Friday, April 2, 2010

 Chocolate Babka Baking Day

Every holiday carries with it a happy, and highly personalized, assortment of traditions, any one of which, if left by the wayside, would render the holiday simply unacceptable.  It’s amazing how many of these traditions center around food.  If you don’t know what I mean, at your next Christmas dinner, just try putting cornbread stuffing on the plate of someone raised on oyster stuffing and observe as their expression changes from quizzical to disappointed in a flash.  In our family, it wouldn’t exactly be Christmas without my chocolate fudge - I make batches and batches for an ever-lengthening list of lip-smacking souls who are known to complain loudly if they are forgotten.  
Traditions are important.  They tie us to the best of our past, they contribute to our uniqueness, and they can also be expanded as the years go by.  For instance, for the past few Easters, I have been baking Chocolate Babka.  A truly delectable treat, the recipe makes three loaves of the sweetest, most chocolatey, utterly delicious concoction you can possibly imagine.  I keep one loaf for The Songwriter and myself and give the other two to different friends each year.  It’s a treat to share and has, in just a few short years, become an Easter tradition.  

This year, I have been anticipating Babka making more than usual, for I was anxious to try an intriguing ingredient recently given to me by a friend who had brought it home from her trip to Morocco in February.  She bounded into my kitchen one afternoon proudly holding aloft a shimmering green bottle containing a liquid the colour of saffron and gaily informed me that she had discovered this baking elixir in a market near Tangiers.  She declared it to be a truly amazing secret, one used for centuries.  Supposedly, just a few drops added to any yeast dough would create the most heavenly results imaginable.  No, she didn’t know exactly what it was, but she’d already tried it and swore to me it was remarkable.  Although skeptical at first, I had to admit, her enthusiasm was contagious and, as I knew my friend to be an excellent baker herself, I soon found myself looking forward to stirring a few drops into my upcoming Easter Babkas.

Babka baking day dawned warm and breezy, the most sublime weather for such an involved culinary activity.  I opened all the windows, put some Bach on the stereo and began to work, Edward lying on the kitchen rug, as usual.  Once the dough was all mixed up, I pulled out my tiny green bottle and held it up to the light.  I took out the small cork stopper and gave a sniff.  No scent really.  “Oh, what could it hurt to try it”, I asked the dozing Edward.  I tipped it over and watched as one, two, three, fat drops of shiny, sun-coloured liquid plopped silently into the dough.  Giving it a few extra kneads, I placed the babka in a large red bowl to rise.
Soft winds were flowing through the house, Bach was quietly serenading  in the background, and Edward was still dozing... so I decided to curl up in a downy chair with a book.  From there, gradually, I began to smell something odd.  Flowers?  Perfume?  I couldn’t quite work it out.  I walked into the kitchen and peeked at the rising babkas.  Startled, I saw not only that they had already risen double in size, but they also seemed to be a slightly different colour than expected.  Rather pinkish gold.  “This couldn’t be right, could it?”,  I asked Edward who, as usual, did not audibly reply.  Reasoning that I had come too far to stop now, I went ahead and divided the strangely hued dough into three pans and placed it in the oven to bake.  And that’s when the trouble started.  

The babkas had only been baking for five minutes or so when an overwhelming smell began to permeate the entire house, the distinct scent of Casablanca lilies, not at all unpleasant, but most unexpected.  So powerful, it seemed to be emanating from every room at once.  Edward woke up and stared pointedly into my eyes. I padded into the kitchen at stood in front of the stove, wondering.  Through the glass window of the oven, it seemed as though I could see an occasional flash, little sparks of light that appeared to be changing colours.  “Perhaps I’m getting a migraine”, I said to Edward.  But he just stood up and gave me a disapproving look over his left shoulder and trotted out of the house.  As I edged closer to open the oven door there came a sound that caused me to instantly step back.  What was that, voices?  That’s what it sounded like, high-pitched and rather sing-song, but definitely voices.  All of a sudden the Bach that had been playing so softly in the background rose to a deafening volume and...... April Fool!


While yes, this was all a fabrication, the bit about my traditional Christmas fudge and Easter Babka is true.   Babka making is taking place in my kitchen this week and, although the kitchen smells of chocolate and cinnamon instead of lilies, the windows are open, Edward is dozing and Bach is playing in the background. 
For those of you who might wish to make Chocolate Babka yourself this year, HERE is the best recipe I've found, and the one I use each year.
Have fun, and Happy April Fool’s Day!


  1. What fun! I was with you until the changing colours, although I must admit to a pondering crease of forehead about the friend bringing back an unknown 'shimmering green liquid from Morocco'. Heehee.

    As an aside, your babka's sound fantastic. Every once in a while I convince myself I really could be a baking goddess, but you know - in heavy disguise - so next time I feel the urge to bake I will try this!

  2. Love your April Fool! I think keeping traditions is so important. After all , a holiday would simply not be a holiday without them. suzie xxx

  3. OK, you got me! I fell for it--hook, line, and sinker!
    Happy Easter, Pamela!

  4. For a second I thought I might be in Vianne Rocher's little chocolate shop in Lansquenet.

  5. Ahhh, you had me there for awhile on this April Fools' Day - and, you made me hungry and reminded me to get some yeast for my Greek Easter bread.

    I will try your babkas some time - just not on April 1.

  6. Pamela, you had me fooled, in fact more than fooled, worried for your safety!

    I agree, traditions are important but every now and then it is nice to invent a new one.

    I wish you and the Songwriter, Edward and Apple a very Happy Easter.

  7. Oh Man...THAT looks delish! I think I can smell it baking from here!

  8. Good had me for most of the story! I wish I was in your kitchen today with the heavenly smells, the cool breezes and Bach in the background. Happy Easter to you and yours.

  9. Pamela...that was very, very clever! You got me!! I was with you the whole way even down to that twinge that one gets when they feel a migraine coming on. I was starting to see scenes of the movie 'Chocolat' in my mind and was enjoying it all with a little chuckle as Edward gave you that all knowing look...well done. I am now off to learn all about Babka. Sounds like all is well in your house...big smiles to you all:)

  10. My one and only April fool of the year Pamela - I really thought giant lilies were going to burst forth from your cooker! Would you believe that the word verification is ovensit!

  11. Babkas! Your April Fools post is wonderful!

    Art by Karena

    Giveaway is up on my site! Do join in!

  12. Oh, you big tease, Pamela! I was looking forward to some wonders from the East! I'm not familiar with Babka so will have a look at the recipe. Happy Easter.

  13. Hello Pamela and Edward, I have been away too long. Too many lovely blogs to see and not nearly enough time! I enjoyed this chocolatey post and thank you for the recipe. Buster says his to Edward!

  14. Thank you for the recipe -I never heard about Babka -always fun to learn something new. Unbeknownst to me, I just did a hat post yesterday! The hat of Walter looks so adorable. You are right never to early to begin working on Christmas presents!
    Happy Easter, Pamela:)

  15. I wish you a happy and blessed Easter!!xxx Gypsy Purple

  16. Hi Pamela,
    April fools... Your fairytale was very convincing. I fell for it!;)
    The smell of home cooking is divine, especially chocolate.
    Happy Easter to you and Edward.

  17. Dear Pamela,
    I am so gullible !!!! I was loving every minute and looking forward to how it was going to be the best thing that you have ever eaten !!!!
    Have a wonderful Easter and feast on the delicious sounding Babka.. XXXX

  18. You got me there! I am off to check out the recipe now.

  19. Hi Pamela~
    Oh yummy... .this sounds so delicious!
    I'll put this in my file, beware that any exotic shimmering liquid might cause my food to smell (taste?) like lilies!

    Have a wonderful Easter Weekend,

  20. loved the April Fool's...and those photos on your sidebar of you and Edward...well, that put a smile on my face....

    Happy Easter to you and Edward


  21. That was the best April Fool's I've heard! Hahaha...

    My grandmother used to make the best babka. She made some with poppyseed, some with chocolate, some with raisins, some with walnuts, and also some with turkish delight.

    Wishing you a beautiful Easter!

  22. You got me!!!! what a fun, "fool" post!! I love how you write! Happy Easter to you and yours...and Edward of course!!! :)


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