Monday, December 21, 2009

More About the Babka

Beebo reader Rico "Ice" Hertz astutely guessed that the babka might be of Russian origin. Here are some fun babka facts from wikipedia:

Babka, or Bobka, also known as baba, is a sweet yeast cake.
East European version: It is a spongy yeast cake that is traditionally baked for Easter Sunday in Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Belarus, Ukraine and Western Russia. Darra Goldstein, professor of Russian at Williams College says "babka comes from baba, a very tall, delicate yet rich yeast-risen cake eaten in Western Russia and Eastern Poland." Traditional babka has some type of fruit filling, especially raisins, and is glazed with a fruit-flavored icing, sometimes with rum added. Modern babka may be chocolate or have a cheese filling.

Jewish version: Chocolate babka, with streusel. Another version of babka is associated with the Eastern European Jewish tradition. This babka is made from a doubled and twisted length of yeast dough and is typically baked in a high loaf pan. Instead of a fruit filling the dough contains cinnamon or chocolate. The babka is usually topped with streusel. A similar cake called a kokosh is also popular in Jewish bakeries. Kokosh also comes in chocolate and cinnamon varieties, but it is lower and longer than babka, is not twisted, and not topped with streusel.

Babka of this style has become popular in North American cities with large Jewish populations, including Montreal, New York, Miami, and Toronto.

There also exists a traditional Eastern European Jewish variety prepared during Passover in lieu of bread. Generally, this sort is not sweet and is prepared using crushed matzos with water, egg, and salt. Some Polish Jews refer to pancakes with these ingredients as bubbeleh, a name similar to babka.
The Polish noun babka, Ukrainian and Russian baba mean "grandmother," and as applied to the pastry probably refer to its shape, a tall cylinder, sometimes with corrugations resembling a skirt’s pleats. The name of the pastry entered the English language from Polish, via French, although "babka" is also sometimes used in its original sense ("grandmother"), especially among those of Eastern European descent.

Pop Culture References: Babka was mentioned in the season 5 episode of Seinfeld entitled "The Dinner Party". Jerry and Elaine try to buy a chocolate babka to bring to a dinner party. Another couple going to the same dinner party buy the last chocolate babka. Jerry and Elaine must therefore buy a cinnamon babka, which Elaine describes as a "lesser babka".

Babka was also featured in an episode of Perfect Strangers where Balki must sing the "Bibbi-Babka" song.

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