Babka – traditional Polish bread that is made for holidays. As Easter nears, even though it stills feels like Christmas here in (insert sarcasm here) balmy Minnesota, it is time to make this delicious “sweet” bread. It’s is a versatile dough that can be made and altered into many variations. My favorites are orange sweet rolls, a nut and honey roll or just into plain clover leaf dinner rolls. I have known people to add citron or raisins to it, make it into a poppy-seed roll or just into a bundt cake topped with a sweet glaze or maybe even some rum. For Easter I’ve seen it braided w/ hard-boiled eggs inserted in it or shaped into a cross. It is always included in the basket of food that is taken to the church to be blessed on Holy Saturday, another Polish Easter tradition. Here’s the recipe – please note it is a “sticky” dough, so adding more flour will make it dense and not light and fluffy as it should be. Wesołego Alleluja! Enjoy!
2 cups scalded milk
12 tbsp. butter flavored Crisco
Melt the shortening into the milk and cool.
In a large bowl, mix ½ cup sugar, 4 eggs and 1 tsp. salt. Mix really well. Grate in one orange or lemon rind. Add in the cooled milk mixture.
In 1 cup of very warm water, add 1 tsp. sugar and 3 packets of dry yeast. Once that foams up and the yeast is activated, fold into the mixture.
Add, one cupful at a time 5 – 6 cups of all-purpose flour. Mix/knead with hands until the dough freely comes off your hands – probably a good 10 minutes. This will be your arm workout for the day. Or if using a stand mixture, have it mix for 7 minutes with paddle attachment.
Place in a large greased bowl in a warm place, covered to rise. Once it has doubled in size, punch it down and let it rise again. Once it has risen, use the dough as you wish. I have it pictured here as clover leaf dinner rolls or a honey-nut roll.
Once you have it in pans, let it rise, brush with an egg wash before baking. Bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes depending on how you are using it.