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Country Babka – Homemade Sweet Bread

I always wanted to try a Babka recipe, to taste the difference between Paska (Ukrainian Easter Bread) and the very popular Babka.  This year I finally baked Babka and everyone loved its taste and texture.

The recipe is basically the same as for Paska, but it requires 2x the amount of yeast and butter, 1/2 the amount of flour,  but same amount of sugar, which you may decrease to your taste.

This recipe calls for raisins, but if you are not a big fan of these, then you can omit them and still enjoy a delicious slice of sweetened homemade bread with your favorite topping….cream cheese or butter, and a nice cup of coffee or tea.

The original recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, “Traditional Ukrainian Cookery”, by Savella Stechishin.  Since not everyone has this book, I will include the recipe in this post with slight modifications, and pictures of my finished product.

This recipe yields 3 round breads, 7 inches in diameter.

Country Babka – Homemade Sweet Bread

Country Babka – Homemade Sweet Bread

Ingredients

  • 4.5 tsp. dry granular yeast (2 packets Fleischmann's Rapid Rise)
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup whole milk, scalded and lukewarm
  • 1 cup flour (I used Gold Medal unbleached)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar (1 cup in the original recipe)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 5.5 cups flour (I used 2 cups King Arthur bread flour, and 3.5 cups Gold Medal unbleached flour)
  • 2 Tlbs. corn starch (not in the original recipe)
  • 1.5 cups Golden raisins (optional)
  • Crisco shortening for greasing pans

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl dissolve the sugar in the lukewarm water, sprinkle the yeast over it, gently mix with a wooden spoon, and let it stand in a warm place for about 10 minutes until softened and frothy.
  2. In a large bowl combine the yeast mixture with lukewarm milk and 1 cup of flour. Beat well with a whisk or mixer to create a runny batter.
  3. Cover the bowl with wax paper or plastic wrap, then with a thick kitchen towel. Keep it in a warm place until light and bubbly, about 30 minutes. I usually keep it in my oven, which I preheat ahead of time to no more than 100 degrees F.
  4. While the sponge is forming, beat the eggs with salt, add the sugar and continue beating.
  5. Beat in the melted butter and lemon rind, and add into the bubbly sponge.
  6. Using a dough hook, if you are using a mixer, slowly mix in the 5 cups of flour and corn starch, and let it knead for about 20 minutes. Add the raisins and mix another 5 minutes.
  7. Cover the bowl with wax paper or plastic wrap, then with kitchen towels, place it in a warm, draft free place (I use the oven again) and let it rise until double in bulk (at least an hour).
  8. Punch down, knead few times, cover and let it rise again.
  9. Grease your baking pans with Crisco shortening, and set aside.
  10. Once dough is ready, fill each pan about 1/3 full. Place filled pans in a warm, draft free place again I used my oven, and let them rise until the dough reaches the brim of the pan.
  11. Place your pans on a work surface, use a pastry brush to baste the tops of the breads with egg wash (egg beaten with 1 Tlbs. of water) or plain milk, to create a nice golden crust during baking. Milk will create a lighter color than the egg wash.
  12. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Place your bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes. Turn down the heat to 325 degrees F, and bake another 25 minutes.
  13. If the tops are getting too brown, you may lay a loose sheet of aluminum paper over the tops, until done baking.
  14. Remove pans from the oven and rest them on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove the bread from pans onto the cooling rack (you might run a knife around the inner edge of the pans to loosen up any sticking bread), cover with a kitchen towel and cool completely. I like to use a cold stick of butter and brush it all over the top of each hot bread to make the crust soft and buttery delicious, before I cover them to cool off completely.
  15. Once cooled, they are ready to slice and eat, or you may freeze them. Before freezing, wrap each loaf with paper towel, aluminium wrap, and place it in a freezer bag. They may stay frozen for up to 3 months. To thaw it, keep it all wrapped and thaw in the fridge overnight.
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