Recently, I saw a rerun of one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes "The Dinner Party" in which babka from Royal Bakery played a central role. For anyone who grew up in New York and/or Jewish and/or or just appreciated "The Dinner Party" episode, babka is truly something to love. Babka is a sweet cross between a cake and a bread. It's similar in texture to challah bread although a little more cake-like. It's something your bubbe would have made as they were typically baked by Jewish grandmothers (especially those from Poland or other part sof Eastern Europe).
And in case you (like Jerry and Elaine) didn't know that babka came in cinnamon, you do now. As Jerry and Elaine woke up to the wonders of cinnamon babka, so did we. Now we know that "“cinnamon takes a backseat to no babka”!
So, when one of my favorite blogs What Jew Wanna Eat? (also one of the blogs with the most clever names ever!) posted "20 Babka Recipes", I HAD to see if a cinnamon babka was there. And of of course it was! So, I decided to make Cinnamon Babka from the ToriAvey.com website this week's Babka of the....ummmm...I mean Recipe of the Week.
Now, I should warn you that this recipe is a little involved. It requires a few hours to make and incorporates the use of a stand mixer. But what a result! A babka your bubbe would be proud of!
It starts with proofing your yeast by dissolving it in warm (not hot) milk. As the yeast is proofing, you start to work on the dough. You begin by creaming the butter and sugar together. You then add in the rest of the ingredients little by little - oil and vanilla, then the egg yolks, then the flour and salt, and then the yeast mixture. And then (if using a stand mixture) you switch to the dough hook to forma soft dough. Once the dough is formed you remove it to a floured surface where you knead it several times until you have a soft ball of dough. Don't over-knead.
At this point the dough needs to rest. Place it in a bowl, cover it, and test it in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours - or even overnight. The key is to let the yeast do it's work and let the dough double in size.
During the dough's resting period, you make the cinnamon filling - a wonderful mixture of dark brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, butter, and an egg white.
After removing the dough form the fridge and bringing it to room temperature (about an hour) you roll it out a lightly floured surface until it's about 14x18 inches. You spread the cinnamon filling over it (leaving some room on the edges) then roll the dough into a tight log. Spread the log out until your log is about 20 inches long. You then twist the dough into a "figure 8" shape and pinch the ends together. Then you transfer to a parchment-lined (and cooking sprayed) loaf pan, cover it, and let it rise another hour or so. And rise it will!
While the dough is rising mix your streusel ingredients into a sweet crumbly streusel topping.
Before you put the loaf into the oven prick the dough all over to allow steam to escape during baking. Brush with an egg wash and sprinkle on the streusel. You bake it for 25 minutes, turn it and bake for 25-30 minutes more. When it is done, the babka will be 185 degrees in the center and (interestingly enough) have a hollow sound when tapped. Allow it to cool and then slice and enjoy.
I told you this recipe took some work. But, the recipe is well-written and easy to follow - and it comes with tons of pictures at each step...very helpful! I think you'll agree, it will be well worth your when you are done. Pop in the "The Dinner Party" Seinfeld episode and enjoy your awesome cinnamon babka!
BTW - are you familiar with Tori Avery's really great website ToriAvey.com? Tori is a film and television producer, screenwriter, and food blogger. Her lifestyle blog (cooking, family, home and garden, etc.) is so much more than just wonderful recipes, but wonderful recipes with some food history mixed in. If you like really good recipes and want to get better acquainted with where they came from as well, I'd whole-heartedly recommend checking out Tori's blog.