In slavic Europe, Easter is arguably the biggest of all the Christian holidays. In Poland, Easter-related traditions take place for over a week. Palm Sunday to Wet Monday is marked with religious rites and practices, some of which have their origins in pagan times. The decorated Easter egg, for instance, is a pagan symbol for fertility and spring, gladly incorporated into the Christian story of Passion and Resurrection. As with all religious holidays, food is of utmost importance. On Easter Saturday, baskets of food are taken to church to be blessed, which is then eaten as part of the Easter Sunday meal. Easter breakfast in Poland will always include hard-boiled decorated eggs, cold meats, and babka. A babka is a yeast cake or a sweet bread, and tastes like a delicious fruity cake/bread hybrid, comparable to the Italian panettone. This version has lemon zest and sultana raisins soaked in spiced rum for extra spring flavour.
• 1/4 cup warm water
• -1/4 tsp active dry yeast
• 2/3 cup warm milk
• 3/4 cup butter
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp vanilla
• 2 whole eggs, beaten
• 2 1/4 cup AP flour
• 1 tbsp lemon zest
• 1/2 cup spiced rum soaked raisins (soak at least an hour before using)
1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand for about 5 minutes, until frothing.
2. Place butter and milk in a small saucepan and heat until butter is melted. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then add vanilla.
3. In a large bowl, add sugar and salt. Pour the warm milk and butter mixture over the sugar and whisk by hand or slowly beat with the paddle attachment of your mixer until sugar is dissolved.
4. Make sure mixture is warm, but not hot to the touch. Add egg mixture. Then add yeast mixture and mix until well combined.
5. Slowly add the flour and mix thoroughly. The dough will be of a thick cake batter consistency. If you’re making this mix by hand (and not in a mixer), start this step with a whisk and switch to a wooden spoon or silicone spatula as the batter will be too thick for a whisk. Stir in lemon zest and raisins.
6. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 10-inch bundt or babka pan with cooking spray or butter. Pour batter into prepared pan and cover lightly with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.
8. Cool babka on a wire rack. Glaze with any desired glaze or serve as is with some room temperature butter.