The rise and rise of babka … how a traditional bread became a viral sensation
Babka is a traditional sweet bread that has been around for hundreds of years but has become really popular in Australia and around the world over the last few years. So, what’s all the fuss and where did it come from? Let’s take a deep-dive into the delicious world of Babka.
Babka originated in the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe in the early 19th century. Part bread, part cake, the name is thought to derive from a popular Easter cake made in Poland called “baba” which means “grandmother” in Polish. The early Eastern European babka looked different to the babka we know today; it was baked in a tall, fluted pan that looked like a grandmother’s skirt. Babka is made with a dough that is similar to the dough used to make croissants. The dough is spread with a variety of sweet fillings like cinnamon, chocolate and fruit. The dough is then plaited and topped with a sugar syrup.
During the late 19th century emigrants from Europe took babka with them to the United States where it became a fixture in Jewish bakeries. It wasn’t until the 20th century though that it became known outside of the traditional Jewish and Eastern European communities where it originated. The original recipe was tweaked to add non-traditional fillings like Nutella and it started to enjoy popularity in European-style bakeries in the United States.
Babka hit the mainstream in 1994 when it featured in an episode of Seinfeld, “The Dinner Party” but it really took off in 2013 when a popular Israeli bakery, Breads Bakery opened in New York selling babka. The bakery took their babka to food influencers in New York and asked them to try it. New York Magazine deemed it the best babka in the city and Breads Bakery went from selling a few dozen babka a day to thousands a day. At the same time Instagram was growing in popularity and provided the perfect medium to showcase the beauty of babka. With luscious layers of chocolate and fruit, babka looked great in photographs and this pleasing aesthetic saw it become a social media favourite around the world.
Today there are an infinite number of variations and recipes available for babka, from sweet fillings to savoury flavours like goat cheese, bacon, caramelised onion and sweet potato. Making your own babka can be a time-consuming process but if you invest the time you will create a special homemade treat that’s guaranteed to be a hit with family and friends.