Babka floods my polish arteries but once a year, every Easter since birth. There will never be a bread to match my beloved babka on Easter morning.
The chrusciki? Way too crunchy.
The Polish poppyseed bread? Too much like bird food mixed with butter.
As a kid, I would sneak slices from the babka bread basket and eat it while nestled under the dining room table or while jumping on my grandmother’s bed. Later, my teenage angst led me to rebel against my parents,all traffic laws and polish food- laughing in the face of stop signs and sticking my nose up at anything containing meat or cabbage.
But I always ate the babka. While everyone else was swooping down like vultures on piles of smoked kielbasa and pools of polish mustards, I was munching on my third slice of babka.
Although our traditional Polish meal was enthusiastically shared with friends, neighbors and passersby, only the traditional polish food was welcome at this table and any creative culinary variations were scorned as sacrilege.
I just hope my late grandfather never finds out that my dad grills the polish kielbasa instead of boiling it and may he never know that I infused a homemade cheese babka with (sssshhhh…) raspberry sauce.
Babka, Polish Easter Bread
Cheese babka is traditionally speckled with lemon peel and raisins, but this one has soft scented raspberry preserves swirled through the center.
21/2 tsp. active dry yeast (equal to one packet)
¼ cup water (use a thermometer to get it around 110 degrees)
½ cup sugar
5 eggs yolks (or 3 whole eggs)
½ tsp. salt
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
½ cup melted butter
¾ cup warm milk, using more if needed
1 pound of flour (approximately 4 cups sifted flour)
Raspberry Cheese Swirl
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 ½ cups farmers cheese (or ricotta or cream cheese)
¼ cup confectioner sugar
¼ cup of raspberry preserves
Start by proofing the yeast. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar in the warm water. The temperature is important here, because the yeast cannot grow correctly if the water is too hot or too cold. Give a little stir and let sit for about 10 minutes, until it’s smelly and bubbly.
While the yeast is proofing, beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add in the sugar, salt and vanilla, beating until smooth. Slowly pour in the melted butter while continuously whisking until smooth. Pour in the yeast mixture and beat. Add one cup of flour, then a splash of milk, alternating with each for the remaining milk and flour. If the dough is too sticky and wet, add more flour until it is firm enough to knead on a counter top.
On a floured work surface, knead the dough a few times until smooth. Place the dough in a clean, buttered bowl. Cover bowl with a damp cloth and set in a warm place for about an hour, until is doubles in size.
Prepare the filling. Mix the cheese with the confectioner sugar and vanilla. Gently heat the raspberry sauce in the microwave or a small pot until it loosens up a bit.
Prepare the bundt pan. Generously grease the pan with melted butter and a dusting of flour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured work surface and shape into a 10 x 15 rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter and then layer on the cheese filling. Spoon the raspberry sauce on top of the cheese filling, adding more if needed.
Begin rolling the dough into a log shape. Gently lift the log and place it in the greased bundt pan. Seal the ends shut and let rise another hour, until doubled in size.
Bake the babka for 40 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before inverting on a plate.