A Ukrainian tradition at Easter is to fill baskets with traditional foods which each have a symbolic meaning and are then taken to service and blessed by a priest. Foods such as sausage, smoked meats, salt, butter, beet horseradish, hard boiled eggs and my favourite – Babka bread. At the restaurant we used to prepare and sell these baskets and our customers would pick up on Good Friday. We used my mom’s recipe which she had somehow managed to squeeze out of my Baba before she passed away (Baba was not known for sharing recipes). This bread is rich and buttery. It is best eaten fresh, as it dries out quickly -but don’t despair, sliced and toasted with butter is the very next best thing. It can also be used for a delicious French Toast breakfast, sprinkled with cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup. Freezes well.
1 ½ C scalded milk, cooled
8 C all purpose flour (1 cup + 7 cups)
1 pkg dry yeast (traditional)
10 egg yolks
1 ½ C butter (room temperature)
1 C sugar
1 C lukewarm water
½ t salt
½ t vanilla
1 ½ C raisins (tossed in a tablespoon of flour to prevent sinking)
7 C flour
6 500 gr (17.5 oz) coffee cans, washed with labels removed
In a medium sized saucepan slowly heat milk until scalded (bring to boil then remove from head immediately). Let cool (takes about 20-30 minutes to cool)
Add 1 cup of flour, yeast and stir with a fork until well mixed.
In a large mixing bowl (or in electric mixer) combine egg yolk, butter and sugar. Mix well. Then add lukewarm water, salt, vanilla and raisins. Stir just until combined.
Slowly add the remaining 7 cups of flour, alternating with scalded milk mixture, starting and finishing with flour.
Mix well. Dough will be very sticky. Place on well-floured surface. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes. Keep adding flour if needed. Form into large ball.
Put into a large greased bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 1 ½ to 2 hours in a warm spot until almost double in size. Punch down. Let rise again for another 1 ½ to 2 hours, until double in size.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease coffee cans. Divide dough into 6. Fill cans (dough will/should fill to just over the rim of the can). Bake for 30 minutes or until tops are dark golden brown. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes in coffee can. To remove, bread will easily slide out of can. Continue to cool bread on it’s side to avoid sinking., turning every so often to maintain shape.