There’s an episode of Seinfeld called “The Dinner Party” in which Jerry and Elaine are on their way to a dinner party, and decide they need to take something with them for the hosts. They stop at a bakery wanting to buy a chocolate babka, but end up with a cinnamon one instead. Elaine is unhappy because she considers a cinnamon babka “a lesser babka”.
There are different types of babka, which I believe originated in Poland, but it is traditionally baked on major holidays in a number of Eastern European countries. Some make babka as a cake, and glaze it with chocolate or vanilla icing and decorate with nuts and dried fruit. For others it is a sweet bread braided and filled with sweet cinnamon or chocolate fillings with streusel toppings. This latter version reminds me of the Bohemian sweet breads that I love so much, and which tend not to use chocolate. So for me, cinnamon is definitely not the lesser babka!
- 125g cream cheese
- 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 c caster sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 7g sachet dried yeast
- 1 1/4 c warm milk
- 1 t vanilla
- 1 t salt
- 3 c flour
- 2 T cream
Line 2 large loaf pans with baking paper.
Beat cream cheese, oil and caster sugar until light and creamy. Beat in egg yolks.
Combine milk and vanilla. Stir in yeast and set aside for 2 minutes to activate the yeast, then fold yeast mixture into egg mixture. Add flour and salt, and beat until the dough is soft and sticky.
On a well floured smooth surface, knead the dought until it is smooth. Place in a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with a slightly damp cloth and leave in a warm spot to rise (about an hour).
While the dough is rising, the filling needs to be prepared.
- 1 1/2 c caster sugar
- 2 1/2 t ground cinnamon
- 125 g butter
- 1/2 c warm milk
- 1 1/4 c flour
- 1 egg
In a medium bowl, beat butter, sugar and cinnamon until light and creamy. Add flour, milk and egg and beat until well mixed. Set aside until required.
Once the babka dough has doubled in size, remove from the bowl and divide into 4 pieces. Roll 2 pieces into braid-able lengths and set aside. Roll remaining 2 pieces into braidable lengths and then flatten them so they can be filled.
Divide filling into thirds. Using 1/3 of the cinnamon mixture each, place a line of filling along the length of both flattened lengths and gently wrap dough around the filling. Cover the remaining filling and leave in the refrigerator until needed.
Create the 4 lengths of dough together. Cut braid in half crossways and place each piece in a prepared pan. Cover with the cloth and leave to rise again until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 180C. Brush each loaf with cream and then crumble the remaining filling mixture over the tops. Bake for about 30 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool in their pans for 5-10 minutes before removing.