Some of my most popular recipes come from reader questions or suggestions. That’s the case with Polish Raisin Walnut Babka (Babka orzechowa z rodzynkami). Mary asked about a sweet bread, a babka that her busha used to make. I’m afraid this recipe isn’t exactly like Busha’s; hers had a crumb topping, and mine has a cinnamon glaze. Nevertheless, the bread is amazing, and I’m adding directions to use a crumb topping rather than the glaze if you prefer, and I hope Mary’s family will enjoy it.
The dough was started in the evening and baked the following morning at work. I put a sign by it as it was cooling. “Please let me get a photo first!” to ensure that I would have more than a plate with a smear of cinnamon glaze and crumbs to post here. Everyone loved it. Two comments from colleagues stuck in my mind. Fr. Mark was the first to sample it and he stopped by my office to say, “Lois, that babka is everything.” Fr. Peter appreciated it too, after taking his first bite, he asked if it would be OK to just go ahead and cut a second slice now.
Babka – yeast bread or quick bread-like cake?
It’s both! There will be some who will say that “real” babka comes from a yeast dough, but there are also babkas, sometimes called babka poznanska that are like an American pound cake, leavened with eggs and baking powder. The name comes from the Polish word babcia which means grandmother. Babkas are often baked in bundt pans which are said to resemble a grandmother’s skirt. I don’t think Poles are as troubled as the rest of us about is it a break or is it a cake. It’s just babka! No other definition is necessary.
As I alluded to above, this is a dough that rises in the fridge overnight. This cold proofing has benefits. Letting the dough rise at cold temps slows but does not stop the yeast. It’s a practice Ed uses when making a big batch of pizza crust dough. It’s recommended by the 00 Italian flour that we buy for our crust. It’s supposed to make for better flavor. It also gives a little more flexibility about when you finish the process.
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I have one last thought to share. This recipe which is originally from Foodandwine.com makes two 9-inch loaves. Make both, don’t cut it in half. You’ll want to have something left after the original flurry when it comes out of the oven. I know you’ll love it!
A delicate, rich swirled pastry filled with raisins, walnuts, and cinnamon
for the dough:
- 1 cup whole milk, warmed (110 F)
- 1 packet dry active yeast
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
- 4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
for the filling:
- 3/4 cups walnuts
- 3 cups golden raisins, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and drained
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 cup dark raisins, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and drained
for glaze (omit crumb topping below if using glaze):
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons whole milk
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
for crumb topping (skip the glaze above if making the crumb topping):
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- Add warm milk to a mixing bowl with yeast, and 1 tablespoon of sugar, stir and let sit for 5 minutes, it should become foamy
- Add remaining sugar, egg, egg yolk, flour and salt, mix until well combined using mixer dough hook for 5 minutes, add butter and mix until fully incorporated about 3 minutes, the dough will be tacky
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temp for an hour, divide dough in half, wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight
- Preheat oven to 375, bake the walnuts for 7 minutes, cool and chop coarsely
- Line 2 9-inch loaf pans with parchment, allowing 2 inches of parchment paper to hang over the long sides, spray with Pam or other oil spray
- Combine the golden raisins, sugar, butter, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor, process with the steel blade until smooth, reserve 1/2 cup of the filling
- Roll each piece of dough out to a 16 inch square, spread with 1/2 of the remaining filling, avoiding 1/2 inch around the edge of the dough, roll up as snuggly as possible
- Cut the rolled dough in half lengthwise, brush remaining filling over the outside and cutside of the two halves, place one piece of dough over the middle of the other piece, crosswise, wrap the pieces around each other to form a twisted spiral of dough, place in prepared pans
- If you’re using the crumb topping rather than the glaze, beat the egg with the cream, brush the loaves with the egg wash, mix powdered sugar, flour, and butter until well combined and crumb-like, sprinkle over loaves
- Cover and let rise at room temp for 2 hours
- Bake 45-50 minutes, cool 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the pans, especially the end without the paper overhang, use parchment paper as handles to lift the babka out of the pans
- If you didn’t use the crumb topping, prepare the glaze by heating the butter, milk, cinnamon, salt, and powdered sugar, stirring until combined, spoon and brush the glaze over the warm loaves, cool before slicing
My babka make look more darker or more red than yours, that’s because I substituted dried cranberries for both the golden and the dark raisins; it’s a substituion that I often make, I just like the taste better
Keywords: Polish babka raisin walnut