here and there

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Country Babka

One of the Breads that is made at Easter is called Babka.  The word Babka or Baba is the Ukrainian word for Grandmother.  Folklore suggests that that Babka Bread originated in prehistoric times when women ruled Ukrainian communities.  Traces of Matriarchal society are evident in folk songs, role of women in a family and the rank of women in the community.  There is also Archeological finds and evidence of a Matriarchal system in ancient settlements of the Trypillyan Culture which suggest religious rituals preformed by women priestesses.  Some of the rituals connecting with fertility of soil may have used this bread in the ritual.  Certainly growing up with very strong women in my family, these findings  are no surprise to me. 

Babka Bread is a sweet yeast dough that has raisins and is baked in a tall cylinder container.  My Mom used a large coffee tin as did many of her friends.   This bread is very rich, spongy and very light due to the large number of eggs, butter, milk and sugar in the recipe.  

The recipe that I have been making over the years comes from Traditional Ukrainian Cookery by Savella Stechishin.. My Mom also started to use this recipe as she did not like the Babka Bread made with a lot of eggs.  My grandmother use saffron in her Babka Bread, something I was going to try but forget to add the saffron. 

This recipe is very similar to the recipe that Martha Stewart's Mom made and a very lovely video is online of the two of them making Babka.  Their Babka Bread was made using a Food processor and Bundt pans. The use of a food processor surprised me, given the age Martha's Mom..

Most Babka recipes start with making a sponge and letting it rise for one hour.


  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 T traditional Yeast 
  • 1 cup scalded milk, lukewarm
  • 1 cup  flour
Mix together  yeast, sugar and warm water. let stand about 10 minutes until you see bubbles.

Mix in the flour and milk.  Let sit for for about an hour, until the sponge is light and bubbly.

  • 6 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2c sugar
  • lemon juice and rind
  • 1c butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1c Golden Raisins
  • 1c Citron peel
  • 5 1/2 c flour
Beat eggs, gradually add sugar while beating the mixture
Beat in butter, vanilla and lemon
Combine with the sponge mixture.

Add in the flour a cup at a time and mix with spoon until you can no longer do this

Knead the dough until it is smooth and does not stick to your hands.  Add in the raisins, glazed fruit and knead until this is incorporated into the bread. 

Cover with saran wrap and let rise until double in size.  

The bread is much nicer if you let this dough rise again after being punched down. This step was always done by my grandmother but not my Mother.

Prepare the pans, grease well and use parchment to the line the tin cans.
Fill the tins about 1/3.  This recipe uses about 3 coffee tins.  When forming the Babaka, make sure the top is smooth for a nicer looking bread 

Let rise until double in size. 

Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes.  Some recipes suggest a hot oven for 10- 15 minutes, then 350 for the rest of the baking time. 
Adjust the baking time for the of the size pans.

Let the bread cool in the tins for 10 to 15 minutes. 

Cool on a soft surface and turn to prevent setting.. 

This is something I forgot to do and my bread did settle.  I did take them out too quickly from the tin and cooled them on wire rack and they did settle on one side. 

Do check out Martha Stewart delightful video of her Mom making Babka..

I have compared the different portions of three recipes, one is the Country Babka, Martha Stewart's Mom and one my sister makes which is out to the Roblin Manitoba Catholic Women cookbook.  My sister recipe is very close to mine.  Martha's Mom uses more milk, thus she needs more flour to make her recipe.  Yet all of them do not use tons of eggs as most Babka recipes do! 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Poached egg on Asparagus with white sauce.

This had to be the most delicious lenten dish that was prepared this Lent.  With the arrival of pencil thin fresh asparagus from the states, we have been enjoying this vegetable very much. 

With fresh asparagus in the supermarket, this is a simple but an elegant dish full of spring flavors!  My husband requested this dish as his Mom made this as a lenten dish. His Mom would make a basic white sauce to top over the poached eggs. 

Since I was out of bread, I made pan fried bread from the Refrigerator dough I had previously. This is something my Mom did as she was waiting for her bread to proof. I loved this treat with Cheese Whiz or with some of her homemade jam.  As a kid, I loved how the spread or jam would melt on the hot bread. 

A White Sauce  was prepared for the dish.  Grated cheese can be added to the sauce, but this plain sauce works perfectly with poached egg and roasted asparagus. 

Although the asparagus my Mom in law used was canned, fresh asparagus was roasted for a few minutes in a toaster oven. The ends were snapped, a drizzle of olive oil, some grounded black pepper and baked for 4 minutes.    Delicious!

To this I added fresh spinach and smoked salmon. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

How to put together a Traditional Easter Basket

Easter 1977

As Lent draws to an end, there is lots of excitement and planning of the Easter Basket that is taken to the church to be blessed.

Please note I will be blogging on the food that goes in to the Paska Basket.. I have been curing a pork shoulder for the past week. My Dad used to double smoke pork for the basket

Traditionally, this Paska Basket was taken to the church on Easter Sunday and blessed after the mass.  According to my Aunt Mary, the food in the basket was eaten at the church as many had come with horse and buggies.  Now the Sunday after, is the usual time that parishioners gather for the traditional Easter dinner in the church hall. 

My Mom always followed closely what she had in her Easter Basket which was the food that is mentioned when the food is blessed in church. 

 It was always with great delight to watch my Mom prepare the food for the basket. Small dishes were set out for her to use for the hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese and butter. The cheese was decorated with a cross using cloves. The final results was a beautiful Paska Basket with the foods carefully organized in her big wicker basket! Always a work of art!

Easter Basket 1970
Paska Basket 
In the Paska Basket is placed; Paska bread, Babka Bread, hardboiled eggs, Cottage Cheese, meat such as ham, garlic sausage, salt, butter, horseradish, decorated eggs.  A candle is lit in the basket before the blessing.  The basket is covered with an embroidered cloth symbolic of the shroud that covered Christ's body.


This bread that is broad and round is braided and decorated with religious symbols. I continue to make my bread in the same style that my Mom made each year.  In the centre of her Paska basket was a cross with the ends that curled into a flower that looked like roses with a chrysanthemum flower in the middle of the cross. In looking at the Paska Breads that are brought to the church for blessing, each Paska Bread is very unique in design and in colour, varying from very light brown to a dark mahogany colored bread. Yet all the breads are round and baked in a circular pan. 

The symbolism of the Paska Bread is Christ himself, the Bread of Life. 

Making the Paska Bread
This sweet dough filled with raisins is baked in a tall and cylindrical pan.  My grandmother decorated this bread with a icing sugar glaze and tiny silver ball candies, my Mom left her Babka Bread plain. 

The Babka Bread symbolizes the richness of eternal life.
 Finnish Bread that can be used for Babka.  The recipe is a small and makes one or two loaves.

Country Babka recipe


Since meat was not eaten during lent, this fast was broken on Easter Sunday.  Meat symbolize the abundance of Easter and represents the Pascal lamb.

Sausage (kobassa)  

Note the cross made of Cloves on the Cottage Cheese, 1975

Cottage cheese is placed into a small bowl and a cross is made of cloves.  In recent years, cheddar cheese has been added and also decorated with a small cross made from cloves.


Is the reminder of Christ's words, You are the salt of the earth!

Eggs (Pysanky or Krashanky) 

Pysanky from the verb "pysaty" to write are dyed eggs with symbols and design written with a Stylus called a Kistka using heated beeswax. 

To the basket are added hard boiled eggs that symbolize new life and the resurrection.  Some do dye their hard boiled eggs ( Krashanky), but this was not the norm at my Grandmother's or Mom's homes.

These collections of Pysanky were done by my children at a very young age in school. 


The early green shots of this plant is one of the first perennials to pop up in the spring.  

Symbolic of the Passion of Christ and the bitterness of Christ's suffering. 

Fresh Horseradish is grated over the sliced hard boiled eggs on Easter Sunday Brunch. 

Butter (Maslo)

Butter is placed into a small container and decorated with a small cross made from cloves. 

My cousin shaped his butter into small lamb.

Easter Basket, 1977

Not only did Nellie take time and pride in putting together her Paska Basket, she also took great pride and care in setting the Easter Sunday Brunch table. 

The beautiful Paska Breads were done at school by the boys. 

My kids had the great fortune of making bread at Ukrainian school with the senior ladies from the church.   The temptation of eating this warm bread was great as they were taxied back to their regular school!  Many of the breads were hollowed out before they arrived.  

Okay, there is too much cuteness in these pictures to only include one! What is the magic that draws kids to this!

The blessing of Easter Baskets continues to be an intricate part of Easter.   I had experienced the importance of this when I lived with my Grandparents while going to school in the village.  I remember that my grandfather would every morning during Bright Week (the week following Easter) have a small bit of food from the the Paska Basket for his breakfast.  This importance was once again shown when my Mom came to live with us and she brought the Wicker Easter Basket with her; her Embroidery Cloth, candle and the dishes for the food.  My heart weeps as she came to live with us in August! The power of Tradition and Religion can not be dismissed!

The following are pictures of baskets during the Church Blessing of Paska Baskets.  The Joyful singing of  "Khrystos Voskres" (“Christ is Risen") along with at time very energetic sprinkling of holy water by some priests is a time of great happiness and joy.