I am the first to admit that I am not a Suzie Homemaker (and especially not a Dynka-Hospodynka!). My cooking attempts flop with heart-sinking regularity and the prospect of entertaining a crowd strikes cold waves into my heart. Give me a pen or a computer any time over a wooden spoon!.
But once a year, I pretend that I’m Suzie (or maybe Sophronia) and attempt to bake babka for Easter. The results have been, shall we say . . . variable. Most years there was something to put in the Easter basket without resorting to buying a Reasonable Facsimile, but some were less edible than others – and the stress on baking day is always a grey cloud, what with the yeast not bubbling and the babka developing wells while baking instead of nice rounded tops and well . . . we won’t speak of the ‘Horror of 2010’ . . !
But in spite of it all, every year before Easter I tackle baking babka. Everyone in the house is warned not to slam any doors or keep the front door open for any length of time, for fear that the finicky dough flop and my Genetic Un-Suzie-Ness be revealed to all when I take my Easter basket to be blessed!
Arggh. So here we go again!
First, buy the RIGHT kind of yeast – TRADITIONAL . . ! I admit that seductively named Quick Rise Yeast tempted me into cheating on Traditional in some years past, but it only resulted in heartbreak. For a long-term relationship, you need a partner that’s boring and reliable. Be Conservative! Buy Traditional!
Then, check that 10 kg bag of Robin Hood flour to make sure that it’s NOT one of the ones that’s on the recall list for e-coli. Phew. The date’s not that same, so I don’t have to send The Man out for a run to the store.
Then, read the recipe. Which one? The one that’s in the Out-of-Print Bible of Ukrainian Cooking – Savelia Stechishin’s Traditional Ukrainian Cookery (see, there’s that Traditional thing again; seems Baba’s Children are not Liberals, or – Bozhe Borony – NDP!). Today’s Amazon listings price the book from $348.76 to $551.55. Yikes! Niece #1 found one in a used book store in Toronto for $75 (a real bargoon!), resulting in a Great Group Gift for Darlin’ Donia a couple of Christmases ago. I’ve heard rumours about plans to reprint the Culinary Bible. Wonder if they’re true . . .
Now back to reading the recipe: Open the book and read the recipe. Then read the recipe again. And again. And again/again/again. I never seem to remember what it says once I’ve walked away from it. Am I the only one descending into Doughy Dementia?
The yeast mixture is bubbling and growing on the stove – a nice change from the last few years. But those flops could be blamed on old yeast. Or drafts from the stove fan. Or someone opening the front door and letting a draft in. Or something. Right?
Yay, the yeast mixture turned out nice & bubbly! Bee-you-tee-ful! Quelle relief!
Time to crack all the eggs: Recipe says 10 – 12: 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . I was up to 7 before I began to feel that something was wrong. Checked the recipe – Yaggh, I’m supposed to be using only the yolks! How could I have forgotten that? (Perhaps I neglected to say it: Read The *!!* Recipe!). The 1/3 cup measure turned out to be perfect for scooping out the yolks one by one without adding too much white – problem solved!
You can see the flecks of orange rind in the batter – much better than lemon!
Start adding flour . . and more . . . and more . . .
Oops, forgot to sift . . . and . . . forgot to measure! Yeech. OK, well we’ll just proceed blindly and hope my hands remember what the dough is supposed to feel like . . .
Bring in the heavy guns when the mixing gets too hard for Li’l Ol’ Me (note the hairy arm).
I think I finally have that Scoop & Fold Technique down after how many years . . .?
It took three of us to put the raisins in the batter: Li’l Ol’ Me in the centre kneading, Dutiful Son on the right slowly adding raisins one by one – and the Phantastic Photographer on the left capturing it all with his finger partially over the lens . . .
The rising: it’s exciting to see first the baby bump, then the full belly! A good babka will need three risings, so don’t plan on accomplishing much else during Babka Time – have to keep checking on baby!
Lovely and plump!
. . . but not for long. Punch it down! Yah!
Then do it all again with the second rising . . . . .
Apparently these are a dying breed as well – metal cans without the white lining. Can you bake in tins with the white lining? Surprise! Apparently for over fifty years, even the cans that look silver inside have had an invisible epoxy lining, so the verdict is that all cans leach nefarious nasties into our babky. Who knew that sticking to Tradition was bad for your health? It’s enough to make you vote NDP, or at least Liberal . . .
The next step is tricky. Try to fill each vintage leaching tin just one-third full of dough without getting the breadcrumbs lining the sides of the can onto the dough – all while trying to make the tops nice and smooth . . . Yeah, right . . . On the third rising, the dough “should triple in size . . .until it reaches the brim of the pan”. (Hmm . . . well, one of mine didn’t quite reach the top and one went past the top). But I’m not a perfectionist (at least not in the kitchen)! Brush with egg and bake!
Voila! A couple of the tops are a little overdone, and the over-the-top one made for some dicey taking-out-ed-ness, but all in all I would say the results are not too shabby for a non-Sophronia!
Ah – you’re wondering about the Horror of 2010? The Flop de Resistence looked like this (the blurriness is of course because of the tears in my eyes, not because I didn’t know how to focus the camera . . .). They look more like scones in this picture, but I remember them more as hard flattish bits of dough . . .
So . . . the verdict on Babka Time 2017? I wasn’t stressed at all – and the babky came out pretty nice. Quelle Improuvement! Maybe some day I’ll change my name to Sophronia . . .