What? No Babka at Catskills Hotels? *
The borscht belt must have been a babka belt. When thinking of chocolate babka, the Catskills came to my mind given the immense quantities of meichelach treats overflowing the tables there in the 1940’s-60’s. Babka must have been ingrained in the Jewish palate then, as it is now, I figured.
Surprisingly, my search through several histories and memoirs about the Catskills found that though desserts were quite plentiful, of course, there was no mention of babka, neither chocolate nor cinnamon.
So I reached out to Catskills maven Dr. Phil Brown of the Catskills Institute to learn more. He could not resist opening his email response with a critique of new wave, artisanal babkas, “I do love classic babka, though not the chocolate variety so much as the regular raisin and cinnamon. To my mind this doesn’t exist anymore, only super-sweet chocolate babke or other super-sweet varieties.” And, with regard to the Catskills, he notes that he never thought the Catskills had much in the way of the best traditional Jewish baked goods like rugelach or babka.
Brown pursued my burning babka question further. He checked Your Just Desserts, a collection of recipes from the Concord Hotel by Fred Angeloh; no mention of babka. When Brown contacted Elaine Etess, a member of the iconic Grossinger’s Resort Hotel family, she agreed that babka had not made it to the laden Catskills’ menus. Babkas, she explained, require a “lot of labor and [they were] not fancy enough.” Guests preferred sweet pies and chocolate cakes.
However, my Facebook friend, Sandford Tarrington reports that he recalls “mini-bobka’s,” mint chocolate chip even, from when he and his parents stayed at the Concord and at Brown’s in 1979, 1980, 1982.
It makes sense that babka–with its yeasty, time consuming complexities–may not have accompanied families on their vacations in the Catskills. Or, maybe it did. Ironically these days, one of the most popular New York area sources of chocolate babka, Oneg Heimishe bakery, shuts down its Williamsburg, Brooklyn location and heads to the Catskills (Monticello) for the summer. So, yes, now there’s definitely babka in the Catskills!
Panettone for Breakfast?
While we tend to think of panettone as a Christmas bread, Jewish food writer Edda Servi Machlin shared this version of panettone from her childhood experiences in Italy of eating it for breakfast. She provides an authentic yet simpler process than most panettone recipes and a very tasty one at that. Enjoy it whenever youRead more ›
Kaak: Recipe for Crunchy Yeast Biscuits
Eat kaak all year round or save them for special celebrations, as do many communities of the Middle East and Sephardim (Jews descended from Spain). Kaak (kahk, ka’ak) are ubiquitous, multi-faith and multi-cultural doughy treats eaten throughout the Middle East where they take on regional flavors. In Arabic kaak means cake or baked good.The EgyptianRead more ›
Boulou: North African Orange Bread
Almost cake-like, though not a cake, this orange tinged bread enhances any holiday table. Read my story about diasporic Rosh Hashanah celebratory breads at the Jewish Week, “Beyond Challah and Honey.” Prep time: 2-2.5 hours Rising time: 40-45 minutes Baking time: 30 minutes Yield: 2 small loaves adapted from Jewish Food Experience, Leah Hadad INGREDIENTSRead more ›
Pan de Calabaza: Pumpkin Challah
This bread brings fall ingredients to your festive meals and reflects the longtime usage of pumpkin among Sephardi Jews. See the Jewish Week for my story about unusual Rosh Hashanah breads, “Beyond Challah and Honey: Rosh Hashanah Breads From Around the World.” Prep time: 30 minutes Rising time: 1 hour 45 minutes Baking time: 45Read more ›
Some Previous Posts
(in alphabetical order)
- A Shikker Challah
- Ambasha (aka Himbasha, Hambasha) Ethiopian Wedding Bread
- Cheese Babka Recipe
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Chronicles: Inventions & Elections
- Is that coffee or chocolate?
- Lachuch (aka Lahoh or Lahuh): A Yemenite Flatbread for Shabbat
- Los Siete Cielos or Seven Heaven Challah Recipe
- Lunch and Learn: Tasting the Best Chocolate
- On the Chocolate Trail in Belize’s Jungle
- Other Wedding Bread Customs
- Pan de Calabaza: Pumpkin Challah
- Recipe for Dabo: Ethiopian Pan Cooked Shabbat Bread
- Recipe for Fancy Shapes in Dough: Shaping Dough
- Saluf (aka Salouf or Saloof): Recipe for a Yemenite Flatbread for Shabbat
- What is the Chocolate Babka Project?
- What's a Key (shlissel) Challah?
- What? No Babka at Catskills Hotels? *
- Yeast Raised Khachapuri Recipe
- Yemarina Yewotet Dabo: Ethiopian Honey Bread