Babka (Polish Easter Bread)

Babka (Polish Easter Bread)

Greek tsoureki, British hot cross buns, Italian pane di Pasqua, Russian kulich. Easter Sunday celebrations around the world feature rich yeast breads filled with butter, eggs and fruit.

If you are a Polish grandma –“babcia”- chances are you will be baking up an Easter babka. The term itself is a derivative of the Polish word for grandmother, perhaps because when it is served it resembles a grandmother’s wide, fluted skirt.

The babka will be included in the traditional Polish Easter food basket, a collection of kielbasa, ham, horseradish and the baranek, a lamb-shaped butter, which is presented to the parish priest for blessing.

Babka is a sweet yeast bread, often containing raisins and sometimes filled with cheese. You will find some varieties that are swirled with chocolate or cinnamon and topped with streusel. This version is a simple recipe from the kitchen of a Polish babcia. It’s just sweet enough and delicious alone or toasted with a bit of butter.

Babka (Polish Easter Bread)


1 envelope dry yeast
1/4 c. lukewarm water
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. plus 1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
½ c. golden raisins (optional)
5 1/2 c. flour
1 egg yolk, beaten

Combine yeast with water in a small cup; add 1 tsp. sugar. Set aside until it becomes foamy.

Heat the milk over low heat; add the butter, ½ c. sugar and salt and stir until the butter melts. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool. (Important not to add hot milk to your eggs, unless you want scrambled eggs!)

In a large mixing bowl, beat the 3 eggs by hand. Gradually add the milk mixture and vanilla. Stir in the yeast mixture.

Mix in the flour 1 cup at a time until the dough comes together. Add raisins. Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead until the dough is smooth but not sticky.

Butter a large bowl. Place the dough into the bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel. Set aide in a warm place and let rise for one hour until double in size. (I like to turn the oven on low, about 200 degrees and leave the bowl nearby).

Grease and flour two round cake pans. Punch the dough down. Shape into two round balls and place in the prepared pans. Cover and let rise again for one hour.

Brush the top of the loaves with the egg yolk.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. (To test, tap the top o the loaf; if it sounds hollow, it’s done.)

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