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Half of my heritage is Polish—coming from my dad. There weren't many Polish food traditions in our house while I was growing up, so I tried to create this one for Easter. I learned about babka (pronounced 'bob-ka') when I went to Greenpoint, the Polish neighborhood in Brooklyn, to explore the grocery and candy stores and delis. I came back excited to hear from my dad whether he had babka at Easter growing up and how it was made. Similar to the Italian panettone or the German stollen served at Christmas, the Polish version is a yeast bread with citrus and raisins that has many variations—some with nuts, some sweeter, different icings, etc. My dad said his mother made it very plainly with a simple lemon icing. And that's the way I've been doing my Polish Easter Babka ever since. I've modified this recipe slightly, cutting down on the 10 egg yolks (yes, 10!), butter and sugar to lighten it and make it at least a bit more healthful (but don't fool yourself, this is no health food). The double rise is time-consuming, but absolutely critical for a fluffy, buttery texture. Enjoy this bread as you would a coffee cake after Easter dinner or toast it for breakfast.
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Servings: 16 slices
Time: 20 minutes active; about 3 hours total
1 1/4 cup soy milk, heated to 100–110 degrees
2 packets (4 1/2 tsp) yeast
6 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the real stuff)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
4 1/4 flour, divided
1 cup golden raisins
grated peel from one lemon and one orange
For lemon icing:
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
1 tablespoon hot water
1. Put milk, yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk until yeast is dissolved and let sit 3 minutes. Affix the paddle attachment and add the other liquid ingredients: vanilla, eggs and butter and beat on low speed until mixed.
2. Add 4 cups of flour, one cup at a time, until well incorporated. Fold in raisins and citrus peel on low speed.
3. Change to dough hook and knead for 10 minutes on low speed. Meanwhile spray a large bowl with cooking spray. When the dough is done kneading, put it in the bowl and turn to coat it. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup flour, cover with a kitchen towel and put it a warm, draft-free location. Let rise for 1 hour.
4. Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray and when the first rise is complete, transfer the dough to the pan. Cover with kitchen towel and put back in the warm, draft-free location for a second 1 hour rise.
5. Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake babka for 30 minutes until an inserted toothpick or skewer comes out clean. Let rest for 10 minutes before turning over onto a cooling rack. If the babka is stubborn, when turned over, hit the pan with the butt of a knife to loosen.
6. Meanwhile, make icing. Put powdered sugar, lemon juice and hot water in a small bowl. Whisk until incorporated and pour over cooled babka. Let icing set a few minutes before cutting.
Writer Bio: Adrienne D. Capps loves food and is a vegetarian—she doesn't believe these things are mutually exclusive. A vegetarian for the past nine years, Capps created Vegetarianized.com as a way to share her passion for eating, drinking and cooking—and to make vegetarianism more accessible. The blog transforms meat dishes into vegetarian or improves vegetarian recipes and puts the results up in a weekly post called the Sunday Serving on the blog and at the Facebook Group Vegetarianized. Adrienne is also a food writer, teaches cooking classes in Davis and is an amateur caterer. Upcoming cooking classes and recent food articles are found on the blog home page.