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The Great Babka Project

Hi, Food lovers,
Last week some of you may recall I had submitted requests for babka recipes. The goal was to duplicate the taste and texture of my mother's incomparable babkas.

Well, we did it! (Almost) Saturday night and Sunday past were devoted to the "babka project". I have a dear friend whose husband is in the bakery supplies business, and whose company produces a vast line of all products used by (commercial) bakers. I have confidence in his expertise in discerning tastes and textures, and knowledge of baking techniques. They agreed to join my husband and me in the project, and his input was invaluable. She documented the whole episode with video! We began at 7:30 PM.

I had in my freezer, (well-frozen for perhaps 8 years!) the last remaining babka of my mothers. We removed 2 precious slices and cut them into small bits, and had a very analytical tasting. (Palate cleansings with Diet Coke.) I had assembled about 3-4 sweet yeast dough recipes which seemed to fit the bill, and we combined the best features and measurements from each to make what we hoped would be an accurate duplication of the dough. We began with 3 recipes starting with 10 cups of flour each in my very large bowls, and proceeded simultaneously with each. I figured 2 babkas per recipe, but in reality, 3 per recipe would have been better. They were enormous. My mother, (age 90) who claimed to have forgotten everything about how she made the babkas, seemed to come to life, and was able to give very valuable help and suggestions along the way. Most of these suggestions were after the fact, and therefore, became part of our notes and suggestions for next time.

During the rising, we assembled variations of the chocolate filling. After 1-1/2 hour rising, we proceeded to roll out and form the babkas, and bake them using all my ovens. One portion of the dough was reserved for and made an "Orangolushka", another of the cakes we had discussed. By now it was 1:30 AM. My friends left, and when the babkas were cool, I made 2 more recipes of the chocolate filling to use as topping, and added a dusting of ground walnuts. All cakes were wrapped well, and covered in plastic and slightly damp towels to keep them fresh until the morning. By now, it was 4:30 AM.

My friends returned around noon Sunday, and we cut all of the cakes in half, and slowly sampled each. We had color-coded each of the cakes with colored toothpicks and noted the variations in each, so we were able to tailor our comments to each. Well, we have come very close. Each of the babkas was delicious, and had very slight variations. We have many changes we will make for the next time, but these were all successful. The orangalushka is an unqualified success. My mom had graded them all as delicious, and happily keeps nibbling at them.

Posted by Malkie Altman