Babka! Growing up in a Polish household, we ate babka on Sundays as a treat. The most common variety was cheese (think cheese danish), but sometimes we had chocolate or raisin. If you’re not familiar with babka, it’s a sweet bread made with yeast. For Easter, we have a traditional breakfast that is of the hearty meat and eggs and bread variety, and full of traditional Polish food. We’d finish that off with some babka. Hence, Polish Easter Babka.
Since Easter Sunday is next week, now’s the perfect time to make a homemade Polish Easter babka to serve. I’m super excited by how my first attempt at making babka from scratch turned out, so I’m planning to make it a yearly tradition to make Polish Easter babka (along with Challah French Toast). I’m also excited about the quality of this babka, even though it’s not quite the same as the kind we would get from the local Polish bakery. Somehow, their version is more cakey on top – soft, so easy to tear with your hands – while mine came out more bread-like. But, it’s a very good version of babka! And since my version came out closer to bread, I don’t mind eating this for breakfast. Oooh, I think this would make really great and decadent french toast! I’ll have to try that. You should, too!
Polish Easter babka takes a while, with what seems like a lot of steps, but just take each one one-at-a-time, and you’ll do fine. If you have a stand mixer it will be easy, since the machine will do the kneading for you and cut down on time. If you’re kneading by hand, it will take a bit longer, but it’s quite fun to work with your hands. While the dough is rising, you can make the cheese filling. Pretty soon, you’ll have an outstanding, homemade breakfast food/dessert/treat to enjoy. And you’ll probably feel pretty accomplished, too.
Polish Easter Babka
Make a delicious Polish Easter Babka like this and you’ll be feeling pretty accomplished. And probably pretty full too 🙂
Prep Time: 3 hours (30 minutes active time)
Bake Time: 30-40 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Yield: (1) 9-inch babka
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup warm milk
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
For Cheese Filling:
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 1/4 cup cottage or farmers’ cheese
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Measure out 1/4 cup of warm water (use the ‘wrist test’ to get the approximate temperature – if you can’t ‘feel’ the running water on your wrist it’s neither too hot nor too cold, then it’s just right for proofing yeast).
- Add yeast and 1 tablespoon honey to the water. Mix well with a fork and let sit for about 10 minutes. The mixture should get frothy. (if it doesn’t the water wasn’t the correct temperature or the yeast is old. You’ll need to start over with new water and/or new yeast).
- Combine 2 cups of flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Attach the dough hook.
- Lay out 2 small bowls for the eggs. Use 1 to catch the 2 egg whites you won’t use in this recipe, and add the 2 yolks to the other. Crack the remaining eggs into that same bowl with the yolks. Whisk them quickly with a fork to combine, then add to the bowl of the stand mixer.
- Add the yeast mixture and the warm milk to the stand mixer bowl as well. Stir on low, gradually increasing to medium speed until the dough starts to come together.
- Add softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time, as the mixer is going, to incorporate into the dough.
- Add in the rest of the flour, 1 cup at a time.
- Beat until dough leaves the side of the bowl.
- Turn the speed to high and knead for 5 minutes.
- Grease a large bowl and place the dough in it, turning to make sure the dough is greased. Cover with a cotton towel. Place in a warm place (an oven set to broil for 5 minutes, then turned off is a good spot) and let rise for about 2 hours, until the dough is doubled in size.
In the meantime, make the cheese filling:
- Clean the bowl of the stand mixer, then add the softened cream cheese and cottage or farmers’ cheese.
- Attached the paddle and mix until smooth.
- Add in the egg yolk, sugar, lemon rind, and lemon juice. Mix well, until smooth and fully incorporated.
- When dough has doubled, turn out onto a floured work surface (a large wooden cutting board works well). Knead a couple of times, then divide dough into 2 equal parts.
- Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
- Press one part into the bottom of the greased pan and about an inch up the sides.
- Spread the dough with the cheese filling.
- Cut the remaining dough into ~8 equal pieces. To do so, cut the dough in half, then cut each of those pieces in half and so on until you have 8 equal pieces.
- Take each piece of dough and roll it into a log and then shape it into a swirl. Place the swirl on top of the cheese filling. (If you’d like, you can add a dollop of the cheese on top of the swirl.
- Let the dough rise for another 30 minutes, covered with a cotton towel in a warm place.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350*F.
- Bake babka for 30-40 minutes or until the cakes sound hollow when tapped. Set your timer for 30 minutes and check on the babka. If the top is starting to brown too much, cover with aluminum foil for the remainder of the baking time.
- Cool on a wire rack. Serve immediately or wrap in plastic wrap for future serving. Keeps for about 4-5 days. You can also freeze for future use.
Adapted from: Lemon-Cheese Babka, Diana’s Desserts