This Ukrainian Babka Recipe is actually a slightly sweet bread that often contains raisins and made for Easter Sunday and you can leave it plain or add icing. This babka is one of my very favorite bread recipes.
Ukrainian Babka Recipe
When I was growing up, my mother talked a lot about growing up in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, in a duplex with her Nana in the apartment below my grandparents. Both of my grandparents were Polish, so even when I was growing up, there was a huge Polish influence when I was with my mother’s family.
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Babka means glazed sweet bread made with dried fruit (such as raisins) and it’s traditionally served at Easter or other special holidays. It is an eastern European bread with different variations. My mom grew up with Polish babka which is the shape of traditional bread. Ukrainian Babka Cake (or bread) is tall and cylindrical like an Italian panettone. Also Ukrainian Babka can be iced or left plain.
The easiest way to make this easter bread recipe is by using 2-pound coffee cans with the top rim cut off with a can opener. I made panettone this way and saved my cans. Just make sure there is no paper left on the outside and no coating on the inside. These days a lot of coffee cans look metal but are in fact plastic.
How do you eat Ukrainian Babka Bread?
Ukrainian Easter bread is sliced across the loaf beginning at the bottom. However, the bottom slice is not eaten until the rest of the bread is gone. It serves to keep the rest of the bread fresh.
Babkas are baked differently than traditional bread, as they start baking at a high temperature so the dough will puff up and form a firm crust. Then the temperature is lowered so the exterior dough doesn’t scorch before the inside has finished baking.
What is the difference between Paska and Babka?
Ukrainian babka is similar to paska, but it is sweeter and richer and almost cake-like. Traditional paska bread is baked in a large round decorated on the top with religious symbols, including crosses, flowers, braids, wheat, or other designs representing aspects of Orthodox and Eastern Catholic faith.
The word for ‘Easter’ in Ukrainian is Velykden’, which translates to ‘Great Day’, and it is one of the biggest holidays in the country.theculturetrip.com
How do you make this Ukrainian Babka Bread?
First, you need to make the sponge by scalding the milk and then cooling it. I don’t pay attention to the temperature – I just put it in the microwave for 2 minutes and then allow it to cool. If you put your finger in the milk and it’s mildly warm or cool then it’s fine.
Mix the flour into the milk. Add your yeast mixture to the scalded milk and flour and mix well in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place.
Next, make the dough by beating the egg yolks, whole eggs, and salt in the mixer or large bowl. Add 1 cup sugar and continue beating until light in color. Add the butter, vanilla, and lemon zest.
Next, add the sponge to this mixture and mix well on medium-low speed. Mix in your 6 cups all purpose flour and knead for 7-10 minutes to make a soft dough – depending on whether you use the machine or your hands. Knead in the optional raisins. My family isn’t crazy about raisins so I left them out.
Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour. Punch down dough, knead a few times by hand, and let it rise again, about an hour. You might want to really smush it with your hands and feel the air bubbles release. It’s so satisfying! This babka can really become a monster if you let it – make sure you control it by kneading it properly and don’t neglect it.
Grease 3 babka cylinders, food-grade coffee tins or bread pans and fill each pan 1/3 full. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until tripled, about an hour.
**Make sure you don’t allow the dough to rise past the top of the tin! Put it in the oven as soon as it reaches the top but hasn’t gone past. This is very important. If you do this, your babka may end up falling off, like my babka fail below.
Before baking, brush the tops of dough with with 1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk or water. I actually forgot to do this so the bread isn’t shiny.
Bake the babkas in the oven at 375 F for 10 minutes first. Then lower the temperature to 325 F and bake for 30 minutes. After this, finally lower the temperature to 275 F and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer. If needed, cover the tops with aluminum foil, so they don’t brown too much.
Remove from the oven and let stand in the can for 10 minutes. Then slide or jiggle the baked loaves out of the cans and cool completely on a wire rack. If desired, the cooled loaves can be iced with a simple confectioners’ sugar glaze, letting it drip down the sides.
How Long Does Ukrainian Babka Bread Last?
This bread lasts about 3-4 days when it is wrapped up well. If you’re making it ahead of time, you can keep it on the counter in an airtight container. It also freezes well wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in an airtight freezer plastic bag or container and stored in freezer.
- For the Sponge
- 1 cup milk
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 cup water (lukewarm)
- 3 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast
- For the Dough
- 10 large egg yolks (room-temperature)
- 2 large eggs (room-temperature)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 8 ounces butter (melted)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (grated)
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- Optional: 1 cup raisins (light or dark)
- 1 large egg (room-temperature)
- 2 tablespoons milk (or water, room-temperature)
- Make the Sponge: Scald the milk and cool it to 110 F. Place 1/3 cup flour in a medium bowl and pour the cooled scalded milk over, beating until smooth. Set aside.
- In a measuring cup or small bowl, dissolve 2 teaspoons sugar in lukewarm water and stir in the yeast.Transfer the yeast mixture to the milk-flour paste, mixing well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until light and bubbly.
- Make the Dough: In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the egg yolks, whole eggs, and salt. Add 1 cup sugar and continue beating until light. Beat in the butter, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the sponge to this mixture and mix well.
- Add 6 cups flour and knead 7 minutes by machine or 10 minutes by hand. Knead in the optional raisins. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour.
- Punch down dough, knead a few times, and let it rise again, about an hour.
- Grease 3 babka cylinders or food-grade coffee tins and fill each pan 1/3 full. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until tripled, about an hour.
- Brush tops with 1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk or water.
- Bake the Babkas: Heat oven to 375 F. Bake babkas 10 minutes. Then lower temperature to 325 F and bake 30 minutes. Then lower temperature to 275 F and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer. Cover tops with aluminum foil, if they are browning too quickly.
- Remove from the oven and let stand in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn loaves out of the pan, running a knife around them, if necessary, and cool completely on a wire rack. If desired, the cooled loaves can be iced with a simple confectioners' sugar glaze, letting it drip down the sides.
Rustic Happy Easter Sign. This wood sign measures 13″x5.5″x1/2″. This adorable sign is stained, painted with white chalk paint and distressed for that look we all love along with three white pom poms added for the tails.
Easter Bunny Garland. What a perfect way to decorate for Easter! This adorable bunny garland in pretty spring colors will make any mantle look special. Each felt bunny measures approximately 5” tall and are hand sewn and filled with fiberfill.
Spring Felt Ball Garland. Made with 100% New Zealand sheep wool, each ball is hand felted which may cause balls to vary in size and shape; some colors tend to be slightly larger OR smaller than other color.
Here is a photo of one of my failed Ukrainian Easter breads – I let it rise WAY too long and then when it went into the oven it rose so much it actually fell off!