JERRY: That's the last Babka. They got the last Babka.
ELAINE: I know. They're going in first with the last Babka.
JERRY: That was our Babka.
ELAINE: You can't beat a Babka.
JERRY: We should have had that Babka.
ELAINE: They're going to be heroes.
JERRY: What are we going to do now. If we can't get the Babka the whole thing's useless.
The Dinner Party episode of Seinfeld was the first time I had ever heard of a Babka but it wouldn’t be until years later that I would actually get to try one. I was at a brunch party last December and a benevolent friend contributed a Zingerman’s Chocolate Raisin Babka to the potluck. I was left smitten and swooning, he was declared the hero for the day. A Babka is a traditional Jewish bread that can be described as a cross between challah, panettone and a coffee cake. The name is a derivative of “Babcia”, the Eastern European word for “Grandmother”. Babka is made from a yeasted sweet buttery egg dough that is rolled around any combination of chocolate, cinnamon, orange or lemon zest, raisins, nuts, almond paste and streusel. The rolled log is sliced down the middle and braided over to expose the layers of gooey sweet filling. It’s a traditional dessert built for the modern Instagram era — glossy beauties that stop you mid-scroll mesmerizing you into a hypnotic dessert trance. I’ve been seeing a lot of Babkas on my social feeds lately so I thought why not learn how to make one and add to the madness.
After Googling a bunch of recipes and consulting my cookbooks, I settled on this recipe and method from Smitten Kitchen. She seems to have perfected the technique after much trial and error. I also didn’t want to mess with almond paste, nuts and soaked raisins. Nothing against them, I just didn’t want to bother with a longer than needed grocery list. I also liked that the Smitten Kitchen recipe calls for instant yeast versus activated yeast — no need to bloom the yeast first, just toss it in with the flour. For sure don’t skip the orange zest, it adds an attractive orangey aroma and compliment to the chocolate. I know it’s a lot of steps but it’s a lot easier than it looks, just take your time. I’m not much of a bread baker and even I was able to turn out something my friends were gushing over. I guarantee you if you make this, you’ll be a hero too!