Growing up as an only child has its advantages and being the only grandchild was one of them. I didn’t have to share their attention and often they would save me from getting into trouble. My Dad’s side of the family is Ukrainian and I can remember going to the church where my great uncle was the priest and listening to the sermons and choir all in Ukrainian. I had no clue what they were saying or singing but I loved hearing the language. Sometimes I would get to sit up in the balcony and look down and the sounds of the choir echoed beautifully up there. Other times, I am sure when I heard my Grammy say something in Ukrainian she was telling me “what for”.
Visiting my grandparent’s home at Easter was a favorite of mine for many reasons. The colorful hand-crafted eggs that were displayed which I stared at but was not allowed to hold or touch the delicate works of art. The trips to the local butcher shop to get fresh kielbasa for Easter dinner and homemade pierogies were tops in my book. I also loved all of the sweet treats only made during this holiday and Babka bread was my (and still is) favorite. I could eat this and nothing else and be happy, happy, happy! I don’t really remember my Grammy making this bread, I know she did but I just recall it was there, sliced, and ready for me to dive into. My Dad would make it at home and it was just as delicious.
Babka bread is an Ukrainian sweet, leavened bread made with a rich dough (often containing golden raisins), which is made for Easter Sunday to celebrate the rising of Christ. Traditionally, this bread is shaped into decorative shapes; but I am not that talented – yet.
The recipe I am using is from one of the Ukrainian cookbooks that was handed down to me from my Dad. I can hardly wait to look at all of the recipes and see what else I can make.
Do you have any favorite ethnic Easter recipes? If so, I’d love to learn about them!
I confess, this is my first time making Babka bread and I actually made it two times in a row to get it right. The real test will be when my Dad tastes it! Just a little nervous about that…
This is after the dough rose the first time – the smell of yeast breads is like none other, in my opinion.
After adding the rest of the flour and other ingredients, it was time for the dough to rise a second time. Be sure your pans are well greased!
The second attempt at this bread, I added a bit more sugar so the rising time was about an hour longer. Well worth the wait when it was baked. The egg wash gives the crust a nice shiny finish.
Ahhh….perfection! I’m telling you, this bread is worth the kneading (yes I did it by hand once the mixer combined all of the ingredients) and the two rising times.
Ukrainian Babka Bread (Easter Bread)
- 2 cakes fresh yeast or substitute 2 packets active dry yeast - 4½ teaspoons
- 2 cups whole milk warmed to 110 degrees F
- 7 to 8 cups all-purpose flour divided
- 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar*
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted and cooled to room temperature
- 5 egg yolks lightly beaten
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups golden raisins optional
For the Egg Wash:
- 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- In a large bowl, stir the yeast into the warm milk to dissolve and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Add 3 cups flour and mix with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free area until the dough has doubled in size.
- If you choose to use the golden raisins, soak the raisins for 30 minutes in warm water, then drain and pat dry with paper towels before using. This will keep the raisins soft in the bread and hard.
- Transfer the dough to the bowl of an electric stand mixer and add the sugar, melted butter, egg yolks, salt, vanilla, and golden raisins. Mix to just combine.
- Add the 4 cups of flour, one at time; mixing between each cup.
- Mix on low to medium-low speed until the dough comes together, adding more flour one tablespoon at a time, if needed. The dough will be a bit sticky.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it forms a smooth dough, about 5 minutes, again adding more flour one tablespoon at a time, if needed.
- Divide the dough into three equal sections and shape into loaves, then transfer to three 8x4-inch greased loaf pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size.
- When the dough has about 10 minutes left to rise, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. **
- Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash.
- Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F** and bake for an additional 40 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown.
- If the loaves are beginning to get too dark, place a tented or loose piece of foil over top.
- Let the bread to cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, then turn the loaves onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- ***Store leftover bread in a re-sealable plastic bag and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- Recipe from Ukrainian Cookbook by the SS Peter and Paul Church