Tupperware parties were all the rage in the 1980s. Fast forward to today and Roswell resident, Lauren Ballard, now recreating Jewish culture and childhood memories by hosting in home Babka Bake parties.
Ballard grew up in South Florida, in an interfaith family, where cooking and entertaining were central factors in family get togethers.
She learned to cook from her dad and developed strong connections to Jewish food and rituals through her mom, Cantor Debbi Ballard. When the pandemic arrived, Lauren was homebound with ample time on her hands.
She explained, “I was living a very Jewish life, working at a Jewish preschool where both of my children attended. Once I realized I had a love and talent for making bread, I focused on challah, then babka. Practicing patience, and a specific order of operations, has become extremely helpful in all areas of my life. “
A historical note about babka, which originated in Eastern European Jewish communities: Since wasting food was discouraged, after baking challah with leftover dough, it was rolled with a filling to be served alongside Shabbat challah.
Ballard added, “I’m actually not a ‘sweets person’, which is why baking bread was so appealing to me. I went from living in one of the most heavily Jewish populated areas of the country to the suburbs of Georgia where meeting other Jewish people can be like finding a unicorn. So, for now I’m sticking with babka and challah!”
After two years of making babkas, Ballard created her own clandestine recipe of which she is proud. She will only reveal that the dough is enriched and consists of flour, milk, yeast, butter, eggs, sugar and salt.
She said, “Assuming everything goes perfectly, creating the dough takes about 30 minutes, and is then left in the fridge for 12-24 hours. Next, I roll, fill, cut and braid for another 30 minutes, then let it rise for an hour. Last, it’s baked for 30-45 minutes. Lots of time and love goes into it!”
Her most popular flavors are chocolate Nutella and cinnamon sugar (her personal favorite). Her biggest tip is not to rush it.
“If you don’t have time, you won’t get the results you were looking for. Always make sure the yeast is alive, and get a proper food scale and kitchen thermometer. Total game changers!”
So far, her classes have been at hosts’ homes. The cost is $50 per person, and everyone gets to make her/his own babka to take home.
For these parties, she does not allow for an overnight “cool rise.” Instead, the dough rises for an hour on the counter in a warm spot while they make and prepare filling, while champagne may be sipped.
In terms of emotional benefits, Lauren stated, “It’s 2022, and while women aren’t really expected to be home and in the kitchen any longer, it is nice to feel feminine and play a traditional role. I think creativity and time is stolen from us today so taking the time to be intentional and focus on creating something in a kitchen is really special. … Imposter syndrome is a real thing, and when you look at one of my babkas, you might feel you could never accomplish that, but seeing a bunch of random ingredients come together to make something gorgeous and delicious is a special feeling for anyone who tries it.”
Ballard majored in American Sign Language and psychology and has two amazing and wild boys. She is engaged to a man that has two daughters, so she will soon get the big family she always longed for.
She concluded, “Cooking at home is very important to me, and I want my kids to have these skills. In my home growing up, my dad was the one in the kitchen, so I didn’t grow up with those traditional gender roles. However, I won’t let my fiancé even try to make a babka because he’s amazing at everything he does, and I don’t want him to be better than me!”
Follow Lauren on social media to see her kids baking along on Instagram at @The_BabkaBabe and Facebook at “BabkaBake.”
Lauren takes orders and arrange classes through direct messages. Her goal is to open a mobile café selling coffees, homemade babkas, cinnamon rolls, and challah.