Showing posts with label babka. Show all posts
Showing posts with label babka. Show all posts

Monday, March 30, 2015

There Is No Chocolate Babka

No, that's not a line from Seinfeld. Fans of the show will recall the episode in which he mugged an old lady because she got the last chocolate Babka at the bakery. When I was little, I asked my dad if we could have a chocolate Babka. He laughed and told me there was no such thing. Seinfeld fans know differently! I can only guess that clever American bakers incorporated chocolate into the bread.

I have baked a typical western Ukrainian Babka, which is traditional at Easter. I understand Babka means "grandmother." It's baked in a pot which is taller than it is wide. I read somewhere that it's supposed to be the shape of a woman's skirt. I'm a little afraid to imagine what their skirts looked like!

Every year, we had a Babka (never chocolate much to my dismay) at Easter. It was always amazing to look at. However, while my mom was a great cook and a fantastic baker, her Babka was always, er, a little on the dry side. So when I set out to bake a Babka, the first thing I dismissed was my mom's recipe. (Don't tell her if you see her, okay?)

I went straight to the cookbook called A BOOK OF FAVORITE RECIPES Compiled by THE SISTERHOOD of St. John's Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Johnson City, New York. Copyrighted in 1968, I assume these recipes were by women who had eaten and cooked Ukrainian food all their lives. My mother's dry Babka in mind, I selected BABKA WITH PUMPKIN by Pani Lawryk. She says, "This is a very old recipe and worth preserving. Mashed pumpkin imparts a mellow yellow color to Babka and keeps it fresh and soft for days." I hope so!

Now, while some of you are bakers who love to tackle big projects, I do realize that most of you won't be tackling this. So just enjoy the fact that I slaved over it and that at least one very old recipe will go on the net and be preserved for generations to come.

If you like to bake bread, this is no big deal. The most difficult part is finding the correct pot in which to bake the bread. Ukrainian women are particularly fond of using coffee cans. Soup cans and the like will work as well, but won't be quite as large as the one you see here.

(by Pani Lawryk in A BOOK OF FAVORITE RECIPES Compiled by THE SISTERHOOD of St. John's Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Johnson City, New York)

1 cup scalded milk, lukewarm
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 c. lukewarm water
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
 2 tablespoons grated orange rind
2/3 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup orange juice
5 cups flour, more or less
soft butter for greasing the pans
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk

1. Scald the milk and set aside to cool.

2. Dissolve 2 teaspoons sugar in the water and sprinkle yeast over top. Stir gently. Let stand about 5 minutes, until it begins to expand and bubble. Add the milk, and 1 cup flour and beat well. It will be very thin. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm spot until light and bubbly. (Note: it took about 40 minutes).

3. Beat the eggs with the salt. Add the sugar and continue beating. Add the butter, orange rind, pumpkin, vanilla, and orange juice and beat to combine. Pour into the yeast mixture and mix. Stir in the five cups of flour and knead (I let the machine do it) in the bowl for ten minutes. (Note, I needed six cups of flour but I used jumbo eggs.) The dough should be very soft. If necessary, remove from bowl and slowly add flour while kneading by hand. Place in a deep bowl, cover with the towel and let rise until double.

4. Punch down and knead a couple of times. Cover and let rise again until it doubles in size.

5. Thoroughly butter the baking pans. The should be taller than they are wide. You can make them taller by buttering parchment paper and inserting it in the pan so that it extends from the top. Fill them 1/3 full. Cover and allow to rise to the top.

6. Preheat oven to 375. Whisk the beaten egg with the 2 tablespoons of milk. Brush on the top of the loaves. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. (15 if very large like mine). Lower heat to 325 and bake for 30 minutes. If at any time you think the top is getting too brown, cover with aluminum foil. Lower heat to 275 and bake 15-20 minutes longer (or 20-30 minutes if very large). The baking times depends on the size of your loaves.

7. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes. Pani Lawryk recommends covering a pillow with a cloth and tipping them out gently, rolling them every few minutes as they cool. I found I could tip the pan and ease mine out without any problem - without a pillow.

8. Drizzle white sugar icing over the top. I mixed 2/3 cup powdered sugar with enough lemon juice to make it the right consistency. Pani recommends mixing 1 cup sugar with 1/2 cup water and a few drops lemon juice. Cook to soft ball stage and stir in one direction until it turns white.

Oops. Needed a larger cup!

It will be very thin.

It was actually bubbling!

Again, very thin.

That's a lot of dough!

The parchment paper reminds me of a chef's hat!

After baking.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Welcome Guest Blogger Alan Orloff

Today I'd like to welcome Alan Orloff to Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. Alan has a new release--Diamonds for the Dead, which is getting great reviews. He's also writing a new series for Midnight Ink--The Last Laff series. Thanks so much for coming by today, Alan!
Thanks for inviting me to guest blog today. And what a great blog you have—combining mysteries and food? Genius!
I’m a cake kind-of-guy.
Some people prefer ice cream; others dig pie or candy or cookies. I even know one misguided soul who claims to be a flan lover. But when it comes to dessert, I’ll choose cake every time.
Such variety. Such wonderful flavors. And don’t even get me started on icing. (Hey, what other dessert can you write on? If they can have cell phone and Twitter novels, what about a novel written in icing on birthday cakes? I’ll volunteer to beta read that baby!)
So when Elizabeth/Riley asked me to guest blog here today, my thoughts immediately went to cake (although, I must admit, I also considered pulling out my Tofu-Cornapalooza recipe, but decided the public might not be quite ready for that. Maybe another time.).
Anyway, enough rambling. Let’s get our cake on!
Babka This recipe is for chocolate babka, a traditional eastern European cake (maybe Russian, I don’t know). This cake used to show up at my grandmother’s apartment from time to time. It didn’t last long. This cake also makes an appearance in my just-released novel, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, in a scene where the main character sits shiva for his deceased father. This babka is not real cake-y, but more of a cross between a rich egg-bread and cake. Most importantly, there’s chocolate!
Because I’m basically lazy, this recipe uses a bread machine for the dough.
Chocolate Babka
Put the following ingredients into the bread machine pan in order listed. Run on the dough setting.
1/3 cup milk
1/3 water
2 large eggs (no shell)
1/4 cup oil (cooking, not motor)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp yeast
Combine the following for the filling/topping.
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Melt 1/4 margarine in a bowl.
Grease a ten-inch fluted tube or bundt pan. Spoon some of the filling into bottom of pan.
When dough cycle is complete, divide dough into 16 equal segments. Roll each ball into melted margarine, then roll through the filling. Place into pan. Use eight balls for the first layer, then top with the remaining eight balls. Toss in any remaining filling (or eat it--hey, you deserve a treat!).
Cover and let rise for an hour to an hour and a half.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
After dough has risen, bake for about forty minutes, or until golden brown.
If you happen to be at the Malice Domestic convention tomorrow, look for me and say hello. I’ll be the one with babka crumbs on my chin. Actually, if you sit at my table at the New Authors Breakfast on Saturday morning, you can get your very own slice of chocolate babka to snack on later in the day!

Alan Orloff is the author of the just-released mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD (Midnight Ink). The first book in his new series is KILLER ROUTINE - A Last Laff Mystery, featuring Channing Hayes, a stand-up comic with a tragic past (Spring 2011, also from Midnight Ink). A former engineer, marketing manager, and newsletter editor, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two children. When he's not writing or reading, he's cooking and eating. For more info, visit