¾ cup Milk
½ cup warm water
½ to ¾ cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp Sugar
7 tsp saf-instant yeast
10-12 Egg Yolks
2 Whole Eggs
1 ¼ tsp Salt
1 cup Sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 tsps vanilla
½ tsp almond extract
1 lemon zest
1 large orange zest and juice
2 tbs brandy
2 tbs buckwheat honey
5 3/4 to 6 cups unbleached bread flour
¼ cup baker’s milk powder
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsps cinnamon
1 cup or more yellow raisins
Traditional Easter Babka is a rich yeast cake bread traditionally served at Easter. It is one of the most distinctive Ukrainian breads. A successful babka – rich, tender, fine textured, spongy, and very light – is the great triumph of a Ukrainian homemaker.
How to Make Babka/Baba/Paska:
Scald the milk and cool to about 120F.
Whisk the ½ cup of flour with 7 tsps of the yeast and 2 tsps of sugar and mix with the cooled milk and warm water. It should be about the consistency of pancake batter. Add more flour if necessary.
Beat well, cover and leave to sit in a warm place until it rises and is light and bubbly.
Beat the egg yolks and whole eggs together with the salt; gradually add the 1 cup of sugar and continue beating until thick and light.
Beat in the butter, vanilla, lemon zest, orange zest and juice, brandy, buckwheat honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, and milk powder.
Combine with the risen sponge mix and mix well. Stir in enough flour to make a very soft dough and knead it in the bowl by working the dough over and up continually for about 10 minutes. Thorough kneading is essential to develop the elasticity. When raisins are used, they should be added after the dough is kneaded.
Cover and leave to rise in a warm place until doubles in bulk. Punch down, knead a few times and let it rise again.
Prepare 4, 46 oz. juice cans and line them with parchment paper. Large tube pans may also be used, but the traditional babka is always baked in a tall, cylindrical pan. Fill the pans one-third full.
Cover and leave the dough in a warm place to rise until it reaches the top of the pan. It should triple in bulk. Brush the loaves with beaten egg diluted with 2 tbs of milk or water. Do this after the loaves have started to bake for about 20 minutes otherwise you risk deflating them if you try to brush them when uncooked. Bake in a moderate oven, 375F, for about 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325F and bake for about 30 minutes; then again lower the temperature to 275F and continue baking for another 15 t0 20 minutes.
The baking period will depend on the size of the loaves. If necessary, cover with aluminum foil to prevent scorching.
Babka dough is very delicate and temperamental. It should be baked at a moderately high temperature at first in order to puff up and form a firm crust (which is when you can use the egg glaze) and then the temperature should be lowered because this dough is very rich and scorches easily.
Remove the baked loaves from the oven and leave them to stand in the pans on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes.
Tip each loaf very gently from the pan onto a cloth covered pillow. Gently remove the parchment paper. Do not cool the loaves on a hard surface.
Careless handling of the baked babka may cause it to fall or settle.
As the loaves are cooling, change their position very gently a few times to prevent settling.
If desired, the cooled loaves may be iced or glazed and decorated with bakers’ confetti. This is the custom in the old country. Babka is always sliced in rounds across the loaf. The sliced bottom crust serves as a protective cover, and it is put back to prevent the loaf from drying