You won’t get this cheese babka in any commercial bakery, let me tell you flat out. In this cheese babka, the ricotta filling is wonderful, but you might prefer to use it in combination with farmer cheese, just as long as you use 2 cups cheese total. This cheese babka recipe will make you 2 loaves, but here’s my trick to simplify the rolling. I make one double-length roll, and cut it right down the center to make 2 loaves. Alternatively, you can shape the cheese babka into one large ring, and place it in a tube pan.
If you choose note to use the crumb topping, all you will need to do is brush the top with egg wash (egg mixed with a little water)
Hint: This is what makes my cheese babka and all my yeasted preparations (including breads) feather-light: I resist with a vengeance adding flour to the dough, unless I absolutely have to. You will find that if you knead the dough properly, by hand or by machine, the dough shapes up without any added flour and yields a light and airy pastry.
- 2 tablespoons dry yeast
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 3/4 to 4 cups flour: all purpose, whole wheat pastry or spelt
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter (not whipped) at room temperature
- 2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup golden raisins, optional
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl, and let the mixture bubble 2-3 minutes. Stir in the remaining dough ingredients. Transfer the mixture to your dough maker and knead 10 minutes, or knead by hand, turning the dough occasionally to make sure all sides have been worked. Soon the dough will get into shape, elastic and resilient when poked with a finger. Sprinkle the dough very lightly with flour all over, place in a large bowl (remember, it will expand to a little more than double in size) Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm draft-free place one hour.
Roll out the dough on a very lightly floured counter, into a 20 x 16 inch rectangle, long side facing you.
Mix the filling ingredients in a bowl, and spread all over the dough, using it all up. Roll tightly, jelly-roll style. You will end up with a 20-inch log. Cut the log right down the middle, to get 2 10-inch logs. Transfer the logs to a 2 greased loaf pans, seam side down. Mix the topping ingredients lightly, adding a drop of flour if necessary to get the texture of coarse meal. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the loaves. Let them rise about ½ hour. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven 35 to 40 minutes, or a few more minutes, until golden.