I know it’s a bit late, but here is an Easter tradition and recipe. It is a family tradition to make babka, or as it is actually called in Georgia Paska. It is an Easter bread fairly similar to hot cross buns in flavor. Slightly sweet with candied fruit and citrus peel bits in it. The traditional form is a tall mushroom type form, best got from baking the dough in a large coffee tin! The dough will rise over the edge of the tin and mushroom out. It looks lovely.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to a US sized coffee tin, or really any decent sized tin this Easter, so I used a bundt cake pan. It didn’t have the same look, but it was turned out just as lovely. I made sure to hard boil some eggs in red onion skins to get the traditional red Easter egg color that the Georgians do. I also then on Easter made my husband have an egg war with me. Each of us takes a hard boiled egg. One hold there egg firmly below the other and then the top egg smacks down on the lower egg. The “winner” is the un-cracked egg and the “winner” also gets to eat the losers egg. I am not sure where we got this tradition, because I didn’t see Georgians doing that while I was there. Maybe it was just that my host family didn’t do that egg war.
Anyway, so here is the recipe I followed for the Babka (Paska). It tastes best fresh and warm with butter melted on it, but it is just as scrumptious later warmed up in the microwave with said butter.
¼ teaspoon sugar
½ oz (1 cake) compressed yeast or 1 tablespoon (1 envelope) dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (100 degrees)
1 cup milk
½ c sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup raisins*
½ c candied citrus peel*
¼ cup finely slivered almonds*
*For the raisins and candied citrus peel, I used 1 cup of a baking fruit mix, which contained both raisins and candied citrus peel along with other things, I found in the store. I also didn’t used slivered almonds because we didn’t have any!
In a mixing bowl, dissolve the ¼ teaspoon of sugar, then the yeast in the warm water. Let stand in a warm place for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture bubbles and doubles in volume. Meanwhile, heat the milk, sugar, salt, butter, eggs, egg yolk, cardamom, vanilla and 3 cups of the four. Stir until well blended, then work in most of the remaining four with your hands.
Once the dough is well mixed, dust the fruits and almonds with flour and work into the dough. Form the dough into a ball, place in a clean, lightly greased bowl, and let the paska rise until doubled in bulk approximately 1 hour. Meanwhile, prepare the cake tin, either an old coffee can about 7 to 8 inches high minus the lid or a similar size juice can or a bundt cake pan. If using the latter, cut out one end. Wash the can well, dry, and either line with greased wax paper or grease and dust with flour. Since the paska will rise above the rim and mushroom over the side of the can while cooking, it is a good idea to make a collar with foil. If you are lining the tin with wax paper, just extend the paper. Once the paska has doubled in bulk, punch it down and put it in the can. Cover and let rise until two-thirds the height of the can.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the paska on the lower rack of the oven. Bake for 1 hour, or until a knife comes out clean after being inserted in the center of the bread. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. To remove from the can, turn it on its side, cut out the bottom with a can opener, then run a knife around the edge to separate the bread. Push the paska out from the bottom. This is necessary as it usually curls over the upper rim while baking. For me, I just waited for it to cool and tapped it out of the well buttered and floured bundt pan.
It was a very relaxed and quiet Easter! I did gorge on a giant chocolate egg! Yum!