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Babka rises to any occasion

Thursday, May 09, 2002

By Arlene Burnett

Because you asked for it, Kitchen Mailbox is baking bread. Today's recipe for babka is just one of the many requests we've received. Others -- such as Irish brown bread, Irish soda bread, salt-free bread and croissants -- will be featured in upcoming columns.


The star ingredient in these breads is yeast. Yeast is used as a leavening agent (the ingredient that increases the volume of the dough). When yeast is mixed with a liquid, it forms carbon dioxide gas bubbles, which cause the dough to rise. There are two methods of mixing yeast dough: the straight dough method and the sponge method. Today's recipe uses the straight dough method, which means the dry ingredients are combined with a mixture of yeast and a warm liquid. The warm liquid should not rise above 138 degrees or the yeast will die and your bread won't rise.

Bread baking can be tricky, but if you measure the ingredients accurately and follow the directions, you shouldn't have a problem.

This recipe is just one of the many versions of babka. It was sent in by John Gross of Homewood for Eva Fedash of Martins Ferry, Ohio.


4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
1 cup light raisins
1/4 cup chopped almonds

Combine 2 cups of the flour, yeast, lemon peel and cinnamon; set aside. Heat together milk, sugar, butter and salt until warm (115 to 120 degrees), stirring constantly. Add milk mixture to dry mixture. Add egg yolks. Beat at low speed of electric mixer for 1 1/2 minutes, scraping bowl. Beat 3 minutes at high speed.

By hand, stir in raisins and enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth, about 5 to 8 minutes (we used a heavy-duty mixer with the dough hook attachment).

Shape dough into a ball and place in greased bowl, turning once to coat the dough. Let rise until double (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours). Punch down. Sprinkle almonds in well-greased 10-inch tube pan. Shape dough into an 8-inch ball; then make a hole in the center. Place dough into the tube pan.

Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

Makes 1 loaf.

Note: Our babka was baked in about 35 minutes, but our oven runs hot. We suggest testing for doneness often and if the top begins to brown before the bread is finished baking, cover with foil.


A request from Lita Strom of Penn Township: "I hope one of your readers can help me in the search for these delicious cookies! I cut a recipe out for Swedish Cremes from The Pittsburgh Press and used it for years. It was our favorite cookie recipe and was always requested at family events. I lost the recipe. The cookie dough was almost like a shortbread. I have tried several look-alike recipes, but none can compare."

Paul Piatek of Wexford writes: "Although this is not a request for a recipe, I thought maybe you could help. While on vacation last year at the Kea Lani Resort on Maui, Hawaii, we discovered its garlic peppercorn ketchup. We purchased several bottles to bring home, but our supply is almost exhausted. The bottle label says it is manufactured on Maui for the Kea Lani but does not have a manufacturer's name. I contacted the hotel to see if it was available on the mainland, but have not received a response. Do you or any readers know where I could purchase a similar product locally?"

Kate Hornstein of Moon is searching for a Korean pancake. Kate writes, "After eating a Korean pancake cooked by an outdoor vendor near Sam Bok's a month or so ago, I've craved the recipe. The pancakes have a nice, spicy 'kick' that very much appeals to my California-born tastebuds. Thanks for any help you can give!"

A request from Judy Stevenson of West Homestead is looking for a chicken recipe "that uses cranberry sauce with whole berries, French or Russian dressing, onion soup. What I need is the amounts of each. I was a guest at a friend's home in Virginia and the hostess served chicken made with this glaze and would not give the recipe. She told me what the ingredients were but not the amounts. This chicken was very good, served with a rice and vegetable."

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com Please include a name, neighborhood/city/borough/township and state and a daytime phone number on all correspondence.

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