I have this friend who's all about cupcakes. She loves making cupcakes and brings them to every birthday, every bar/bar mitzvah dessert table, wherever a little something sweet is needed, you can count on her for cupcakes. She's also a knitter and when I came across a pattern for a knitted cupcake, I knew I'd found the perfect gift for her upcoming significant birthday. Some of the other women in our knitting circle also joined in and we were able to present her with a pink bakery box full of knitted cupcakes.
The connection between babka and cupcakes? Only this--I'm not a baker of cupcakes, but I knew this friend was a fan of my chocolate babka and I wanted to bring something along to share at yesterday's knitting circle. There are a number of food allergies among our members and I try to keep those in mind when I bring food, but yesterday was a birthday celebration after all so wheat and dairy sensitivities were ignored as I started baking.
Babka is a sweet, rich , almost cakey bread wrapped around some kind of delicious filling which may include dried fruit, nuts, and spices. This is the simplest babka I know, but the fragrant combination of cocoa and cinnamon flavors in the filling is always enchanting. I make the dough in my trusty old bread machine, but it isn't a challenging dough and could as easily be made by hand or with a heavy duty mixer, I'm sure.
Once the dough has risen, it's divided and rolled out, brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with a cinnamon-sugar-cocoa filling. Everything gets rolled up and tucked inside. There's a second rise in the pan and then into the oven, emerging 45 minutes later looking plain as can be. Once cut, the bread slices will show attractive spirals of filling which I can't show you because I didn't bring my camera (although a photo was snapped by cameraphone---I'll share that when it arrives).
This is one of those breads that fills the house with delicious aromas and you'd be hard pressed to find something better to serve with coffee. And yet sometimes I will simply forget this recipe, for months on end and then find myself delighted to bump into this old friend again. Give it a try and see what you think. The recipe is here.