Babke, is Polish for grandmother. Which is odd because these tasty yeast cakes bear no resemblance to little old peasant women. Rather, it resembles brioche, the bread with the butter baked in and a dough so rich you cannot really make it by hand. Babka are part of the shared culinary legacy of both Jewish and Catholic communities in Eastern Europe. Among the Poles, a babka was prepared for Easter using fruit or rum. The Jewish version however leans towards chocolate. This preference is immortalized by Elaine in Seinfeld season 5 with the line “(the cinnamon babka is) a lesser babka” (this is after they see the last chocolate one get snapped up).
While all of this is terribly interesting, it does not explain why I had to ransack several Jewish and non-Jewish cookbooks to find a recipe for this dessert. One thing I can tell you is that in many cookbooks the first entry in the B’s is bacon (including the ’31 edition of the Settlement Cookbook, written mostly by Jewish housewives). After a fair bit of digging I was able to find a few recipes to work from. The one that provided the most help oddly was the new Gourmet Today published just on the eve of that fabled magazine’s demise.
Recipe after the jump