Up until about 5 years ago, I had never had a babka. My only exposure was from the sitcom Seinfeld where Elaine fights for the last cinnamon babka at the bakery. She has to settle for a chocolate babka which of course, drama ensues. One version of babka comes from Russia and the Ukraine that is made with a pastry and fruit. Kimberly makes the Jewish version which hales from Eastern Europe. This version is a yeasted egg dough that is folded and twisted with cinnamon to create layers of sweet filling with slightly dry rich dough. Chocolate wasn't used until the Jewish community hit New York, but is still considered traditional. Many bakers have experimented with different babka fillings, but I am sold on the cinnamon. The name comes from "baba" which in many languages can mean mother or grandmother.
One of my favorite things to do is to slice the bread just thin enough to fit into the toaster. After it gets to a nice golden brown, I hit it with some salted butter. Usually, one slice is never enough. In fact, when I am lucky to get a loaf for my birthday or some other special event, it rarely lasts more than a day or two. I also have to say, this is one of the few breads where EVERY part of it is AMAZING. Even the end cuts "butts" are special in their own way. Nothing ever goes to waste. In fact, if a loaf makes it a few days the best thing to do is to make babka french toast. But that's another blog.