'Tis the season to be baking. As the weather cools, it suddenly makes sense for the kitchen to be cosied by the warmth of the oven and filled with the comforting smell of home-baked treats. And with Easter nearly upon us, it makes greater sense still.
Our European cousins have a long history of Easter baking, a veritable cornucopia of festive breads and cakes, often laden with dried fruit and heady with spices. Saffron-scented Russian kulich served with pashka, Greek tsoureki - golden, braided and studded with red-dyed, hard-boiled eggs, Italy's dove-shaped colomba Pasquale and, of course, the ever-popular hot cross bun; the spotlight's on baking. After the weeks of traditional Lenten fasting, the only logical antidote was plenty of butter, eggs and sugar. The eggs are especially relevant, being symbolic of fertility, new life and rebirth.
The Polish babka, in particular, took our fancy. Meaning "grandmother", this buttery loaf is traditionally baked in a fluted ring tin, thus its resemblance to an old woman's full skirt.
We've given our version a twist (quite literally) and baked it in a loaf tin. Chocolate isn't a traditional addition, but let's face it, it's now an inextricable part of Easter. And what's not to love about a brioche-like sweet stuffed with chocolate and hazelnuts? We especially love it toasted and buttered for breakfast. The crunchy, sugary crust yields to a tender crumb and when you get to the gooey chocolaty, nutty filling, it's clear this is much more than simple bread. Simply put, it's a slice of heaven.