Home on the Range

One big, happy family

Peel apart the layers and follow the veins to the center swirl where sugar, cinnamon flecks and chocolate meet

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The first time papa brought a babka, it was gone in a flash.

He set the white bakery box on the kitchen table, then turned to get a knife. There was a flash of fur, the gnash of teeth, silence. Theo makes quick work of his prey. We never even found the box.

The next time papa came to visit, we were prepared. When he set the butter-stained box on the table, we closed in, shoulder to shoulder. We folded back the flaps to reveal something drab. Babka is round and brown.

We sliced the round, brown loaf into wedges and discovered strata of sweet white marbled with chocolate dark. We peeled apart the layers, following the swirls to the center where sugar grit, cinnamon flecks and chocolate shards converge. The mother lode.

Our technique took longer than Theo's, but the result was the same: The babka was gone.

We slumped around the kitchen, waiting for papa to visit again. We passed the time by tracing the babka family tree. The butter- and egg-enriched dough calls to mind the braided challah and the tender brioche. It's related to the syrup-soaked baba au rhum, the custard-filled savarin and the tall kugelhopf. Babka comes from that big happy family of sweetened breads baked up bumpy, like a beehive hairdo, which is (more or less) what babka means.

We tried kneading our own rich dough twisted up with treasure. We kept adding more of the good stuff until we'd concocted a loaf so buttery and sweet and chocolate-chocked it deserved the name babka. We're not telling Theo. Or papa. We still love delivery.

Babka

Takes: Much of the day, but well worth it
Makes: 1 large Bundt loaf

For the babka:
2/3 cup warm whole milk
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 1/2 cups flour

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