For our family, there is nothing more synonymous with Easter than making and eating homemade Babka. There are many variations of the iconic holiday tradition, but this is what we remember from our Polish heritage and our childhood: a light, textured, buttery, egg-rich, fragrant dough, studded with golden raisins (not too many) and a crusty brown shiny exterior, all to be slathered with more butter (of course).
No other version seems as authentic as this match to what we remember eating at our Grandmother’s home (Stella Uminska Brodow, our Babcia—although we never called her that). Easter memories are full of simple Polish food and tradition—kielbasa, hard-boiled eggs, ham, the treasured babka, early daffodils in the yard, and of a time long ago when the Polish priest came to her home to bless our Easter dinner. It is our joy to continue our heritage, long after all of our beloved Polish family members are with us no more.
One of our newer traditions has transitioned us from the standard solid colored eggs to a technique that is not only easy, but ties in (pun intended) to Linda’s background as a textile designer. By wrapping raw eggs tightly in printed silk tie fabric, and then boiling the eggs with vinegar for about 25 minutes, the dye from the tie is transferred to the shell of the egg, imparting a decorative design, almost mimicking the detailed painted designs of Polish painted wooden Easter eggs. This technique, courtesy of Martha Stewart, who is also Polish, can be found here: http://www.marthastewart.com/269788/silk-tie-easter-eggs
This year, it won’t be complete without a Good Friday trip to the Polish Deli, Basia’s in Ventor City, NJ, for the traditional kielbasa and ham, and maybe some pierogi and other Polish delicacies on the side.
Wesołych Świąt Wielkanoc!
Polish Babka (Click here to download)
3 pk (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (3 tbsp)
¾ cup warm water (110F)
1 Tb plus 1 cup sugar
7 3/4 cups flour (about)
1 1/2 cup milk
1 ¼ c unsalted butter or margarine
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup golden raisins
1 egg white
Grease side and bottom of 2 10-inch tube pans.
In shallow medium bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 cup warm flour; stir to combine. Cover; let stand in a warm place 5-10 minutes until foamy. Heat milk and butter or margarine in a small saucepan until melted. Let stand until mixture cools to warm. In a large bowl, beat eggs, egg yolks, and remaining 1 cup sugar until pale and frothy. Add cooled milk mixture, salt, and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Gradually beat in 4 1/2 cups flour. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead dough into a soft, smooth dough. Divide dough in half. Arrange one part dough in each greased pan. Cover with a damp cloth; let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly beat egg white and brush over top of dough. Bake 50-55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Makes two 10-inch loaves.