Of all the popular trends people are following now, the babka renaissance has got to be the most delicious! While we have been enjoying babka for generations, it has recently developed an ardent following, with bakeries all vying for the title of best babka around.
Babka is a sweet yeast dough that is rolled out, spread with filling and rolled up. It is twisted and baked in a loaf pan, often sprinkled with streusel or drizzled with chocolate.
Recently, a friend of ours who runs a bakery was interviewed while preparing the bakery’s famous babka. The video interview featured many non-Jewish folks who claim this babka is the best in Brooklyn. Their babka features both streusel and drizzled chocolate topping, making it extra rich and tasty.
The babka trend has spread across the country, with many bake shops coming up with versions to fit the tastes of local patrons. There are even babka doughnuts, croissant babka and any other version food enthusiasts can dream up. Of course, we’ve already baked lotus cookie butter babka!
The babka is believed to have originated in Ukraine or Russia. The name is derived from an endearing term for “grandma” as the layers of dough in a babka resemble a grandma’s layered skirt. The original fillings were more likely nuts and jams, as chocolate was a luxury in those regions and would more likely be a birthday treat than a cake filling. Over the years, chocolate and cinnamon have replaced the nuts and fruit, much to the pleasure of babka-lovers everywhere.
So whether you buy babkas at your favorite bakery or make your own from a family recipe, babkas have now moved out of the realm of “Jewish food” to become common at bakeries in every corner of the country.
Our Favorite Babka
For the dough:
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup margarine (2 sticks)
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
1 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 stick margarine
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
(Alternately, you can use our Belgian Chocolate Spread to fill your babkas — it’s ready to use and delicious.)
Egg wash — 2 egg yolks, beaten
For the streusel:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces margarine (1 stick)
Place the flour in your mixer bowl. Add the yeast and sugar. Add all the other ingredients and knead 10-12 minutes until it has formed a smooth dough. Remove from the bowl and allow it to rise 30 minutes.
Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients in a mixer or food processor until it comes together.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Divide dough in thirds and roll out one piece into a rectangle approximately 14” x 10”. Spread generously with filling. Roll up the dough jellyroll-style. Stretch the roll and fold in half. Twist the roll two or three times and place in a greased 9”-10” loaf pan, tucking in the ends. Repeat with remaining dough.
Allow the loaves to rest for 5 minutes.
Using a pastry blender, combine streusel ingredients until they resemble large crumbs. You can also make them in a food processor using the pulse button; be careful not to over-process.
Brush the cakes generously with egg wash. Sprinkle streusel over babkas and place the pans on the rack in the center of the oven.
Bake 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Babkas freeze well for up to three months when well wrapped.
You can also slice the rolled strips into buns and bake flat on a lined cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with streusel as directed. Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.