Babke Cakes, a Challa and Talk About Religion

There are certain topics you just don’t talk about as a food blogger, and one of them is definitely religion. But after four and a half years of being inspired to write recipes based on my childhood, or a holiday, or a seasonal vegetable, I’ve come to that point where yes, none other than religion is what brought me to this recipe.

I’ll start by being transparent and letting you get a glimpse of where I come from on the matter. I was raised Jewish in Los Angeles, went to a Jewish school from Kindergarten until High School, went to Jewish camp, and celebrated all the big Jewish holidays. I grew up believing in the religion, the principles and customs of Judaism (or at least the version that I was taught), but I was the most connected with the religion in that it acted as the glue which bonded the community around me.

I first stepped foot into Israel as an adult (I had been before at the age of three) in the year 2000, and for me it was an instant connection. And it was apparently obvious to me what I was connected to: the glue that bound the country, and (most) of its citizens together. From the random conversations with strangers that can simple not be avoided to the lack of public space (like in the insy-wincy elevators they have here) or to the close knit family and friend circles- I was smitten with the sense of community, which I previously knew as being tied to religion.

Also in the year 2000, the second Intifada was taking place, and religion, as it tends to do, was the center of what caused thousands (yes, thousands!) of deaths on both sides. It was almost immediately that I felt that the religion as I knew it was not the religion that was the core of the fighting, and it made me distance myself from religion in general, and my religion specifically.

Now, back to food blogging. Being a food blogger in Israel means that every so often Danya and I are faced with the Kosher issue. Nearly every time we put up a non-kosher recipe, even though we almost always give options on how to make it Kosher, we get at least one negative comment reprimanding us of our doing. Another question that it raised often is how to change a recipe to become Parve, a subject that neither of us feel very confident about answering (generally having to exchange butter with margarine).

And so, although I do not consider myself a religious person, I do believe 100% in religious freedom and when I came across this recipe for yeast dough that was Parve, I found it my duty to share it with all of those readers who have requested that our recipes respect the Jewish religion.

Basic Yeast Dough

This recipe was given to me by my sister-in-law’s mother, who her herself has become closer to religion in the past few years (since her kids left the nest). Its fool proof-really- and can be the base for about any yeast cake you can imagine. This recipe yields enough for three cakes, and I generally make one braided plain challah and two cakes, each week rotating with different flavors (chocolate, speculoos, halva,etc.) Like most yeast dough, you can make this one the night before and keep it overnight in the fridge to rise.

Ingredients for 3 cakes:

1 pound/500 grams all-purpose white flour

50 grams fresh yeast or 2 tablespoons active dry yeast

½ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup canola oil

3 eggs

2 cups warm water

Preparation:

  1. In a mixer fitted with a hook attachment, mix together the flour, yeast and sugar on low speed. Add the salt, oil and then the eggs, one by one, mixing at medium speed until combined. Add the water and mix until dough is smooth, but very (very) sticky.
  2. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap or a damp clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for about 1½ hours, until doubled in size.
  3. Remove onto a well-floured surface and evenly divide the dough into three even pieces. Each of the following recipes was made with a third of this dough.

 

Braided Challah

Ingredients:

⅓ basic yeast dough (recipe above)

1 egg, beaten, for brushing

3 tablespoons poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
  2. Working on a well-floured surface, cut the dough into three equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a 10-inch rope.
  3. Braid the dough into a challah and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for an additional 20 minutes.
  4. Brush with egg and top with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden.

 

Ricotta and Poppy Cake

We topped this cake with a simple powdered sugar mixed with fresh lemon juice icing. You can top with icing, leave it plain or top with a simple syrup (1 part boiling water with 1 part sugar).

Ingredients for a 10-inch/25 cm. round cake pan:

⅓ basic yeast dough (recipe above)

¾ cup (unsalted) ricotta

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

2 tablespoons sugar

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line the cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, poppy seeds and sugar until combined.
  3. Place the pieces, cut side facing up (and down) into the prepared cake pan. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for an additional 20 minutes.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Top with frosting or leave plain.
  1. Working on a well-floured surface, roll out the dough to a 9-inch by 12-inch (20 x 30 cm) rectangle.
  2. Evenly spread the ricotta mixture onto the dough, leaving just a thin border. Carefully begin to roll the dough lengthwise, until you have a rolled log. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough log into 2-inch pieces.

 

Plum Jam and Cocoa Babke Cake

If you like your cakes on the sweeter side, then top this one with a simple syrup (1 part boiling water with 1 part sugar).

Ingredients for one loaf pan:

⅓ basic yeast dough (recipe above)

2 tablespoons plum jam

2 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg, beaten

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line the loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the jam, cocoa and sugar until combined.
  3. Place the cake into the prepared loaf pan, Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for an additional 20 minutes.
  1. Working on a well-floured surface, roll out the dough to a 9-inch by 12-inch (20 x 30 cm) rectangle.
  2. Evenly spread the jam mixture onto the dough, leaving just a thin border. Carefully begin to roll the dough lengthwise, until you have a rolled log. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough log into 2- pieces lengthwise. Carefully braid the two pieces together.
  1. Brush with beaten egg and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden.

 

Printed from: http://matkonation.com/en/sweets/babke-cakes-a-challa-and-talk-about-religion/ .
© Matkonation 2014.

2 Responses to Babke Cakes, a Challa and Talk About Religion

  1. BTW, Parve is also vital to people who are/have kids with milk allergy :)

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