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Challah “Babka” Bread Pudding

By: 
Tina Wasserman
Challah Babka for Shabbat dinner

This recipe is featured in Tina Wasserman's newest book, Entrée to Judaism for Families, filled with tools to help children learn to cook with confidence, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding.

Babka, or “grandmother’s cake,” refers to the babcia (in Slavic languages) or bubbe (in Yiddish), so called because in the early 1800s this cake was made in a high fluted pan that looked like a grandmother’s skirt.

Babka is a traditional Polish/Ukrainian yeast cake that was originally made from rich challah dough rolled around a sweet cinnamon or fruit filling. Baked with the challah, it was a Friday afternoon treat for children waiting for Shabbat to arrive.

This recipe is a twist on classic babka. Instead of being made with challah dough, it is made from the baked challah! Chocolate and cinnamon flavor the pudding, and the classic streusel topping finishes off this wonderful treat.

Ingredients: 
One 1-pound challah (raisin or plain), preferably a few days old
8 ounces Israeli chocolate spread or chocolate-hazelnut spread
1 stick unsalted butter or margarine
¼ cup light brown sugar
4 eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups milk (skim, 2%, or whole)
Additional butter for greasing dish
Topping:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature or slightly softened in the microwave
½ cup flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
Directions: 
  1. Butter a 2-quart oval or rectangular baking dish. Set aside.
  2. Slice the challah into ¾-inch slices. Spread the chocolate filling over each slice of bread using a small bent spatula or utility knife. Arrange in the casserole to fit evenly. 
  3. Microwave the butter in a 2-quart glass bowl until melted. Add the brown sugar, and stir to dissolve.
  4. Add the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and milk to the bowl, and whisk to combine well.
  5. Carefully pour the egg/milk mixture over the bread slices. Using a wide metal spatula, gently press down on the bread slices to submerge them under the custard. Place a plate or bowl on top of the casserole to weight the challah down. Set aside on the counter for 30 minutes while you make the topping.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  7. Place the topping ingredients in a 1-quart mixing bowl, and squeeze the mixture together using your hands at first and then fingertips, to evenly combine all ingredients and make a crumble.
  8. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the bread/custard in the baking dish.
  9. Bake for 35–45 minutes or until puffed and golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Kitchen Conversations

  • Does your family have a special dessert that you make for Shabbat or a holiday?
  • Where did the recipe come from? Whose family? What country?
  • Has the recipe changed over the years because of modern equipment?
Tina's Tidbits: 

  • The best knife for slicing bread is a serrated knife. However, if cut with a serrated knife the wound usually forms scar tissue. Therefore, with the exception of older children (7+) I would recommend pre-slicing the challah before you begin to make the recipe. 
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