By Chef Vincent Tropepe
Babka was developed in the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe in the early 19th century. Extra challah dough was rolled up with fruit jams, cinnamon and soft spreadable cheese and baked as a loaf alongside the challah. Chocolate was not originally used as a variety because it was not readily available. The chocolate babka was likely a mid – 20th century American development.
Brioche dates back in French baking to the 1400’s. Brioche is considered a Viennoiserie (a baked good made from yeast leavened dough similar to bread, but due to added ingredients such as eggs and sometimes made with cream it gave the finished product more of a pastry like characteristic).
As a pastry chef, I made brioche, challah and babka on many occasions. The doughs resemble the Italian pantone bread all of them are equally challenging to handle because of the egg and cream content. In a recent visit to Whole Foods I saw a cheese brioche that was braided like a traditional babka and thought I’d give it a try.
The cheese brioche was extremely soft and tender and had a wonderful cheese to dough ratio. It also equally resembled both breads. Whole Foods in my expert opinion created a hybrid bread from the traditional braided babka and French brioche and did so with precision. Anyone who is a pastry chef or even a home baker will agree that baking is more of a science. Individually, each of these breads require much attention to detail to make correctly, but to make tea baked goods into a separate third is a new level of baking.
In short, the babka/brioche in Whole Food’s is a definite win!