearly batch. That bun, if you hang it in your kitchen, will not only protect your household from fires but will also work as a charm to ensure all of your bread baking endeavours will be successful. Indeed, a dried bun from the previous year, also has medicinal properties. You can grate a bit of it into the liquid of your choice to make a restorative elixir that will help sick folks regain their health. This powder can also be applied directly to wounds with the same curative results. So yup, I always bake up a batch on the appointed Friday. Not to mention I Love me some Hot Cross Buns and really, to be honest, I just love bread. Pretty much all bread. The only exception I can think of is Rye bread…I’m not too keen on that. Oh yeah and Irish Soda Bread which contains caraway seeds…but I’ve already told you how much I loathe that. Otherwise, bread is always welcome at my table. A couple of Easter’s ago I tried my hand at a Russian Easter Bread called Kulich. Kulich is a sweet yeast bread filled with spices, rum drenched raisins and apricots and topped with frosting and sparkling sugar.

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Todays Easter Bread, Slovak Paska, is an egg and butter rich bread which is light, fluffy and slightly sweet. The loaves are often decorated with Christian symbolism. As I mentioned, it is enjoyed in many eastern european countries with each country’s version slightly different, some with raisins, some without, some with cheese in the bread, or sour cream. Actually I’m sure Paska recipes vary from Granny to Granny, regardless of country borders. The recipe I chose is a Slovak Paska. I am not of Slovak descent, but did run the recipe by my friend John, who is and he definitely remembers his Granny making just such loaves of bread for Easter.

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Slovak Paska was easy to make. I couldn’t believe how high it rose! It really looks amazing and if you can believe it, it tastes even better! And while it is delicious all on its own, really you don’t even need to butter it….but hey – I will never pass up butter…

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we’re already drooling just thinking about it wrapped around a few slices of Easter ham. Not to mention the Easter morning Paska French toast! There’s still time for you to get in on this action. Bake up a loaf for your Easter table today.

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Slovak Paska (Easter Bread)

  • Servings: 20
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup luke warm (98° – 105° F /36.5° -40.5° C) water
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 5 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 large eggs + 2 egg yolks

For the Topping:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon cold water
  • coarse white sparkling sugar, optional

Directions:

**The King Arthur Flour site, where I first saw this recipe, simply instructs one to “Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients – by hand, mixer, or bread machine – to make a soft, smooth dough.” This sounds very easy and straightforward to me. However, although everything I have ever made from a King Arthur recipe has been a success, that is not how I make the dough for yeast bread. I proceeded to make it how I am accustomed to doing it, which takes a few more steps. I have written them out below. Feel free to proceed with whichever method you prefer to arrive at a soft, smooth dough.**

Heat the milk, butter sugar and salt in a sauce pan over low heat until the butter and sugar are melted. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to luke warm.

Place the lukewarm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Leave for 5 minutes or so until the yeast is foamy.

Add approximately 2 cups of flour to the bloomed yeast mixture and mix on low-speed until combined. Add the lukewarm milk mixture, eggs and the remaining flour. Mix until combined.  The dough should be pulling away from the sides of the mixer bowl. If the dough seems too “loose” slowly (1 tablespoon at a time) add flour until you see it pulling away from the sides and bottom of the bowl and adhering to the beater.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 -8 minutes until you have a soft smooth dough which springs back slowly when you poke your finger into it.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s noticeably puffy.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide it into two pieces, one twice as large as the other. Take the larger piece, roll into a ball, and place it into a well-greased 9″ x 2″ round pan.

Divide the other piece of dough into three equal pieces, and roll each out into a 20″ strand; use the three strands to create one long braid.

Place the braid around the inside edge of the pan, or use it to form a cross over the top of the larger piece of dough.

Cover the loaf and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the center.

To make the topping: In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the mixture gently over the top of the risen loaf, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired.

Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it’s a rich golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool before cutting.

Enjoy!

Slovak Paska brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 

 


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