Sometimes I think I miss out a bit by not being Jewish. Don’t get me wrong — grafted in, one of Abraham’s seed through Christ — absolutely not downplaying the amazing gift of being a Gentile Christian. I just think we miss something in not having generations of food traditions to call our own. I mean, I guess if you want to get technical, the Lutherans could claim jello with the little marshmallows (which, if it is green jello, counts as a vegetable. And now you know), maybe Calvinists can claim dark beer and pipe tobacco, the Pentecostals… huh. You might have to stick that one in the comments for me.
But a couple years ago, I made my first timid foray into the world of Jewish baking and my mind was blown — black and whites! Hamentashen! Those cute little cigar cookies with the sprinkles on the end that have a name I can’t remember! And, best of the best: BABKA.
If you like cinnamon rolls, you will LOVE babka. It is a fancy-looking, twisty sugar hunk o’ magic, perfect for cold Sunday mornings, ideal for nibbling with hot black coffee while you light the third Advent candle. Nothing says “I love you” like a slice of warm babka (though possibly a well-chilled Manhattan with extra cherries or a diamond ring could come close, but both of those will get you funny looks early on a Sunday morning if you take to cooing over them, and no one can look askance at a well-placed babka coo). There are almost endless variations on babka (do check back here when we talk about chocolate babkas, won’t you?), but my personal favorite is yet another Smitten Kitchen (Jewish baking at its best) — the Baklava Babka, the bread that is as fun to say as it is to eat (especially if your childhood nickname happened to be BabaLouie, because then you can make Babalouie’s Bodacious Baklava Babka and require your people to say it 5 times fast before serving them up).
If you are leaning hard into the symbolism of the Christmas season, and are feeling particularly audacious with your gluten this weekend (note I said gluten, not glutes. If you are feeling audacious about your glutes, hit the archives and search “leggings”. Thank you, Superior Nephew, for making that search bar work), then shape this delightful dough into a wreath. I cannot vouch for anything else about this website, but they had a pretty good explanation of the historic symbolism of Christmas wreaths — perhaps you will be inspired:
(But babka is pretty tasty in loaf form too and nobody here will judge you. I always make them as loaves).
He is coming, He is coming, He is coming…