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!
Los Siete Cielos or Seven Heaven Challah Recipe
Los Siete Cielos or Seven Heaven Bread Adapted from Rabbi Robert Sternberg’s The Sephardic Kitchen: The Healthful Food and Rich Culture of the Mediterranean Jews Yield: one large bread Allow time for the shaping of the various elements of this challah and enjoy the anise flavored liqueur in the dough. INGREDIENTS: 1 teaspoon plus 1Read more ›
Cheese Babka Recipe
CHEESE BABKA RECIPE Adapted from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible: 300 Favorite Recipes Yield: One large cake DOUGH 1 tablespoon active dry yeast Pinch sugar ¼ cup warm water (105º to 115º) ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted ¼ cup sugar 1 ½ teaspoons salt 2 teaspoons vanilla extract ½ teaspoon almond extract ¾Read more ›
A Shikker Challah
When I saw this recipe calling for brandy in challah, I had to try it. Liquor seemed such an unlikely ingredient for a challah. Titled “Chaleh I,” it seemed to have been a standard Shabbat bread in the collection of over 1600 recipes previously published in the Forward and gathered by Regina Frishwasser (“editor recipeRead more ›
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 historiesRead more ›
Some Previous Posts
(in alphabetical order)
- A Chocolate Cake for October's Tricks: Devil's Food
- Announcing Second Edition: On the Chocolate Trail
- Book Optioned: Museum Exhibit
- Celebrating Ice Cream Month with Chocolate
- Choco-Travel Tips
- Chocolate Exhibit Hits the New York Times
- Chocolate Trail Broadens: "Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate" Travels
- How About Some Mindful Chocolate Tasting?
- Is that coffee or chocolate?
- Jews on the Chocolate Trail
- Launching The Chocolate Babka Project
- Lunch & Learn: Central Synagogue
- Lunch and Learn: Tasting the Best Chocolate
- Mothers and Survival by Chocolate
- On the Chocolate Trail in Belize’s Jungle
- Talking Chocolate in February
- Warm Up: 3 Historical Drinking Chocolate Recipes