So if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that I like doing mini-series.


I think it’s because when I come up with an idea, I get super excited about #allthepossibilities, and don’t want to be limited to just one.

Aaaaaaand, I can’t resist a cute title.

Some series have had a limited run – like “balls, bites & bars“, “sugar free/dairy free” or “capsule wardrobe“. Others have been around for a while, but sporadically – like “shortcuts“, “favor-‘ette’“, or “nyc-etc“. Some have evolved – like “blove“, which is now “a conversation with“. And others never really launched – like “i can’t/she can“.

Which leads me to a series that I wanted to try for a long time but never did. It was going to be called “yeast of all”, and it was to be my journey through recipes using yeasted – or risen – dough:






Dinner rolls.


You get the picture.

Through this series I was hoping to conquer my fear of yeast-centric (??) recipes. See, though I consider myself a pretty confident baker, I shudder at the thought of working with yeast. Is the water too hot (which kills the yeast) or too cold (preventing activation)? Have I worked the dough enough, or overworked it? Is the dough rising in a warm enough spot?

You get the picture.

And the main reason I didn’t do it was not because I chickened out. It was because I was actually afraid of success – and now having all of these carb-y goodies in the house (and more likely, in my mouth). Better to not even go there.

And so it went.

Until this (all book photos courtesy of Shannon Sharna):

This gorgeous book is the creation of the equally gorgeous, amazingly talented and oh-so-nice Shannon Sharna.

modern jewish baker

You may know Shannon from her work as editor of The Nosher, and I’ve had the pleasure of working for her over the years, providing content for the site from time to time. I’m such a fan, and really love the way she takes same-old, traditional recipes and makes them modern, accessible and FUN.

So when she actually wrote a book I knew the time had come to break out those packets of yeast and get baking.

Modern Jewish Baker tackles seven classic Jewish doughs – challah, babka, bagels, hamantaschen, rugelach, pita and matzah – and breaks them down, step-by-step.

modern jewish baker

Detailed instructions are accompanied by beautiful pictures, and include all the helpful hints a baker could want – make-ahead tips, notes for what the dough should look and feel like, special equipment needed, and how to use leftovers (as if…..).

modern jewish baker

And then she riffs off the basic dough, with recipes that are irresistible – think S’mores Babka, Chocolate-Cherry Challah and Everything Bagel Rugelach.

modern jewish baker

I went straight for the chocolate babka, as it is one of my very favorite pastries. Those swirls of chocolate and dough seemed so elusive to me, and I just had to conquer it!

modern jewish baker chocolate babka

And conquer I did. I brought these to a gathering at a friend’s house for Yom Kippur and they were deemed a success by all.

modern jewish baker chocolate babka


Shannon was kind enough to allow me to share her recipe for Birthday Cake Babka (!!), and I am sure that you will want to buy her book once you make it!

modern jewish baker chocolate babka

Thank you Shannon!

Birthday Cake Babka
courtesy of Modern Jewish Baker

For the dough:
1 tablespoon dry active yeast
1/3 cup + 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm water
4  1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup whole or 2% milk
 (or almond milk)
3/4 cup (1  1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (or margarine), melted
2 eggs

For the filling:
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1/4 cup colored sprinkles (it is best to use jimmies or oblong sprinkles, not round (nonpareil) sprinkles)

For the crumb topping:
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups unbleached all- purpose flour
2 tablespoons colored sprinkles

For the frosting:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
5 – 6 tablespoons milk
Pinch salt

Make the dough: Place the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl. Add the lukewarm water and stir gently to mix. Set aside until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together the flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

In a medium saucepan, scald the milk (bring almost to a boil, until milk is just simmering). Allow to sit for 1 minute to cool just slightly.

With mixer on low, add the water-yeast mixture, milk and melted butter. Add eggs one at a time.

When the dough begins to come together, after 2 to 3 minutes, turn off mixer and scrape down the sides. Raise the speed to high and mix for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is shiny and elastic.

Place dough in a greased bowl with a damp towel on top. Allow to rise until it has doubled, about 1 to 2 hours.

While dough is rising, make the filling and the topping.

Make the filling: beat the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, baking powder, and salt. Fold in the sprinkles.

Make the crumb topping: Combine the sugars in a small bowl. Stir in the melted butter and the flour.  Add the sprinkles and combine using fingers.

Form the babkas: Prepare three 8 1/2″ x 4  1/2″ greased loaf pans.

Cut the dough into three equal parts (use a food scale for precision). Roll out one part into a rectangle. Spread with one- third of the cream cheese filling and roll up along the shorter side (to create more swirls inside).

Once the dough is formed into a swirled log, cut it straight down the middle so the filling is exposed.

Cut 1/2″ off each end. Layer each cut piece on top of one another and twist. Place in a greased loaf pan. Repeat with the other two pieces of babka dough.

Lightly drape a kitchen towel over the tops of the pans. Allow to rise another 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F while the dough rises.

Before baking, sprinkle one-third of the crumb topping onto each babka. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The edges should be slightly brown and the middle should be slightly doughy.

Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Using a butter knife, loosen sides of the babkas from the pans and place on top of a wire rack to cool.

Make the frosting: Combine confectioners’ sugar, milk and salt in a bowl. Drizzle on top of each babka.

(print this recipe)

This delicious recipe brought to you by Sheri Silver

Leave a Comment