When I was in college, my roomate had a Moosewood cookbook that had a babka recipe in it that was tempting, yet intimidated me. Back then I neither whipped egg whites until glossy, nor did I make anything with yeast. I was a rookie baker and cook, just graduating from box cakes to bigger challenges. I have since forgotten the details of the Moosewood recipe, but my baking skills have developed enough to cope, and I remember the concept fondly: meringue inside dough for a sticky, sweet filling. In this iteration, I have layered the meringue with a pumpkin mixture for a yummy spice-filled treat. The dough in this recipe is taken from a recent Rosh Hashana version by Vered Guttman, printed in Ha'aretz newspaper. The dough has become my go to buttery yeast dough for all sorts of things. It's that good. Note: Since this particular filling was one of those spur of the moment creations, I ended up with leftovers. I just mixed the meringue with the pumpkin mixture and my kids enjoyed it like pudding. Delicious! —navahfrost
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Ivorgalny is a concert pianist who knows her way around a kitchen.
WHAT: The butteriest babka gets dressed up for Thanksgiving.
HOW: Layer spiced puréed pumpkin, fluffy meringue, and brown sugar onto a rectangle of babka dough. Roll it up, slide it into the oven, and wait for your kitchen to smell the best it ever has.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This babka may sound a bit overwhelming in the flavor department—a yeasty, buttery dough, filled with meringue, cream cheese, and pumpkin! But this dish is sumptuous without going over the line. The bread emerges yeasty and spicy, but not cloying. It's also great fun (if time-consuming) to make, and looks and smells wonderfully festive. We loved it right out of the oven, it's great toasted, and it could have a great second life as French toast down the road. —The Editors
2 10-inch loaves
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons
all purpose flour
sticks of butter, softened at room temperature
Proof the yeast with 1/2 cup of warm water and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl.
While the yeast proofs, measure the 5 cups of flour into the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the remaining sugar and stir it around to combine. This is also a good time to separate the three eggs and save the whites for the meringue filling.
After the yeast is foamy and dissolved with the water and sugar, add it to the bowl of the standing mixer. Mix on a low speed to start combining. Add the three egg yolks and whole egg and continue mixing. Add the butter, and mix for 2 to 3 minutes. Stop the mixer. Scrape down the bowl. Add the milk and salt and continue to mix, for another few minutes until the dough is combined thoroughly.
Let the dough rise, covered in a warm corner of your kitchen, for 2 hours. (Could be 3 hours if your kitchen is cold.)
Pumpkin Meringue Filling
To make the meringue, start whipping the egg whites (hopefully with something electric!!) until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and whip until glossy, with stiff peaks. Set aside.
Combine the rest of the ingredients, except for the brown sugar, in the food processor.
To assemble: Punch down the dough and divide into two equal portions. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin, into two large rectangles (roughly 11" x 18"). Spread a about a 1/3 cup of pumpkin mixture on the dough, followed by about 1/3 cup of meringue. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Roll the dough starting from the shorter side, as you would a jelly roll. Split the roll down its length with a sharp knife, leaving one end intact, and twist it, laying one side over the other. (This will be messy, but no worries, it bakes up beautifully.) Transfer to loaf pan. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with any leftover brown sugar. Let the loaves rise for a second time now until roughly doubled in bulk, approximately 1 to 2 hours, depending on how warm the kitchen is.
Bake the loaves in a 350° F oven for 50 to 60 minutes.