Babka is a Polish Easter bread, slightly sweet, and made with yeast and raisins. It may have sweet cheese incorporated into the dough. This is a special Easter bread, not to be confused with the word Babcia, (pronounced bop-cha), which is the Polish word for grandmother.
Northeast Times reader Judy F. had emailed me to ask, “Would you, by any chance, have a very simple bread recipe with easy instructions on how to dissolve yeast? I’ve never made bread, but would like to try.”
When I make a yeast bread, I use Fleischmann’s yeast. I always check the date on the package, and refrigerate any unused yeast. Yeast is a living microorganism that becomes active in liquid heated to the right temperature. Depending on the recipe, yeast is easily dissolved in warm water or warm milk. Yeast will work best in liquid between 85 degrees F and 115 degrees F. If the liquid is too cold, it will not work properly. It should be tepid or comfortably warm. On the other hand, if the liquid is too hot, it will kill the yeast. It will kill your bread, too. It will not rise.
If using water, let your hot water run for a minute and then measure the amount you need. My test for water or milk is reminiscent of testing the temperature of the milk for baby’s bottle. Put a drop on the wrist, and it should feel comfortably warm.
If a recipe (like the one below) calls for scalding the milk, then you’ll need to heat the milk until very small bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. When this occurs, remove the pan from the heat and allow the milk to cool a little before using it.
Some babka recipes require kneading, double risings and many hours of time spent in the kitchen. The following recipe produces an easy, delicious, no-knead babka.
BABKA WITH ICING
1 cup raisin
1 Tbsp. rum
1 package dry yeast plus 1/8 tsp. sugar
¼ cup warm water
1 cup scalded milk
¾ cup butter (1½ sticks)
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs (beaten)
4¼ cups flour
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 Tbsp. water
½ tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Grease a 10-inch tube pan with Crisco.
Combine raisins and rum in a small dish. Set aside while mixing the dough.
Sprinkle yeast and 1/8 tsp. sugar into warm water in a 1 cup measure. Stir to dissolve. Let stand until bubbly – 5 to 10 minutes.
Put butter, sugar and salt into large bowl and pour the scalded milk over all. Mix until butter is melted and milk has cooled slightly.
(If using a food processor, put ingredients into bowl, and pulse and process to mix. Scrape sides with spatula.)
Mix in vanilla and eggs.
(If using a food processor, pulse to mix. Scrape sides with spatula.)
Add yeast and mix until well combined.
(If using a food processor, pulse and process to mix. Scrape sides with spatula.)
Add flour, lemon zest, and raisins and mix well to blend all ingredients.
(If using a food processor, add flour and lemon zest and pulse a few times. Scrape sides with spatula. Add raisins and pulse a few times. Allow machine to run and process dough a few seconds until mixed.)
Dough will be a thick, sticky batter.
Pour batter into greased pan. Cover with plastic wrap that has been greased on the inside that will come in contact with the dough. Drape a kitchen towel over the plastic-covered pan.
Let stand in a warm place (a turned-off oven works well) until double in bulk or until dough reaches the top of the pan, for about 1½ - 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.
Carefully remove babka from pan. Cool completely.
Drizzle icing over babka and sprinkle with almonds.
Babka freezes well.
Eat well, live long, enjoy!
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Northeast Times, 2512 Metropolitan Drive, Trevose, PA 19053)