For as much as I don’t love traditional Polish food, an issue on which I elaborated some more here, out Easter this year was so far from traditional, my mom actually requested a Thai curry (which didn’t happen but who knows, maybe next year). Taking that the normal thing to eat is a dozen of eggs per head plus a choice of three meats, we had to get creative and interpret the typical menu so that it would suit our needs. The table was heavy with young vegetables of the season; cabbages, peas, beetroot. It felt very appropriate to finish off with a Polish note, hence the babkas.
Babka is a sweet yeast cake in the shape of a skirt (maybe it’s just me), served in the Easter period. It’s reminiscent of brioche but not as butter-y, sometimes enriched with raisins or candied orange zest, or both, and finished off with a thick layer of sticky white icing, with an additional sprinkling of the zest or nut flakes. As with all yeast cakes, it’s best on the day it was baked. My version skips the eggs, the lovely yellow color and moistness courtesy of freshly grated orange zest. Even my Grandma liked it, and she’s not a flexible eater, finding most veganized dishes unappealing/simply yucky.
ps. my mom is the best model!
Individual Babkas with Orange Zest and Dates
(adapted from White Plate)
(makes 6 individual 8cm babkas, or a 22cm tin)
1 packet dry yeast, 7g
350g / 2,5 cup baking flour
70g / 6 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp neutral oil
150ml warm water
2 oranges, zest
1 handful dates, chopped, or raisins.
2 tbsp orange juice, or more
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 handful hazelnuts
The dough will be quite sticky and loose, so use the dough attachement of your mixer in working it.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix with your hands the flour, yeast, sugar, zest of two oranges, salt. Start the mixer, add the water and oil gradually. Work the dough for 7 minutes. If it’s too dry, add more water (by tablespoons, never more a tonce) and oil (by teaspoons). At the end, add the chopped dates. Cover with a kitchen tower or a plastic bag.
Let stand for 1 ½ hrs, until doubled in size.
Prepare your baking tin by greasing it lightly with a neutral oil, then sprinkle flour in an even, thin layer, and shake off any excess.
Divide the dough evenly among the babka tins, or just transfer it into a baking tin of 22cm in diameter. Let stand for another 45 minutes, to allow the dough to rise once again.
Preheat the oven to 180⁰C. You can roast the hazelnuts as the oven heats up, to deepen their flavor. It’s really worth it!
Bake the individual cakes for 16-20 minutes, or the big thing for about 40 minutes. The cake should look golden on the outside and be springy to touch.
Once taken out of the oven, let them cool for 10 minutes, and take them out immediately afterwards, to keep the steam and heat from making the cake gooey.
In a small bowl or a big cup, mix the sugar and juice. You want for the consistency to be pourable.
Pour 1 tablespoon icing on each babka, sprinkle generously with the hazelnuts.