Friday, April 18, 2014

Polish Easter Babka

This traditional yeast-raised cake, named after Polish grandmothers ("Babka" means "grandmother" in Polish) is as at home on a dessert table as it is on the breakfast table, delicious any time of day, really. It's an egg yolk, sugar and butter rich dough that's similar to brioche with its light and airy crumb but it's sweeter and much more flavourful thanks to the added vanilla and almond extracts and citrus zest. Many recipes include syrups or glazes for the finished loaves but we always leave ours plain.
It takes the better part of a day to make (6-8 hours), but most of it is inactive time and the end result - 2 beautiful cakes, one for family and one for sharing - is well worth the effort. I think this will be a catch phrase for every Polish recipe I post but here goes: every family has their own recipe - this one, a hybrid of my mother's and one that was printed in the Toronto Star newspaper years ago, is mine.

Polish Easter Babka
makes 2 large cakes


260g/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
21g/3 pkgs (6 3/4 tsp) instant yeast
520g/2 cups whole milk, scalded and cooled to at least 45C/110F

223g/12 large egg yolks
300g/1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp table salt
1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp pure almond extract
grated zest of 2 lemons
grated zest of 1 orange
715g/5-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
170g/3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
130g/1 cup dark raisins
Confectioner's sugar (optional)

1. For the sponge, stir the flour and yeast together in a bowl. Add the warm milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 45 minutes-1 hour or until the mixture has doubled in volume and is bubbly.
sponge fermented sponge
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium speed for 3-5 minutes or until thick and lemon-coloured. Add the salt, extracts, grated zest and sponge and beat on low speed for 1 minute or until well combined. Stir the flour in with a wooden spoon, adding it in 3 parts. Switch to the paddle attachment and mix the dough on medium-low speed scraping the bowl down periodically, until it's glossy and very sticky and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.
shaggy dough kneaded dough elastic dough
3. Drizzle the butter in, a few tablespoons at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough, occasionally scraping down the bowl. This takes about 10 minutes. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, switch to the kneading hook and knead for another 10 minutes (on #2 speed on my mixer) or until the dough is smooth, silky and shiny and is coming away from the sides of the bowl. Knead the raisins in by hand so that they're evenly distributed. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in volume.
kneaded dough with raisins proofed dough
4. Grease and flour 2 tube pans (10-12 cup capacity). Punch down the dough and divide evenly between the 2 pans. Cover them with plastic wrap and set them in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. 
babka dough proofed babka
5. 30 minutes before the cakes are ready to bake, set the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 175C/350F. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce temperature to 160C/325F and bake 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean (internal temperature of 88C/190F). Cool 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto racks to cool completely. Dust with confectioner's sugar if desired.


  1. That is absolutely gorgeous. I can almost smell it from here. Lovely crumb too :)

    1. Thank you, Hanaâ. It tastes as good as it smells!


Thank you for visiting. I'd love to hear from you.