Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bibbity Bobbity Babka

I'm not religious, and neither is anyone in my family, but the clan of us have a seemingly unquenchable thirst for experiencing as many of the cultural and faith-related elements of the world as we can. It doesn't matter to us what country the traditions began in, or what (if any) historical doctrines mandated their imposition or abolition over the year. We just revel in the whole emotional aspects and celebrations associated with the times special to our friends and family. In fact, the very idea of religion in general fascinates me so much that if I didn't love them all as much as I did, I'd probably be one heck of a devout follower to one of them!

One of the largest groups of friends that my parents had growing up and into their young(ish) adult years were members of Toronto's "Jewish neighbourhoods" of Bayview Village and the Danforth. Sadly, those areas are now largely devoid of the religiously-driven bustle (the Danforth, though always known as Greektown, is now exclusively so) and the families my parents knew from before have long since dispersed around the country. However, my sister and I were lucky enough to wind up immersed in a huge array of cultural elements throughout our primary school years, including a multi-religious "end of the year" celebration before Winter break filled with music, storytelling, games like Dreidel spinning and of course tons of delicious international fare. At home every December too, my mom and I would get up early one morning and braid our yearly Challah loaf (a tradition we've kept up to this day!). Even the years my dad worked at a small IT company in Markham, the four of us would get to attend a Chanukah party where the woman of the household would fry up the most delicious latkes and treat every kid there with a piece of chocolate gelt.

This intricate, doubly-swirled and stuffed bread that took form in my kitchen is an adaptation of a recipe provided from a dear fellow blogger - Hannah of BitterSweet. Traditional, eggy creation this is not, but rather a vegan behemoth of a bread that was similarly rich and tender and ribboned with my self-created combination of almond butter, ground almonds, cinnamon, chocolate and dried cranberries. The major difference between Hannah's recipe and your typical Bubbie's is the addition of a generous helping of grated zucchini to the dough - a trick that undoubtedly makes for it's unfailing moisture even without a glut of eggs.

I have to admit that this bread was far, far larger than I would have ever imagined. As you can see from the photos, there is a lot of dough, which translated into a ton of bread to fit into that 9x5" loaf pan. Next time, I think I'll stick to a free-form twist baked on a cookie sheet to avoid the bread blowout problem I experienced. However, the resulting product was just so good according to the 4 "test groups" I passed it out to that there will most definitely be a next time to try it!

This delicious concoction is my entry to both this week's edition of YeastSpotting and also to Zorra's yearly roundup of World Bread Day (get your entries in by the 16th to participate!).

Almond - Zucchini Babka
Serves 20, generously
1 cup unsweetened almond milk, warmed
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp active dry yeast
4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
1/2 tsp salt
12 oz shredded zucchini, squeezed dry (about 2 cups or 2 medium)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 Cup Earth Balance (or other vegan) margarine, cubed, room temperature
3/4 cup almond butter, warmed until very runny
2 tbsp Earth Balance (or other vegan) margarine, melted
3 oz miniature, bittersweet chocolate chips
3 oz dried cranberries
2 tbsp ground almonds
1 tbsp cinnamon
  1. In a large bowl (or stand mixer), combine almond milk and brown sugar.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast overtop and let stand 5 minutes, until foamy.
  3. Combine flours, nutmeg, sugar, orange zest, flaxseeds and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. To the foamed yeast mixture, add the zucchini and vanilla, stirring well.
  5. Add 3 cups of the dry mixture to the bowl and begin mixing (on low speed), until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  6. Add in remaining dry mixture, and allow the mixer to begin kneading the dough.
  7. Continue working the dough with the dough hook, slowly beating in margarine cubes one at a time. It should become very shiny and soft.
  8. Continue kneading for 10 minutes.
  9. Turn into an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in volume.
  10. Lightly grease two loaf pans, set aside.
  11. Punch down the dough, divide in half and roll one portion out into a rectangle on a (very) well-floured surface. Roll it out lengthwise as far as possible- The longer the dough, the more spirals you will get in the finished bread.
  12. Beat together the almond butter and Earth Balance in a small bowl until very fluid.
  13. Spread the rectangle with half the almond butter, leaving 1/2" on one long side clear.
  14. Mix together the chocolate chips, cranberries, ground almonds and cinnamon, then sprinkle half evenly over the dough.
  15. Starting with the long edge that is completely covered, roll up the dough as tightly as possible.
  16. Arrange the log with the two ends next to each other (like a squashed horse shoe), then twist together.
  17. Carefully fit the twist into one pan.
  18. Repeat with the remaining half of the ingredients. Cover and let rise 1 hour, until just about doubled.
  19. Preheat oven to 350F.
  20. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 289.5
Total Fat: 12.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 65.3 mg
Total Carbs: 41.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.5 g
Protein: 6.3 g


  1. I grew up in an area, where people of all different nationalities lived, and cooked different tasting foods. We loved trying out all of our friends meals.
    Thanks for this recipe, it looks delicious.

  2. I've never had babka but the ingredients sound amazing

  3. I love the name of this bread. It looks very tasty!

  4. Looks and sounds yummy ... but, yeah: a smaller pan would have probably been wise!

  5. You are an early bird, posting date should be October 16. ;-) Anyway the Babka looks great! Thank you for your participation in WBD'09.

  6. I still get such a kick of that photo with the dough spread all across the counter. I love you adaptations, too!

  7. This looks great. I wonder if I have enough space to lay the dough flat. I would probably make a smaller version.


Thanks for the feedback!