Ukrainian Easter Babka

Ukrainian Easter Babka
Barbara Rolek
Ratings (32)
  • Total: 80 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Yield: 3 babkas (36 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
144 Calories
8g Fat
14g Carbs
4g Protein
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Ukrainian babka and paska are two sweet yeast breads served at Easter. Unlike fluted Polish babka, Ukrainian babka is tall and cylindrical like Italian panettone and Russian kulich. It can be iced or left plain.

You will need cylindrical pans for this babka recipe, but 2-pound coffee cans will work. Make sure the cans are food-grade safe when heated and that their interiors do not have a coating inside (usually white) because the plastics and chemicals in this coating can leach into your babka and be unsafe. 

Ukrainian babka is sliced in rounds across the loaf beginning at the bottom. The sliced bottom crust is not eaten (until it's the only piece left!) and serves as a protection to prevent the rest of the bread from drying out.

Babkas are baked at a high temperature at first so the dough will puff up and form a firm crust and then the temperature is lowered so the dough doesn't scorch before it is done baking.

Freeze the leftover egg whites from this recipe and save them for recipes calling for a lot of egg whites like angel food cake.

Ingredients

  • For the Sponge: 
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup flour (all-purpose)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup water (lukewarm)
  • 3 packages yeast (active dry)
  • For the Dough:
  • 10 large egg yolks (room-temperature)
  • 2 large eggs (room-temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 ounces butter (melted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (grated)
  • 6 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • Optional: 1 cup raisins (light or dark)
  • For the Egg Wash:
  • 1 large egg (room-temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons milk or water (room-temperature)

Steps to Make It

Make the Sponge

Scald the milk and cool it to 110 F.

Place 1/3 cup flour in a medium bowl and pour the milk over, beating until smooth. Set aside.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, dissolve 2 teaspoons sugar in lukewarm water, and stir in the yeast.

Transfer the yeast mixture to the milk-flour paste, mixing well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until light and bubbly.

Make the Dough

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the egg yolks, whole eggs, and salt.

Add 1 cup sugar and continue beating until light. Beat in the butter, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the sponge to this mixture and mix well.

Add the flour and knead 7 minutes by machine or 10 minutes by hand. Knead in the optional raisins. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.

Punch down dough, knead a few times and let it rise again.

Grease 3 babka cylinders or food-grade coffee tins. Fill the pans 1/3 full. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until tripled. Brush tops with 1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk or water.

Bake the Babkas

Heat oven to 375 F.

Bake babkas 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 325 F and bake 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 275 F and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer. Cover tops with aluminum foil, if they are browning too quickly.

Remove from the oven and let stand in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn loaves out of the pan, running a knife around them, if necessary, and cool completely on a wire rack.

If desired, the cooled loaves can be iced with a simple confectioners' sugar glaze, letting it drip down the sides for a decorative effect.