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Traditional Polish Sweet Bread (Babka)

This dessert, a cross between cake and sweet bread, is often baked for Easter.

Ingredients

Cakes

  • 3 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter or margarine
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • About 7 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

Topping

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled

Confectioners' Sugar Icing

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Cakes: Grease side and bottom of 2 (10-inch) tube pans. Prepare Topping; set aside.
  2. In a shallow, medium bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 cup flour; stir to combine. Cover; let stand in a warm place 5 to 10 minutes until foamy.
  3. Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan until melted. Let stand until mixture cools to warm.
  4. In a large bowl, beat eggs, egg yolks and remaining 1 cup sugar until pale and frothy.
  5. Add cooled milk mixture, salt and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Gradually beat in 4 1/2 cups flour. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead dough into a soft, smooth dough. Divide dough in 1/2. Arrange 1 part dough in each greased pan.
  6. Cover with a damp cloth; let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
  7. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Lightly beat 2 egg whites in a small bowl until foamy. Brush beaten egg whites on top of dough. Evenly sprinkle Topping over dough.
  9. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  10. Cool cakes in pans 3 to 4 minutes on racks.
  11. Turn out of pans; cool completely on racks. Frost with confectioners' sugar icing, if desired.
  12. Topping: In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles crumbs.
  13. Confectioners' Sugar Icing: In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until frothy.
  14. Gradually add confectioners' sugar, beating constantly. Beat 10 minutes or until glossy.
  15. Add lemon juice; beat for 2 minutes or until icing stands up in soft peaks.

Yield: 2 (10-inch) cakes; 1 1/4 cups icing

Variation: Add food coloring or flavorings, such as 1 teaspoon sifted unsweetened cocoa powder or vanilla extract. Use a little more sugar if liquids are added.

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