Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Ukrainian Easter Bread - Babka Recipe

Babka by Roma Nowakowski
One of the traditional Ukrainian Easter Breads is the Babka.  It is a classic, sweet, yeasted bread rich in eggs, and milk.  Sometimes the babka, already yellow from the many yolks in the recipe, is given a rich suntinted color with saffron, orange zest, or even pumpkin puree.  Sometimes raisins are added to the dough which is then baked in cylindrical tins, soup cans, or coffee tins, which represents the dome of heaven, much like the domed cupola of an Orthodox Christian church.  

I have been thinking that the Ukrainian Easter babka bread is also probably linked to the intentionally mounded heaps of earth used in ancient burial places across Ukraine that in former times were marked with stone stelae babas.  Cutting slices of the mounded, cylindrical bread (slicing from the bottom)  will reveal a round shaped, sun-yellow tinted bread, a reminder of the ancestors who await the rising sun.   Interesting! 
This is a great recipe, well recommended and well tested.  The method will deliver a finer textured Babka..
Prepare soup tins, coffee tins (4-500 g tins), or tall cylindrical baking tins.  Generously buttering the tins or shortening with a dusting of bread crumbs will help the baked goods release.  Alternately, use parchment paper or wax paper.
Prepare ingredients: 
1 cup milk
1/3 cup flour
2 tsp. sugar,
3 packages yeast
12 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups icing sugar
1 cup butter, melted
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange
5 1/2 to 6 cups flour.
1 cup raisins (optional)

Bring milk to a boil and remove from stove top.  Add hot milk gradually to the 1/3 cup flour beating thoroughly until smooth.  Press the mixture through a seive to remove any lumps remaining.   Cool to lukewarm. Dissolve the sugar in lukewarm water, sprinkle the yeast over it, and let stand until yeast is softened.   Combine yeast mixture with flour, milk mixutre and beat well.  Cover and let this rise in a warm place until light and bubbly.  This is the sponge.   Beat the egg yoks and whole eggs, add salt, and sugar gradually until light.  Then stir in the butter, orange juice and grated rind.  Combine this mixture with the sponge and mix well.   Add the flour to this mixture, cup by cup to make a very soft dough, kneading it into a soft, almost sticky, supple dough for 10 minutes.  The dough will remain very soft, smooth and elastic. If raisins are to be added, this is the moment to incorporate them, after the dough is kneaded.. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.  Punch down the dough and let it rise again.  Knead again and let it rise yet again.   Fill the baking tins only 1/3 full.  Cover and let the dough rise in a warm location until the dough rises to the lip of the tin.   Brush the loaves with beaten egg diluted in 2 tablesppons of water.  Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees F. for 10 minutes.  Lower temperature to 325 degrees F for 30 minutes.  Then lower the temperature yet again to 275 degrees, continuing the bake for 15-20 minutes.  The baking time is dependent on the size of loaf.  Covering loaves that darken too quickly is a good idea, sheltering them with aluminum foil is easy.   Remove the baked goods from the oven and let the babka rest for 5-10 minutes before removing them extremely gently, tipping them gently onto a soft, cloth covered pillow.  Do not cool the loaves on a hard surface as they will become misshapen, fall or settle.  Change their resting position frequently as they rest and cool. Babka is always sliced in rounds across the loaf starting from the bottom. 

Traditional babka has a plain, domed top, and is sweeter than the braided Ukrainian Easter Paska Bread.  Enjoy!
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