Today in the New York Times, they bucked an official Holiday Feature Story Trend by not writing about latkes for Hanukkah. Instead… We have babka:
Babka evokes dogmatic opinions. The babka you knew as a child is the babka that you defend passionately as an adult. My husband, Allan, insists that his be dry. Some say fruit has no place in babka; others say it’s incomplete without it.
But babka became a Jewish favorite because Eastern European cooks found common ground.
“Babka comes from baba, a very tall, delicate yet rich yeast-risen cake eaten in Western Russia and Eastern Poland,” said Darra Goldstein, a professor of Russian at Williams College. “A very elaborate babka was eaten at Easter.”
“It can include rose oil, lemon zest, bitter almonds, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, lemon, bergamot or rose water,” she said, “but the most basic one has the finest flour, yeast, milk, with a little sugar and lots of egg yolks.”
The Italians call their version panettone, the French baba au rhum, and the Viennese and Alsatians kugelhopf.
Jews called it babka, the diminutive of baba, and gave it their own twist when they came to the United States. They filled it with chocolate and lots of cinnamon and sugar, making it more like a coffee cake with a streusel topping. Although not a Hanukkah dish per se, chocolate babka is served by many families at Hanukkah, like other iconic Jewish dishes.
Where’s your favorite babka in Philly? Let us know.
Inviting an Old Favorite To The Hanukkah Table [New York Times]