My mother-in-law makes a traditional Ukrainian babka for Easter every year. I have always felt that I would like to do the same- but I felt intimidated. This year, I finally pulled out my Ukrainian cookbooks to search for the perfect recipe… and became even more intimidated!! First, I looked through recipes for Traditional Easter Paska, beautiful round loaves topped with elaborate dough ornamentation; they seemed more of a end-point than a starting point for my first attempt to make a special Easter bread.
When I saw this recipe for “Country” Babka, I knew it was more fitting. Rich, simple, and still festive. I was happy that it included raisins in the dough. We ate it lightly toasted with butter and/or jam with our colorful hard-boiled eggs for breakfast on Easter morning. This recipe was adapted from Traditional Ukrainian Cookery by Savella Stechishin. Happy (Belated!) Easter!!
For the Sponge:
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1/2 cup scalded whole milk, lukewarm
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
For the Dough:
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 T lemon zest
- 2 3/4 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup raisins
- Make the sponge: Dissolve the sugar in the lukewarm water, sprinkle the yeast over it, and let it stand until softened. Combine with the lukewarm milk and 1/2 cup flour. Beat well, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place until light and bubbly. (I placed mine in a proofing drawer for about 15 minutes.)
- Make the dough while the sponge is rising: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs with the salt.
- Add the sugar gradually and continue beating until light.
- Beat in the butter and lemon rind.
- Combine the dough mixture with the sponge.
- Stir in the flour and knead in the bowl (with the dough attachment) for about 10 minutes. The dough should be thick. Add more flour if needed to make it less sticky.
- After the 10 minutes, knead in the raisins until evenly incorporated.
- Cover with a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place (I used a proofing oven) until double in bulk. (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours)
- Punch down, knead a few times, and let it rise again until double in bulk. (In a proofing drawer- about 1 to 1 1/2 hours)
- Generously butter a tall, round baking pan with soft butter (or spray with cooking spray). (I used an angel food cake pan.) Place the dough in the pan (It should fill 1/3 of the pan.)
- Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled or tripled in bulk (or until the dough reaches the brim of the pan- not the case in my angel food pan). (about 1 1/2 hours in a proofing oven)
- Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, then cover with foil to prevent over-browning. (I did 15 min but would do 10 next time…)
- Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes.
- Lower the oven temperature again to 275 degrees and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer. (I omitted this step, as my loaf baked more rapidly in the angel food cake pan.)
- Let the dough stand in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes; remove to cool.
Note: Traditionally, Babka is sliced in rounds across the loaf. The sliced bottom crust serves as a protective cover, and it is put back to prevent the loaf from drying. (We deviated from this tradition, as I baked the loaf in an angel food pan, and, therefore cut more traditional slices.)
One Year Ago:
- Orange Chiffon Easter Bunny Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
- Whole Wheat Oat Bran-Raisin Muffins
Two Years Ago: