Cheese Babka and BK Swappers

Individual cheese babka for the BK Swappers event last week.
Cheese babka is one of my favorite treats to bake. The bread is buttery, pliable and firm enough to hold the filling without becoming a mushy mess. The cheese filling is delicately sweet and light. I usually bake it in a loaf pan, but for last week's BK Swappers event (held at 61 Local in Brooklyn) I decided to make them individual size. Using the same recipe for two babka loaves, I was able to divide the dough into 2 large muffin pans for twelve mini cheese babkas. I only traded nine of them; three suffered the "let's make sure it taste good" fate shortly after leaving the oven. Oh, well.

If you want to learn more information about BK Swappers and the concept of food swapping, The New York Times wrote a terrific piece on the women who started it and how it all works. Check it out if you can. And if you're inspired to either join in the next BK Swappers event or start a swap in your comfy corner of the world, check out the BK Swappers Facebook page.

Salsa before I ate the rest of it.
 I wish that I had more!
At last week's swap, I was fortunate to trade a babka (or two?) for some delicious heirloom tomato salsa. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my fellow swapper not only grew all the heirloom tomato varieties, made, and jarred the salsa, but she also maintains a decent blog about gardening in the boroughs of New York City. Being a Brooklynite and watching my Dad till the soil in the patch of dirt we called a backyard, I understand how hard city gardening is. It's a love and a passion and an OBSESSION. The faint of heart need not attempt such an endeavor.

And because she asked (and because she is willing to trade her salsa recipe for it!), I am presenting (yes, to anyone who wants it) my cheese babka recipe.

CHEESE BABKA (yields one loaf or six mini muffin babkas)

1/3 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons of sugar
1 package of dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 large egg (room temperature)
1 egg yolk (room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)

Cheese Filling
1 eight ounce container of whipped cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon whole milk

Crumble Topping (optional)
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dough: activate yeast by mixing it in a large bowl with milk and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Let it stand for 5 minutes. (If the it does not bubble, then the yeast is not useable; start over again.) Mix in the rest of the sugar, then 1/3 cup of flour. Mix in these ingredients one at a time, taking care to mix in between: egg, 1 cup of flour, egg yolk, and 1/3 cup of flour. Add vanilla extract and salt. Add butter and knead it thoroughly in the large mixing bowl, adding extra flour to get a soft and slightly sticky dough. Butter the surface of another large mixing bowl and transfer the dough into it. Add butter to one side of a piece of cellophane and cover the top of the bowl, butter side facing down. Be sure to push the cellophane directly down on top of the dough. Place in a draft free space (inside the oven will do--be sure it's not turned on!) for 2 hours until is doubles in size.

(If you are not ready to bake, you can place the dough in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Take it out a few hours prior to continuing on with the rest of this recipe. This allows for the dough to reach room temperature).

Cheese Filling: in a medium size bowl mix the cream cheese and the powdered sugar.
Wash: in a small bowl mix one egg yolk and a tablespoon of milk.

Remove cellophane and set it aside (you will use it again). Punch down the dough. On a well floured surface, roll out the dough in a rectangle that measures approximately 12 inches high and 20 inches long. With a spatula spread the cheese filling on top evenly. Take the horizontal top end of the dough and roll it inward and down towards the horizontal bottom. You should form a long roll. Bring the two ends together to form a "U" and gently squeeze the ends together. Pull and twist the dough into a helix.
Butter the surface of a bread pan and carefully place the dough in it. With a pastry brush, spread half the wash on the top of the dough. Cover with the buttered cellophane previously used and allow to rise in a draft free area for 2 hours.

Crumble: with a fork, cut butter into small pea size pieces. Add flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Mix until it has a breadcrumb consistency. (This can all be done using the pulse setting on a food processor.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove cellophane and sprinkle the crumble over the top. Spread the rest of the wash over the top and then place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.


And there you have it. Now I guess that I'll have to bring something else to the next food swap. My cheese babka secret it out!