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!
Chocolate Chip Cookie Chronicles: Inventions & Elections
Invite an American presidential candidate spouse to submit a recipe to a cookie contest, and chocolate chips will probably be a winning ingredient. If you give a mouse a cookie, it had better be chocolate chip. If you are showing a home at an open house, put out a platter of freshly baked chocolate chipRead more ›
Lachuch (or Lahoh or Lahuh): A Yemenite Flatbread for Shabbat
Several food writers claimed it took them a long time to master this bread. I followed their tips and found it extremely easy. You don’t even have to flip it over in the pan, making it extremely appealing for a hot summer day. based on recipes from Liz Steinberg and Gil Marks Encyclopedia of JewishRead more ›
Saluf (or Salouf, or Saloof): Recipe for a Yemenite Flatbread for Shabbat
Easily made without turning on the oven, using a mixer, proofing the yeast, or flipping the bread. Stay cool! based on a recipe from Liz Steinberg Prep time: 10 minutes Rising time: 2 hours Cook time: 30 minutes Yield: About 6 6-inch saluf breads INGREDIENTS 2 cups unbleached flour 1 ¼ water 1 teaspoon groundRead more ›
What’s a Key (shlissel) Challah?
On the first Shabbat following Passover, after a week deprived of yeasty breads, hassidic custom serves up not just any challah, but a shlissel or key challah. About seven weeks or fifty days later at Shavuot, challot boast ladders and other symbols signifying ascension to heaven. This key shaped bread or bread embedded with anRead more ›
Some Previous Posts
(in alphabetical order)
- A Chocolate Cake for October's Tricks: Devil's Food
- A Shikker Challah
- Celebrating Ice Cream Month with Chocolate
- Cheese Babka Recipe
- Choco-Travel Tips
- 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
- Los Siete Cielos or Seven Heaven Challah Recipe
- Lunch & Learn: Central Synagogue
- Lunch and Learn: Tasting the Best Chocolate
- Mothers and Survival by Chocolate
- On the Chocolate Trail in Belize’s Jungle
- Recipe for Fancy Shapes in Dough: Shaping Dough
- Talking Chocolate in February
- What? No Babka at Catskills Hotels? *
- Yeast Raised Khachapuri Recipe