The Polish Easter Babka celebrates the return of the egg to the diet after the Lenten Fast. Babka is always at the Easter Feast. This is a Babka of a completely different sort. Don't be intimidated by the lengthy directions, I just wanted to make it as easy as possible!!
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
2 packets active dry yeast
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Activating the Yeast
Pour the warm water into a large mixing bowl and dissolve it in the sugar and the yeast. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour and let this small sponge work for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbly and expanded
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
3-1/2 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup golden raisins
1 recipe Cheese Filling (see below)
1 egg white beaten with 2 tsp. water for wash
Making the Dough
Scald the milk in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the butter and sugar. Stir to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar.
When milk mixture has cooled, beat it and the eggs (and the extra yolk) into the active yeast. Add 2 cups of flour and the salt and mix thoroughly. Add the raisins and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Stir until this holds together and comes away from the sides of the bowl.
Knead for 3 to 4 minutes on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Add only enough flour to keep it from sticking to the board or you.
Place the dough into a greased bowl, turning it so the top is also greased. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
While the dough is rising, make up the cheese filling.
14 oz. Farmers Cheese (two 7 oz. packages)
If you can't find the dry curd cheese you can substitute cottage cheese set over a strainer and drained.
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. lemon extract (optional)
When dough has risen, turn it out onto your floured board, cut it in half and shape each into a ball. Cover with a towel and let the dough rest 15 minutes.
Roll each piece of dough into a rectangle 10 x 18 inches. Spread cheese filling down the center third of each rectangle and form a braid.
Cut strips about 1 inch wide from each side of the filling out to the edges of the dough. Fold about an inch of dough at each end over the filling to contain it. Then fold the strips, at an angle across the filling, alternating from side to side.
Place the shaped loaves on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with a damp towel and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The dough will not rise much this time.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
Enjoy with your coffee on Easter Morning!!