SERVES 12

5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 ounce dried yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water (egg wash)*

Place 3 cups of the flour in a large mixing bowl, making a well in the middle.

Dissolve the yeast mixed with the 2 tablespoons of the sugar in the warm water.

Pour yeast mixture into the well and add 1 cup of the sugar and the salt. Mix together thoroughly.

Melt 1/2 cup of the butter in the milk, remove it from the heat, and stir in the oil. Add the butter mixture to the flour, a little at a time, alternating with the eggs.

Beat in another 2 or 3 cups of flour (or more if needed) until mixture is not sticky.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 10 min­utes, or until smooth.

Lightly oil a large bowl, and roll the ball of dough around until all sides are covered with a little oil. Place a kitchen towel over the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and place on the counter or a pastry board. Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 4 parts and roll each part out into a rec­tangle about 12 inches long by 8 inches wide and 1/8-inch thick. Melt the remaining 1/4 cup butter. Brush rectangles with melted butter and sprinkle them with the 1/2 cup sugar mixed with the cinnamon, nuts, raisins, and chocolate chips, if desired.

Roll each rectangle up the long way (like a jelly roll) and place in a greased Bundt or 10 or 12-inch angel food cake pan. Cover with a towel and let dough rise again until doubled in size, 30 to 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Brush the top of the babka with the egg wash and bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

*The egg mixture gives the babka a crispy crust. For a softer crust use melted butter instead of the egg mixture.

Reprinted with permission from Sephardic Israeli Cuisine: A Mediterranean Mosaic (Hippocrene Books).

Sheilah Kaufman

Sheilah Kaufman is the food editor of Jewish Women International's (JWI) website www.jwmag.org and a contributing food editor for The Town Courier, and contributing food writer to Vegetarian Times Magazine and The Washington Post.