I experienced the best hospitality of my life over the several summers in the college years. Myself and some friends were working in church summer camps in Poland, teaching English and wrangling bunches of neighborhood kids. The Polish church family looked after our team with superior hospitality, cooking and baking up a storm day after day. Few of the church ladies spoke any English, and we didn’t speak but a few words of Polish. But the feasts they made were legendary, and often consisted of a delicious dessert. It was some version of what I now know as babka, a bready pastry layered with a sweet poppyseed based filling. Well, it only took me 10 years to make it for myself, but it was definitely worth it! I made up a cute printable recipe at the bottom of the post for ya!
I’ve seen so many different versions of babka, and I made my own according to what I like! A rich, super soft bread dough, plenty of butter, and more cinnamon than poppyseed. I also discovered the many awesome ways of shaping a loaf of babka, with the many thing layers of filling exposed. Have you seen these loaves that look incredible complicated, with layers swirled in all directions? They are actually surprisingly easy to form!
This dough is made with eggs and butter, and is sweetened with honey, giving it a pillowy soft texture. The rise time is not to long, but with the higher sugar content, the yeast puffs quickly.
Don’t skip the egg wash! It gives the finished babka a rich shine, and makes this one fantastic brunch centerpiece! An egg wash will also keep the loaf from becoming crispy. Usually I love a crisp crust, but this one should be all softness. With all the filling and dough layered, it’s easy to under-bake the babka, so leave it in the oven until the middle is fully done, otherwise you will have a doughy center.
I really enjoyed bringing the memories of that wonderful Polish hospitality back into my kitchen with the smell of that poppyseed filling. It’s certainly true that you can feel love though food, and the taste of poppyseeds will always remind me of that loving church that care for us so well and worked so hard to serve the children of their community.
After this babka was cut, it only lasted a few minutes, it was snarfed by a little crew of cottage dwellers who had a very hard time waiting for me to take the photos!
Printable Recipe below! Though these flavors taste like summer days in Poland to me, I think my kids will remember them as the flavor of watching “Shaun the Sheep” on a cold winter day. The true test of success, they all asked for seconds! Bake on! And Let me know how you like it!